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Security, why we should all worry about Benin political situation

by Pasquale Camuso

Nearly 100 political and government members sent an alarming letter on crimes against humanity and very high levels of corruption of the current presidency to UN and African Interpol office

In the nineties there was a burst of action b-movies and video games which had, as a main cheap plot, the rise of a dictatorship in a third world, very small country, followed by the coming of the one man army hero wich will destroy the dictator militia and free the country from the grasp of the dictator. While most of those plots were cheap, they ended up being often very similar to real situations, like the one that it’s showing in Benin at the moment. Some days ago, an alarming letter describing crimes against humanity and very high levels of corruption of the current presidency was signed by nearly 100 political and government members, was sent to UN General Secretariat and African Interpol office.

The story of Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon, current Benin President

Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon, current Benin President, does not have an immaculate past: born in May, 1958, he is a skilled businessman, descendant from slave travers, laureated in Senegal, and was known also as the “King of Cotton”, when he was able, in 1990, to build a large enterprise dealing with cotton in Benin with the help of his contacts in the local politics. After his patrimony grew even more by exploiting the political connections he had in his country, in 2012 was forced to flee in France when he was caught evading taxes for over 18 million euros and for a plot to kill his political rival for the Republic presidency, Boni Yayi, but was pardoned in 2014. In 2015 Forbes listed him as the 15th richest man in sub-saharan countries with over 400 million dollars in properties. 

What happened in the African country after his last election

In 2016 Talon won the elections against Boni Yayi, but only at the second round, and more important, with only 28.5% of the total voters at first turn and 34.6% on the second round. The actual Benin president then started to privatize most, if not all, the strategic assets of his country, ending in favoring his own corporations to buy those assets directly. He took control of the main industrial harbor, airport and other transports assets, the country customs, the production chains of cotton and acajou, oil and gas all become part of the various industries he already own. Substantially buying the whole country production and corporativiziting it to a dystopic, nearly cyberpunk levels.

Talon hit the journalists and restricted the ability of political oppositions to participate to the country’s elections

Alongside the corporatisation of the production activities of the country, Talon started to exile, incarcerate or, as someone voiced over time, even kill journalists and politicians who opposed him, then proceeded to propose, and made approved, a series of laws wich restricts the ability of political oppositions to participate to the country’s elections, for example by having the opposition party to be approved by the actual government to run in the next elections, and he made only two political parties, aligned with the actual government, to be eligible in the next elections, effectively making over 80% of the population not able to express his preferences.

Protests in Benin were repressed with violence and human rights abuses

Since Talon elections and especially in the last year, all the protests population broke in, met a strong, violent, sometimes even armed repression: “…with the use of war weapons against unarmed population. Many violations agains humans rights and crimes were perpetrated in April 2019 protests in the Kilibo city, Parakou, Banté and others. To this it adds the killings, arbitrary arrests and kidnappings ordered by the government..” the letter sent to UN says.

Corruption and threats are his pillars to governate the African country. The international community should start to recognize his danger

Talon’s actions made manifest that the corruption already bought the police and probably part of the Benin army to side with the actual government, which still holds most of the country resources, so if it won’t be the corruption, will be the fear of retaliations. Talon, as his second name suggest, already holds in a death grip the country, and the international community should start to recognize his danger and, instead of waiting the movie hero to come and remove him, should act to prevent that this greedy man will keep to maintain his behaviour against his very population, even if we acknowledge that some European countries may have a direct interest in what is happening in Benin.

Benin is a small country, with a bit less than nine million inhabitants and a decent economic situation

Benin is a small country, with a bit less than nine million inhabitants and a decent economic situation, with a fairly new Republic government system and a Constitution drawn in 1990; its neighbors countries always had and have a turbulent political and economic agendas. Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso are all countries with islamic terrorism problems, famine and lack of stability in work, personal freedom and religion matters. While Nigeria is experiencing now a good economic growth period, is roughly at the same level than the Benin neighbours and those countries won’t easily face any difficulty coming from external actors.

If Benin’s people would flee the country following Talon’s actions, there are risks for security  and stability in all the African region

If the actual president Talon will be allowed to further pursue his agenda, his actions will create a daisy chain that will break down the regional stability. Just 500.000 refugees fleeing Benin and entering in Nigeria or Burkina Faso may endanger economic growth of these countries, as they have barely the resources to face their problems, the poorest part of their population will have even less resources to deal with, pushing more further the run for Libyan coasts and then try the seas to enter Europe from Italy, which already have a substantial immigrant input exactly from Nigeria, for example.

Photo Credits: Trifles and Treasures

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