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Gnassingbé Eyadéma

In office
April 14, 1967 – February 5, 2005
Preceded by Kléber Dadjo
Succeeded by Faure Gnassingbé

Born December 26, 1935(1935-12-26)
Pya, Togo
Died February 5, 2005 (aged 69)
Nationality Togolese
Political party Rally of the Togolese People

General Gnassingbé Eyadéma (born Étienne Eyadéma, December 26, 1935 – February 5, 2005), was the President of Togo from 1967 until his death in 2005. He participated in two successful military coups, in January 1963 and January 1967, and became President on April 14, 1967. As President, he created a political party, the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), and headed a single-party regime until the early 1990s, when reforms leading to multiparty elections began. Although his power was seriously challenged by the events of the early 1990s, he ultimately consolidated power again and won multiparty presidential elections in 1993, 1998, and 2003; the opposition boycotted the 1993 election and denounced the 1998 and 2003 election results as fraudulent. At the time of his death, Eyadéma was the longest-serving ruler in Africa.[1]


Early life

Eyadéma was born on the 26th of December 1935 in the village of Pya[2] to a peasant family in the Kabye tribe. In 1953, Eyadema joined the French army where he was trained in weapon use and the art of war. Eyadema participated in the French colonial wars in Algeria and Indochina. After nearly 10 years in the French army, Eyadema returned to Togo in 1962. In 1963, he conducted a military coup against President Sylvanus Olympio, who died during the attack. He helped establish Nicolas Grunitzky as the new President of Togo. In 1967, Colonel Eyadema of the Togolese Army led a second military coup against Grunitzky. Eyadema installed himself as president on 14 April 1967 as well as Minister of National Defense, an office that he assumed for 38 years.

Personality cult

Eyadéma had an extensive personality cult, including, but not limited to, an entourage of 1,000 dancing women who sang and danced in praise of him; portraits which adorned most stores; a bronze statue in the capital city, Lomé; $20 wristwatches with his portrait, which disappeared and re-appeared every fifteen seconds; and even a comic book that depicted him as a superhero with powers of invulnerability and super strength.[3] In addition, the date of a failed attempt on President Eyadéma's life was annually commemorated as "the Feast of Victory Over Forces of Evil."[4]


Eyadéma subsequently won uncontested elections in 1972, 1979, and 1986. During his rule he escaped several assassination attempts; in 1974 he was the only person surviving a plane crash in the northern part of the country near Sarakawa. After another unsuccessful assassination attempt by a bodyguard, he carried the bullet removed by the surgeon as an amulet. A national conference was held in August 1991, electing Joseph Kokou Koffigoh as Prime Minister and leaving Eyadéma as merely a ceremonial president. Although Eyadéma attempted to suspend the conference, surrounding the venue with soldiers, he subsequently accepted the outcome.[5] Despite this, Eyadéma managed to remain in power with the backing of the army. In March 1993, an unsuccessful attack was made on the Tokoin military camp, where Eyadéma was living; several people were killed in the attack, including Eyadéma's personal chief of staff, General Mawulikplimi Ameji.[6]

Monument to the 1974 Togo plane crash in which Eyadema was the sole survivor

He attempted to legitimize his rule with a multiparty presidential election in August 1993, which was boycotted by the opposition; facing only two minor challengers, he won 96.42% of the vote, although turnout was reportedly low outside of his native Kara Region.[7] Eyadéma officially won re-election in the June 1998 presidential election, defeating Gilchrist Olympio of the Union of the Forces of Change (UFC) with 52.13% of the vote according to official results,[8] amid allegations of fraud and accusations of the massacre of hundreds of government opponents. The European Union suspended aid in 1993 in protest of alleged voting irregularities and human rights violations. He was considered to be a ruthless dictator, never shy of torturing opponents, and even having them fed to crocodiles.

In late December 2002, the Constitution was changed to remove term limits on the office of president. Previously, presidents had been limited to two five-year terms, and Eyadéma would have therefore been forced to step down after the 2003 election. With the removal of these limitations, however, Eyadéma was free to stand again and did so, winning the election on June 1 with 57.78% of the vote. He was sworn in for another term on June 20.[9] Another constitutional change was to reduce the minimum age of the President to 35 years, rather than 45. As Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbé was 35, many observers assumed that he was opening the way for a dynastic succession should he die suddenly.

