Compilation of Significant Human Rights Abuses in Benin

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Modification of the Judiciary Power of Benin

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; however, the president heads the High Council of the Judiciary that governs and sanctions judges. The judicial system was also subject to corruption, although the government continued to make substantial anticorruption efforts, including the dismissal and arrest of government officials allegedly involved in corruption scandals. Authorities respected court orders.

In 2018 the National Assembly passed a bill creating the Court to Counter Economic Crimes and Terrorism (CRIET). Observers within the judicial sector raised concerns that the bill establishing CRIET may have violated judicial impartiality, the right of appeal, and due-process principles. CRIET decisions could not be appealed to intermediate appeals courts–designed to correct errors such as a lack of jurisdiction, failure to provide a legal basis for a decision, or action by a court exceeding its authority–but had to be filed directly with the Supreme Court. Intended in part to quell domestic and international criticism, on April 21, the National Assembly revised the CRIET law to provide for appeals to be filed within the CRIET structure.

https://africacenter.org/spotlight/dismantling-benin-democracy/
The Dismantling of Benin’s Democracy
Africa Center for Strategic Studies
By Mark Duerksen
April 27, 2021

A Systematic Weakening of Benin’s Democratic Institutions

The list of legal gambits employed by Talon and his loyalists to normalize political exclusion is long and intricate.

In the run-up to the 2019 legislative elections, the Talon-appointed electoral commission invalidated the candidacy of all but pro-Talon parties based on last-minute registration requirements. Once in office, the new Talon-dominated National Assembly rubber-stamped a new electoral law requiring candidates to receive sponsorships from sitting officials. In effect, the new requirement gave the ruling party veto power over any candidate’s ability to run for office.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the regional court established by the African Union to provide recourse to citizens when justice is not possible within their own countries, has repeatedly ruled that Benin’s constitutional revisions and other antidemocratic actions violate the African Union’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance.

It found that the constitutional revisions that created the sponsorship system were rushed through the National Assembly without consulting the people of Benin in violation of the country’s 1990 Constitution.

Rather than repealing the unconstitutional laws before the 2021 vote as ordered by the court, Talon’s response was to withdraw Benin’s membership from ACHPR.

Headed by Talon’s former personal lawyer, Joseph Djogbenou, Benin’s own Constitutional Court has repeatedly ruled in Talon’s favor. This includes matters in which Djogbenou was formerly involved as the Minister of Justice, blurring the responsibilities of the executive and judiciary.

One of Djogbenou’s initiatives from his time as Minister of Justice—a special court to prosecute terrorism and economic crimes (CRIET)—has been used to quash dissent over the election results relying on a special police unit, the Brigade économique and financière.

A week before the 2021 election, a CRIET judge resigned and fled the country citing political instructions to prosecute Talon opponents, such as Reckya Madougou, who had led civil society opposition to Talon’s constitutional changes and was the presidential nominee of the Democrats political party. (Her candidacy was invalidated along with all but two lesser-known candidates).

Facing no consequences from this judge’s defection and revelations, CRIET had another opposition candidate, Joël Aïvo, arrested days after the election. He had announced his decision to boycott the election on Facebook. Human rights organizations in Benin are now raising the alarm over a massive wave of arbitrary arrests of members of civil society who have been marched in front of CRIET in the leadup to and aftermath of the election. Talon’s government has said that these arrests represent “the end of impunity” in the country. In practice, it appears to signal the end of freedom of expression.

The ability of Benin’s domestic media to cover these events and politics more generally has been curtailed by the passing of media laws that criminalize the criticizing of government officials. Amnesty International has documented 17 instances of journalists and activists being detained under Benin’s new Digital Code, which makes it a crime to publish information online deemed by the government to be harassing or false. This has had a chilling effect on domestic media . Information on what is happening in Benin is often now passed through exiles living abroad or foreign correspondents. Under Talon, Benin has dropped from number 78 to 114 in Reporters without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.
“The question of political legitimacy … overshadows everything done by the Talon
administration.”

Arbitrary arrests of journalists and civil society members have been carried out by increasingly politicized elements of the security sector. The ACHPR ruled that Benin’s security forces violated citizens’ human rights in 2019 by using live ammunition on protesters. Instead of being brought to justice, all involved were given amnesty by the newly elected National Assembly.

In the leadup to the 2021 election, ad hoc army units directed by the president’s military advisor fired on protesters, killing at least two people. Talon praised their response as showing “great skill and expertise.”

