Benin

Country Code: 229
ISO Code: BEN/BJ

Benin (in French: Bénin, formerly Dahomey), officially the Republic of Benin (in French: République du Bénin), is a country located in West Africa. It is limited by Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. The majority of the population lives in the Gulf of Benin. The capital of Benin is Porto Novo but its government is in Cotonou, the largest city in the country. Benin covers approximately an area of ​​112,622 square kilometers, with a population of approximately 9.05 million people. Benin is a tropical and sub-Saharan nation, dependent mainly on agriculture, with substantial employment, whose income comes, once again, from agriculture.

The official language of Benin is French. However, some indigenous languages ​​such as fon or yoruba are commonly spoken. The most widespread religion is Catholicism, followed by near Islam, Voodoo and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic, La Francophonie, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the Association of African Oil Producers, and the Authority of the Niger River Basin.

It is an old French colony, known by the name of Dahomey due to an old local kingdom, which reached independence on August 1, 1960, as the Republic of Dahomey. In 1975, the current name of the Republic of Benin was adopted, taking the name of the Bay of Benin, on whose coast the country is located. In turn, the name of the Bay comes from the ancient Yoruba kingdom of Benin, which was farther east, around the current Nigerian city of Benin City, which can lead to confusion. The reason for having chosen the name of Benin to rename Dahomey, is that it was a neutral name: before the French colonization, “Dahomey” was only the name of a southern coastal kingdom, and therefore its name did not represent to the Atakora region in the northwest, nor to the old kingdom (now department) of Borgou in the northeast.

HISTORY

The Republic of Benin is the artificial result of the French colonial expansion, which united the ancient kingdoms of the Fon people (Dahomey and Porto Novo) with numerous villages in the interior, forming the colony of Dahomey.

Around 1575, the fon founded the kingdom of Allada, which occupied the center of modern Benin. Towards the 1625, one of the princes of this kingdom founded in turn the kingdoms of Dahomey and Ajase.

The Kingdom of Dahomey was created in the interior of the country in the seventeenth an ethnic group called Adja, as a movement of self-defense on the part of the population, decimated by frequent slave hunts.

The disputes between three heirs to the throne of the kingdom of Allada or Great Ardra concluded in 1625, when Meji took over as king of Allada, while another brother, Gangnihessou, founded the city-state of Abomey (core of the kingdom of Dahomey), and Tea Agbanlin he founded the city of Ajatche or Pequeño Ardra (called Porto Novo by Portuguese merchants). The Adja of Abomey organized a strongly centralized kingdom and supported by a professional army. Throughout the years, the Adja were mixed with the native population and gave rise to the ethnic group known today as fon or Dahomey.

At the end of the seventeenth century, Oudah was the main slave trade post in West Africa. The activity of traffickers led to disagreements between the different kingdoms of the region. In the following century, Dahomey signed agreements with the traffickers, facilitating their trade but controlling it at the same time.8 The economic dependence of the kingdom of trafficking, nevertheless, kept it in a constant state of war. In 1755 the Portuguese founded Porto Novo, a new colony dedicated to the slave trade, in the kingdom of Ajase. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Dahomey fell into a period of decay and internal instability.

In the nineteenth century, the trade was progressively replaced by the palm oil trade and the coastal region began a period of agricultural development and foreign opening under the rule of King Ghezo (1818-1858), who introduced oil production, which Europe, as well as other products such as corn, tomatoes and tobacco, were imported by Afro-Brazilian immigrants, former slaves, who began to dominate the territory’s foreign trade, which emerged from the progressive ban on trafficking. situated as an intermediate group between Europe and the aboriginal population. In 1851 Ghezo signed a treaty with France in which he recognized the interests of this in Oudah, although he did not give up his possession.

In 1863, the French settled in Porto Novo, in 1868 they did it in Agué and Cotonou; the French dominion of the coast deprived Dahomey of the customs revenue, which provoked an uprising.

The kingdom of Porto Novo was transformed without resistance into the protectorate of France in 1883; its king, Toffa, intended to protect himself from neighboring Dahomey, and in 1889 French and British agreed to draw the border between the colonies of the future Benin and future Nigeria, up to a hundred kilometers inland. At that time, the French owned the ports of Ouidah and Cotonou and had maintained since 1863 the small kingdom of Porto Novo under an unofficial protectorate. This in turn was partially dependent on the bellicose kingdom of Abomey (or Dahomey) located in the interior, which made periodic incursions into the coastal area to demonstrate its primacy and to which the French had a barbarian. interior, especially to the Niger River.

