Togo was originally established by Ewe people who migrated from the Niger River Valley. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was ruled by the Portuguese. It became known as the Slave Coast for its extensive role in the West African slave trade. In the 1800s, Germany took control of Togo, ruling until 1914, when French and British forces invaded. France and Britain jointly administered Togo as a UN trust territory after World War II, but in April 1960, Togo severed ties with France and became fully independent. Togo’s first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was assassinated in 1963. For the next several decades, Togo went back and forth between a multi-party system and complete military dictatorship. Numerous coups gave rise to violence that displaced more than 300,000 Togolese to Benin and Ghana.
Lay of the Land: On the southern coast of West Africa, Togo is bounded on the north by Burkina Faso, on the east by Benin, on the south by the Gulf of Guinea, and on the west by Ghana. This narrow strip of ground rises from the gulf to a plateau, which leads to the Atakora Mountains in the middle of the country. To the north are the Oti river valley and gently rolling grasslands.
The Ewes, who moved into the area from the Niger River Valley between the 12th and 14th centuries, originally founded Togo. Two hundred years later, Portuguese explorers and traders visited the coast of Togo, which quickly became a major center for the slave trade and known as the “Slave Coast.” The trade continued for 200 years, until slavery died out in the US and other countries.
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Togo were established in April 1960, with Leland Barrows serving as the first US ambassador to the country.
Relations between the US and Togo are cordial. Since Togo became a market-oriented economy, the two countries have developed relations along economic lines. However, the United States has never been one of Togo’s major trade partners.
US imports from Togo totaled 9.1 million in 2010, while US exports to Togo amounted to $169.8 million.
Colombian Drug Lord Extradited from Togo to US
According to the State Department, human rights problems included: “security force use of excessive force, including torture, which resulted in several injuries; official impunity; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; executive influence over the judiciary; infringement of citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of press, assembly, and movement; official corruption; discrimination and violence against women; child abuse, including female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual exploitation of children; regional and ethnic discrimination; trafficking in persons, especially women and children...” and societal discrimination.
Note: The Embassy in Lomé was established on Apr 27, 1960, with Jesse M. MacKnight as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
Limbiye Edawe Kadangha Bariki became the Togolese ambassador to the US on July 14, 2009.
On October 17, 2011, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint as ambassador to the small West African nation of Togo a veteran diplomat who has spent years focusing on Africa–US relations. Robert E. Whitehead was confirmed by the Senate on March 29, 2012.