In short, these and other systematic maneuvers by the Talon government have picked apart Benin’s democratic organs until its citizens saw no choice but to sit out the pre-ordained 2021 election in protest.

The question of political legitimacy, thus, overshadows everything done by the Talon administration. An election in which three-quarters of voters do not go to the polls out of protest is a powerful indictment. Recognizing this, the Talon government has claimed a 50 percent turnout for the 2021 vote, though has failed to release results by precinct.

The independent Electoral Platform of Civil Society Organizations in Benin deployed 1,281 observers on election day and tallied the 26 percent turnout figure while noting that “in all departments [of the country], attempts at pressure, intimidation, threats, disturbances of public order, corruption or harassment of voters were observed.” A number of polling stations never opened on the day of the election, a reality acknowledged by the electoral commission.

A Crisis of Legitimacy That Threatens Stability

Democracy is not only a governance vehicle for freedom, equality, and human rights, but it is also a means of advancing national security—domestically and internationally.

The ACPHR’s rulings make clear that Benin’s new electoral rules “break the social pact and raise fears of a real threat to peace in Benin.” Benin’s reputation for being a shining multiparty democracy has gone hand-in-hand with its reputation for stability and social cohesion since the enactment of its landmark Constitution in 1991.

The crisis of legitimacy that Talon has created runs the risk of politically marginalizing citizens and of cutting off avenues for peaceful dialogue and democratic change.

While Benin has witnessed economic growth during Talon’s tenure, those gains have largely benefited elite interests like Talon’s cotton holdings (which have made him one of the richest people in Francophone Africa). Moreover, credit analysts have warned that Benin’s rising political instability may reverse its economic gains. Under Talon, workers in several public sectors have been banned from striking by Djogbenou’s Constitutional Court after protests over unpaid wages and working conditions in 2018.

Rather than prosecuting corruption, courts in Benin have recently prosecuted investigative journalists, including Ignace Sossou, who was part of the Panama Papers investigation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Militant Islamist groups operating in the Sahel have targeted Benin’s north for expansion. The largely Muslim north has been politically marginalized under Talon, creating disaffection— especially among youth, 39 percent of whom live in poverty amid high youth unemployment—that militant recruiters in neighboring Niger and North West Nigeria have sought to exploit.

Experience from elsewhere has shown that hollowed out security forces focused on attacking domestic political opponents are not very effective at defending a country’s borders. Benin’s growing autocracy and estrangement of its citizens, thus, leaves it especially vulnerable to the risk of violent extremism spilling over from the Sahel.

Reversing the Downward Spiral

Beninois continue to resist the loss of their democratic rights through appeals to the courts, boycotts, and protests. These have come with costs. At least 400 have been arrested and others have gone into exile. Protests following the 2021 elections were met with live ammunition by ad hoc army units, killing at least two people. Talon praised the security forces’ response, denying that any demonstrators were killed, while dismissing the protestors as “manipulated children.”

Having neutralized domestic democratic checks and balances, Talon is only likely to consider reversing course if he faces tangible political and economic costs. Conversely, autocratic leaders who learn they can usurp power and undermine the rule of law tend not to do so just once. Rather, these actions become part of a pattern of abuse of power. Talon has already backtracked on his promise to serve only one term and is likely to argue that his constitutional revisions reset his term limits.

Re-legitimizing Benin’s democracy will require the international democratic community calling out the hollowness of the recent election. An election in which no one shows up, after all, will always be “calm and orderly.” That does not make it legitimate. Reversing Benin’s self-inflicted spiral toward instability and autocracy will require more than words of admonishment. It will require sanctions, the withholding of foreign assistance, and the discouragement of investment.

External actors are also needed to more forcefully demand that Talon’s government engage the opposition in dialogue and create real space for citizen participation. A truly inclusive national dialogue (a “political dialogue” in 2019 excluded the opposition) and the release of demonstrators and political prisoners would be a good place to start.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were reports of political prisoners or detainees. The Nongovernmental Organization for the Defense of Human and Peoples’ Rights reported that there were political prisoners at the Cotonou, Parakou, Abomey, and Akpro-Misserete prisons. Additionally, Amnesty International and other NGOs stated that several individuals arrested for involvement in postelection protests in 2019 were detained for politically motivated reasons. The government permitted access to such persons by human rights or humanitarian organizations such as the Beninese Human Rights Commission.

Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country

There were credible reports the government attempted to misuse international law enforcement tools for politically motivated purposes against specific individuals located outside the country.

In April 2019 a Spanish court rejected the government’s request for the extradition of former minister of finance Komi Koutche, who had been arrested during a stopover in Madrid in 2018 based on an Interpol (International Police Criminal Organization) Red Notice.

The court cited lack of evidence to substantiate the request, potential political motivation for the request, and CRIET’s inability to provide for a fair trial due to its lack of independence from the government. On April 4, CRIET tried Komi Koutche in absentia, found him guilty of embezzlement of public funds and abuse of office while head of the National Fund for Microcredit, and sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Koutche remained in self-imposed exile at year’s end.

Serious Human Rights Violations involving the Army during the Pre/Post Election Violence in 2019 and 2021 under the direction of President Talon

Pre/Post Election Violence 2019

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/2019/04/benin-crackdown-on-protests-andwave-of-arrests-fuel-tense-election-period/
On April 26, 2019 Amnesty International reported – “The growing wave of arrests and detentions in Benin is extremely troubling, particularly in the context of elections. Banning peaceful protests and detaining those who speak up against the exclusion of opposition parties from the legislative election will only fuel political turmoil,” said François Patuel, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.’

The wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists, and the crackdown on peaceful protests, have reached an alarming level in Benin, Amnesty International said ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Since February 2019, security forces have dispersed peaceful protests using tear gas and batons, and arrested opposition officials. At least one person died during clashes between protesters and members of the security forces in February in the northern town of Kilibo. This follows the Electoral Commission’s decision to authorize only two political parties – both from the presidential camp- to stand in the elections and to exclude all opposition candidates’ lists. Local authorities have introduced blanket bans on protests in the run up to the elections, including in the town of Parakou and the departments of Collines and Zou.

The growing wave of arrests and detentions in Benin is extremely troubling, particularly in the context of elections. Banning peaceful protests and detaining those who speak up against the exclusion of opposition parties from the legislative election will only fuel political turmoil

François Patuel, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher
“The growing wave of arrests and detentions in Benin is extremely troubling, particularly in the context of elections. Banning peaceful protests and detaining those who speak up against the exclusion of opposition parties from the legislative election will only fuel political turmoil,” said François Patuel, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.

“The authorities need to ensure that rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are upheld. Security forces must refrain from using force against peaceful protesters in any circumstances.”

Amnesty International has documented at least three instances where security forces have repressed peaceful protests organized by opposition parties ahead of the parliamentary elections. These took place on April 1, 4 and 19. 2019 respectively when security forces, including police, used tear gas, batons and compressed air launchers to disperse opposition gatherings. Members of the military armed forces and of the police deployed at demonstration sites were carrying firearms.

On 19 April, 2019 the security forces fired tear gas on two of Benin’s former Presidents, Nicéphore Soglo and Thomas Boni Yayi, and the eldest member of Parliament, 83-year-old Rosine Vieyra Soglo, as they were addressing protestors at a demonstration site in the capital Cotonou.

Several individuals were arrested in the context of the protests, including political leaders. Julien Agossou Bodé an opposition figure was arrested on 19 April and charged with inciting violence for a video he posted on social media. He was released on bail on 23 April pending his trial on 6 May, 2019.

Yibatou Sani Glélé, a member of the opposition Democratic Renewal Party (PRD in French) and MP in the current National Assembly was arrested with another member of her party at a gathering with women at the Ouando Market in the southern city of Porto Novo on 23 April, 2019.

They were peacefully protesting the exclusion of the PRD from the legislative elections. The police seized their placards and speaker. They were detained for six hours and charged with “holding an unauthorised gathering” and “incitement to hold an unauthorised gathering”. They were released on bail and are expected before court on 6 May, 2019.

Amnesty International considers requirements of prior authorization to hold assemblies and the criminalization of peaceful protest to be in violation of international human rights law and standards.

Journalists have also paid a high price with arrests and intimidation hanging over their head. On 18 April, the managing editor of “Nouvelle Economie” newspaper, Casimir Kpédjo was arrested at his house. His lawyer told Amnesty International that the arrest took place following a complaint from the State Judicial Officer, who represents the state of Benin before the courts, for a post on Facebook in which he claims that the country has a debt of nearly 725 million USD(428 CFA billion) in breach of the 2019 finance law. He was charged with publishing “false information”. He was released on bail on 23 April but is still facing trial.