In November 1889, the French sent an embassy to King Gegle of Dahomey, in order to draw a clear border between his kingdom and the territories of French influence, to end the human sacrifices that were practiced in his kingdom and make cease the incursions against Porto Novo. The mission was a failure. Taking advantage of the human sacrifices that the new sovereign of Dahomey, Behanzin, made during the funerals of his father Gegle, who died shortly after the failed French embassy, ​​France decided to invade the territory. The command of the two campaigns that were necessary to subdue the kingdom (one carried out in 1892 and the other in 1893-94) was entrusted to General Alfred Dodds, who had already fought in Senegal, despite the fierce resistance of Dahomey, the skilled Using the artillery that surprised the French and the sacrifice of almost all the famous body of Amazons, the war ended with the submission of the kingdom to France in January 1894 and the king’s exile. That same year the colony of Dahomey was created, which encompassed all French possessions in the Gulf of Benin.

Then British and French fought for the conquest of the kingdom of Borgu, whose dominion day allowed the second access to the Niger. The objective of each of the two powers was to isolate the interior of the coastal colonies of the other. The race towards the alleged capital of the coveted kingdom, Nikki, ended with the signing of two treaties with French and British, whose legitimacy was compromised, given the rivalry for the territory, the two powers had to negotiate; the bilateral talks began in 1896. Faced with the stagnation of these, the French occupied Bussa in March 1897, territory in which the British had rights under a treaty, although they did not occupy. After a period of great tension in the zone by the advance of French and British forces that disputed the dominion of adjacent lands, the Commission of the franco-British Niger reached an agreement to delimit the colonies of the two powers on June 14, 1898. The agreement, favorable to the United Kingdom, put an end to twenty years of competition for the dominance of Lower Niger. The French, however, got the desired access to the great river in Nikki, which was integrated into the French colony.

In 1904 the territory of present-day Benin was incorporated into French West Africa. The French administrative system maintained the power of the aristocracy of the region in local governments, the territory depended directly on the metropolis.

During World War I, the north of the region was one of the zones of more intense recruitment of soldiers for the European fight, which, next to the food requisitions, unleashed rebellions.

During the interwar period, various political parties and newspapers emerged criticizing the abuses of the colonial system. The political activity was concentrated in the south of the colony, more educated thanks to religious missions. Despite this, less than 10% of the population enjoyed primary education and the colony lacked secondary or higher education centers.

In 1946, it became an overseas territory and ten years later it was granted autonomy in domestic politics.21 In 1958, the main party of the colony, the Progressive Party of Dahomey, refused to allow the region to join the Federation of Mali.

In the Franco-German treaty of 1897 and the Anglo-French treaty of 1898 the final limits of the colony were fixed, which gained independence on August 1, 1960 (also many African countries would do so in these years), under the Dahomey’s denomination His first president was Hubert Maga, who would be dismissed three years later. The new republic entered the Council of Understanding and signed several treaties with the old metropolis. In 1960, it was part of the French Community.

In 1961 and 1962 unemployment increased markedly, partly due to the return to the country of officials and soldiers, who had served until then in the French colonies of Africa that had become independent, and in 1963 General Christophe Soglo gave a coup d’état that He transferred power to a triumvirate, and the following year a new Constitution was promulgated, while tension between two of the triumvirs increased: President Sorou-Migan Apithy and President Ahomadagbé In 1965 Soglo struck again He took office and in 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Alphonse Amadou Alley took over the presidency through a new coup. The following year, presidential elections are held, but the military annul the result and impose a civil government to their liking. In 1970 there was a new coup, which handed over power to a presidential council consisting of three members.

On October 27, 1972, Colonel Mathieu Kérékou dismissed the council and seized power; established a government that proclaimed itself in Marxist-Leninist 1974. On November 30, 1975, the People’s Republic of Benin was proclaimed -the country ceases to be called Dahomey-, with an exclusively military Council of Ministers. The country entered the Economic Community of West African States, with little success in the progress of the region and dominated by Nigeria.

In January 1977, Kérékou banned the other political parties, broke diplomatic relations with Gabon, which he accused of collusion with certain mercenaries led by Bob Denard, and in August promulgated a new Constitution that established a single-party political system.

In 1984 a great economic crisis took place when expelling neighboring Nigeria to some 100,000 Beninese and closing the border between the two nations. In 1987, an International Monetary Fund plan was implemented that reduced state expenditures and increased incomes through new taxes. In 1988 there were three coup attempts, which failed. In 1989, an economic reform agreement was approved. The IMF, which provoked internal protests, led Kérékou to accept the holding of a “national conference” in which all political leaders, including exiles, participated. The structural economic reform plan was carried out between 1989 and 1993.

RELIGION

According to the 2002 census, the majority of the population professes Christianity (35%) in its different variants; the majority is Catholicism, followed by Protestantism. 24.4% of the population is Muslim, and 17.3% practice voodoo.

EDUCATION

The literacy rate in Benin is among the lowest in the world: in 2010 only 42.4% of people over 15 years of age knew how to read and write (55.2% for men and 30.3% for women). Although education was not free until a few years ago, the government of Benin abolished tuition and is applying the recommendations made by the international community in the Educational Forum of 2007.

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