Eyadéma constructed a large palace near his family home in Pya a few kilometers north of Lama-Kara. He was the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity from 2000 to 2001, and he attempted, unsuccessfully, to mediate between the government and rebels of Côte d'Ivoire in the conflict that began in that country in 2002.

The European Union sent a mission on June 1, 2004 to evaluate the state of democracy in Togo and to start a procedure of democratization of Togo. The expedition intended to open a dialogue between the state and the opposition. The team was supposed to meet with many politicians from other parties than Eyadéma's party, Rally of the Togolese People. But because of the criteria imposed by the government, politicians such as Gilchrist Olympio, Yawovi Agboyibo and Professor Leopold Gnininvi boycotted the meeting. The European Union team cancelled the meeting since discussions with the government were almost impossible. The opposition party UFC wanted the release of 11 men held by the government. Finally, the European Union experts met each political figure individually and in private. The respect of human rights and of the press in Togo was another area to be investigated by the European Union experts.[10]

According to BBC News, Eyadéma claimed that democracy in Africa "moves along at its own pace and in its own way."[1]


On February 5, 2005, he died "as he was being evacuated for emergency treatment abroad", according to a government statement. Officials have stated that the cause of death was a heart attack. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving head of state in Africa.

Zakary Nandja, chief of the Togolese army, pronounced his son Faure Gnassingbé as the new President of Togo. Alpha Oumar Konare, president of the Commission of the African Union, immediately declared this act to be a military coup d'état and against the constitution. Other organizations, such as the International Community and ECOWAS, also did not approve the designation of Faure Gnassingbé as President.[11] Under heavy pressure from ECOWAS and the international community, Faure stepped down on February 25 and was replaced by Bonfoh Abbass, the first deputy parliament speaker, until after the presidential elections on April 24, 2005, when Faure Gnassingbé was elected president with 60% of the vote.[12]

Eyadéma's funeral was held on 13 March 2005, in the presence of many a number of Presidents and other international dignitaries; Presidents Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, John Kufuor of Ghana, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire, Mamadou Tandja of Niger and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria attended the ceremony. On 15 March, Eyadema's family and the RPT party paid him a final homage in his hometown of Pya.[13]

See also


[1] [10] [11] [13] [14]

  1. ^ a b c "Obituary: Gnassingbe Eyadema". (2005, February 5). BBC News. Retrieved May 22, 2007.
  2. ^ Journal Official de la Republique Togolaise, 6 August 1993, page 3 (French).
  3. ^ David Lamb, The Africans, page 48
  4. ^ Dr. F. Jeffress Ramsay, Global Studies Africa: Seventh Edition, page 63
  5. ^ "Togo's President Agrees to Yield Power to a Rival", The New York Times, August 29, 1991.
  6. ^ "Mar 1993 - Attack on presidential residence", Keesing's Record of World Events, Volume 39, March, 1993 Togo, Page 39353.
  7. ^ "DÉMOCRATISATION À LA TOGOLAISE" ("CHRONOLOGIE"), Tètè Tété, 1998 ( (French).
  8. ^ "CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 40 OF THE COVENANT: Addendum TOGO", United Nations International covenant on civil and political rights, CCPR/C/TGO/2001/3, July 5, 2001.
  9. ^ "Le Président Eyadema a prêté serment", UPF (, June 20, 2003 (French).
  10. ^ a b Samson, D . (2004, June 6). La Democratie evaluee. RFI actualite . Retrieved May 22, 2007 from
  11. ^ a b Elraz, K . (2005, February 6). Disparition brutale du chef de l’etat togolais “Papa Eyadema” est mort la fin d’un tres long regne. . Retrieved May 22, 2007 from
  12. ^ AU denounces Togo 'military coup' (BBC article)
  13. ^ a b Baily, H . (2005, March 14). Le Togo fait ses adieux a Etienne Eyadema Gnassingbe. . Retrieved May 22, 2007 from
  14. ^ Mas, M . (2005, February 7). De la presidence Eyadema a la dynastie Gnassingbe. RFI actulite. Retrieved May 22, 2007 from

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Kléber Dadjo
President of Togo
Succeeded by
Faure Gnassingbé
New title Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Olusegun Obasanjo
Preceded by
Léopold Sédar Senghor
Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Siaka Stevens
Preceded by
Abdulsalami Abubakar
Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
Succeeded by
Alpha Oumar Konaré
Preceded by
Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Chairperson of the African Union
Succeeded by
Frederick Chiluba


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