Benin Republic Election Protest Death Toll Rises To Two

A man looks on as protesters erect makeshift barricades with tires and branches during a demonstration against Benin President Patrice Talon in Toui, an opposition stronghold, on April 7, 2021. President Talon is running for re-election in a vote on April 11, 2021, which he is favoured to win after critics say he cracked down on opponents.
Yanick Folly / AFP

 

A second person has died after troops opened fire with live rounds to break up a protest in central Benin just days before President Patrice Talon seeks re-election, a local official said on Friday.

Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016, is expected to easily win Sunday’s ballot with most of his main opponents exiled or disqualified, but protests have erupted in opposition bastions in the center and north of the country.

On Thursday, troops fired tear gas and live rounds in the air to break up protesters who had blocked a major highway in the central city of Save.

Officials had reported at least one person killed and at least five wounded by gunfire.

“One of those wounded by bullets has died this morning. So the toll is now two dead and five wounded,” Save city mayor Denis Oba Chabi told AFP.

“The situation is calm and youths have not erected any new barricades, and after negotiations, the military has returned to the barracks.”

Benin was long praised as a thriving multi-party democracy in often troubled West Africa, but critics say Talon has steered the country into authoritarianism with a steady crackdown on his opponents.

Most are in exile, have been disqualified by electoral reforms or targeted for investigation by special court critics say Talon has used as a political tool.

A government spokesman Alain Orounla said on Thursday security forces were attacked by “drugged and armed” youths and had responded when they came under fire.

“It is our people’s constitutional right to protest in the street, to express themselves and to have their voices heard,” said opposition leader Joel Aivo, one of those disqualified from running in the election.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc condemned “peaceful protests that gradually turned violent in several cities across the country.”

The US State Department on Friday also called on all in Benin to remain peaceful.

“We urge all parties to express their perspectives peacefully,” spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “We urge the electoral institutions and courts overseeing these processes and verifying these results to ensure these elections are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently.”

Talon faces two little-known rivals — Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.

One opposition leader Reckya Madougou was detained last month on accusations of plotting to disrupt the election with terrorism, a charge her lawyer says is fabricated.

A judge from the special court created by Talon also fled the country this week after denouncing political pressure to make rulings against opponents, including the decision to detain Madougou.

-AFP

AFCON Qualifier: Onuachu Gives Super Eagles Late Winner Over Benin

Photo Credit: NGSuperEagles

 

The Super Eagles maintained top of Group L standings in the AFCON  qualifier after a 93rd-minute winner from substitute Paul Onuachu on Saturday evening.

The Nigerian side had already booked their place in Cameroon after Lesotho and Sierra Leone played out a  0-0  draw earlier in the day, with Benin needing one point from the match against Nigeria to also secure a place at the finals of the competition.

A fourth consecutive goalless draw in the section seemed on the cards until giant substitute Onuachu reacted quickest when goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe blocked a Victor Osimhen shot in Porto-Novo.

A combination of the woodwork, which foiled Osimhen, wild shooting and several superb saves by Allagbe had kept the match at Stade Charles de Gaulle goalless for 92 minutes.

The Super Eagles travelled by sea to the capital of Benin Friday after players raised concerns about the poor road network linking the neighbouring west African countries.

A few hours later, the visitors trained at the match venue using the light of a full moon because the floodlights were not switched on.

Nigeria have 11 points, Benin seven, Sierra Leone four and Lesotho three going into the final round of qualifiers Tuesday.

While three-time African champions Nigeria host Lesotho in Lagos with only pride at stake, Cup of Nations qualification will be on the line when Sierra Leone confront Benin in Freetown.

Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have also qualified, leaving seven places to be filled.

The first of those will be decided on Sunday in Omdurman with Sudan needing a win and South Africa at least a draw as they battle to join Ghana from Group C

Benin Opposition Member In Custody Ahead Of Elections

 

A leading member of Benin’s opposition has been held and brought before a special court, the government said, as critics accuse the authorities of a crackdown ahead of upcoming elections.

