Gnassingbé Eyadéma

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Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1983)

Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma [ eˈtjɛn ɲasiŋˈbe ejadeˈma ] (born December 26, 1935 in Pya ; †  February 5, 2005 ) was a Togolese officer and president during the military dictatorship .


Eyadéma grew up in the north of the country as the son of a farming family from the Kabiyé people . He enjoyed little education, but excelled in sporting activities, especially in traditional wrestling . Since he wanted to become a soldier and Togo was still a UN trust area at the time, he went with schoolmates across the border to French Dahomey to join the French colonial army and completed a career as a sergeant .

From 1953 to 1961 he took part in the 1st Indochina War and the Algerian War on the French side . He was promoted to staff sergeant and received numerous awards. After Togo's independence, he joined the newly formed army, became an officer and in a short time rose to lieutenant colonel and chief of staff of the country.

On January 13, 1963, the army under Emmanuel Bodjollé and Étienne Gnassingbé overthrew the first president of independent Togo, Sylvanus Olympio , and had him murdered. The military installed Nicolas Grunitzky as the new president. Exactly four years later, on January 13, 1967, Eyadéma staged another coup and on April 14, 1967 appointed himself President of the Republic of Togo.

Since then he no longer used his Christian name Étienne , but only the Eyadéma ( Kabiyé for courage ), which he himself chose . His demeanor is said to have been clumsy and awkward in the first few years and he found it difficult when he was asked to read speeches written in French. He is said to have been so inexperienced in governing the country that it was said that Jacques Foccart , Charles de Gaulle's Africa Policy Advisor , ruled the country over the phone.

Gnassingbé Eyadéma let political opponents exile. In order to consolidate his regime, he founded the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais party in 1969 and anchored the one-party system in the constitution . First elections took place in 1980.

On January 24, 1974, Eyadéma survived a plane crash in the north of the country near the village of Sarakawa, in which all passengers and the pilot were killed. Gnassingbé Eyadéma presented his survival as a miracle. A memorial was built around the plane wreck in Sarakawa.

Together with Nigeria he founded the West African Economic Community in 1975 .

In 1990 Eyadéma was briefly ousted, but returned to power in 1992 with the help of the military and ruled the country through a military dictatorship until his death in 2005.

In his later years, Eyadéma repeatedly went abroad for medical treatment. He died of a heart attack in 2005 while on the flight abroad for urgent treatment . With 38 years of government he was the longest-serving head of state in Africa.

On the occasion of his death, French President Jacques Chirac publicly stated :

With him, a friend of France dies, who was a personal friend to me (…) Africa is certainly feeling the terrible pain at the loss of this man who for so many years has campaigned for regional cooperation, mediation and the peace process. "

Gnassingbé Eyadéma left three women and many children. One of his sons, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé , who has been Togo's labor minister since 2003, was proclaimed the country's new head of state, which was a breach of the Togolese constitution , according to which the parliamentary speaker should have held the post of president on an interim basis.

Human rights violations

During his tenure, Eyadéma was repeatedly accused of human rights violations . For example, a 2003 report by Amnesty International found that there had been several politically motivated imprisonment cases in Togo in the past year. Journalists, members of the opposition and trade unionists were arrested without trial and, in some cases, ill-treated and tortured. Persistent human rights violations led the European Union to stop paying development aid and impose economic sanctions in 1993 .


Web links

Commons : Gnassingbé Eyadéma  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Kaye Whiteman: Obituariy: Gnassingbe Eyadema. In: The Guardian . February 7, 2005, accessed November 17, 2017 .
  2. ^ Konrad-Adenauer Foundation: Togo: Background information
  3. Amnesty International: Annual Report 2003 - Togo ( Memento of December 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Foreign Office: Relations with Germany