Ignace Sossou, a journalist with the news website beninwebtv.com is being prosecuted for publishing “false information” over two articles he posted on tax evasion in Benin. He was summoned three times by the Central Office for the Repression of Cybercriminality and will be standing trial on 10 June.

Benin has adopted several repressive laws in recent years which are now being used to crackdown on dissent, including a Code of digital law adopted in 2017 which criminalizes the publishing of false information, press offenses online and incitement to rebellion online.

The country’s Penal Code, adopted in 2018, criminalizes “offenses against the symbols and values of the State, the Republic, communities and religions”, “unarmed gatherings that could disturb public tranquility” and “provocations to unarmed gathering”.

“Protesters in Benin clash with police in post-election violence”.
Reuters. May 2, 2019.

Security forces in Benin’s capital Cotonou on Thursday fired weapons to disperse crowds protesting against the exclusion of opposition parties from last Sunday’s parliamentary election, Reuters witnesses said.
Hundreds of people have been protesting since Wednesday, burning tires and calling for President Patrice Talon to step down, rare unrest in the country of 11 million, and long seen as a
bastion of stability in West Africa. Security forces, backed by armored military vehicles, used firearms to break up the protest, two Reuters witnesses said. It was not clear if they were using live rounds or firing directly at the crowd.

A video widely shared online appeared to show government forces firing guns and using water cannon. It was not immediately possible to verify the footage.

A Reuters witness saw two wounded protesters, one bleeding heavily. Police declined to comment and there was no confirmation on the number of casualties. The United Nations called for restraint.

“We note with concern the ongoing tensions and unrest, resulting in the destruction of property and high-handed response from the security forces,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

The unrest followed the electoral commission’s decision to bar opposition parties from standing in the election because they were unable to meet strict criteria under a new election law to field candidates. Talon denied that was the intention of the law.

There was rioting in central Benin on Sunday, where opposition supporters burned houses, officials said.

Results announced on Tuesday gave two parties loyal to Talon total control of parliament. Supporters of Talon’s rival, ex-president Thomas Boni Yayi launched protests.

Talon and Boni Yayi have a tense relationship. In 2012, Boni Yayi accused Talon, a cotton magnate, of trying to have him poisoned. Talon denied the accusations at the time. Talon defeated Boni Yayi’s preferred successor in a 2016 election when Boni Yayi was required by term limits to step down after 10 years in power.

In the run-up to the latest election, police dispersed a protest led by Boni Yayi with teargas. The authorities also cut off the internet on the day of the vote.

“Benin protesters in violent clashes with security forces after polemic polls”.
AfricaNews. 2 May 2019.

Protesters in Benin were locked in a tense standoff with police and soldiers Thursday after violence broke out following controversial parliamentary polls held without a single opposition candidate.

Hours after initial results showed a record low turnout in Sunday’s election, soldiers and large numbers of police deployed on Wednesday across the economic capital Cotonou.

Supporters of former president Boni Yayi, who led calls for a boycott of the ballot, took to the streets. They erected makeshift barriers of burning tires, and chanting slogans against President Patrice Talon.

Protesters have torched businesses, hurled stones, and smashed the windows of government buildings. Police fired tear gas to break up crowds.

They continued their protests overnight, and remained on the streets Thursday. “Nobody has slept,” said one demonstrator on Thursday morning, who gave his name as Justin B.

“Around 10 pm, they cut the light and fired live ammunition,” he claimed, pointing to two empty bullet casings and bloodstains on the floor. “Two people were seriously injured, a man and a woman.”

In the Cadjehoun district of Cotonou, where Yayi Boni’s house is, a resident also reported to have heard shots fired.

“We do not know at all what will happen now, but we feel that it is bad,” said one woman, but added that it still felt safe enough for children to go to school on Thursday.

The small West African state was held up as a model for democracy, but the situation has raised warnings from civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin.

Tough new eligibility criteria effectively barred opposition parties from fielding any candidates in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

On the day itself, more than three-quarters of the country’s five million registered voters stayed at home.

Turnout has never dropped below 50 percent since the country’s transition to democracy in 1990.

“Protesters in Benin clash with police in post-election violence”.
Al Jazeera. 2 May 2019.

Security forces in Benin‘s largest city Cotonou have fired weapons to disperse crowds protesting against the exclusion of opposition parties from Sunday’s parliamentary polls, witnesses said. Hundreds of people have been protesting since Wednesday, erecting makeshift barricades of burning tires and calling for President Patrice Talon to step down. Troops and riot police used firearms to break up the protest on Thursday, witnesses told news agencies.

