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Sylvanus Olympio with Bavarian prime minister Hans Ehard (1961)

Sylvanus Epiphanio Olympio (6 September 1902 - 13 January 1963) was a Togolese political figure who served as Prime Minister, and then President, of Togo from 1958 until his assassination in 1963.


Political career

Olympio served as the Prime Minister of Togo from 1958 to 1961, during which time he held elections to consolidate his power. He then served as the first President of Togo between 1961 and 1963, obtaining seats in an election that barred Nicolas Grunitzky's party. Opposition leaders, such as Anani Santos, Antoine Meatchi and Nicolas Grunitzky were either jailed in Mango prison or exiled to Ghana and Benin. Using "Ablode Sodja" militia the President squashed political dissident.. [1]

During his presidency, Olympio pursued a pro-Western foreign policy. At one point, he visited the United States and had a friendly meeting with President John F. Kennedy. Togo maintained friendly relations with most of its neighbors, but relations with neighboring Ghana and its leader Kwame Nkrumah were consistently poor. Within the country, each state supported the other's dissidents.


Olympio was assassinated in a military coup d'état on January 13. The coup, considered the first African coup d'état, sent shock waves through Africa.

Col. Étienne Eyadéma, a participant in the coup who later assumed the presidency in 1967 and held it until his death in 2005, claimed to have personally fired the shot which killed Olympio. According to other sources, however, the head of the group of soldiers was Sergeant Emmanuel Bodjollé, Eyadema was not even a sergeant at the time.


Sylvanus Olympio was succeeded by Emmanuel Bodjollé, head of an "Insurrection Committee" that ruled for only two days after which Nicolas Grunitzky was put in charge.

His son, Gilchrist Olympio, is currently the most prominent opposition leader in Togo.


  1. ^ See Koffigoh Commission Report, 2005 and Livre Blanc (July 1963), the National Report on political events leading to President Olympio's death. Olympio's allies in the Parliament testified for this report.
Preceded by
Nicolas Grunitzky
Prime Minister of Togo
Succeeded by
Joseph Kokou Koffigoh
Preceded by
President of Togo
Succeeded by
Emmanuel Bodjollé


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