Abomey • Abomey-Calavi • Allada • Aplahoué • Athiémé • Banikoara • Bassila • Bembèrèkè • Bétérou • Bohicon • Bori • Boukoumbé • Comé • Cotonou • Cové • Dassa-Zoumé • Djougou • Dogbo-Tota • Ganvie • Godomey • Grand Popo • Kandi • Kérou • Kétou • Kouandé • Lokossa • Malanville • Natitingou • Ndali • Nikki • Ouidah • Parakou • Péhonko • Pobé • Porga • Porto Novo • Sakété • Savalou • Savé • Ségbana • Tanguiéta • Tchaourou •
|THE BENIN COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Benin within the continent of Africa
Map of Benin
Flag Description of Benin:Flag Description: two equal horizontal bands of yellow (top) and red (bottom) with a vertical green band on the hoist side; green symbolizes hope and revival, yellow wealth, and red courage
Official name République du Bénin (Republic of Benin)
Form of government multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly )
Head of state and government President: Thomas Yayi Boni1
Official language French
Official religion none
Monetary unit CFA franc (CFAF)
Population (2013 est.) 9,607,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 44,310
Total area (sq km) 114,763
- Urban: (2011) 44.9%
- Rural: (2011) 55.1%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 59 years
- Female: (2012) 61.6 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2010) 55.2%
- Female: (2010) 50.3%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 790
1Office of Prime Minister, vacant from May 1998, was filled in May 2011, then vacant again from August 2013; the post of prime minister is not required per the constitution.
2Porto-Novo, the official capital established under the constitution, is the seat of the legislature, but the president and most government ministers reside in Cotonou.
Background of Benin
Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence on 1 August 1960, as the Republic of Benin.
Benin, officially Republic of Benin, French République du Bénin, formerly (until 1975) Dahomey, or (1975–90) People’s Republic of Benin, country of western Africa. It consists of a narrow wedge of territory extending northward for about 420 miles (675 kilometres) from the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean, on which it has a 75-mile seacoast, to the Niger River, which forms part of Benin’s northern border with Niger. Benin is bordered to the northwest by Burkina Faso, to the east by Nigeria, and to the west by Togo. The official capital is Porto-Novo, but Cotonou is Benin’s largest city, its chief port, and its de facto administrative capital. Benin was a French colony from the late 19th century until 1960.
Prior to colonial rule, part of the territory that is now Benin consisted of powerful, independent kingdoms, including various Bariba kingdoms in the north and in the south the kingdoms of Porto-Novo and Dahomey (Dan-ho-me, “on the belly of Dan;” Dan was a rival king on whose grave Dahomey’s royal compound was built). In the late 19th century French colonizers making inroads from the coastal region into the interior borrowed the name of the defeated Dahomey kingdom for the entire territory that is now Benin; the current name derives from the Bight of Benin.
|THE NATIONAL ANTHEM-The New Dawn||NATIONAL SOCIETIES-BENIN (AFRICA)||COAT OF ARMS|
Long ago, at their call, our ancestors, without weakness,
When the wind blows anger and hatred everywhere.
Your sunny mountains, your palm trees, your greenery
In accordance with the current priorities of the Red Cross of Benin, we commit ourselves to work over the next four years towards:
- the passing and promulgation of the law to protect the red cross emblem, thanks to the determined efforts of the government of Benin; - improvements in women's lives through caring for, educating and training young girls who have dropped out of school or never went to school, and through teaching them to read and write, thanks to the cooperation of the Spanish Red Cross; - retraining first-aid instructors and giving first-aid training to at least 2,000 taxi drivers, with the aim of reducing Benin's mortality rate, which has been increasing owing to ignorance among these drivers, who witness firsthand a multitude of road accidents, of how to save somebody's life; - training "100 per 1,000" peer educators for the struggle against sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, thanks to the cooperation of the Italian Red Cross; - health programmes and treatment in schools, thanks to the cooperation of the French Red Cross. (Original signed)
Suivant les domaines dans lesquels la Croix Rouge Béninoise concentre actuellement en priorité ses efforts, nous nous engageons pour les quatre années à venir à oeuvrer pour, entre autre:
Le vote et la promulgation de la loi sur la protection de l'emblème Croix-Rouge, grâce à la volonté affichée du Gouvernement du Bénin. La promotion féminine par l'accueil, l'éducation, la formation des jeunes filles déscolarisées et/ou non scolarisées, et l'alphabétisation des femmes, grâce à la coopération avec la Croix-Rouge Espagnole. Le recyclage des formateurs en premiers secours et la formation en secourisme d'au moins 2000 conducteurs de taxi-auto, aux fins de réduire la mortalité ascendante au Bénin due à la méconnaissance des gestes qui sauvent par ces conducteurs-auto, premiers témoins des multiples accidents de la route. La formation des pairs éducateurs "100 pour 1000" sur la lutte contre les MST/SIDA, grâce à la coopération avec la Croix-Rouge Italienne. Assurer la santé et les soins en milieu scolaire grâce à la coopération avec la Croix-Rouge Française. (Original signé)
|The coat of arms of Benin, originally introduced in 1964, was readopted in 1990 after being replaced in 1975.
