Kofi Yamgnane (1945- )

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Kofi Yamgnane is a FrancoTogolese politician. Born in Togo in 1945, he went to France at the age of 19 and later became an elected official in Brittany before joining the French government as integration secretary in 1991.  In 2002 he entered politics in Togo and ran for the presidency of that nation.

Yamgnane was born into a middle class family in the city of Bassar, Togo on October 11, 1945.  He attended a private Catholic school where a French missionary recognized his intelligence and arranged for him to complete his education in France.  He arrived in Brest in Brittany, entered the local university in 1964 and graduated five years later with a degree in mathematics. He found his first professional job in 1973 as an engineer for Quimper Community Facilities and later worked as an engineer for the French Roads and Bridges Administration.  In 1979 he entered the Mining School of Nancy, completing studies in 1981.

In 1975, Yamgnane married Anne-Marie from Brest, a mathematics professor at the local university.  They had two children.  The same year Yamgnane became a French citizen but kept his Togolese citizenship.

In 1983 Yamgnane launched his political career when he became the Socialist party candidate for mayor of Saint-Coulitz, a town of 400 residents.  He won the post of mayor six years later in 1989.  At the time he and his children were the only people of African ancestry in the town.  Since Yamgnane was elected during the bicentennial of the French Revolution, his victory was hailed by the national government in Paris as a splendid example of successful republican integration. He was nationally celebrated as “Briton of the year.”

Two years later, in 1991 Yamgnane was named Secretary for Integration in the Edith Cresson government.  He served in Paris until the Socialists were defeated in 1993.

Meanwhile he was elected in Brittany in 1992 to represent Saint-Coulitz and the surrounding area in the regional and departmental assemblies.  He served in both until 1997 when he was elected to the National Assembly in Paris.  He served in this legislative body from 1997 to 2002.

In 2001, however, Yamgnane abruptly resigned as mayor of Saint Coulitz.  He did not run for office again until 2007 when he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the French Senate. Frustrated by his defeat and believing his French political career was over, Yamgnane returned to Togo.  While he had served as a political mediator in Togo numerous times between 1991 and 2000, he now decided to enter that country’s national politics.  He attempted twice to run for the presidency of Togo.  He first challenged the son of the recently deceased longtime president, Gnassimgbé Eyadema, in a 2007 special election but was disqualified because he did not meet the candidate requirements.  He ran in 2010 but was again disqualified.  After his 2010 defeat he was evicted from Togo which now said it no longer recognized his dual citizenship.

Yamgnane returned to France in time to support successful French presidential candidate François Hollande in 2012.