Most of the ethnic groups inhabiting Togo are descended from peoples driven into the area during the 18th and 19th centuries, except for the Ewe, who left the Niger River area for Togo some time between the 11th and 16th centuries. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the area was under pressure from the Akwamu confederacy and the Ashanti Kingdom to the west and from the Kingdom of Dahomey to the east. Togo was a part of the Slave Coast, a primary area of European slaving activities. Small slave posts were established in that region in the 17th century, but most of the slave trade was carried on in Dahomey (now Benin) and the Gold Coast (now Ghana).
The German protectorate of Togoland was established in 1884, when the rulers of the region signed a treaty granting suzerainty to the Germans. From 1887 to 1889, Germany, Britain, and France fixed the territorial limits of the protectorate. The Germans created the port of Lome and developed the resources of the region. During August 1914, the first month of World War I, the Germans surrendered the region after an invasion by French and British forces.
In 1920 the final division of the area between the two countries took place, and Lome and the entire coastline were assigned to French Togo in exchange for an enlarged British territory in the interior. In 1922 the League of Nations granted both nations mandates over their respective territories. On December 13, 1946, the United Nations (UN) granted France and the United Kingdom trusteeships over Togo to supersede the mandates established by the League of Nations. As a result of a plebiscite held in 1956, the British territory became part of the Gold Coast and was later incorporated into Ghana. In another UN-supervised plebiscite in 1958, a majority of the votes in the French territory was gained by the National Union Party, which favored complete independence. Sylvanus Olympio, head of the party, became premier. In February 1960 Olympio rejected the suggestion advanced by President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana that the two countries be united. Togo achieved independence on April 27, 1960, and was admitted to the UN in September.
President Olympio was assassinated in January 1963, during a military coup. The army selected Nicolas Grunitzky to form a provisional government, and he subsequently assumed the office of president. A new constitution was approved by a national referendum. In January 1967 the army staged another coup, installing Lieutenant Colonel Etienne Eyadema (later Gnassingbe Eyadema), the army chief of staff, as head of government. The constitution was abrogated and the legislative body dissolved. In April Eyadema assumed the offices of president and defense minister. A new party, the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT, or Togolese People’s Assembly), was founded in 1969. In 1970 a plot to overthrow Eyadema was foiled. In early 1975 a treaty between 46 developing nations and the European Community (now the European Union) was signed in Lome.
President Eyadema promulgated a new constitution in December 1979, under which he was almost unanimously reelected to office. In January 1980, the 13th anniversary of his coup, he proclaimed the Third Togolese Republic. France sent troops to Togo in September 1986 to help suppress a coup attempt. Reelected to another seven-year term in December 1986, Eyadema apparently bowed to popular pressure in August 1991 and agreed to split power with a transitional government, pending democratic elections. In subsequent months, however, troops loyal to Eyadema repeatedly tried to overthrow the interim regime. Eyadema was reelected in 1993 multiparty elections. In April 1994 he appointed Edem Kodjo prime minister of a new coalition government, formed as a result of legislative elections held that February. Eyadema was declared the winner of June 1998 elections that were widely criticized as fraudulent by Togolese opposition parties and international observers.