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The People's Republic of Benin (French: République populaire du Bénin) is a socialist state (commonly known as "communist" in the Western world) located in the Gulf of Guinea on the African continent. The People's Republic was established on November 30, 1975, shortly after the 1972 coup d'état in the Republic of Dahomey.
History of the People's Republic of Benin
On October 26, 1972, the army led by Commander Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the government, suspended the constitution and dissolved both the National Assembly and the Presidential Council.
On November 30, 1972 it released the keynote address of New Politics of National Independence. A new body, the National Council of the Revolution was created. The territorial administration was reformed, mayors and deputies replacing traditional structures (village chiefs, convents, animist priests.e.t.c.).
On November 30, 1974 he declared in the city of Abomey, before an assembly of stunned notables, a speech proclaiming the formal accession of his government to Marxism-Leninism. He soon aligned Dahomey with the Soviet Union. The People's Revolutionary Party of Benin, designed as a vanguard party, was created on the same day as the country's only legal party.
The first year of the Marxist government was marked by purges in the state apparatus. Kérékou condemned, and sometimes executed, various representatives of the former political regime, and some of its own employees: Captain Michel Aipké, Interior minister, was sentenced to death and executed on a charge of adultery with the wife of the head of state. He was shot, and activists invited to file past his body.
On November 30, 1975, with the first anniversary of the speech of Abomey, Kérékou changed the country's name to Benin, named after the Union of Benin that had once flourished in neighboring Nigeria. The National Day was set for November 30, referring to three days of 1972, 1974, and 1975, dubbed by the regime the Three Glorious.
A new constitution was adopted in 1978, and the first elections for the National Revolutionary Assembly were held in 1979. Kérékou was elected unopposed to a four-year term as president in 1980 and reelected (again unopposed) in 1984. As was the case in most Marxist-Leninist states, the National Revolutionary Assembly was nominally the highest source of state power, but in practice did little more than rubber-stamp decisions already made by Kérékou and the PRPB.
Post Doomsday Benin
The government of Benin was heavily affected by the destruction of the USSR on Doomsday.
In 1986, the economic situation in Benin had become critical: the system, ironically, already dubbed the Marxism-Beninism , inherited the nickname of laxism-Leninism. Agriculture was disorganized, the Commercial Bank of Benin was ruined, and communities were largely paralyzed due to lack of budget. On the political front, the violations of human rights, with cases of torture of political prisoners, contributed to social tension: the church and the unions opposed more openly the regime.
In the years since the National Conference of 1990 there have been many reforms of the socio-political and governmental structures in Benin, Beninism has become the norm with the country moving away from the true communist stance of the 70's and early 80's, towards the socialist stance.
The government controls many aspects of the daily life of many Beninians with many governmental bodies being set up including:
- Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.
- Ministry for Metalworking and Forging.
- Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture.
- Ministry of Transport - Covering road, rail and water transport.
- Ministry of Health - With a basic National Health Service.
- Ministry of Utilities - Covering water and electricity supply
Government of The Peoples Republic of Benin
In the election in 1988 Kérékou was elected unopposed again, this time however seeing the destruction of the industries of Benin and realizing the mood of the nation after the election began substantial reforms of policy.
On December 7, 1989, Kérékou took the lead and surprised the people disseminating an official statement announcing the abandonment of the current Marxism-Leninism policies, the liquidation of the Political Bureau, and the closure of the party's central committee. The Government accepted the establishment of a National Conference bringing together representatives of different political movements.
The Conference opened on February 19, 1990: Kérékou expressed himself in person on February 21 publicly recognizing the failure of his policies, claiming to be ashamed of them. The work of the Conference decided to draft new policies.
In the elections of 1992 were relatively free and fair, Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo, won 67.7% of the votes and defeated President Kérékou in the presidential election.
Former President Kérékou accepted the election results and left his office. He became president again by winning the election in 1996.
President Kérékou was re-elected for a second four-year term in the March 2000 presidential election under controversial circumstances.
In the first round he took 45.4% of the vote; Former President Soglo, who took second place, and parliament speaker Houngbédji, who took third, both refused to participate in the second round, alleging fraud and saying that they did not want to legitimize the vote by participating in it.
This left the fourth place finisher, Amoussou, to face Kérékou in the run-off, and Kérékou easily won with 83.6% of the vote.
In the election of 2004 President Kérékou narrowly defeted former President Soglo with 58% of the vote (Soglo got 38% of the vote), the former president declared that he had been beaten fairly this time, however he did mention that the previous election to have been 'less fair'.