A video widely shared online appeared to show government forces firing guns and using water cannon. It was not immediately possible to verify the footage.

“The police and soldiers … they started firing, they chased people,” a resident told the AFP news agency. “We heard shots, lots of shots.”

A woman died on Thursday after being wounded the day before, medical sources told AFP. The protests began hours after initial results on Wednesday showed a record low turnout in the election.

Supporters of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, who had led calls for a boycott of the ballot, took to the streets.

They erected makeshift barriers of burning tires, and chanted slogans against President Talon.

Gunshots – Protesters have torched businesses, hurled stones, and smashed the windows of government buildings.
Police fired tear gas to break up crowds, and protesters tried to throw some canisters back. “Talon … will not be able to kill our democracy,” one demonstrator said.

“Democracy is precious to us, the people of Benin,” said another. “That is why we have protested.

Violence was also reported in the town of Kandi, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) to the north. One of the country’s largest cotton factories – a sector in which Talon made his fortune before entering politics – was set on fire.

“Protesters set the factory on fire in the evening,” said a firefighter. “Everything burned.” The unrest followed the electoral commission’s decision to bar opposition parties from standing in the election because they were unable to meet strict criteria under a new election law to field candidates. Talon denied that was the intention of the law.

There was rioting in central Benin on Sunday, where opposition supporters burned houses, officials said.

Talon and Boni Yayi have a tense relationship. In 2012, Boni Yayi accused Talon, a cotton magnate, of trying to have him poisoned.

Talon defeated Boni Yayi’s preferred successor in a 2016 election when Boni Yayi was required by term limits to step down after 10 years in power.

In the run-up to the latest election, police dispersed a protest led by Boni Yayi with tear gas. The authorities also cut off the internet on the day of the vote.

Record low turnout – Just 22.99 percent of registered voters cast ballots, according to preliminary results.

Turnout had previously never dropped below 50 percent since the country’s transition to democracy in 1990.

Following the vote, Boni Yayi and Nicephore Soglo, president from 1991-1996, spoke out against the election.

“The people demand the return of democracy,” Boni Yayi told reporters on Monday, calling on people to resist the current president. “Talon will walk over our dead bodies.” The situation has raised warnings from civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin. Amnesty International, speaking before voting, said that a “wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists, and the crackdown on peaceful protests” had reached an “alarming level”.

“Benin: Soldiers shoot at protesters in post-election unrest”.
DWNews. 2 May 2019.

Benin: Soldiers shoot at protesters in post-election unrest
Footage of the demonstrations shows security services firing their guns and water cannons at crowds. Activists have warned of deteriorating freedoms in the long-stable West African nation.

Thursday marked the second day of widespread protest in the capital, with marchers calling for President Patrice Talon, who was elected in 2016, to step down. “We note with concern the ongoing tensions and unrest, resulting in the destruction of property and high-handed response from the security forces,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the press.

The unrest follows a move by the country’s electoral commission to bar opposition parties from the recent vote because they did not meet the strict criteria put in place by a new election law. Talon has denied this was the intention behind the law.

Arbitrary arrests’ amid crackdown
Talon’s rivals had called for a boycott of the election over the ruling — and most appeared to heed the call, with only 27% of registered voters casting a ballot. Turnout has not been below 50% since Benin’s transition to democracy in 1990.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International have warned that the small West African state, long a pillar of stability in the region, is in the grip of a “wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists,” adding that the “crackdown on peaceful protests” has reached an “alarming level.”

The president of Benin’s constitutional court, Joseph Djogbenou, a Talon ally, said that while there were some “irregularities and disturbances” during the election, they were “still not of a nature to compromise the validity and transparency of the vote.”

“Shots fired as post-election violence grips Benin”.
France24. 2 May 2019.

Soldiers in Benin firing automatic rifles deployed in force against hundreds of protestors demonstrating against controversial parliamentary polls, with casualties reported in the violence, witnesses said Thursday.

“They fired bursts of bullets,” said one witness, a close relative of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, who had led calls for a boycott of the ballot and whose house has become a focal point of protests.
The witness claimed that three people were killed, and that other protesters had fled. There was no official confirmation of the toll.

