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Ghana - Togo Relations / Western Togoland

After 1918, following the defeat of Germany, the League of Nations divided the German colony of Togoland from north to south, a decision that divided the Ewe people among the Gold Coast, British Togoland, and French Togoland. After 1945, the UN took over the Togoland mandates. During the 1950s, when the independence of Ghana was in sight, demands grew for a separate Ewe state, an idea that Kwame Nkrumah, leader of the Gold Coast independence movement, opposed.

Following a UN plebiscite in May 1956, in which a majority of the Ewe voted for union with Ghana, British Togoland became part of the Gold Coast. After Togolese independence in 1960, relations between Togo and Ghana deteriorated, aggravated by political differences and incidents such as smuggling across their common border. At times, relations verged on open aggression.

During the mid-1970s, Togolese President General Gnassingbe Eyadema for a time revived the claim to a part or all of former British Togoland. Two leading Ewe members from the Volta Region sent a petition to the UN in 1974.

By 1976 a Togoland Liberation Movement and a National Liberation Movement for Western Togoland existed and were agitating for separation from Ghana. The Eyadema government publicly backed their demands, although it subsequently agreed to cooperate with the Ghanaian government against the separatist movements and against smuggling. A factor influencing Eyadema's cooperative attitude was doubtless Togo's dependence upon electricity from Ghana's Akosombo Dam.

In January 1976, Ghanaian-Togolese relations deteriorated after Togo urged a readjustment of their common border in Togo's favor. Ghana rejected this demand, citing the 1956 United Nations (UN) referendum, which had given western Togoland's population the choice of staying in Togo or ofjoining Ghana. Nevertheless, in March 1976, the Ghanaian government banned the National Liberation Movement for Western Togoland (NLMWT). Later that month, Ghanaian security forces arrested ten people near Togo's border and charged them with subversion for contacting Ghanaian dissidents in Togo. Although the NLMWT threatened to use force against Ghana unless the UN intervened in the crisis, it failed to launch a successful guerrilla war against Ghana.

A consistent preoccupation of Ghana, Togo, and Cote d'lvoire is that of national security. The PNDC regime repeatedly accused both Togo and Cote d'lvoire of harboring armed Ghanaian dissidents who planned to overthrow or to destabilize the PNDC. The PNDC also accused both countries of encouraging the smuggling of Ghanaian products and currencies across their borders, thus undermining Ghana's political and economic stability at a time when Ghana was experiencing a deep economic crisis.

In September 1982, Ghana closed the border to prevent Ghanaian dissidents who lived in Togo from crossing into Ghana. Nevertheless, tensions between the two countries resurfaced after Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings seized power in Ghana at the end of 1981. Rawlings warned the Togolese against allowing Ghanaian dissidents to use Togo's territory as a base from which to launch attacks against Ghana. In early 1984, after Ghana had reopened the border, the Togolese government calmed Accra's fears by threatening to arrest any Ghanaian exiles who held meetings in Togo.

In June 1983, when Rawlings' PNDC was barely eighteen months old, groups opposed to the PNDC made a major attempt to overthrow it. Most of the rebels reportedly came from Togo. In August 1985, Togo in turn accused Ghana of complicity in a series of bomb explosions in Lome, the Togolese capital.

In 1986 relations with Togo again deteriorated after Ghanaian security forces captured a group of armed dissidents who had crossed the border from Togo. Ghana's secretary for foreign affairs protested the use of neighboring countries as bases for subversive activities against the Rawlings regime. In September 1986, Lome claimed that Togolese dissidents, operating from Ghana, had attempted a coup against the government of Togo's president, General Gnassingbe Eyadema. As a result, Togo temporarily closed the border with Ghana and then deported 233 Ghanaians.

In July 1988, an estimated 124 Ghanaians were expelled from Togo. In January 1989, relations between the two countries became strained again when Togo expelled 120 Ghanaians. After Togo reopened its land, air, and sea borders with Ghana in October 1990, relations between the two countries gradually improved.

Greatly improved relations between Ghana and Togo, especially after October 1990 when opposition pressure forced Eyadema to agree to a transition to multiparty democracy, however, could hardly disguise the persistence of old mutual fears about threats to internal security. Nevertheless, relations subsequently improved significantly, leading in 1991 to the reactivation of several bilateral agreements.

Less than three weeks after Ghana's Fourth Republic was inaugurated, an immense refugee problem was created in Ghana. Following random attacks and killings of civilians in Lome by Eyadema's army on January 26, 1993, hundreds of thousands of terrorized Togolese began fleeing into Ghana. On January 30, 1993, clashes that pitted Togolese security forces loyal to Eyadema against several opposition groups prompted approximately 55,000 refugees to flee to Ghana.

At the end of January 1993, Ghanaian troops were placed on high alert on the Ghana-Togo border, although Obed Asamoah, the Ghanaian minister of foreign affairs, assured all concerned that there was no conflict between Ghana and Togo. Accra, which sided with Eyadema's opponents, responded by placing the Ghanaian armed forces on full alert, ostensibly to aid the refugees. Rawlings claimed that because of this trouble, he was considering a recall of all Ghanaian troops serving on missions abroad for the UN and in Liberia.

After attackers stormed Eyadema's home in Lome on March 25, 1993, the Togolese government closed its border with Ghana and accused the Rawlings regime of providing a safe haven for the raiders. Sporadic shooting incidents in the spring 1993 continued to produce a regular flow of refugees into Ghana. By May 1993, following Togo's partial closure of the border, all persons living in Togo, including diplomats, had to obtain a special permit from the Togolese interior ministry to travel to Ghana by road. Travelers from Ghana were allowed into Togo but were not permitted to return. By early June, half of Lome's 600,000 residents were estimated to have fled to neighboring Ghana and Benin.

At the beginning of 1994, relations between Ghana and Togo became even worse. In early 1994, the two countries almost went to war following yet another incident. According to Togolese authorities, more than 100 armed Togolese crossed the border from Ghana in early January 1994 to assassinate Eyadema and to take control of the government.

On 06 January 1994, a commando attack occurred in Lome, which Togolese authorities described as an attempt to overthrow Eyadema. The Togolese government accused Ghana of direct or indirect involvement and arrested Ghana's charge d'affaires in Lome. Togolese troops then bombarded a border post, killing twelve Ghanaians. Camps for Togolese refugees in Ghana also were reportedly bombarded.

Togo immediately closed its border with Ghana, and each nation then accused the other's armed forces of launching cross-border raids. Although tensions eased later in the year, the Ghanaian minister of foreign affairs warned of further incidents unless Eyadema introduced basic democratic reforms.

The Ghanaian government announced that it would press Togo to compensate the families of those killed. By mid-year, however, relations had improved markedly. In August Togo supported the nomination of Rawlings for the post of ECOWAS chairman. Thereafter, a joint commission was set up to examine border problems, in mid-November a Ghanaian ambassador took up residence in Togo for the first time since the early 1980s, and Togo was considering the reopening of its border with Ghana.

Because Ghana and Togo share almost all major tribes, instability in Togo could spur ethnic violence in Ghana. By 2005, Ghana-Togo relations were the best in four decades, would be strained by instability in Togo. Ghana's eastern border would be destabilized by movements of fighters, flows of illegal arms, and refugees. Ghana could not support a meaningful refugee program by itself and would need assistance. Civil war would also destroy Ghana's overland trade to Benin and Nigeria and disrupt cross-border economic activity.

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Page last modified: 15-03-2017 18:21:36 ZULU