Bio Dramane Tidjani, from the opposition Democrats party, was summoned on Monday by the Court of Repression of Economic Offences and Terrorism for “destabilising the electoral process,” government spokesman Alain Orounla said.

“The special prosecutor… heard people whose suspicious activity and reprehensible actions required them to be heard in a court of law,” he said, without giving details.

“The government will… rigorously sanction anyone who seeks to disrupt the upcoming election or cause violence,” Orounla said in remarks to reporters late Wednesday.

Tidjani, who is not well known by the public but is important within the party and close to its leader, was still in custody on Thursday, his party said.

On April 11, 5.5 million people will be eligible to either reelect President Patrice Talon or vote for one of two opposition candidates — former minister Alassane Soumano or Corentin Kohoue, a dissident opposition figure.

Out of the 20 aspiring presidents, 17 had their candidacies rejected by the West African country’s electoral commission.

Elected in 2016, Talon had initially said he would complete only one mandate, later changing his mind and announcing in mid-February he was running again.

His critics say the country has veered into authoritarianism under his rule.

It is unclear why Tidjani was brought before the court or why he was kept in custody.

Two other members of his party, former parliamentarians Noureini Atchade and Justin Adjovi, were also summoned by the court last Friday but were not detained.

“Bio Dramane Tidjani’s detention is arbitrary and illegal,” said Rekiath Madougou, the head of the Democrats.

“This serves to prove once again that the current regime is becoming authoritarian.”

The electoral commission rejected Madougou’s candidacy in the upcoming election in mid-February for failing to receive the 16 signatures needed from elected officials.

A close ally of former president Boni Yayi, a major rival of Talon, Madougou took to Facebook to denounce “plots against freedom fighters” just two months before the election.

Supporters of the incumbent reject those charges and say conditions are in place for a fair election in the former French colony.

-AFP

Benin Traders Anxious For Nigeria’s Borders To Reopen

 

The main border crossing between Benin and Nigeria was buzzing following the announcement it would reopen after more than 16 months, relieving thousands who suffered from the closure.

Nigeria said Wednesday it was lifting the closure of its borders with neighbouring Benin and Niger imposed in August 2019 in a move it said would curb the smuggling of rice and other commodities and bolster domestic agriculture.

Early Thursday, traders, taxi-drivers and goods carriers amassed on both sides of the Seme-Krake border, located along the Atlantic Ocean.

“I am so emotional I want to cry,” said Jacqueline Watchinou, a reseller who had to pick up work as a house cleaner to support her family.

“Last night we had a party to celebrate,” she said, hoping the reopening would put an end to her financial troubles.

In the town’s small restaurants, people cheered joyfully, as women nearby draped in colourful clothes brought wooden chairs to sit on and wait.

A handful of people were able to cross but “this morning, Nigerians apparently stopped letting people through,” said a worried trader, Brice Biokou.

A Beninese border official told AFP they were waiting for “an official notification” to fully reopen.

President Muhammadu Buhari stunned his country’s neighbours when he unexpectedly closed the borders, saying the time had come to crush the contraband trade.

Major impact

The unilateral move was criticised for violating commercial and freedom of movement treaties signed under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The closure had a major impact on Nigeria, heavily reliant on imports to feed a booming population of some 200 million people.

Huge quantities of frozen chicken, rice, fabric but also cars that arrive in Cotonou are shipped or smuggled into Nigeria.

For its part, Benin relies heavily on cheap oil imports from its neighbour, sold across the country in jerry cans along the roads.

The shutdown also had an impact on traders in Benin, a key exporter of foodstuffs to Africa’s most populous country.

With a recession on its hands, falling oil prices and an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria was under pressure to reopen its borders.

Four border crossings were to “open immediately”, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said Wednesday: Seme, Ilela, Maitagari and Mfun.