At the top of the emblem is the national crest that consists of two horns with corn in the ear and filled with sand. These are reputed to stand for prosperity. Below the crest is a shield that contains the actual coat of arms of Benin.
The shield is broken into four quadrants. The top left quadrant contains a castle in the style of the Somba, representative of the history of Benin. In the top right quadrant, is the Star of Benin, the highest award of the nation. Below this is a ship, that stands for the arrival of Europeans in Benin. In the lower left quadrant is a palm tree.
The shield is supported by a pair of leopards, the national animal of Benin. Below the shield is the motto of Benin (Fellowship, Justice, Work) in French.
Geography of Benin
Benin consists of five natural regions. The coastal region is low, flat, and sandy, backed by tidal marshes and lagoons. It is composed of, in effect, a long sandbar on which grow clumps of coconut palms; the lagoons are narrower in the western part of the country, where many have become marshes because of silting, and wider in the east, and some are interconnected. In the west the Grand-Popo Lagoon extends into neighbouring Togo, while in the east the Porto-Novo Lagoon provides a natural waterway to the port of Lagos, Nigeria, although its use is discouraged by the political boundary. Only at Grand-Popo and at Cotonou do the lagoons have outlets to the sea.
Behind the coastal region extends the barre country—the word being a French adaptation of the Portuguese word barro (“clay”). A fertile plateau, the barre region contains the Lama Marsh, a vast swampy area stretching from Abomey to Allada. The landscape is generally flat, although occasional hills occur, rising to about 1,300 feet (400 metres).
The Benin plateaus, four in number, are to be found in the environs of Abomey, Kétou, Aplahoué (or Parahoué), and Zagnanado. The plateaus consist of clays on a crystalline base. The Abomey, Aplahoué, and Zagnanado plateaus are from 300 to 750 feet high, and the Kétou plateau is up to 500 feet in height.
The Atakora Mountains, in the northwest of the country, form a continuation of the Togo Mountains to the south. Running southwest to northeast and reaching an altitude of 2,103 feet (641 metres) at their highest point, they consist of a highly metamorphosed quartzite interior.
The Niger plains, in the northeast of Benin, slope down to the Niger River valley. They consist of clayey sandstones.
Apart from the Niger River, which, with its tributaries the Mékrou, Alibori, and Sota, drains the northeastern part of the country, the three principal rivers in Benin are the Mono, the Couffo, and the Ouémé. The Mono, which rises in Togo, forms the frontier between Togo and Benin near the coast. The Couffo, near which stands Abomey, flows southward from the Benin plateaus to drain into the coastal lagoons at Ahémé. The Ouémé rises in the Atakora Mountains and flows southward for 280 miles; near its mouth it divides into two branches, one draining to the east into Porto-Novo Lagoon and the other to the west into Nokoué Lake. The Atakora Mountains form a divide between the Volta and Niger basins.
Two climatic zones may be distinguished—a southern and a northern. The southern zone has an equatorial type of climate with four seasons—two wet and two dry. The principal rainy season occurs between mid-March and mid-July; the shorter dry season lasts to mid-September; the shorter rainy season lasts to mid-November; and the principal dry season lasts until the rains begin again in March. The amount of rain increases toward the east. Grand-Popo receives only about 32 inches (800 millimetres) a year, whereas Cotonou and Porto-Novo both receive approximately 50 inches. Temperatures are fairly constant, varying between about 72° and 93° F (22° and 34° C), and the relative humidity is often uncomfortably high.
