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Sylvanus olympio

Early Life


Sylvanus Olympio was born September 6, 1902 at Kpando in the German Togo (that part of the territory resulting from the German Togo division between France and Britain after the defeat of Germany in World War I will return to the British administration and will be attached to Ghana to independence). His father, Elpidio Olympio Epiphanio (1873-1968), was a wealthy merchant and planter coconut, born of a Yoruba woman, Nigerian princess Abeokuta and Francisco Olympio da Silva, Brazil and recovering slaves established in Agoué aim to raise them. Sylvanus mother, Fidelia Afe (1862-1967), was the Mamprusi ethnic group in Dapaong region in northern Togo.

Sylvanus Olympio married Dina Grunitzky, daughter of a German officer of Polish origin and a mother Anlo (a subgroup of Ewes) Keta and half-sister of Nicolas Grunitzky. They had 5 children: Kwassi Bonito Herbert (who died on 25 August 1994), Ablavi Rosita, Sylvanus Kwami Gilchrist (Gilchrist Olympio), Sylvana and Ayaba Kodzo Elpidio Fernando. Sylvanus Olympio was assassinated January 13, 1963 during a coup, the first of the post-colonial era, murder claimed by Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Sylvanus Olympio did his primary education at the German Catholic Mission and the French colonial school in Lomé , then the English high school in the British Kpando Togo . In 1920, Sylvanus Olympio left Africa to continue his studies in London where he won the London Matriculation ( the equivalent of the French baccalaureate) and then a degree in economics in 1926 at the London School of Economics. It then follows higher studies in international law at Dijon ( France ) and Vienna (Austria) .

In 1927, Sylvanus Olympio is committed to the completion of his studies as employed by Lever Brothers Company in London . In 1928 he returned to Africa, where he was assigned first as assistant to the general agent of the Unilever company in Lagos (Nigeria ) and was posted as head of the company in Ho (Ghana) . In 1932, Sylvanus Olympio was transferred to Togo where he was appointed General Agent of the United Africa Company (UAC ), a subsidiary of Unilever in française area.

because of the scramble for Africa which took place at the Berlin Conference in 1884 where Europeans split Africa among themselves dividing entire empires, people, villages, nations. One of these people were the Ewe people in West Africa who found themselves split among three countries: Gold Coast (Ghana), Togoland (Togo), and Dahomey (Benin).

Sylvanus Olympio believed that the Ewe people should be reunited under one flag…. unfortunately he could never come to agreement with Kwame Nkrumah, his Ghanaian counterpart, and other powers at play. Olympio tried to unite and educate the people about their new nation, and the needs for development. From what a Togolese friend of mine once said, he used to ride a bike from villages to villages talking to people in their languages and educating them about politics, development, and patriotism, at a time when there was no radio (1950s) in most places.

Sylvanus Olympio barely had a chance to execute anything politically. He was assassinated in a military coup in the US embassy compound in Lomé in 1963, two years after Togo’s independence and his investiture as president. The presidential palace was just next to the US embassy in Lomé. When Olympio heard gunshots, he sent his family to safety, and climbed the wall that separated him to the American embassy. Once there, he knocked at the door of the embassy to seek refuge… Unfortunately, the embassy was closed. Sylvanus hid in one of the cars in the American compound. The American Ambassador comes back to the compound and finds Olympio in the car who explains everything; the ambassador claimed not to have the keys to open the door… and asked him to wait while he would go find the keys. Rumors says that the American ambassador probably called his French counterpart who then contacted the gunmen and sent them to the American compound. Sylvanus was found in the car, and gunned by Eyadéma, one of Africa’s worst dictators backed by the West.

The Time magazine wrote an article on that day entitled Togo: Death at the Gate; JFK also had a statement about his death. The journalist, Alain Foka, of RFI did a piece on Olympio, Many wonder what Togo would have become under someone with such love, brilliance, and vision for his country. No one will ever know.


 Sylvanus Olympio. [Internet]. 2015. Available from: [Accessed 5/9/2016].



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