“The remaining borders are directed to be reopened on or before 31st of December, 2020,” Ahmed said in a statement.

Under the new instructions, the ban on rice and poultry imports remains in place.

But even so, many in Seme-Krake, are hopeful that business will soon resume.

“I’m eager to start shipping my goods to Nigeria,” Midonignon Agbogninoi, who has been transporting goods across the border for 22 years.

“I’m thrilled. I’ve heard everything would be in order by the end of the day.”

EndSARS Protest Death: Edo Govt Gives Security Agencies 24 Hours To Fish Out Culprits

 

The Edo State Government on Friday charged all security agencies to fish out those involved in the alleged killing of an #EndSARS protester in the state within 24 hours and ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act are brought to justice.

Addressing the protesters at the Kings square axis in Benin city, the state capital Deputy Governor, mister Philip Shaibu, said the government will not fold its arms and watch harm come the way of young people exercising their rights as citizens of the country.

According to Shaibu, “I have given instructions to the security agencies to fish out those behind the attack. The police, the Department of State Security (DSS) and other security agencies have been ordered to bring to book those guys that harassed you and killed that young man.”

“Some of you sustained injuries, I can see them from here; they have 24 hours to bring the attackers to book,” he noted.

The deputy governor further said: “I have ordered that the victim be taken to the morgue; we are going to give him a state burial because the martyrs of this struggle must be remembered. He will be remembered for being part of this struggle. He is a martyr already and by the grace of God, he will never be forgotten.

“By the grace of God, when all these reforms have taken place, it will be on record that he joined the struggle for emancipation. I want to assure you that the Edo Government believes in your peaceful protest.”

Assuring the protesters of the government’s support, Shaibu noted: “We will not fold our hands as a government and watch miscreants brutalize anyone involved in this protest. So, please maintain your calm and orderliness during the protests.

“We are with you in this struggle. President Muhammadu Buhari has also said that there is going to be a reform, but we, as a state, are going to ensure that we have a reform that is people-friendly because the police are meant to protect lives and property not to destroy them. I want to assure you that we are with you on this.”

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Mr. David Osayende said, “One of us has been killed during this struggle. Sir, we want state burial for that man. We want an end to police brutality; we want the police to stop arresting us without any offence.”

#EndSARS: Obaseki Condemns Attack In Benin, Calls For Security Of Protesters

Godwin Obaseki

 

 

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has condemned the attack on the #ENDSARS protesters by hoodlums in Benin City.

Governor Obaseki in a statement charged the Edo State Police Command to provide adequate security for the protesters as they exercise their rights as concerned Nigerians.

He also noted that a thorough investigation would commence immediately to bring the culprits to justice.

“I have just learnt that hoodlums have attacked #ENDSARS protesters, who have conducted themselves peacefully in Benin City. I extend my condolences to the victims of the attacks, including those who lost their lives and others who were injured by the thugs.

READ ALSO: Armed Men Attack #EndSARS Protesters In Benin

“It is disheartening that anyone would attack a peaceful assembly of young people who are expressing genuine concerns over police brutality and intimidation in their own country.

“I hereby call on the Edo State Police Command to get out on the streets and provide adequate security for the protesters and ensure that no one is harassed in the course of exercising their rights.”

Some unidentified hoodlums on Friday attacked protesters gathered at the King’s axis of the state.

The attackers chased the protesters as they brandished machetes and shot into the air.

Niger Republic, Benin Owe Nigeria Up To N1.4bn For Electricity – Presidency

A file photo of Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu

 

Two of Nigeria’s closest neighbours, Benin and Niger owe the country up to N1.4bn, the Presidency revealed on Tuesday.

In a statement, signed by spokesman Garba Shehu, addressing a report questioning why the nation was exporting electricity to neighbouring countries on credit – while blackouts persist nationwide – the Presidency noted that, as at 2019, the debt owed by four countries totalled $69m.