In the northern climatic zone, there are only two seasons, one dry and one rainy. The rainy season lasts from May to September, with most of the rainfall occurring in August. Rainfall amounts to about 53 inches a year in the Atakora Mountains and in central Benin; farther north it diminishes to about 38 inches. In the dry season the harmattan, a hot, dry wind, blows from the northeast from December to March. Temperatures average about 80° F (27° C), but the temperature range varies considerably from day to night. In March, the hottest month, diurnal temperatures may rise to 110° F (43° C).
- Plant and animal life
The original rain forest, which covered most of the southern part of the country, has now largely been cleared, except near the rivers. In its place, many oil palms and rônier palms have been planted and food crops are cultivated. North of Abomey the vegetation is an intermixture of forest and savanna (grassy parkland), giving way farther north to savanna. Apart from the oil and rônier palms, trees include coconut palms, kapok, mahogany, and ebony.
In the extreme north is the “W” National Park (1,938 square miles), which extends into Burkina Faso and Niger. Its varied animal life includes elephants, leopards, lions, antelope, monkeys, wild pigs, crocodiles, and buffalo. There are many species of snakes, including pythons and puff adders. Birds include guinea fowl, wild duck, and partridge, as well as many tropical species. The Pendjari National Park (1,062 square miles) borders on Burkina Faso.
- Settlement patterns
The southern provinces make up one-fourth of the total area but are inhabited by more than two-thirds of the total population. Many of these people are clustered near the port of Cotonou, which is the focus of the commercial and political life of the country, and Porto-Novo, the official capital. The cultivation of subsistence crops, such as corn (maize), cassava, and yams, is intensive on the outskirts of the towns. The barre region and the Benin plateaus are planted with oil palms, which form the cash crop, as well as with subsistence crops. To the north, the aspect of the countryside changes as savanna vegetation increases and the population diminishes; some areas are uninhabited, except by Fulani nomads. Villages, instead of being encountered frequently as in the south, become scattered. Parakou is an important northern market town, dating from colonial times.
The towns exhibit traditional African, colonial European, and modern influences. Traditional African (or precolonial) mud houses, markets, shrines, and statues are found in small towns as well as in Abomey, Porto-Novo, and, to a lesser degree, Cotonou, and the Somba region in the northwest has traditional thatched-roof, turreted houses. Colonial European styles dominate in most towns, especially in Cotonou. Colonial buildings, some dating from the 18th century, include train stations, official buildings, and private homes, as well as such structures as the former Portuguese fort at Ouidah that was used in the slave trade. Modern architecture is found in private homes, port facilities, and hotels.
Demography of Benin
- Ethnic groups
Despite attempts at greater national unity and integration since 1960, differences among Benin’s ethnic groups survive to a marked degree. The Fon, who make up about two-fifths of the population, live in various parts of the country and especially in Cotonou. The Yoruba, who are related to the Nigerian Yoruba, live mainly in southeastern Benin and constitute about one-eighth of Benin’s population. In the vicinity of Porto-Novo, the Goun (Gun) and the Yoruba (known in Pobé and Kétou as Nago, or Nagot) are so intermixed as to be hardly distinguishable. Among other southern groups are various Adja peoples, including the Aizo, the Holi, and the Mina.
The Bariba, the fourth largest ethnic group, comprise several subgroups and make up about one-tenth of Benin’s population. They inhabit the northeast, especially towns such as Nikki and Kandi that were once Bariba kingdoms. The Somba (Ditamari) are found in Natitingou and in villages in the northwest. Other northern groups include the Dendi, the Pila (Pilapila), the Yoa-Lokpa, and the nomadic Fulani (Peul). Europeans, Lebanese, South Asians, and Africans from other countries are among the foreigners who reside in Benin, primarily in Cotonou and Porto-Novo.
French is the official language and the language of instruction, but each ethnic group has its own language, which is also spoken. Most adults living in the various ethnic communities also speak the dominant language of each region. The most widely spoken languages are Fon and Gen (Mina), members of the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo family of African languages; Bariba, a member of the Gur branch of the Niger-Congo family; Yoruba, one of a small group of languages that constitute the Yoruboid cluster of the Defoid subbranch of the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo family; and Dendi, one of the Songhai languages, which are generally assumed to constitute the primary branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family.
