British Togoland was a part of Western Africa that was bordered on the south by the Gulf of Guinea. Ghana currently includes the western portion of what was once British Togoland. The Conference of Berlin (1884–1885) acknowledged a German protectorate over Southern Togoland.
Treaties with France (1897) and Great Britain (1904) defined Togoland’s borders. British and French troops liberated Togoland from the Germans in August 1914. The region was split into two British and French mandates by the League of Nations in 1922. The mandates were transformed into United Nations trust areas in 1946.
The area placed under British control amounted to 13,041 square miles (33,776 square kilometers). The northern part was placed under the administration of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast (the colonial name of Ghana), and the southern section was made a district of the eastern province of the colony. The southern section held a plebiscite in May 1956 over the topic of joining Ghana when independence came. In 1957, British Togoland became part of the independent state of Ghana.
The League of Nations defined, in its treaty from July 1922, the task of the mandatory as being “responsible for the peace, order and good government of the territory, and for the promotion to the utmost of the material and moral well-being and the social progress
of its inhabitants.” The northern part of British Togoland contained ethnic groups who also lived in the protectorate. This was the reason why the mandate gave the Gold Coast government the right to administer them as a unit. In 1946, the population of the trust territory was about 400,000. The northern portion included in 1932 the districts of Kete-Krachi, Dagomba, Eastern Mamprussi, and Kumassi.
In Eastern Dagomba, cattle raising and agriculture, as in most of this area, were the principal occupations of its people, along with crafts such as weaving, ropemaking, leather tanning, and pottery making. Yet British Togoland had neither the mineral resources nor the large plantings of cocoa as had the Gold Coast. Because of the fact that the future of the region was uncertain, the British hesitated to invest in a territory under international control.
During the period 1890–1930, a decentralization of native authority took place. After 1930, the numerous small divisions of the Northern Territories and north Togoland were reunited into several large states such as Mamprussi and Dagomba. In 1933, three ordinances relating to the executive, judicial, and financial reorganization were promulgated.
The chiefs were able to use these new powers to carry out economic and social reforms. The Native Tribunal Ordinance permitted the chief commissioner to establish tribunals to define the extent of its civil and criminal jurisdiction. Moreover, the government passed in 1932 a Native Treasuries Ordinance that gave the chief commissioner the right to establish treasuries, to define the sources of revenue, to provide for specified forms of taxation, and so forth.
The revenue was applied to roads, dispensaries, sanitary conveniences, and regular salaries for chiefs and tribunal members. The economic growth of the area was steadily improving, and a slow increase of interest in education, health care, and religion was occurring. In 1946, a Northern Territory council, representative of all the chiefs, was established.
South Togoland was much smaller, at 5,845 square miles. The ordinances of the Gold Coast Colony were applied to Southern Togoland, while those for the Northern Territories were promulgated in Northern Togoland. The five districts of the mandate were managed by district commissioners.
As in the Northern Territories, from 1930 on the government aimed to amalgamate small ethnic groups. By 1939, all but 15 of the 68 divisions had amalgamated into 4 large states. After this, the local institutions were strengthened: the governor had the right to declare local authorities.
Divisional and state councils were recognized and allowed to investigate political and constitutional disputes. The governor had the power to establish tribunals in each native authority area. An ordinance of 1932 granted the divisions the right to set up stool treasuries and collect taxes. In the mandate, education was in the hands of missionaries, assisted by government funds. Economic development resulted from an increased production of cocoa.
After 1951, the constitutional changes taking place in the Gold Coast began to affect conditions in Togoland. The government had taken measures to ensure that the people of Togoland participated in every level of government under the increased representation provided by the 1951 and 1954 constitutions.
In June 1954, the British government informed the United Nations that it would not be in a position to administer the Togoland trusteeship separately after the Gold Coast became independent. At first, a majority of the members of the United Nations were opposed to the establishment of British Togoland as an independent state, but they soon recognized that this meant the rule of British Togoland as an independent African government and not a colonial annexation.
In December 1955, the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed to a British Togoland plebiscite to determine whether the population preferred an integration with the Gold Coast after independence or its own independence as a separate entity. When the plebiscite was held on May 9, 1956, the majority, aware of the imminent independence of its neighbor, voted for the integration of Togoland with the Gold Coast.
The UN General Assembly thus agreed to the reunification of British Togoland and the Gold Coast after the independence of this last territory. The last constitution before independence was published in February 1957. The date of independence was fixed for March 6, 1957. On this date, the unified Gold Coast and British Togoland became an independent state within the British Commonwealth with the name of Ghana