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General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, formerly Étienne Eyadema (December 26, 1937February 5, 2005), was the President of Togo from 1967 until his death. He participated in two successful military coups, in January 1963 and January 1967, and became President on April 14, 1967. He managed to remain in power for the next 38 years.

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Early life

Born in the town of Pya, his original given name was Étienne, which he Africanized in 1974, and his surname was Gnassingbé. When he joined the army he did so under his only two forenames Etienne Eyadéma; and years later adopted his old surname as forename. Eyadéma served in the French army (19531961) in Algeria and Indochina; however, when Togo became independent in 1960, he and other veterans of the French military were denied entry into the army by the country's first president, Sylvanus Olympio. This led to a coup on January 13, 1963 against Olympio by the disenfranchised soldiers led by Eyadéma, who claimed to have personally fired the shot which killed Olympio. He was then appointed the country's new chief of staff under a civilian president. Eyadéma was a leader in another coup in 1967, on the anniversary of the 1963 coup, and a few months later he assumed the offices of president and minister of national defense.

Politics

Eyadéma subsequently won uncontested elections in 1972, 1979, and 1986. During his rule he escaped several assassination attempts; in 1974 he was the only person surviving a plane crash in the northern part of the country near Sarakawa. Another unsuccessful attempt made him carry a bullet fired on him by his bodyguard as an amulet. A national conference in 1991 attempted to force him from power, but Eyadéma managed to remain in power with the backing of the army. He attempted to legitimize his rule with ostensibly democratic elections in 1993, and narrowly won reelection in 1998, amid accusations of the massacre of hundreds of government opponents. He was considered to be a ruthless dictator, never shy of torturing opponents, and even having them fed to crocodiles.

In late December 2002, the constitution of Togo was changed to remove term limits on the office of president; previously, presidents had been limited to two five-year terms, and Eyadéma would have therefore been forced to step down after the 2003 elections. With the removal of these limitations, however, Eyadéma was free to stand again and did so, winning the elections on June 1 with 57.2% of the vote. However, another change was to reduce the minimum age of the President to 35 years, rather than 45. As Eyadéma's son Faure Gnassingbé was 35, many observers assumed that he was opening the way for a dynastic succession should he die suddenly.

Eyadéma constructed a large palace near his family home in Pya a few kilometers north of Lama-Kara. He was the chairman of the Organisation of African Unity from 2000 to 2001, and he helped to mediate between the government and rebels of Côte d'Ivoire in the conflict that began in that country in 2002.

Death

On February 5, 2005, he died "as he was being evacuated for emergency treatment abroad", according to a government statement. Officials have stated that the cause of death was a heart attack. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving head of state in Africa. He fathered more than a hundred children with several women. His son Faure Gnassingbé then took power as his successor, a move which was denounced as a military coup by the population and the international community. Under heavy pressure from others within the region and the international community, Faure stepped down on February 25 and was replaced by Bonfoh Abbass second head of the parliament until the presidential elections on April 24 2005. [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4240485.stm)

See also

External link


Preceded by:
Kléber Dadjo
President of Togo
1967–2005
Succeeded by:
Faure Gnassingbé

Template:End boxde:Gnassingbé Eyadéma es:Gnassingbé Eyadéma fr:Gnassingbé Eyadema nl:Étienne Eyadéma ja:ニャシンベ・エヤデマ pl:Gnassingbe Eyadema pt:Gnassingbé Eyadéma zh:纳辛贝·埃亚德马

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