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Benin - Historical Highlights (Notes)

Benin was the seat of one of the great medieval African kingdoms called Dahomey. Europeans began arriving in the area in the 18th century, as the kingdom of Dahomey was expanding its territory. The Portuguese, the French, and the Dutch established trading posts along the coast (Porto-Novo, Ouidah, Cotonou), and traded weapons for slaves. Slave trade ended in 1848. Then, the French signed treaties with Kings of Abomey (Guézo, Toffa, Glčlč) to establish French protectorates in the main cities and ports. However, King Behanzin fought the French influence, which cost him deportation to Martinique. As of 1900, the territory became a French colony ruled by a French Governor. Expansion continued to the North (kingdoms of Parakou, Nikki, Kandi), up to the border with former Upper Volta. On December 4, 1958, it became the République du Dahomey, self-governing within the French community, and on August 1, 1960, the Republic of Benin gained full independence from France.

Post-Independence Politics
Between 1960 and 1972, a succession of military coups brought about many changes of government. The last of these brought to power Major Mathieu Kérékou as the head of a regime professing strict Marxist-Leninist principles. The Revolutionary Party of the People of Benin (PRPB) remained in complete power until the beginning of the 1990s. Kérékou, encouraged by France and other democratic powers, convened a national conference that introduced a new democratic constitution and held presidential and legislative elections. Kérékou's principal opponent at the presidential poll, and the ultimate victor, was Prime Minister Nicéphore Soglo. Supporters of Soglo also secured a majority in the National Assembly.

Benin was thus the first African country to effect successfully the transition from dictatorship to a pluralistic political system. In the second round of National Assembly elections held in March 1995, Soglo's political vehicle, the Parti de la Renaissance du Benin, was the largest single party but lacked an overall majority. The success of a party formed by supporters of ex-president Kérékou, who had officially retired from active politics, encouraged him to stand successfully at both the 1996 and 2001 presidential elections.

During the 2001 elections, however, alleged irregularities and dubious practices led to a boycott of the run-off poll by the main opposition candidates. The four top-ranking contenders following the first round presidential elections were Mathieu Kérékou (incumbent) 45.4%, Nicephore Soglo (former president) 27.1%, Adrien Houngbedji (National Assembly Speaker) 12.6%, and Bruno Amoussou (Minister of State) 8.6%. The second round balloting, originally scheduled for March 18, 2001, was postponed for days because both Soglo and Houngbedji withdrew, alleging electoral fraud. This left Kérékou to run against his own Minister of State, Amoussou, in what was termed a 'friendly match.'

In December 2002, Benin held its first municipal elections since before the institution of Marxism-Leninism. The process was smooth with the significant exception of the 12th district council for Cotonou, the contest that would ultimately determine who would be selected for the mayoralty of the capital city. That vote was marred by irregularities, and the electoral commission was forced to repeat that single election. Nicephore Soglo's Renaisance du Benin (RB) party won the new vote, paving the way for the former president to be elected Mayor of Cotonou by the new city council in February 2002.

National Assembly elections took place in March 2003 and were generally considered to be free and fair. Although there were some irregularities, these were not significant and did not greatly disrupt the proceedings or the results. These elections resulted in a loss of seats by RB--the primary opposition party. The other opposition parties, the Party for Democratic Renewal (PRD) led by the former Prime Minister Adrien Houngbedji and the Alliance Etoile (AE), joined the government coalition.

Former West African Development Bank Director Boni Yayi won the March 2006 election for the presidency in a field of 26 candidates. International observers including the United Nations, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and others called the election free, fair, and transparent. President Kérékou was barred from running under the 1990 constitution due to term and age limits. President Yayi was inaugurated on April 6, 2006.

Benin held legislative elections on March 31, 2007 for the 83 seats in the National Assembly. The 'Force Cowrie for an Emerging Benin' (FCBE) party, closely linked to President Yayi, won a plurality of the seats in the National Assembly, providing the president with considerable influence over the legislative agenda.

Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic (Head of State and Head of the Government)--Boni Yayi
Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration, Francophonie and the Beninese Diaspora--Moussa Okanla
Minister of State, in charge of the Economy, Economic Forecasting Development and the Evaluation of Public Action--Pascal Irene Koupaki
Minister of State in charge of National Defense--Issifou Kogui N'douro
Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries--Roger Dovonou
Minister of Work and Public Service--Emmanuel Tiando
Minister of Administrative and Institutional Reform--Idrissou Sina Bio Gounou
Minister of Culture, Tourism and Handicrafts--Soumanou Toleba
Minister of Urban Development, Land Reform and Coastal Erosion Prevention--François Gbenoukpo Noudegbessi
Minister of Microfinance and Youth and Women's Employment--Sakinatou Abdou Alfa Orou Sidi
Minister-Delegate for Budget in the Office of the Minister of Finance--Albert Segbegnon Houngbo
Minister of Interior and Public Security--General Félix Hessou
Minister of Decentralization, Local Communities and Land Management--Démolo Issa Moko
Minister of Finance--Soulé Mana Lawani
Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises--Grégoire Akofodji
Minister of Mines, Energy and Water--Sacca Lafia
Minister of Health--Kessile Tchala
Minister of Primary Education, Literacy and National Languages--Christine Ouinsavi
Ministry of Secondary Education, and Vocational and Technical Training--Bernadette Sohoudji Agbossou
Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research--Vicentia Bocco
Minister of Youth, Sports and Leisure--Ganiou Soglo
Minister of Family and Children--Gnimbéré Dansou
Minister of the Environment and the Conservation of Nature--Juliette Koudenoukpo Biaou
Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice, Legislation and Human Rights--Cassa Gustave Anani
Minister in charge of the Relations with the Institutions, Spokesman of the Government--Alexandre Houtondji
Minister-Delegate for Communication and New Technology in the Office of the President of the Republic--Désiré Adadja
Minister-Delegate for Transport and Public Works in the Office of the President of the Republic--Armand Zinzindohoue

Ambassador to the United States--Sčgbé Cyrille Oguin
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Simon Idohou

Benin maintains an embassy in the United States at 2124 Kalorama Road, Washington, DC 20008, tel. 202-232-6656. The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Benin to the United Nations is located at 4 East 73rd Street, New York, NY 10021 tel. 212-249-6014, fax 212-734-4735.

Next Elections Scheduled
Local elections--Either December 2007 or January 2008; no date selected.

Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - CFA Franc BCEAO Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.

Facts at a Glance
Current Time
Ranking Positions
CFA Franc BCEAO Exchange Rates

Notes and Commentary
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.

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