The Republic of Benin is a nation of western Africa, formerly known as Dahomey. It has a small coast line with the Bight of Benin in the south, borders Togo in the west, Nigeria in the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger in the north.
Main article: History of Benin
The African kingdom of Dahomey originated in Benin. By the 17th century, the kingdom, ruled by an oba, stretched beyond the borders of present-day Benin, covered a large part of West-Africa. The kingdom was prosperous and established slave trading relations with the Europeans (mostly Portuguese and Dutch) who first arrived in the late 15th century. The coastal part of the kingdom became known as the Slave Coast.
By the 18th century, Dahomey started to fall apart, enabling the French to take over the area in 1892. In 1899, the land became part of the French West Africa colony, still as Dahomey. In 1958, it was granted autonomy as the Republic of Dahomey, and full independence started on August 1, 1960.
For the next 12 years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence. There were several coups and regime changes, with three main figures dominating - Sourou Apithy, Hubert Maga, and Justin Ahomadegbé - each of them representing a different area of the country. These three agreed to form a presidential council after violence had marred the 1970 elections. In 1972, a military coup led by Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the council. He established a Marxist government under the control of Military Council of the Revolution (CNR), and the country was renamed to the People's Republic of Benin in 1975. In 1979, the CNR was dissolved and elections took place. By the late 1980s, Kérékou abandoned Marxism after an economic crisis and decided to re-establish a parlimentary capitalist system. He was defeated in 1991 elections, becoming the first black African president to step down after an election. He returned to power after wining the 1996 vote. In 2001, a closely fought election resulted in Kérékou winning another term. His opponents claimed there were election irregularities.
Main article: Politics of Benin
The parliament of Benin is formed by the 83-seat National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale), for which election are held every four years. Head of the government and head of state is the president, who is chosen in separate presidential elections held every five years. The president appoints a council of ministers. According to the constitution of 1990, a president may serve a maximum of 2 five-year terms.
Main article: Departments of Benin
Benin is divided into twelve departments:
- Main article: Geography of Benin
Stretched between the Niger River in the north and the Bight of Benin in the south, Benin's elevation is about the same for the entire country. Most of the population lives in the southern coastal plains, where Benin's largest cities are also located, including Porto Novo and Cotonou. The north of the country consists mostly of savanna and semi-arid highlands.
The climate in Benin is hot and humid, with relatively little rain, although there are two rainy seasons (April-July and September-November).
Main article: Economy of Benin
The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output has averaged a stable 5% in the past six years, but rapid population rise has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. The 2001 privatization policy should continue in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture in spite of initial government reluctance. The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, while pressing for speeded-up structural reforms.
Main article: Demographics of Benin
There are about 40 different ethnic groups living in Benin, the largest being the Fon who account for about 49% of Benin's population. Other ethnic groups include the Adja, Yoruba, Somba and Bariba . Most of these ethnic groups have their own languages, although French is the official language, which is spoken mostly in the cities. Of the indigenous languages, the Fon and Yoruba languages are most common.
Indigenous religions are predominant, although significant parts of the population are Christian, (chiefly Roman Catholic) and Muslim. Local practices and traditions are often combined with those of the foreign religions.
Main article: Culture of Benin
It is believed that Vodun (or "Voodoo", as it is commonly known) originated in Benin and was introduced to Brazil, the Caribbean Islands, and parts of North America by slaves taken from this particular area of the Slave Coast. The indigenous religion of Benin, it is practiced by about 70% of the population. Since 1992 Vodun has been recognized as one of Benin's official religions, and a National Vodun Holiday is celebrated on January 10.
See also: List of Beninese writers
Last updated: 06-02-2005 04:28:38
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12