Friday, November 2, 2012

Patrice Talon on the run



Patrice Talon a wealthy businessperson who till recently was very close to President Boni Yayi is now in exile, fleeing to escape charges of assassination attempt on the Head of State.

According to rumors now confirmed by Patrice Talon, Boni Yayi benefited from his backing for his election in 2006 and his reelection in 2011. In an interview with a journalist of the French radio, RFI, Patrice Talon said that he used his resources and his ties to help Boni Yayi win in both 2006 and 2011.

Just after Boni Yayi’s reelection in 2011, Patrice Talon’s profitable contract with the government on the importation of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides for cotton production was suspended. The government also withdrew from another contract with the businessperson which allowed his company named Benin Control to verify the transit of goods at Cotonou Harbor. This contract was part of the government reforms concerning Cotonou Harbor. Patrice Talon’s company was chosen after contending in an international tender.

However, the troubles of the wealthy businessperson who used to be a close associate of Boni Yayi and whose ties with the president won him many profitable contracts had just began. During his three-hour interview with three journalists broadcasted on both public and private local televisions and radios on August 1st, 2012, the Benin Independence Day, in a rare statement, Boni Yayi accused different people of fomenting a crisis and seeking to destabilize his regime. He mentioned some businesspeople mainly Patrice Talon.

Last October, the public was taken by surprise by a statement of the general prosecutor that charged Patrice Talon and four other accused persons of assassination attempt against Boni Yayi. Patrice talon was said to have promised the niece and the personal doctor of the Head of State 1 billion of CFA Franc, each of them, if they succeeded in injecting a poisonous drugs to him. Moudjaidou Soumanou, a former trade minister was also charged for his role in the alleged plot. He is accused of transporting the poisonous drugs to Cotonou Airport on a flight of the French Airliner. According to the prosecutor general, all the accused people have pleaded guilty.

In his interview with a French journalist on RFI, Patrice Talon denied all involvement in the alleged plot and stated that since he refused to back Boni Yayi’s plan to amend the constitution and have a third term in office, he has been in trouble. In October of this year, he had to take to the bush to flee the country when he received a phone call from sources that he did not disclose warning him to leave the country within one hour otherwise he would be in jail.

According to him, Boni Yayi clearly threatened him last time they saw one another:

‘Patrice, you know, you are in danger, if you keep resisting me, because after all, I am the President of Benin. The President may be your father, your brother or even your son; you should know a head of State could be dangerous to you. Review your stand towards me. I'm still here.’

Meanwhile, the son-in-law of the former trade minister, Franck Gomez, who lives in the US denied the allegation maid by the general prosecutor that Soumanou pleaded guilty for the charges against. He stated that the former minister was subjected to torture, confined in a cell of one meter square, and banned from have access to his relatives and foods. He is said to be threatened with death if he does not confess to take part in the alleged plot.



Sunday, February 20, 2011

WHICH OUTCOME FOR MARCH 6 ELECTIONS IN BENIN REPUBLIC?

As the West African State of Benin is due to hold its next presidential elections on March 6, the incumbent President Boni Yayi, outsider and unknown figure before the 2006 presidential elections in which, he took many by surprise by being in the lead with more than 35% of the vote, according to the first round results, is to face fierce opposition from a broad base coalition.  

Boni Yayi was elected in the March 2006, after a campaign during which he promised to combat corruption, restore rule of law, strengthen democratic institutions, and promote national unity and cohesion, and economic development. Under the former President Mathieu Kerekou, who ruled Benin the first time, from October 1972 to April 1991 under a military dictatorship and the second time, from April 1996 to April 2006 under democratic regime, corruption has caused the people to reject the main political leaders who could succeed him.

In 2006 when came the end of Mathieu Kerekou's second term, Boni Yayi was the head of a regional bank and was not known as a real political leader. But, that was his most important asset at the time since the Beninese people were willing to elect someone that had no ties with politicians.

Therefore, Boni Yayi's victory in 2006 was seen by many observers as the rejection of the traditional political elites by the people who wanted change in the way the country's affairs were run. However, Boni Yayi, after giving signs of real willingness of change during few months by sacking some of his ministers on the charges of corruption and wrongdoings, seemed to have backed down from his initial pledges concerning good governance. Series of corruption scandals had marked Boni Yayi's rule.

Moreover, he was unable to form a large coalition that could support his policy. After the March 2008 local elections in which he tried unsuccessfully to unseat from his position of Cotonou Mayor, the former President Nicephore Soglo, who governed the country from April 1991 to April 1996 and was among his main backers in 2006, Boni Yayi lost the support of Soglo's Benin Rebirth Party that joined the opposition. With other major political parties that have their fief in the South, Soglo formed a coalition named UN. This coalition’s candidate is Adrien Houngbedji who, as Boni Yayi’s main contender in 2006, came second behind him by winning 25% of the vote. This former Speaker of the Parliament is an international lawyer and is well-known for being a skillful politician.