Christian missions have been active in the coastal region since the 16th century, and about two-fifths of the total population is Christian; of the Christians, about three-fifths are Roman Catholic, while the remainder includes small groups of Methodist, Baptist, and independent Christian denominations. Islam has adherents in the north and southeast; about one-fourth of the total population is Muslim, nearly all of whom are Sunni. Some one-fourth of the population adheres to traditional beliefs, including vodun (vodou or voodoo), which originated in the area of western Africa that includes what is now known as Benin and was brought to the Caribbean and the Americas by Africans enslaved during the Atlantic slave trade in the 17th–19th centuries. In addition, many adherents of Christianity and Islam also include some elements of traditional beliefs in their practices. In the south, animist religions, which include fetishes (objects regarded with awe as the embodiment of a powerful spirit) for which Benin is renowned, retain their traditional strength.
- Demographic trends
Benin’s rate of population growth, similar to that of some western African countries, is among the highest in the world. This growth results primarily from a birth rate that is about twice as high as the world average and a death rate that is similar to the world average. Moreover, some two-fifths of the population is younger than 15 years of age, ensuring the country’s continued high growth rate. Life expectancy for females is about 60 years; for males it is slightly less. Overall, life expectancy is slightly lower than the world average but higher than the regional average.
Most of the country’s population is concentrated in the lower southern portion of the country, which makes up roughly one-fourth of the country’s total area but is inhabited by more than two-thirds of the total population. About two-fifths of Benin’s population is urban and is concentrated mostly in Cotonou, the country’s largest city.
Benin received an influx of Togolese refugees following the violent aftermath of that country’s presidential election in April 2005. More than 25,000 refugees were estimated to have crossed the border; most had returned to Togo within two years.
Economy of Benin
Benin's economy is overwhelmingly agricultural, with most workers engaged in subsistence farming. The chief crops are cotton, corn, cassava, yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, and cashews. Goats, sheep, and pigs are raised. There is a sizable freshwater fishing industry, and some ocean fish are also caught. Most of Benin's few manufactures are processed agricultural goods, basic consumer items, textiles, and building materials.
Petroleum, discovered offshore of Porto-Novo in 1968, and limestone are extracted. The country's other mineral resources, which include chromite, low-quality iron ore, ilmenite, and titanium, have not as yet been exploited. There is also a developing tourist industry. The country has limited rail and road systems, and they are almost exclusively in the southern and central parts of the country; rail lines are being extended to Niger. A hydroelectric plant completed in 1988 on the Mono River was a collaborative effort between Togo and Benin.
The chief imports are foodstuffs, capital goods, and petroleum products. The principal exports are cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, and seafood. The annual cost of imports usually exceeds earnings from exports. The leading trade partners are China, France, Thailand, Nigeria, and Indonesia.
Since independence, Benin’s regular and developmental budgets have been dependent on external support, primarily from France and international organizations. This support has rendered a little less painful the formidable economic stagnation and low standard of living of the overwhelming majority of the population.
The regime that came to power in a 1972 coup attempted from 1975 to restructure the economy more or less along socialist principles and to disengage from dependence on France. Most sectors of the economy were nationalized or otherwise turned over to government control, and economic relations were established with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, as well as with Benin’s neighbours. By the early 1980s it was clear that—though the economy was restructured and, at least on paper, more efficient and diversified and France’s contribution to Benin’s economy diminished—corruption persisted and that the overall economic situation had not improved. “Liberalization” of the economy in the mid-1980s also failed to produce positive results. Accompanying changes in the constitution and regime in the early 1990s, the remnants and slogans of Marxism were wiped out, and privatization of the economy began.
The few stretches of tropical forest that remain in Benin, mostly in the southwest and central areas, contain mahogany, iroko, teak, samba, and other tropical hardwoods. The rivers and lagoons are rich in fish. Mineral deposits include iron ore both in the Atakora Mountains and northeast of Kandi, limestone deposits at Onigbolo, chromium ore and a little gold in the northwest near Natitingou, marble at Dadjo, an important deposit of pottery clay at Sakété, and ilmenite (a mineral source of titanium) near the coast. Offshore oil was discovered in 1968 in the Sémé field near Cotonou and has been exploited since 1982.