In the 2008 election President Kérékou won again, this time with a reduced majority of 52% (Soglo got 35%, Houngbédji got 13%)
The next election is expected in 2012. President Kérékou has already stated that he will not be standing, colleagues believe that he is worried that he would loose another election and wishes to retire whilst still President. He has nominated one of his Chief Ministers, Antoine Idji Kolawolé to run for President.
Two new rules will be introduced at the 2012 election:
- The President will only be allowed to rule for two terms (maximum of 8 years)
- The upper age limit for election will be a maximum of 70 years old.
With these new rules, former President Soglo will not be able to run for election due to his age, he has already nominated his son Léhady Vinagnon Soglo to run for election.
If the election is called before the 5th of March then Adrien Houngbédji (who was born March 5, 1942) can run for election, however if the election is after the 5th of March then he will not be able to run, due to his age.
As expected the general election was called on the 7th March, critics say that the current President called it after the 5th March deadline for Adrien Houngbédji to enter the Presidential race, purely so that he could not enter.
The date for the election has been set at the 9th April 2012.
There are three men standing for the post of President of Benin:
- Léhady Vinagnon Soglo (born 1960), son of former President Soglo.
- Antoine Idji Kolawolé (born 1946), member of Current President Kérékou government.
- Abieyuwa Francois Yuwa (born 1956), a Head Judge from Porto-Novo.
Experts are expecting it to be a close run election, between Soglo and Kolawolé.
The results of the election will be known on the 11th April, voting officials from the WAU declared the election reasonably fair, with some small scale vote rigging noted in the north of the county.
Results of the Election
- Léhady Vinagnon Soglo - 52%
- Antoine Idji Kolawolé - 36%
- Abieyuwa Francois Yuwa -12%
As expected it was a two horse race, however the results were less close than experts were expecting.
President of The People's Republic of Benin
The fourth and current President of Benin is Léhady Vinagnon Soglo (born 1960), son of the second President of Benin, Nicephore Soglo.
Former Presidents of The People's Republic of Benin
- 1972-1992 and again 1996-2012 - Mathieu Kérékou
The first and third President of Benin was Mathieu Kérékou, (born 1933) was President of Benin from 1972 to 1992 and again from 1996 to present. After seizing power in a military coup, he has ruled the country for a total of 36 years, 16 years of that as elected president, for most of that time under an officially Marxist-Leninist ideology, before he was willingly stripped of his powers by the National Conference of 1990. He was defeated in the 1992 presidential election, but was returned to the presidency in the 1996 election.
- 1992-1996 - Nicephore Soglo
The second President of Benin was Nicephore Soglo (born 1934), Educated in France he was instrumental in the advance of Beninian agriculture and irrigation systems.
The Rise of Beninism
Although now theoretically democratic, due to the free elections held every four years Benin is still a socialist/communist nation.
The Marxism-Beninism of the 1980's has morphed into an independent form Beninism a much milder version of Marxism, meaning that the production of items (either agricultural or industrial) is carried out to directly produce use-value (to directly satisfy human needs, or economic demands) as opposed to being produced with a view to generating a profit (to maximize exchange-value).
Beninism also means that in the majority of businesses, that public ownership (by a state apparatus) or cooperative ownership (by a worker cooperative enterprise) has been encouraged within The People's Republic of Benin since 1990 (before the National Conference of 1990, it had been compulsory).
The People's Republic of Benin has close relations to the The Republic of Upper Volta due to their shared marxist ideologies.
In 2011 The Republic of Upper Volta and The Peoples Republic of Benin became the founding members of the Confederation of Socialist West African Nations. (CSWAC)
Trade and Industry
In 2008 Benin and The Republic of Upper Volta signed a mutual trade agreement meaning that goods traded between the two nations were not taxed.
The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture and cotton. Cotton accounts for 20% of GDP and roughly 40% of official export receipts.
There is also production of textiles, palm products, and cocoa beans. Maize (corn), beans, rice, peanuts, cashews, pineapples, cassava, yams, and other various tubers are grown for local subsistence.
Benin began producing a modest quantity of offshore oil on its Seme oilfield in October 1982. However due to the failing technology on the rigs, the oilfield was shut down in 2004. In 2011 links were created with the Nigerian oil ministry with the hopes of fixing the rigs and renewing oil production within 3 years.
A modest fishing fleet provides fish and shrimp for local subsistence and export.
Benin also has gold reserves. Gold is produced by small scale miners from gold veins near the villages of Kwatena and Tchantangou, in the Atakora Mountains in northwestern Benin, and also from alluvial sediments along the Perma River and its tributaries.