Capitals : Porto Novo (official) Cotonou (administrative/economic)
Size: 43 000 sq m Popn: 4 889 000
The area was settled by the Aja in the C12th and C13th and their kingdom was at its height in the C16th. It was replaced by the Dahomey kingdom from the C17th to C19th and a thriving slave trade with Europe was established, taking large numbers of people from neighbouring countries.
The country, also called Abomey, was under French influence from the 1850s and became part of French West Africa in 1899. It was declared a French overseas territory in 1946 which allowed it representation in French assemblies and an elected local administrative council and became a self-governing dominion within the French union in 1958. Dahomey became independent in 1960 under Hubert Maga but he quarrelled with Vice-President Apithy and tribal leader Ahomadegbe and in 1963 Col. Christopher Soglo took advantage of the ensuing instability to overthrow the government becoming a victim of a coup himself two years later.
A system of power-sharing was tried but fell apart by 1972 when Major Mathieu Kérékou seized power, declaring a socialist state in 1974. The country was renamed The People's Republic of Benin and became a Marxist-Leninist socialist state under a single party until 1989. Kérékou survived plots, assassinations and a French/Morocccan/Gabonese mercenary force in 1977 failed to remove him. He was elected as the first President of Benin in 1980 and re-elected in 1984 and 1989. Economic stagnation forced Benin to initiate more open foreign relations with France during the 1980s, helping development and increasing tourism. Constitutional reforms were announced in 1989 and a multiparty election was held in 1991 when Nicephore Soglo became president.
Ethnic groups are the Fon, Yoruba, Bariba and Somba, with French as the official language amonst Fon, Yoruba, Bariba and Dendi and nearly 70% of the population still following traditional religions with some Christianity and Islam.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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