TIMELINE 1986: The US Embassy in Togo

A reader (Craig M.) has sent me some information that I have decided to include in the 1986 Timeline.

The US Ambassador to Togo, Owen W Roberts left one year early of assignment as he “got bored sitting on his hands with nothing to do”.


Situated on approximately 10 acres, the new US Embassy Compound in Lome, Togo, consisted of eight new structures including a 71,000-SF Chancery Building and a utility building to support site electrical power transformation and generation, HVAC chilled water, and fire & domestic water treatment. All buildings are reinforced concrete structures with ballistics-rated walls, glazing, doors and roof decks.

(Roberts had also put forward a paper “The Small Embassy Program” which was to reduce small US Embassy staff posts to approximately 50% which was opposed by other US Agencies.)

Roberts left post on 5th July 1986 (1) just before the supposed 1986 terrorist activities.

On 9th September 1986, Reagan nominated David A Korn, US Ambassador to Togo. On 16th October 1986, David A Korn was appointed US Ambassador to Togo and assumed post.

This means that from early July to mid October 1986, there was no US Ambassador in Togo. The alleged attempted bombing against the Embassy occurred on July 23. The attempted coup occurred on September 23. Quite a coincidence.


(1) See Office of the Historian: Owen W Roberts

Nomination of Owen W. Roberts To Be United States Ambassador to Togo

(2) The following document contains some interviews:

Page 92

“KORN: Well, Togo was what there was left after a certain number of other things went by the way. It was of no political or substantive interest. There was nothing of particular interest going on there.

Q: Well, how did you spend your time?
KORN: (Inaudible). I decided to retire while there.

Page 94
Deputy Chief of Mission
Lomé (1987-1990)

Q: All right, well let’s talk about Lomé — the state is —
NAGY: The state is Togo.

Q: — Togo.

NAGY: President Gnassingbe Eyadema – Proletarian president who was very close to the United States. He considered himself a major supporter of Ronald Reagan. He had two very bad neighbors: Jerry Rawlings on one side in Ghana — who was a populous African, slash, socialist and a devout Marxist — and Benin on the other side, General Kérékou. On the north in Burkina he had first a populists African – Thomas Sankara – who was killed and the government taken over by Compaore who kind of also followed the socialist model. President Eyadéma used to joke that his best neighbor was the sea.

Q: Yeah.

NAGY: He considered himself a strong support of the United States. In turn, he expected us to support him. He was a consistent human rights violator, but in those days we overlooked that. And he was one of our strongest allies in Africa. This, you know, this was pre — this was while the Soviet Union was still in existence, so we overlooked his — his — his phony elections and we overlooked his human rights violations. Of course he was not as bad as some of our, quote unquote, “friends,” like Mobutu, but he was surely not a democrat.

Q: Well, what are we talking about, human rights? I mean what were the violations?

NAGY: Oh, you know people did disappear, people were no doubt tortured. It was a very small country so the joke was — back then there was that commercial about E.F. Hutton. You know, someone goes into a bar and mentions E.F. Hutton and everyone gets quiet. Well, it was the same in Lomé and with Eyadéma. If anyone mentioned his name everything would go quiet. He had a very extensive intelligence apparatus, which kept him well-informed as to what was going on in the country. He was an insomniac, and the word was that his ministers slept in their clothes because he would call a minister at any time, day or night. And they would have to jump in their car and go to the presidential palace. Every decision was made by Eyadéma, every single decision. The Americans had wonderful access. The French had wonderful access.

Q: Who ran the intelligence service? I mean who set it up? Was it the French or?

NAGY: He had a number of “seconded” French officials attached directly to the presidency who I think ran the Togolese Intelligence Service. He had a French officer, who ran the Togolese Air Force, another French officer ran the Togolese Navy, and another French officer who ran the finance — the finances.

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