“As of the last review in 2019, the amount of indebtedness to all three customers stood at $69 million, subsequent upon which several payments were made to NBET,” the statement said. “Much of this has been repaid by the debtor nations.

READ ALSO: Akpabio Must Publish Names Of Lawmakers Who Got NDDC Contracts, Reps Insist

“As of today, Niger owes only USD 16 million and Benin, USD 4 million, adding up to the Naira equivalent of about N1.2bn.”

Why Nigeria Exports Power Despite Local Shortage?

The Presidency statement on Tuesday explained that the country exports power to neighbouring countries in respect of multilateral agreement that prevents the damming of water sources into the nation’s main hydropower stations.

“Power exported to Niger, Benin and Togo based on Multilateral Energy Sales Agreement with the Government of Nigeria is on the basis that they would not dam the waters that feed our major power plants in Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba,” the Presidency said.

“The essence of said bilateral agreements, by which we give them power and they do not build dams on the River Niger means that Nigeria and her brotherly neighbours had avoided the unfolding situation of the Nile River between the sovereign states of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.”

 

NDLEA Debunks Video-Claim Of Drugs And Arms Seizure In Benin

File photo

 

The Edo State Command of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Benin City has described as unfounded the claim of large supplies of arms, ammunition, and cannabis seized by Edo youths in a video trending all over social media.

State commander, Mr Buba Wakawa said that the video is a mischievous attempt by some criminal-minded individuals to unnecessarily heighten political and ethnic tensions in the State despite the prevailing peace and security.

“I am shocked by the deceit and false claim because the video being circulated was the seizure of a truck containing Cannabis Sativa that was intercepted by the Edo State command in November 2016. The case was charged to court and the perpetrators duly convicted. Unfortunately, the same video is being used to spread rumours aimed at creating fear and insecurity in the State. It is completely spurious and should be ignored” Wakawa stated.

READ ALSO: COVID – 19: Kwara Govt Returns Loaded Passenger Bus To Niger

He notes that the ‘false video’ urged Nigerians especially Southerners to be vigilant because supplies of ammunition to Benin City have been intercepted by Benin youths at Aduwawa area of the State capital meant for Hausa community.

Wakawa added that in November 2016, the command intercepted a Dangote Truck at Enweh with 7,950kgs of dried cannabis concealed in bags of cement.

“Investigation revealed that the driver, Segiru Amadu collected the sum of 1.3 million naira to transport the drugs to Maiduguri. The Agency got excellent cooperation from Dangote Cement Company in the said case. The driver who fled the scene of seizure was arrested by Dangote Cement Company and charged for breach of contract before a Kogi State Magistrate Court.

“After serving his jail term in Kogi, he was brought to Edo State for the criminal trial of unlawful transportation of cannabis for which he was also convicted. Subsequently, Dangote Cement Company was given a clean bill of non-complicity in the case and equally commended for its high level of cooperation”.

The commander further clarified that the cannabis seizure in 2016 has nothing to do with firearms or the management of Dangote Company, stressing that the good reputation of Dangote Group of Companies should not be smeared.

The Agency maintained that investigation will be conducted to uncover those behind the calumny and punish them accordingly.

Benin Votes In Controversial Poll Despite COVID-19

Benin President Patrice Talon casts his ballot at the Charles Guiyot Zongo public school on May 17, 2020, as voting operation are underway for the local election. Yanick Folly / AFP.

 

Benin staged local elections minus key opposition parties on Sunday with authorities pushing ahead despite the coronavirus threat and calls for a delay.

The West African nation of 11 million this week lifted a raft of restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus. COVID-19 has caused 339 confirmed infections and two deaths in the country.

The autonomous national election commission (CENA) made face masks mandatory for voters and enforced social distancing measures at polling stations.

“We have received a lot of hydro-alcohol gels and masks for all voters,” returning officer Mathieu Daki told AFP at N’dali in the north of the country.

In the economic capital Cotonou where most coronavirus deaths have occurred, election officials ensured voters were more than a metre apart.

