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President Emmanuel Macron arrives this Wednesday, July 27 in Benin for a visit to Cotonou, where he is to meet President Patrice Talon. This is an opportunity for France to express the concern of the international community at the terrible setback observed in Benin since 2016 in terms of democracy and human rights.
Until recently, Benin was considered a democratic example in West Africa, with the construction of a stable democracy from 1991, when President Mathieu Kérékou peacefully ceded power. We were proud to contribute to the wave of democratization that took place in the region after the Cold War, proud to become one of the most stable democracies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately, since 2016, we have witnessed the demolition of this precious democracy. President Talon has used the judiciary to attack his political opponents, while new election rules and crackdowns on his political rivals have allowed him to consolidate his power in 2021. Deadly police violence has been committed against protesters.
Under his regime, we have seen all possibility of legitimate opposition disappear. He arrested people who posted critical messages about him on Facebook, imprisoned journalists and shut down major newspapers and radio stations. Many critics point out that of those he prosecutes for “corruption”, most are in the opposition and the charges are believed to be spurious.
Just this month, the Brussels organization Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) submitted a report on Benin to the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. This document demands the release of opponents Reckya Madougou and Joël Aïvo, respectively sentenced to twenty and ten years in prison. HRWF alerted the international community to the fact that they were not on a list of 17 detainees to be temporarily released after a meeting on June 13 between Patrice Talon and former President Thomas Boni Yayi (2006-2016). For President Macron to leave Benin without demanding the release of political prisoners Madougou and Aïvo from President Talon would be shameful.
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