Thursday, October 29, 2009

Benin, History (contd-5)

Mathieu Kerekou (born on 2 Sep 1933)
became president from 1972 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2006. He was the only person who remained president for so long period in his life time.He told officially that he followed Marxist line though he was not actually a Marxist.
Born in 1933 in Kouarfa, in the north-west of the country, he studied at Military Schools in Mali and Senegal and served in the Military.

Following independence, from 1961 to 1963 he was an aide-de-camp to President Hubert Maga.
When Maurice Kouandete seized power in Dec 1967, Kerekou being his cousin, was made cairman of the Military Revolutionary Council. After Kerekou attended French military schools from 1968 to 1970, maga made him a Major, deputy chief of staff, and commander of the Ouidah paratroop unit.
Military Dictator:
Kerekou seized power in Benin in a military coup on 26 October, 1972, and thus the three members presidential council ended. During his first two years in power he expressed himself as nationalist and said that the country's revolution would not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology --We donot want communism or capitalism or socialism. We have our own Dahomeansocial and cultural system." But on Nov 30, 1974, he announced the adoption of Marxism-Leninism by the state and renamed the state as Peiple's Republic of Benina year later. He nationalised the banks, petroleum Industry and formed the People's Revolutionary Party of Benin as the sole ruling Party. In 1980, he was elected president by the Revolutionary National assembly. He retired from the army on 1987.
But his move to Marxism-Leninism was mainly from a pragmatic cosideration to obtain the support of leftist radicals. Even his nationalisation could not help the country as there was no infrastructure in the country.
Kerekou survived numerous attempts to oust him, including an attack by mercenariesat the airport in Cotonou in Jan. 1977 as well as two coup attempts in 1988. Reversing his course of action, he accepted anIMF structural adjustment programm in 1989. A student strike and various strikes began to start on economic issues of increasing salary etc.
Transition to democracy
Kerekou was forced to take action to make concessions to popular demandsand arranged for election. he dropped the idea of Marxism-Leninism and re-elected as President. He arranged a national conferencein the worsenning of economic situation in 1990 which he termed a "civilian coup". During the transition his power had been curtailed and a new constitution was approved in a referendom in 1990 and a multiparty election was held in March 1991 which was lost by Kerekou securing 32 % vote in the first round to Prime Minister Soglo. Kerekou was so clever that he took the responsibility of the country's distress and apologized for "deplorable and regrettable incidents".
Kerekou reclaimed the presidency in the 1996 election winning by securing 52.5% votes in the second round defeating Soglo for five year term. He lost again on 5 March, 2006 to Yayi Boni and left office at end of his term. There are two other instances when military rulers came back to power in democratic election as Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and John jery Rawlings of Ghana.