- Agriculture and fishing
About 70 percent of the working population depends on agriculture. Since the mid-1980s Benin has produced yams, cassava, corn (maize), millet, beans, and rice to achieve self-sufficiency in staple foods. Among cash crops, the formerly predominant palm product output declined considerably in the 1980s, but cotton output rose. The output of karité, peanuts (groundnuts), cacao beans, and coffee also has increased. Livestock include cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, horses, and poultry. Substantial quantities of fish are caught annually in the lagoons and rivers, while coastal fishing produces a smaller, but growing, amount. Most of the fish is exported to Nigeria or Togo. Shrimp and deep-sea fishing are developing, using modern vessels.
Manufacturing plants and secondary industries include several palm-oil-processing plants in Ahozon, Avrankou, Bohicon, Cotonou, Gbada, and Pobé; cement plants at Onigbolo and Pobé; several cotton-ginning facilities in the north; a textile mill at Parakou; a sugar refining complex at Savé; a soft-drink plant; a brewery; and two shrimp-processing plants.
Electricity is generated thermally by plants located at Bohicon, Parakou, Cotonou, and Porto-Novo. About half of Benin’s demand for electricity is met by importing power from Ghana’s Volta River Project at Akosombo. In 1988 operations commenced at the hydroelectric installation of the Mono River Dam, a joint venture between Benin and Togo on their common southern boundary.
Liquidation of Benin’s three state-owned banks took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of economic privatization, and four private banks opened, including the Bank of Africa-Benin. Citizens of Benin began to transfer their savings from foreign banks. With the advent of privatization, foreign aid and assistance grew, particularly funding for developmental projects from the United States and the European Economic Community (later succeeded by the European Union), the latter of which also agreed to help pay the wages of civil servants. France continues to provide financial assistance. The currency of Benin is the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine), which is fully guaranteed by and pegged to the French franc.
Benin’s export earnings rely on agricultural products, such as cotton, palm oil, cocoa, and coffee, exported to such countries as Portugal, Italy, France, Thailand, Taiwan, and the United States. Informal trade (smuggling) across the border with Nigeria has also affected Benin’s negative trade balance. One of Benin’s main, albeit underexploited, trade assets is the deepwater port at Cotonou, which serves as a sea outlet for the Republic of Niger and as a secondary port for Nigeria and thus holds a potential to earn lucrative customs duties. Benin has traditionally imported various manufactured products, machinery, chemicals, beverages, and tobacco, as well as cereals.
There are two paved, mostly two-lane, road networks. One runs parallel to the coast of the Gulf of Guinea from the Togolese border, through Cotonou and near Porto-Novo, to the Nigerian border. The other road runs north from Cotonou, near Abomey and Dassa, to Parakou in the north. Roads from Parakou to Niger’s border and from near Abomey to Burkina Faso’s border are unpaved and are barely passable in the rainy season.
There is a railroad from Cotonou to Parakou. Another railroad, parallel to the coast, does not extend to either the Togolese or the Nigerian border.
Interconnected coastal lagoons are navigable by small craft known as pirogues. The Ouémé, Couffo, and Mono rivers are navigable by small boats for several dozen miles. The country’s only port is at Cotonou. An international airport in Cotonou links Benin with other countries of Africa and with Europe. There is also limited domestic airline service.
Benin is governed under the constitution of 1990. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is both head of state and head of government. The president is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The unicameral legislature consists of the 83-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 12 departments.
Benin was the first African country to make a post-Cold War transition away from Marxism-Leninism. In December 1989 Kérékou himself abandoned the Marxist-Leninist ideology that he had promulgated in the mid-1970s. In December 1990 a new constitution was approved, guaranteeing human rights, freedom to organize political parties, the right to private property, and universal franchise.
Under the 1990 constitution, Benin is a multiparty republic. The president, who is directly elected to no more than two consecutive five-year terms, serves as head of state and government. The president may be assisted by the prime minister, though the position is not required by the constitution and was vacant from May 1998–May 2011 and again from August 2013. Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly, consisting of members who are directly elected to serve four-year terms.
The constitution provides for an independent judicial branch of government. Benin’s judiciary comprises the Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in constitutional-related affairs, the Supreme Court, which is the highest court for administrative and judicial matters, and the High Court of Justice, which hears cases against the president and other government officials in matters pertaining to crimes committed while in office and high treason. The Constitutional Court and Supreme Court are located in Cotonou, while the High Court of Justice is located in Porto-Novo.