Apart from the fact that Boni Yayi has to face this growing opposition, he also has to deal with the split of his power base that is the Northern region of the country. Another regional banker from the North, Bio Tchane seems to be doing well in this region too. In the Parliament Bio Tchane has managed to win the support of many MPs.

Anyway, the former Benin President is likely to be among these three contenders despite the fact that 14 candidates stands for president in this March 6 elections.

Friday, February 18, 2011

BENIN ON THE VERGE OF CHAOS


Tension in the West African state of Benin over the upcoming presidential elections due to be held on March 6.

Tension between the parliamentarians of opposition and the ones of the ruling coalition rose Thursday 16, when the session convened to appoint at local level the  members of the Electoral Commission due to organize the poll was about to start.

One opposition MP claimed the Speaker was in breach of the internal procedure rule by deciding to begin working without the presence of two Parliamentary Secretaries. He threatened to prevent the Speaker from opening the debate if he carried on despite the absence the two secretaries. He then walked towards the Speaker who ordered his guards to prevent him and even beat him, according to reports from local news papers.

The parliamentarian was joined by his colleagues of the opposition to vehemently criticize the Speaker’s attempt to resume work without the Parliamentary Secretaries while the ruling parties’ MPs reacted angrily. It then followed exchanges of insults and verbal confrontations. However, the Parliament could not resume work since the opposition MPs continued with their protest by making loud noise preventing the Speaker from carrying on. Outside the Parliament compound were stationed armed soldiers that prevented the public from entering.

The main reason behind this tension is the upcoming presidential elections scheduled to take place on March 6. The opposition accuses the government of preparing the conditions for vote rigging and fraud. The deadline provided by electoral law for the voter registry to be ready expired while the enrollment is far from being completed. There are reports confirmed by the CPS-LEPI, the body entrusted to register the voters that more than 1.3 million citizens empowered by the Constitution to vote were not included in the process. Other registered voters find their names on the registry but far from their location, even in a different city or region from where they are supposed to take part in the poll.

Initially, the poll was to due to take place on February 27 but was postponed because these different problems related to the voter registry were not solved. However, the opposition points out that according to the electoral law the voter registry should have been available, if the poll had had to be held on March 6. Once available the voter registry must be certified by independent experts to make sure it does not allow frauds. Meanwhile 11 candidates among the 13 that stand for president in the elections call for further postponement of the poll to allow the voter registry to be fully completed.

So far the government does not seem willing to back down from its line which is that the elections must take place on March 6 even if right now the voter registry is not available. The opposition has therefore adopted a strategy consisting of blocking the electoral process by preventing Parliament from appointing the members of the Electoral Commission at the local level.

As the tension between both camps, the opposition and the ruling coalition, has been rising high, many have called for dialogue but it is unlikely the government may compromise. Benin, known to be a stable and peaceful democracy since 1990, seems increasingly to be on the verge chaos. For the time being the so-called International Community cares little and things are going on as if there is no cause for concern but very soon it could be late.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Benin Politics : BONI YAYI MAY HAVE TO BE PROSECUTED

Parliamentarians ask for his prosecution. Something unusual may be about to happen in Benin where two members of National Assembly, which is the legislative body of the country, have written a letter to the Speaker asking him to convene the Parliament for a session over the possible prosecution against Boni Yayi. Boni Yayi's Government is alleged to be involved in a financial scandal. 

Since the beginning of his presidency in April 2006 an organization named ICC service, which was suppose to be an NGO, has been promising high interests rate to people in return of collecting their savings. ICC Service is said to have collected billion of CFA francs from Beninese. Many among the civil society and in opposition have always tried in vain to call upon the government to take action. 

However, early this month, the government could not remain insensitive to the growing pressure coming from both the National Assembly and the people who could not be in possession of their savings. The Interior Minister, Armand Zinzindohoué known to be a close ally of Boni Yayi was thrown out of the government. He was accused of giving protection to the ICC Service executives. Later he was arrested and released but is still held in house confinement. Boni Yayi wrote a letter to National Assembly’s Speaker urging its members to allow the prosecution of the former Interior Minister before the High Court of Justice. This Court is the only body which, according to Benin constitution, is able to prosecute high officials accused of committing wrongdoings during their time in office. Attorney General was also arrested. 