A video seen by AFP showed soldiers firing automatic rifles.
“The situation has worsened in the area where the former president lives,” said FRANCE 24’s Emmanuelle Sodji. “The army stormed the street where his house is located around 2pm local time. I’m next door, I heard a lot of gunfire. The military has been scouring the entire neighborhood. Every street is being inspected

“I don’t hear any more shots right now but just before the assault there was renewed tension among Boni Yayi’s supporters. A car was set on fire. The situation is very confusing. There are probably people injured because people are lying down. Three people were reportedly killed but it is impossible to say more. For the moment the situation is really very tense here.”

Hundreds of protesters have manned burning barricades, defying security forces, as violence broke out following the controversial polls held without a single opposition candidate. Protesters have torched businesses, hurled stones, and smashed the windows of government buildings, chanting slogans against President Patrice Talon.

A woman died on Thursday after being wounded the day before, medical sources said, and a man was brought to the hospital with a gunshot wound in his back.

“Nobody has slept,” said one demonstrator on Thursday morning, who gave his name as Justin B. “Around 10pm, they cut the light and fired live ammunition,” he claimed, pointing to two empty bullet casings and bloodstains on the ground.

In the Cadjehoun district of Cotonou, where Boni Yayi’s house is, a resident also reported to have heard shots fired.
“We do not know at all what will happen now, but we feel that it is bad,” said one woman, but added that it still felt safe enough for children to go to school on Thursday.

Interior Minister Sacca Lafia said security forces had been ordered onto the streets to stop protests, but called reports they were trying to arrest Boni Yayi “fake news”.

Factory burned
Violence was also reported in the town of Kandi, some 620 kilometers (385 miles) to the north, where one of the country’s largest cotton factories — a sector in which President Talon made his fortune before embarking on politics — was set on fire.

“Protesters set the factory on fire in the evening, we still have no idea of the damage but they are huge, everything burned,” said a firefighter.

The small West African state was held up as a model for democracy, but the situation has raised warnings from civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin.

Tough new eligibility criteria effectively barred opposition parties from fielding any candidates in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections. On the day itself, more than three-quarters of the country’s five million registered voters stayed at home.

Just 22.2019 – 99 percent of registered voters cast the ballots, according to preliminary results. Turnout had previously never dropped below 50 percent since the country’s transition to democracy in 1990.

Following the vote, Boni Yayi and Nicephore Soglo, president from 1991-1996, spoke out against the election.

“The people demand the return of democracy,” Boni Yayi told reporters on Monday, calling on people to resist the current president. “Talon will walk over our dead bodies.”

The situation has raised warnings from civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin. Amnesty International, speaking before voting, said that a “wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists, and the crackdown on peaceful protests” had reached an “alarming level”.

“30 police officers injured in Benin protests”.
AfricaNews. 15 June 2019.

In former president Boni Yayi’s home town of Tchaourou, “small groups used handmade rifles and knives to seriously wound about 30 officers,” said Interior Minister Sacca Lafia, adding that calm had returned.

About 30 members of the security forces were wounded in northern Benin, where supporters of the former president set up barricades. The police fired live ammunition, the Interior Minister said Friday night on Saturday.
According to a local witness, residents fled the city to take refuge in nearby villages. Denied reports since then had reported deaths among demonstrators on Thursday, and several people on the ground told AFP that the police had fired live ammunition.

About 30 members of the security forces were wounded in northern Benin, where supporters of the former president and opponent Boni Yayi set up barricades.

Boni Yayi’s supporters, who have been under house arrest in Cotonou since 1 May and postelection violence – which left at least 4 people dead according to Amnesty International, 7 dead according to the opposition – also set fire to the police station and blocked the main road, according to the Interior Minister.

“To clear the way, agents were sent. At the city of Savè, they were taken away by other small groups who also erected barricades,” Sacca Lafia said.

Violence has resumed since the beginning of the week in this northern region of the country, six weeks after the 28 April parliamentary elections, in which the opposition was unable to participate.

The rivalry between Head of State Patrice Talon and Boni Yayi is longstanding, the former being in opposition when the latter was President from 2006 to 2016. A situation that has now been reversed.

Summoned in early June by a judge to be heard in an undisclosed case, Boni Yayi could not be heard due to health problems, his lawyer said.

Election Violence in 2021

https://www.voanews.com/africa/benin-holds-presidential-election-after-week-violence
Benin Holds Presidential Election After Week of Violence
By VOA News
April 11, 2021

Benin voters are casting their ballots Sunday in a presidential election after a week of deadly violence against President Patrice Talon, who is seeking reelection.