The public education system has followed the French pattern since colonial times. A six-year primary school cycle (for children ages 6–11) is followed by six years of secondary education (ages 12–17). In the mid-1970s major reforms were introduced both to conform to the then-prevalent Marxist-Leninist ideology and to shed French influence. The reforms failed as teachers, parents, and university-bound students objected to the lowering of standards, and the reforms were largely abandoned by the late 1980s.
The University of Abomey-Calavi (previously known as the University of Dahomey [1970–75] and the National University of Benin [1975–2001]), located in Cotonou, was founded in 1970. The university’s student body has been, along with workers, the main political force in the country since the early 1980s. The University of Parakou was founded in 2001.
- Health and welfare
Benin has a national health care system that maintains hospitals in Cotonou, Porto-Novo, Parakou, Abomey, Ouidah, and Natitingou, in addition to medical dispensaries, maternity centres, and other small, specialized health care facilities in these and smaller towns. Financial aid from international organizations provides resources to compensate for a shortage of medical personnel and medications. Malaria is a health concern, especially for young children. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Benin is well below the average for sub-Saharan Africa but is similar to or lower than that of neighbouring countries.
Cultural life of Benin
French colonial rule and subsequent close ties with France have left a deep impact on all aspects of cultural life, especially among the educated segments of the population and in the southern cities. Each ethnic group also has its own centuries-old tradition, which itself often mixes with the French influence. These cultural traditions are clustered in two distinct regions, the largely Muslim north and the largely animist and Christian south.
In Cotonou one finds many kinds of commercial enterprises, often with a French flavour, such as restaurants, cafés, and discotheques. Diplomats of foreign governments and many of Benin’s elite live in newer residential sections. There are several movie theatres and several hotels that provide entertainment. Most other towns have modern sections on a smaller scale.
In other sections of the towns, however, tradition dominates cultural life. Extended families live in family compounds in distinct neighbourhoods, where they practice religious rites and celebrate festivals with music and dance. Markets where foodstuffs, clothing, and traditional medicines and arts are sold are important centres of daily life.
- The arts
Artistic traditions in Benin are very old and are represented in practically every village. Plastic art is the most prominent, as carved wooden masks representing images and spirits of the departed are made and used in traditional ceremonies. Other artistic items are bronze statuettes, pottery, appliquéd tapestries recounting the history of kings of precolonial Dahomey, and fire engraving on wooden bowls, which often have religious meaning. Probably the best-known art objects are the Yoruba wooden masks called guelede from the region of Porto-Novo. Street musicians are found in various neighbourhoods, and modern dance ensembles perform at clubs.
- Cultural institutions
An artisan village is attached to the Historical Museum of Abomey (formerly the Royal Palace). There is an excellent ethnographic museum in Porto-Novo, a historical museum in Ouidah, and the Open-Air Museum of Ethnography and Natural Sciences in Parakou. The National Library is in Porto-Novo. Art galleries are the Cultural and Artistic Centre and the French Cultural Centre, both in Cotonou, and the CAZAM in Porto-Novo. Cultural centres sponsored by the French and American governments maintain libraries and organize lectures, concerts, and other cultural activities.
The national sport played by several teams is football (soccer). There is a modern sport stadium in Cotonou.
- Press and broadcasting
Radio programs are broadcast from Cotonou in French, English, and a number of local languages. There is also a limited television service. A daily newspaper, La Nation, is published in Cotonou and is controlled by the government; there are also two other dailies and several weekly or biweekly publications. Newspapers published in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire (in French) and newspapers and magazines from elsewhere may be found in bookstores and newsstands.
History of Benin
- Early History
Little is known about the history of N Benin. In the south, according to oral tradition, a group of Aja migrated (12th or 13th cent.) eastward from Tado on the Mono River and founded the village of Allada. Later, Allada became the capital of Great Ardra, a state whose kings ruled with the consent of the elders of the people. Great Ardra reached the peak of its power in the 16th and early 17th cent.
A dispute (c.1625) among three brothers over who should be king resulted in one brother, Kokpon, retaining Great Ardra. Another brother, Do-Aklin, founded the town of Abomey, and the third, Te-Agdanlin, founded the town of Ajatche or Little Ardra (called Porto-Novo by the Portuguese merchants who traded there). The Aja living at Abomey organized into a strongly centralized kingdom with a standing army and gradually mixed with the local people, thus forming the Fon, or Dahomey, ethnic group.
