Benin Recent History

Ancient kingdom of Negroes on the Slave Coast, in Upper Guinea, between Togo and Nigeria. Known by the name of Dahomey.

The origin of the Dahomey region is not documented with certainty for everything related to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is said that already from 1610 to the end of 1700 various kings of the local tribes, known as Tacuduno, Da, Bessa Abadè, were always at war with each other for the possession of the territory, and the king Gezo, in the first half of the XIX century, with his conquests extended the Dahomey, especially to the north, until reaching the current limits.

According to Abbreviationfinder, the first Europeans to arrive in the country and to establish friendly relationships with the natives were the French in July 1851. Ten years later, in 1861, they signed a treaty with the king of Porzo Novo (current capital), vassal of the king of Dahomey, to whom the British, always in the same year, under the reign of Geglè, removed Lagos (then capital of Nigeria).

In 1868, and then in 1878, the king of Dahomey ceded the entire coast of Cotonou to the French and in 1884 the French began to arrive in Porto Novo both a government representative and a small garrison for security reasons in Cotonou .

But the king, now seen cut off from any outlet on the sea, in 1887 protested with the French asking them to withdraw from Cotonou. Not even getting an answer, in 1889 he decided to devastate the whole area of ​​Porto Novo and the Portuguese fort of Ouidah.

At that point the French sought an agreement with the king, who was then Behanzin, son and successor of Geglè. Their peaceful intentions were disregarded as the young king, in response, invaded the possession.

The commander of the French armed forces, Terrillon, bringing together in the region of the troops both from Senegal and Gabon, between February and March of 1890 he freed the whole area of ​​Cotonou and, first, he pushed the natives back to the left bank of the Uemè river, and then, from there, with continuous cannonades, made them retreat again.

Benin Recent History

Behanzin, however, continued his assault on Porto Novo with an army of 8,000 soldiers and with the bloody battle of Atchoupa he managed to maintain his position.

However, as the French were determined not to continue the conflict, they asked to negotiate peace and the king agreed to recognize the occupation of Cotonou in exchange for an annual payment of 20,000 francs. The treaty was signed on October 3, 1890, but Behanzin did not respect it; in fact, he used French money to get new weapons and ammunition and in the summer of the following year the war started again.

The French expeditionary force was placed in command of Colonel Dodds. The vicissitudes of this conflict were mixed, the indigenous losses far exceeded the French ones, not only because these were more organized but also because they had powerful cannons that were used without saving. And when on November 17, 1891 the French completed the conquest of the territory, entering the then capital Abomey, they found it set on fire and the king fled. Dodds, as a prize for the victorious undertaking, was promoted to general, declared the king fallen and proclaimed the French protectorate Dahomey.

This was divided into three regions, all organized militarily and all slowly pacified.

Behanzin continued his disturbing actions between Abomey and the Uemè river, for which he was hunted throughout 1893. But in January 1894, abandoned by his partisans and surrounded by various flying columns, he surrendered and was deported to Martinique.

Dahomey lost its autonomy and in 1895 became part of French West Africa, led by a governor residing in Dakar. Then in 1897/98 France established the borders with Togo and Nigeria together with Germany and England.

In 1919, after the 1st World War, with a Franco-English agreement, the eastern part of Togo was placed under French jurisdiction.

An attempt was made immediately to develop the economy; Dahomey has always been the poorest of the French colonies; the cultivation of cereals, cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas have always given subsistence quantities; the production of coffee was more relevant and with the intervention of expert settlers in those years the production of the oil palm increased. But the livestock and mineral resources have always remained scarce. In 1952, the concession was issued to use the rich rutilio and ilmenite deposits in the Koundè area.

In 1958 with the acceptance of the French Constitution, Dahomey placed itself in the republican state within the French Community. In April 1959, with the Ivory Coast, Niger and Upper Volta, he joined a “Council of Understanding” for close political and economic collaboration. With this “Council”, Dahomey concluded an agreement in Paris on 11 July 1960 whereby it obtained independence from France, which was officially proclaimed on 1 August 1960. On 20 September following the Republic of Dahomey was admitted among the Nations United.