However, not everyone appeared to have been reassured.

In the city’s 5th district election agent Dimitri Assani admitted voters were “few and far between”.

Donatien Sagbo Hounga wore a mask to enter the polling station, but said he was waiting “till there were no other voters in front of the election agents” to move forward to cast his vote.

“It may seem excessive but it’s necessary,” Hounga said.

Campaigning has been limited to posters and media appearances as candidates were forced to call off rallies due to a ban on gatherings of over 50 people.

– Voters ‘few and far between’ –

Critics warned the health risks were too high for a vote that opponents of President Patrice Talon insist should not be happening in the first place.

Talon sported a mask when he voted early in Cotonou’s Zongo-Ehuzu area.

In the city’s first district Arnold Migan voted early in the morning. “With the threat from COVID-19 it’s best to vote quickly and go home before a lot of people arrive,” he said.

Benin, seen as one of the region’s most stable democracies, has been in political crisis since a disputed parliamentary poll last April sparked protests.

READ ALSO: Madagascar Records First COVID-19 Death

Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile.

Parties allied to the president won all the seats at the polls last year after opposition groups were effectively banned from standing but turnout was only 25 percent.

Now leading opposition parties again find themselves barred from the vote for control of 77 councils across the country.

The exclusion drew a legal challenge from Talon opponent Sebastien Ajavon, a businessman living in exile after he was sentenced to prison on drug charges in Benin.

The regional African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled the vote should be suspended as it was not inclusive.

But Benin disregarded the ruling and severed some ties with the court in protest at the decision.

Opponents called on voters to boycott the poll over the political situation and the risks from coronavirus.

Many among the electorate appeared set to heed the call to stay home given the result looks certain to go in favour of those backing Talon.

In Cotonou’s Cadjehoun area only about 30 people had voted by midday out of 400 registered there.

Final results from the election are expected within a week.

AFP

Benin Republic Says It Does Not Have The Money To Confine The Population

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

President Patrice Talon announced Sunday that Benin could not enforce public confinement because it lacks the “means of rich countries” who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Rich countries are putting up huge amounts of money and some are even resorting to barely disguised monetary solutions, or printing notes to prevent what would otherwise be unavoidable socio-economic chaos,” he said in a televised address.

“Benin (…) does not have such means,” Talon said. “If we take measures which starve everybody, they will quickly end up being defied and violated.”

The president did announce from Monday a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around eight major urban areas, including the business capital Cotonou where public transport will be halted.

But questions have been asked about the lack of protective measures in the West African country where officially just six cases of novel coronavirus have been recorded.

READ ALSO: Spain Records 838 Coronavirus Deaths In 24 Hours 

A student demonstration at Cotonou’s Abomey-Calvi university last week calling for classes to be halted ended with one protester dead. Schools, churches and mosques were ordered to close on March 22-23.

Neighbouring Togo has reported 28 cases and Ghana 141. Both have imposed confinement or restrictions on movement.

Across Africa 4,267 cases have been declared with 134 deaths, although testing has been limited in many countries where large numbers of people live in poverty.

AFP

Benin Republic Confirms First Coronavirus Case

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

West Africa’s Benin on Monday announced its first confirmed coronavirus case as the continent scrambles to stop the spread of the global pandemic.

Health minister Benjamin Hounkpatin said a man coming from neighbouring Burkina Faso had tested positive, having recently visited Belgium.

Health Minister Benjamin Hounkpatin said a man from neighbouring Burkina Faso, who had recently visited Belgium, tested positive after arriving in Benin.

READ ALSO: Liberia Confirms First Case Of Coronavirus

The announcement comes as numerous nations in sub-Saharan Africa have begun imposing entry restrictions or closing schools and banning public gatherings.