By the late 17th cent. the Dahomey were raiding their neighbors for slaves, who were then sold (through coastal middlemen) to European traders. By 1700, about 20,000 slaves were being transported annually, especially from Great Ardra and Ouidah, located on what was called the Slave Coast. In order to establish direct contact with the European traders, King Agaja of Dahomey (reigned 1708–32), who began the practice of using women as soldiers, conquered most of the south (except Porto-Novo). This expansion brought Dahomey into conflict with the powerful Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, which captured Abomey in 1738 and forced Dahomey to pay an annual tribute until 1818. However, until well into the 19th cent. Dahomey continued to expand northward and to sell slaves, despite efforts by Great Britain to end the trade.
- Colonial History
In 1863, Porto-Novo accepted a French protectorate, hoping thereby to offset Dahomey's power. During the 1880s, as the scramble among the European powers for African colonies accelerated, France tried to secure its hold on the Dahomey coast in order to keep it out of German or British hands. King Behanzin (reigned 1889–93) attempted to resist the French advance, but in 1892–93 France defeated Dahomey, established a protectorate over it, and exiled Behanzin to Martinique. During the period 1895–98 the French added the northern part of present-day Benin, and in 1904 the whole colony was made part of French West Africa.
Under the French a port was constructed at Cotonou, railroads were built, and the output of palm products increased. In addition, elementary school facilities were expanded, largely under the auspices of Roman Catholic missions. In 1946, Dahomey became an overseas territory with its own parliament and representation in the French national assembly; in 1958, it became an autonomous state within the French Community.
- The Postcolonial Period
On Aug. 1, 1960, Dahomey became fully independent. The country's first president was Hubert Maga, whose main support came from Parakou and the north and who was allied with Sourou Migan Apithy, a politician from Porto-Novo. Independent Dahomey was plagued by governmental instability that was caused by economic troubles, ethnic rivalries, and social unrest. In 1963, following demonstrations by workers and students, the armed forces staged a successful coup, putting Justin Ahomadegbé into power (in alliance with Apithy). Political unrest continued in Dahomey for the next six years until Lt. Col. Paul-Émile de Souza was made president in 1969.
Elections were attempted in 1970 but were canceled following severe disagreement between northern and southern politicians. Instead, a three-man presidential council (consisting of Maga, Ahomadegbé, and Apithy) was formed; each member was to lead the country for two years. The first leader was Maga, who in May, 1972, was replaced without incident by Ahomadegbé. However, in Oct., 1972, the military again intervened, toppling Ahomadegbé and installing an 11-man government headed by Maj. Mathieu Kérékou.
Kérékou declared Benin a Marxist-Leninist state and sought financial support from Communist governments in Eastern Europe and Asia. To distance the modern state from its colonial past, Dahomey became the People's Republic of Benin in 1975. Continual strikes and coup attempts resulted in the formation of a repressive militia. In 1989, with social unrest and economic problems besetting the country, Marxism was renounced as a state ideology.
In 1990 a national conference and a referendum provided for a new constitution and multiparty elections; Nicéphor Soglo defeated Kérékou at the polls and became president in 1991. Credited with reviving the economy but criticized as aloof and distant from the people, Soglo was defeated in the 1996 presidential election, which returned Kérékou to power. In the 1999 assembly elections, however, the opposition, led by Soglo's wife, Rosine, won the majority of seats. Conflict with Niger over the ownership of one of several disputed islands in the Niger River led to tensions in 2000; the islands were divided between the two nations in 2005 after international arbitration.
Kérékou was reelected in Mar., 2001, after Soglo withdrew from a runoff, accusing the president of fraud. The president's coalition won a majority in the national assembly in Mar., 2003. In 2005 Kérékou announced that he would retire in 2006 at the end of his term, and would not seek to amended the constitution to stay in power. In Mar., 2006, Thomas Yayi Boni, an economist who had previously headed the West African Development Bank, was elected president after a runoff, winning nearly 75% of the vote. In June, 2006, the national assembly voted to amend the constitution to extend assembly members' terms to five years, but the supreme court rejected the amendment as for violating the 1990 consensus that established the constitution. President Yayi survived an apparent assassination attempt in Mar., 2007. Yayi's coalition won a plurality of the seats in the national assembly in the elections later that month.