Yet, there is a widespread sentiment that the President Boni Yayi and his entourage have been deeply involved in this scandal and have been doing all they could to survive politically by making some other high officials scapegoats. During a session held by the National Assembly this month, opposition fiercely criticized the government for failing to protect people’s savings and properties and for indulging in suspicious relationships with criminal groups. 

Now, two National Assembly members, Sacca FIKARA and a former ally of Boni Yayi still member of the ruling FCBE, Janvier YAHOUEDEOU write a letter to Speaker inviting him to convene a session on the issue. Both Parliamentarians think that there are enough charges against Boni Yayi for him to be prosecuted by the High Court of Justice. If this request is favorably considered by the National Assembly, it will be the first time in Benin history since the start the democratic process in 1990 that a President comes under charges before the High Court of Justice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Benin Politics : WHAT SHOULD THE RESPONSE OF BENIN BE TO CLIMATE CHANGE?

While developed countries that are the most responsible for climate change have been bracing themselves for alternative policy on industrialization and on issues such as transport, consumption and so on, developing world has been waiting for developed one to finance its policy aiming at reducing greenhouse emission. Copenhagen climate summit’s failure indicates that Africans’ expectations may never be met in a near future. In that case, what should the policy of African governments be? Benin, is one of the African developing countries which are going to be hit the most by the potential disasters resulting from global warming, yet has still been relying on cotton production as her main export goods causing more damage to the environment.

Cotonou, Benin biggest city in terms of demography is the scene of smoking motorbikes and in the farmlands in northern region, wildfire made to prepare lands for farming is common despite the growing concern about global warming resulting in serious environmental damage. It looks like neither the ordinary citizens nor the leaders in Benin are aware of this challenge facing the world.

In Benin, people still believe that witchcraft and sorcery can provoke the drop of rainfall. This may be the reason why the reduction in the rain causing the domestic foods production to fall does not seem to worry people as it should.

FAO Regional Conference for Africa (ARC) 26th Session, which was held in Luanda (Angola), from 3 to 7 May 2010, pointed out the threats facing the developing nations of Africa. According to the report issued by FAO, African countries will suffer the most from the global warming. The severe drought, the rise of sea level may lead to the disappearance of large portion of fertile lands. Land disputes or conflicts generated by this environmental damage will put instability and peace in jeopardy.

However, many African governments still hope to combat poverty by encouraging the production of crops to meet the industrial demands of developed countries. Boni YAYI, since he came in office in Benin, has been wasting billions of CFA francs to promote cotton production which is no longer competitive due to the subsidizes given by western governments to their farmers. Moreover, because of the reduction of rainfall, the cotton production has been decreasing significantly. A journalist of a local newspaper, La Presse du Jour, in an article issued on April 02, 2010, wrote this:

According to statistics, from 2006 to today, around 92 billion CFA francs has been spent by the government on cotton production in an attempt to boost it. Despite this heavy investment, which should increase domestic production, it has fallen for more than 65%.

This is a policy that does not seem to reverse soon for cotton farmers’ lobby is one of major protagonists involved in Benin politics and no politician dare to lose their support.

However, this has to change because the consequences of inactions will be far worse than the consequences of actions. Benin politicians must take responsibility in combating climate change.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Benin Politics : COMPUTERIZATION OF VOTERS REGISTER STILL A DIVISIVE ISSUE


Opposition intended to pass a bill on last Monday, March 01, 2010 to put an end to the process of voters registry computerization but was prevented from doing so by a letter sent to the Speaker by President Boni Yayi, urging him to reject the proposed bill on ground that it would be a breach to international accords Benin signed.

Benin is due to hold its next presidential elections in March 2011. According to Boni Yayi government, these elections must be conducted with a computerized voters’ registry. The Opposition on the other hand accuses the government of not conducting the process of voters’ registry computerization with enough transparency.

The Opposition parties, RB, PRD, PSD, MADEP, and Force Clé which makes up a broad coalition, "Union fait la Nation" (UN) felt that the Head of State, the President Boni Yayi was not willing to listen to them. They have decided to pass a bill in National Assembly that will ban the ongoing voters’ registry computerization process from moving forward.

The Opposition leaders explain that they too agree on the importance of voters’ registry computerization in order to have fair and peaceful presidential elections in March 2011. However, according to them, the way in which the process has been conducted so far does not guarantee transparency and inclusiveness needed for it to be acceptable as a tool that can help prevent vote rigging and assure a fair pool.

During a previous meeting between the Opposition and the Government, it has been decided that the process of voters’ registry computerization will undergo a checkup, which will include both parties (the Opposition and the Government), to find out how effective it could be in helping to conduct a peaceful election. Nevertheless, the Opposition complains it has never been aware of nor been invited to take part into any revaluation of the process. Instead, a United Nation mission who has been in Cotonou since February 22, 2010, has been invited by the Head of State to conduct the evaluation.