AFP

Spirit World: Voodoo Makes A Comeback In Its Benin Home

A man walks to the entrance of AGEP-DDA office, association in charge of the gestion of the voodoo squares and temple after renovation, in Porto-Novo, on December 10, 2019. YANICK FOLLY / AFP

 

 

In his long life, voodoo priest Kpohinto Medji has seen his religion flourish and then go into decline, banned for years by the authorities and pressured by other faiths.

Today, the ageing priest with mischievous eyes is somewhat happier.

Benin is gearing for its annual voodoo festival — an event that lures an influx of visitors to the capital Porto-Novo and underscores voodoo’s comeback in the country of its birth.

Houngo Hounto Square is among a number of squares, once owned by voodoo-worshipping families, that are being renovated.

Painters have been putting the finishing touches to its ochre walls ahead of the January 10 festival, and fetishes and tokens of the old religion are proudly on display.

“Before, it was a run-down, abandoned square,” the old priest said, speaking in the local language of Goun. “Today, it’s lovely.”

Voodoo, more often called “vodun” in West Africa, has a hierarchy of deities and tribal spirits of nature and sees revered ancestors living alongside the living.

It uses fetishes, magical practises and healing remedies, which followers consider to be divine.

But its rituals have often been distorted by Hollywood, which tends to stereotype the religion as a source of black magic.

Years of decline

In Benin itself, voodoo was battered by French colonisation, when it was demonised by Catholic missionaries.

A dozen years after Benin gained independence, voodoo was banned by Mathieu Kerekou, a Marxist-Leninist who came to power in a military coup.

His elected successor, Nicephore Soglo, lifted the ban, but the religion came under pressure once more with the spread of evangelism in West Africa, whose preachers often compare native religions with sorcery.

According to the latest available official figures, which date from 2013, practitioners of voodoo, who are called vodounsi, account for just 11 percent of Benin’s population, against nearly 30 percent Muslim and 25 percent Christian.

“There are so many religions which have arrived in Benin, they have turned our brothers away from our faith,” said Raymond Zannou, a printer.

He ancestors built Houngbo Hounto Square. Today, “a minority of people take care of maintaining the squares, and often they are elderly,” he said.

City of squares

Porto-Novo, a city of about a quarter of a million people, originally developed as a port for slave trade under the Portuguese empire in the 17th century.

Its squares — 44, according to Gerard Bassale, head of a local cultural association called Ouadada — are one of its most distinctive features.

Many of them belong to local families, who built their homes there and established temples and housed their divinities as protection.

But many of them fell into sad disrepair, becoming a symbol itself of voodoo’s marginalisation. Many blamed squabbles within families about sharing out the cost of renovation.

“They are the identity of our town. They create links between people, they are where important ceremonies take place,” said Bassale, whose organisation is refurbishing the squares.

“If they disappeared, part of the town’s history would go with them.”

Restoring each square costs the equivalent of around $66,000 (60,000 euros). The funding comes from Cergy-Pontoise, a town in the greater Paris region that has twinning links.

Porto-Novo’s authorities are paying for solar-powered lighting for the squares and for cleaning them but do not maintain the voodoo shrines there, which it considers being private areas.

Sacred tree

King Te Houeyi Migan XIV, the descendant of a long line of local chiefs, is delighted at the rebirth of the squares.

French colonizers used a forest that was sacred to his forebears to build Porto-Novo’s cathedral and governor’s palace.

The chief, clad in a magnificent purple gown, pointed to an ancient kapok tree towering over one of three renovated squares near the old palace.

“It is a sacred tree. Spirits live there,” said the king. “Every five years, we hold a great party and make sacrifices there.”

Paul Nouatin, treasurer of an association that maintains two of the squares, said there had been an upturn in interest in voodoo — around 20 young people had been initiated into the religion in December alone, he said.

Mito Akplogan Guin, the supreme head of voodoo in Porto-Novo, said he was optimistic.

“Catholics, Protestants, Muslims.. all their ancestors (in Benin) were followers of voodoo. Our religion can’t disappear in a flash.”