In 1961 the former Prime Minister H. Maga was elected president; but after two years he was deposed because he was unable to face the country’s great economic difficulties. Unemployment, strikes, unrest provoked the coup d’état, led by Colonel Soglo, with whom a two-headed “executive” was established in 1964. Maga remained in government with Sourou-Migan Apithy. The partnership did not go on for long. There were still difficulties and inconveniences, especially after the cuts in public wages, and then in 1965 Colonel Soglo returned to deal with the situation and assumed the presidency of the Republic.

He established a mixed government of civilians and soldiers, tried to stem the effects of the most serious problems, also counting on aid from France. But in December 1967 he too was ousted by another group of soldiers, who brought the economist Emil Zinsou to the presidency, with the advent of which he could count on a short period of tranquility.

In December 1969 another coup d’état led by Colonel Kouandetè. In May 1970 a law was introduced that provided for a Presidential Council of 3 members, each of whom would exercise power for a two-year period. The period assigned to Maga passed in order. And before Ahomadegbe assumed power in the following period, on 26 October 1972 Colonel M. Kerekou released the Presidential Council, arrested the three representatives and, without encountering any opposition, formed a military government, each member was from a different region.

Subversive attempts failed between 1973 and 1975. And this year, to return to the traditional name of its ancient African kingdom, Dahomey changed its name and was called Benin.

In November 1975 the “People’s Revolutionary Party of Benin” was founded, chaired by Kerekou himself.
In international politics, Benin never had much weight because of its little economic consistency. In these same years, relations with France were less intense, like those with other French-speaking countries: instead, closer relations were established with Nigeria.

In 1977 a new Constitution was launched; in 1979 the National Revolutionary Assembly was elected; Kerekou was re-elected in both 1984 and 1989 and the National Assembly was re-elected in the past year.

Both in May 1985 and in March 1988 unrest and failed coup occurred, but in all circumstances Kerekou showed all his charisma and continued to have the consent of the population.

In 1989 the ruling party renounced Marxism and decreed the division of the party from the state.

In 1990 a National Charter was drawn up to start the country towards freedom and political conciliation; the government, formed on March 12, 1990, was all composed of technicians and with very reduced powers. The free presidential elections of March 1991 were won, by a large majority, by Prime Minister N. Soglo, thus decreeing the end of Kerekou’s long presidential career.

The newly elected president immediately began work on economic recovery by implementing a strong tax reform and starting the privatization of most state industries.

In foreign policy, the partnership with the West continued, especially with France, but also with the Economic Community of the West African States, of which he was elected president in 1992 and confirmed in 1993.

But while Benin, through Soglo’s policy, gained considerable international credibility, thus acquiring important loans and financing, a contrary process was initiated within. With the rise in unemployment and social conflicts, Soglo lost a large part of popular consensus.

And when in January 1994 there was a very strong fall of the franc and an equally strong increase in inflation, chain strikes occurred which in March 1994 brought about the complete paralysis of the public sector. Parliament also often opposed the austerity measures adopted by Soglo, thus reinforcing the ever growing discontent in public opinion.

The legislative elections of 1995, while decreeing the victory of the Soglo party, the Rebirth Party of Benin, also highlighted a remarkable progress of the oppositions, especially of the Democratic Renewal Party and the Action Front for Renewal and Development -Alafia, the latter formed by Kerekou supporters. These two parties united in alliance decreed Kerekou’s victory in the presidential elections in March 1996. He regained power and formed a democratic government of national unity by assigning the Ministry of Finance to M. Mensah, of the Soglo party; it slowed down privatizations but without canceling them, in order to respect the agreements with the International Monetary Fund.

The 1999 legislative elections were won by the Soglo party which obtained 42 seats, almost as much as those obtained by the Kerekou party which had 41 seats.