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Togo - Introduction

Togo has been ruled by the same family for more than four decades. Eyadema Gnassingbe came to power in 1967, and his son, Faure Gnassingbe, followed suit when Eyadema died in 2005. Massive demonstrations have been held even in the countrys north, a traditional stronghold for the Gnassingbe family. Poverty is widespread, and youth unemployment is high in a country where more than 60 percent of the population is under 25.

Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Within the borders there is a variety of peoples, cultures and natural splendours that represent all that West Africa has to offer. The topography ranges from the coastline bordered by coconut palms reminiscent of the South Pacific , to verdant mountains, undulating hills, picturesque valleys, extensive plateaus, undulating rivers and peaceful lagoons. At the extreme north, the savannahs abound in wild animals. This amazing diversity justifies the description of Togo as "Africa in miniature".

The Ewe and Kaby are the two main national languages. There are nearly 50 African dialects but the French spoken by most Togolese is the official language. The northern ethnic groups, especially the Kabye, dominate the civil and military services while southern ethnic groups, especially the Ewe, dominate the private commercial sector. Relative dominance has been a recurring source of political tension.

The most significant issue affecting Togo during the past two decades was the political instability, division, and unrest that characterized the country's uneven democratic transition. The instability affected economic and political activity within Togo as well as the nation's relations with the international community. Until the legislative elections of October 2007, national elections throughout this period were marked by turmoil and violence.

Togo has traditionally provided a hospitable environment for foreign investment. However, political instability has diminished both opportunities and investor confidence. The government distinguished itself through the 1980's as a western-oriented, entrepreneurial hub in the region. However, in the early 1990's, investor interest fell sharply due to overt political unrest in Togo. As the country emerges from the negative economic impact of that period and its poor political and human rights record, foreign investment is even more welcome than it was previously.

The national police and the gendarmerie are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country, and the gendarmerie is responsible for migration and border enforcement. The National Intelligence Agency provided intelligence to police and gendarmes but did not have internal security or detention facility responsibilities. Police are under the direction of the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection (MSPC), which reports to the prime minister. The gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Defense but also reports to the MSPC on many matters involving law enforcement and security. The Ministry of Defense, which reports directly to the president, oversees the military.

In November 2015 security forces responded to protests that turned violent in the northern city of Mango. This violence followed confrontations between local law enforcement officers and protesters that led to the deaths of at least seven protesters and the hanging of a police official. The security forces intervention lasted one day, during which time an additional protester was killed. Police often failed to respond to societal violence.

Corruption and inefficiency were endemic among police, and impunity was a problem. There were reports of police misusing arrest authority for personal gain. Abuses by security forces were subject to internal disciplinary investigations and criminal prosecution by the Ministry of Justice, but such action seldom occurred. The government generally neither investigated nor punished effectively those who committed abuses. There were no training or other programs to increase respect for human rights.

The postal system in Togo is good by regional standards. However, it is nowhere near as efficient as the U.S. postal system. In general, letters will take two to five weeks to arrive, sometimes longer depending on a myriad of influences as diverse as seasonal slowdowns to Paris airport strikes. Packages will take longer; large packages sent surface mail have been known to take six months to a year to arrive.

Togo experiences periodic strikes, demonstrations, political tensions, and political violence, especially during the lead-up to elections. Land borders with Ghana and Benin are typically shut down during elections for any of these three countries. Demonstrations often arise with little advance warning, and their itineraries change quickly. These demonstrations often lead to conflict or violence, including tire burning, stone throwing, and the use of tear gas, water cannons, and other crowd-control methods. Demonstrations and strikes often lead to the closing of roads and public services such as hospitals and schools.

Togos main national highway runs the length of the country. Most of the road is in good condition, but some parts are in poor repair. There are several other sections of paved road, some in good condition, others not. Most of the local roads in Togo are sand or dirtvery dusty in the dry season, very muddy in the rainy season, and full of potholes.

While some major thoroughfares in urban parts of Togo are paved, many secondary streets are not, and they can become severely flooded when it rains. Driving conditions are hazardous throughout Togo due to the presence of pedestrians, large swarms of small motorcycles, disorderly drivers (moped, car and truck drivers), livestock on the roadways, and the poor condition of the roads, which often contain deep potholes.

Lom has many private taxis. Taxis also travel frequently between Lom and the larger towns in the interior. This taxi travel tends to be fairly irregular and uncomfortable, but always interesting. Overland travel off the main network of roads generally requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Many drivers in Togo do not obey traffic laws and most traffic signals do not function properly. Nighttime travel is dangerous, and it is inadvisable to drive outside urban centers after dark. Even when driving in the city, keep car doors locked and the windows up.





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