The Togolese Chiefs: caught between the Scylla and Charibdis?

  • Emile A. B. van Rouveroy van Nieuwaal (Faculty of Law University of Leiden)


In recent years, political and other scientists have wondered whether the African One Party system is able to cope with all the problems a modern state administration has to deal with.

One of the most intriguing questions is to what extent the One Party Rule, as a political system, produces a structural and fundamental weakness in itself by which an effective (local) government is nearly been obstructed.

It is noticeable, however, that in those African States where the (neo)traditional elite still plays an important role, their socio-legal and socio-political position in the day-to-day interaction between the (local) administration has - scientifically - received too little attention.

It appears, that chieftaincy possesses a remarkable capacity for adapting itself to social and political changes. The chief can probably fulfil a crucial role in future efforts aimed at socio-economic transformations at regional and even national levels. 

The Togolese Government, in 1990 started opening the door to a multiparty system, it hereby recognizes the fact that the (neo)traditional elite is an outstanding means to maintain the interaction and the communication between the State and the people.

This contribution focuses on the interaction between the State in Togo and - in this very example: the Head of the State himself - and chiefs in North Togo particulary in the district of Sokodé in the period 1989 and 1987 at the moment that the paramount chief of the Tern (Kotokoli) has passed away and his succession to the throne has been the start of a strong, long and vehement struggle for power inside the Tern society and to a negotiation between the Head of State and the traditional political elite of that society.

KEY WORDS: African administration, African State, chieftaincy, Togo, One Party System 

How to Cite:

van Nieuwaal, E., (1991) “The Togolese Chiefs: caught between the Scylla and Charibdis?”, Afrika Focus 7(2). doi:

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Published on
13 Jul 1991
Peer Reviewed