In July, 2010, the collapse of a company that was running a Ponzi scheme roiled the country. Some 130,000 were believed to have invested in it, many with their life savings. The interior minister and the chief prosecutor were dismissed for connections to the scheme, and many believed that the president was involved because photographs of him meeting with company officials were publicized by the company. National Assembly members accused Yayi of complicity in the scheme, but failed in an attempt (August) to impeach him. He won reelection in Mar., 2011, against a divided opposition. In Oct., 2012, several people, including a former commerce minister, were accused of attempting to assassinating the president with poison and arrested, and in Mar., 2013, another coup plot, said to be linked possibly to the poisoning plot, was reported to have been foiled.
As a political unit, Benin was created by the French colonial conquest at the end of the 19th century. In the precolonial period, the territory comprised a multiplicity of independent states, differing in language and culture. The south was occupied mainly by Ewe-speaking peoples, who traced their traditional origins to the town of Tado (in modern Togo). --->>>>>Read More.<<<<
Benin- Historical kingdom, West Africa
Benin, one of the principal historic kingdoms of the western African forest region (fl. 13th–19th century).
Tradition asserts that the Edo people became dissatisfied with the rule of a dynasty of semimythical kings, the ogisos, and in the 13th century they invited Prince Oranmiyan of Ife to rule them. His son Eweka is regarded as the first oba, or king, of Benin, though authority would remain for many years with a hereditary order of local chiefs. Late in the 13th century, royal power began to assert itself under the oba Ewedo and was firmly established under the most famous oba, Ewuare the Great (reigned c. 1440–80), who was described as a great warrior and magician. He established a hereditary succession to the throne and vastly expanded the territory of the Benin kingdom, which by the mid-16th century extended from the Niger River delta in the east to what is now Lagos in the west. (Lagos was in fact founded by a Benin army and continued to pay tribute to the oba of Benin until the end of the 19th century.) Ewuare also rebuilt the capital (present-day Benin City), endowing it with great walls and moats. The oba became the supreme political, judicial, economic, and spiritual leader of his people, and he and his ancestors eventually became the object of state cults that utilized human sacrifice in their religious observances.
Ewuare was succeeded by a line of strong obas, chief of whom were Ozolua the Conqueror (c. 1481–c. 1504; the son of Ewuare) and Esigie (early to mid-16th century; the son of Ozolua), who enjoyed good relations with the Portuguese and sent ambassadors to their king. Under these obas Benin became a highly organized state. Its numerous craftsmen were organized into guilds, and the kingdom became famous for its ivory and wood carvers. Its brass smiths and bronze casters excelled at making naturalistic heads, bas-reliefs, and other sculptures. From the 15th through the 18th century Benin carried on an active trade in ivory, palm oil, and pepper with Portuguese and Dutch traders, for whom it served as a link with tribes in the interior of western Africa. It also profited greatly from the slave trade. But during the 18th and early 19th centuries the kingdom was weakened by violent succession struggles between members of the royal dynasty, some of which erupted into civil wars. The weaker obas sequestered themselves in their palaces and took refuge in the rituals of divine kingship while indiscriminately granting aristocratic titles to an expanding class of nonproductive nobles. The kingdom’s prosperity declined with the suppression of the slave trade, and, as its territorial extent shrank, Benin’s leaders increasingly relied on supernatural rituals and large-scale human sacrifices to protect the state from further territorial encroachment. The practice of human sacrifice was stamped out only after the burning of Benin City in 1897 by the British, after which the depopulated and debilitated kingdom was incorporated into British Nigeria. The descendants of Benin’s ruling dynasty still occupy the throne in Benin City (although the present-day oba has only an advisory role in government).
Benin Area: 112,622 sq km (43,484 sq mi) Population (2008 est.): 8,295,000 Capital: Porto-Novo (executive and ministerial offices remain in Cotonou) Head of state and government: President Thomas ...--->>>>read on<<<
Benin Area: 112,622 sq km (43,484 sq mi) Population (2005 est.): 7,649,000 Capital: Porto-Novo (executive and ministerial offices remain in Cotonou) Head of state and government: President Mathieu.--->>>>read on<<<
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