Opposition parties accuse Talon, who is expected to win a second term, of manipulating the race in his favor by sidelining opposition leaders, most of whom are living in exile.

Although he points to strong economic growth while he has been in power, Talon has been accused by opponents of undermining the country’s standing as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. Freedom House, a U.S.-based democracy advocacy group, lowered Benin’s annual ranking last year from “free” to “partly free.”

Talon, 62, a multimillionaire cotton tycoon first elected president in 2016, is facing two rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.

Protests in several cities turned violent. Speaking to the local radio station, the mayor of the central town of Bante said some people were killed in gunfire Thursday there as security forces fired warning shots, according to Reuters. The mayor did not say how many people were killed during protests.

The U.S., German, French and Dutch embassies and the European Union delegation to Benin have called for calm and for the vote to be conducted in a free and transparent manner.

https://www.africanews.com/2021/04/14/benin-president-talon-hardens-his-tone-in-thewake-of-his-re-election//
Benin: President Talon hardens tone after re-election
By Kizzi Asala
Africanews with AFP
April 14, 2021

Benin’s President Patrice Talon on Wednesday pledged to prosecute and punish those responsible for the pre-election violence that erupted in the country’s central region, a day after he was re-elected with more than 86% of the vote.

Benin woke up on Wednesday after a very calm night, without violence, and without celebration. The re-election of Patrice Talon, who faced two candidate’s unknowns to the general public, did not surprise many people in this West African country.

Talon did not give a speech thanking his voters, but he went to hospital on Wednesday morning to visit members of the police force injured during pre-election protests that broke out last week in several communes in the center of the country, a stronghold of former president Thomas Boni Yayi.

It was a case of “unacceptable proportions” (of violence, editor’s note) and we will do everything to ensure that it never happens again,” said Mr. Talon, who promised to “identify the instigators” of the demonstrations.

Protesters denouncing the lack of a credible opposition to Sunday’s vote had set up roadblocks on major roads, cutting off traffic from the south to the north. They were dislodged by the security forces using tear gas and then live ammunition.

“Twenty-one Defence and security forces personnel were injured by bullets,” Interior Minister Sacca Lafia said, without mentioning any civilian casualties. Two people were shot dead, and five people were injured in Savè, according to an AFP count.

“The worst is behind us,” promised Patrice Talon, saying the violence had not claimed any victims “among the assailants”.
“We will work together to repair what is wrong, to establish a climate of stability, security and peace so that this kind of thing never happens again,” he warned.

“A formality” – On Tuesday evening, th e Electoral Commission announced his victory with more than 86% of the vote, against Corentin Kohoue (2.3%) and Alassane Soumanou (11.29%), two former deputies, accused by the main opposition figures of being “stooges” of President Talon.

The main opponents are either in prison, in exile or have been prevented from taking part in the vote, and several of them had called for a boycott. The official turnout was 50.17%, but the figure raises questions after international observers said the turnout was “low”.

“When you look at the turnout in the polling stations, the information from civil society, and what we observed ourselves, we are a little surprised by the participation rate of 50%,” said Expedite Ologou, a Beninese political scientist.

For Mr. Talon, this re-election was a “formality”, says the expert. “The election was already won (…) but it should make us think about the enthusiasm that citizens lacked to go and vote.

The United States called on Wednesday on Twitter for the government “to hold consultations (…) to ensure that future elections are competitive and inclusive”.
In early April, a Beninese judge of the Court of Repression of Economic Offences and Terrorism (Criet), a special court created under Mr. Talon, left his post and fled the country, denouncing pressure from the government to imprison the opponent Reckya Madougou.

“For several months, the regime’s opponents have been subjected to a witch-hunt punctuated by the exile of several personalities and the imprisonment of those who have decided to brave the situation on the ground,” writes Francis Kpatindé, a journalist and lecturer at Sciences Po Paris in a note for the think-tank Iris.

“The opposition is voiceless, ethereal, not to say stunned,” he notes.

Nevertheless, the head of state, posing next to his running mate Mariam Talata, seems to be ignoring all warnings and criticism. On Twitter, he thanked his voters, rejoicing in his victory: “DEVELOPMENT IS HERE!

And for good reason, the West African country is recording rather good growth rates in a context of global and regional economic crisis, with a 5% forecast for 2021.

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