The members of this United Nations mission met with both the Opposition and the Government but have not made public their report. Some analysts in local media have expressed fear that Boni Yayi Government might be manipulating the members of United Nations mission.

In a press conference on Monday, March 01, 2010, after Opposition attempt to pass the bill could not go ahead, its leaders criticize the involvement of President Boni Yayi in National Assembly functioning since Benin Constitution, declaring the separation between Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary bodies, does not allow such a move. Lately, the National Assembly Speaker convened the Benin lawmakers to a special session due to take place on Tuesday, March 04, 2010, in Porto-Novo to work on the initial bill, which was supposed to be passed on Monday, March 01, 2010.

On Wednesday, March 03, 2010, news of Epiphane Quenum being relieved of his position as Head of the body that is in charge of voters’ registry computerization process took many by surprise. Though he has been an influential opposition member, Epiphane Quenum has never earned the trust of Opposition leaders since he was appointed to supervise the process. Opposition leaders suggest he has been manipulated by Boni YAYI.



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Benin Politics : HEALTHCARE CRISIS

Opposition coalition accuses the Government

Due to the ongoing dramas taking place in Benin healthcare system, the several and repeated strikes in the healthcare sector resulting in the death of children and pregnant women, the Opposition coalition of G4, G13 and Force Clé voices its indignation. The Opposition leaders accuse President Boni Yayi’s Government of what they see as indifference on its part. Here is the joined statement that they released on Monday, May 25, 2009:


Health centers, at district level, at commune level, at the level of the sanitary areas, in fact have been no longer working. In the best case, one meet Monday and Friday, some health workers frustrated and deluded. The people, confused, are now forced to turn either to self-medication or to private healthcare centers, of which most of the best are poorly supervised, with neither the staff nor the appropriate equipment. In public health, dramas are being played daily, with losses of human lives, including children and pregnant women.

This long paralysis almost incomprehensible of the health system in our country is due, according to the workers and leaders of different labor unions to:

- A lack of medical equipment;

- A lack of staff in all medical professions;

- Disparities or inequities in payments of a number of financial gains owed to workers (bonuses, allowances ...)

- Promises or unfulfilled commitments regarding professional reclassification or transfer of a number of workers in the health sector, poor management of human resources.

The FCBE/UMPP State, its government and its head, up to day, have not felt the need to give any explanation or even any attention to the cries of distress of the population and health personnel. President Yayi Boni and his government so love the people that they leave them dying in silence. Those who are alive are struggling in this situation of acute social crisis and insecurity. They are drenched with the immoral shuttle of official vehicles and bustle of the "presidential visits" punctuated with meetings of propaganda, and "ministerial visits" including the visit of the Minister of Health in "search of arable land" and "young people to recruit into agriculture ", and "explanations tours" of ministers, of heads of central public administration, culminating in marches of support, religious cults of support and even adulation and praise to the glory of the President of the Republic. Some media organizations, especially the State media, lack neither the zeal, nor the ingenuity to fill our ears, our eyes, and our minds. In addition, in the silence, children, pregnant women, poor people have been dying before the closed door of the care and delivery room.

Faced with this situation, political organizations united in the Union makes the Nation (G4, G13 and Force Clé).

- Express their sincere sympathy with the Beninese people of urban and rural areas for the human, moral and material dramas they have been undergoing because of the almost complete paralysis of the health system in our country;

- Strongly denounce the indifference displayed by the Government and its head and diversionary maneuvers organized to hide the real suffering of our people and divert attention, including attention of foreign public opinion, to images falsely idyllic regarding the country’s situation

- Require that the Government start without delay, direct, frank and open dialogue with employees about the problems they pointed out, that it resolve them diligently, instead of running away from the real problems and engaging in an illegal and morally offensive campaign;

- Ask MPs to question the Government on the crisis in the health sector;

- Call on workers, including health workers of all categories, to be patient, reasonable, but also open to dialogue, so that the talks with the Government lead as earlier as possible to a resumption of work in the highest interest of the overwhelming majority of citizens, who have been arrogantly laughed at by a minority which came to power under the conditions that you know, and wishes to confiscate this power through diversion and propaganda.

The Union makes the Nation calls on all genuine democrats in our country to commit themselves further to sensitizing and raising the consciousness of our people, so that they are not, once again, deceived or being the victims of demagoguery and populism, for none will be allowed anymore to say, "We did not know" or "We have fooled ourselves." The more profound is the night, the nearer is the day.

Cotonou, 25 May 2009

Coordination of Unit makes the Nation