The country was named from the 17th century until 1975
Dahomey. Benin is not to be confused with the older
kingdom of the same name in present Nigeria (see Benin
Abomey, the former capital of Dahomey, became the center
towards the end of the 17th century in a powerful state
formation, which had the character of absolute monarchy and
which was raised by the phonics. During the 18th and 19th
centuries, the empire expanded greatly. Earlier, contact had
already been established with European stakeholders in the
slave trade, which during the 18th century developed into a
profitable business prisoner. Slaves were acquired through
raids against the neighboring peoples, especially Yoruba.
In the middle of the 19th century, the French - in
competition with mainly British and Germans - began to gain
a foothold as colonizers in the area. By superior arms
power, the French crushed the Dahome Empire, which in 1894
became a French colony and in 1895 was incorporated into
French West Africa. The French colonization was motivated
partly by the country's strategic position between British
Nigeria and Togo, which was the German colony in 1884-1919,
and partly by the production of palm oil needed for the
French soap industry.
Independence, poetry and democratization
On August 1, 1960, Benin became independent under the
name of Dahomey. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Benin. The country's first president became Hubert Maga (1916-2000), who was overthrown by a military coup in
1963. Even after Maga's fall, the country's history has been
marked by coups and a number of military governments, and
the ethnically diverse parts of the country have fought each
other. In 1972 Major Mathieu Kérékou took power. The country
was declared a Marxist-Leninist state and changed its name
from Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin in
Benin had deep financial problems at the end of the
1980s. Kérékou accepted the demands of the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank to limit public spending,
to eliminate unprofitable government companies and to reduce
the number of government employees. At the same time,
students, intellectuals and trade unionists protested
against human rights violations. Kérékou abolished
Marxism-Leninism as an official state ideology and agreed
that a national conference was convened in February 1990.
This laid the foundation for a new democratic constitution
and changed the country's name to the Republic of Benin.
The new constitution was approved in a referendum in
December 1990, after which general elections were held in
February and March 1991.
Benin has since emerged as a relatively stable democracy
since the 1990s, where power shifts have been possible
without serious incidents. Kérékou resigned without protest
after losing the first presidential election in 1991 against
former World Bank economist Nicéphore Soglo (born 1934).
Five years later he regained power in equally peaceful forms
and in 2001 he was re-elected for a further term of office.
Benin during the 2000s
Both Kérékou and Soglo were, according to the
constitution, too old to stand in the 2006 presidential
election, and Kérékou had also sat the two consecutive terms
of office allowed by the constitution. In the fight against
political veterans, independent candidate Boni Yayi, who was
previously head of the West African Development Bank, won.
He formed a government consisting mainly of trade experts.
In 2007, the Alliance forces became Cauris pour un Bénin
émergent (FCBE), which supported Yayi, the largest
party in the parliamentary elections. The president and FCBE
also prevailed in the 2011 elections, despite the fact that
Boni had risked facing national law the year before he was
drawn into a financial scandal.
In 2013, Boni dismissed the entire government, including
Prime Minister Pascal Koupaki (born 1951), who during the
new government formation did not get a replacement for the
post of head of government. In the 2015 parliamentary
elections, FCBE returned but remained the largest party. In
contrast, the party's candidate in the 2016 presidential
election, Lionel Zinsou (born 1954), lost to party
politically unbounded Patrice Talon, one of Benin's most
successful business leaders who previously stood close to
Yayi but in 2012 was accused of conspiring against the
In the 2019 parliamentary elections, only two parties -
both loyal to President Talon - were allowed to stand. Other
parties failed to meet new administrative requirements
introduced in 2018.
Despite the reforms, the country's financial difficulties
have persisted and there have been periodic unrest in the
labor market. Corruption within the state administration as
well as suspected links between senior officials and
organized crime have emerged as the country's most serious
problems during the 2000s. In the fall of 2010, large parts
of the country were submerged after the worst floods in
almost 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of people were
allowed to leave their homes and large harvests were
destroyed. The masses of water also caused sanitary problems
with outbreaks of cholera epidemics.