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26.06.2018 Feature Article

The Truth About The Western Togoland And The Volta Region (Part 2)

..."...The 1956 Plebiscite and the UN Debates"

It must be reiterated that the British Togoland or Trans Volta Togoland was a region which stretched from at the Gold Coast border with Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) in Pusiga in the Bawku area and down south to Sokode. This was a land area of 33,776 square km and made up of various ethnic groups notably, the Kusasis, Mamprusis, Dagombas, Nanumbas, Bimobas, Konkombas, Basaris, Bisas (Busanga), Kotokolis, Akebus, Adele, Buems, Adwodes, Gonjas, Guans, Akans, and Ewes. (Ref: Kotokolis Also Voted To Become Ghanaians As Others – Alhaji Bashiru Zakari [email protected] ).

Since the British served notice of laying their hands off Trans Volta Togoland, the fate of the region was placed in the hands of its numerous ethnic groups. There was the need for a plebiscite (a referendum) which means a vote by which people of a country or region express their opinion for or against an important proposal. The proposal was (1) to integrate with independent Gold Coast (Ghana) or (2) to remain separate and under British mandate pending a decision on its future by the UN.

On May 9, 1956 this referendum took place and with a voter turnout of 83%, making up 160, 587 voters, the results were as follows: of the six districts in total, the four from the north voted for unification with independent Gold Coast. Mamprusi had 84% of 21,299 voting for, Dagomba had 81% of 34,632 voting for, Gonja had 54% of 5,895 voting for and Buem/Krachi had 60% of 46,951 voting for. Meaning out of 108,777 voters, 71% or 77,295 voted in favour of unification.

The two districts in the south which are mainly Ewes, massively voted against any unification. Ho district had 72.5% of 26,198 voting against and Kpandu had 66.5% of 25,610 voting against. Meaning out of 51,808 voters, 69.5 % of Ewes voted against unification. In total 58% or 93,093 voted for unification and 42% or 67,492 voted against. (Ref: The 1956 Trans Volta Togoland Plebiscite and Matters Arising by Theo Acheampong and his Source from UN Year Book 1959 cited in Bening 1983).

One other source, Nohlen et al., had a higher turnout of 224,313 voting with 142,214 (63.9%) supporting integration with Ghana.

If the UN had adopted a direct result approach, to allow each district to individually decide its fate as happened in Cameroon, then the Ewe districts of Ho and Kpandu would have been out of the union and its people not recognized as Ghanaians. However that was not the case; as the plebiscite was to act only upon the wishes of the total majority in the entire territory.

There is this allegation that Queen Elizabeth had not incorporated British Togoland into Ghana on the day of independence. The fact is the Trust Territory is for the UN and not Britain and also decisions of the UN are above the Queen and she had no role or say in this matter unless the UN decided so.

Many are these pro-separatists who claim that they cited documents from the UN supporting their claims for independence from Ghana. The fact is there is no such document. Below are excerpts from the only authentic UN document on this matter and that document is the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs: Charter of the United Nations. Chapter XII – International Trusteeship System Article 76: Supplement No. 2 (1955-1959) Volume 3 (Office of Legal Affairs-United Nations) (Ref: ).

Under Analytical Summary of Practice Section B, Article 76b Part 5 on the Practice Bearing upon the Objective of Development towards Self Government Section a), – Termination of the Trusteeship Agreement With Regard to Togoland Under British Administration reading from paragraph 5 – 31, the whole truth about the aftermath of the 1956 Plebiscite under the UN consideration can be found.

In summary, at its 11th session the General Assembly considered the future of the two Trust Territories of Togoland under the agenda entitled, “The Togoland Unification Problem and the Future of the Trust Territory of Togoland Under British Administration: Reports of the United Nations Plebiscite Commissioner and of the Trusteeship Council.”

In an earlier debate, the Fourth Committee heard statements from nine petitioners representing five organisations to which it had granted hearings. Two of the organisations were from British Togoland; one was from both Togoland under British and French administrations and two were from French Togoland.

One of the groups from British Togoland opposed the UN approval of the unification with an independent Gold Coast, because to it, the results of the Plebiscite were inconclusive. Southern Togoland had voted massively in opposition to unification and even in the North where majority opted for unification, according to this group, the people were opposed to a unitary system of government from the Gold Coast. It pleaded with the UN not to decide on such an important political and constitutional issue on a mere 16% majority. It considered that as with such important issues two-thirds majority should be considered.

Three of the organisations petitioned that the unification of British Togoland to the Gold Coast should not take place before a decision had been taken on the future of French Togoland.

During the debates, Canada, Ceylon, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Liberia and Nepal submitted a joint resolution on the future of British Togoland. In the resolution, the UN General Assembly would express its approval of the union of British Togoland with independent Gold Coast.

Haiti, India, Liberia and the United States came up with another joint draft resolution by which the UN General Assembly would take note of the United Nations Plebiscite Commissioner and would appreciate the work carried out by the commissioner and UN staff under his direction. Peru joined in sponsoring this draft resolution.

During the debate on the Eleven-Power draft resolution, some delegations expressed the view that the decision of the majority during the plebiscite should be made to stand, while some others expressed reservations concerning the proposed unification and so were not able to support the Eleven-Power draft resolution. Such a union, they considered might render it impossible for unification of British and French Togoland.

Other delegations, while sharing some reservations nevertheless expressed the general view that the union of British Togoland with independent Gold Coast was the only practicable manner in which the inhabitants of the Trust Territory could immediately attain independence.

The Eleven-Power Draft Resolution on the future of British Togoland was voted upon by the Fourth Committee.

Hon. Daniel Dugan

Daniel Dugan
Daniel Dugan, © 2018

This author has authored 5 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: DanielDugan

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