Benin By | Saturday, September 8  2012 at  14:05

Full Name
Republic of Benin
Origin of name: Named after the ancient Nigerian kingdom of Benin.
Formerly: Dahomey, after the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey - pronounced Dan-Ho-Me (“on the belly of Dan”)

Current leader
President Thomas Boni Yayi

PHOTO |AFP

Overview
In 1892 France annexed the country and incorporated it into French West Africa
Benin was granted independence on August 1, 1960

Facts

Form of Government
Republic
Executive President is the Chief of State and Head of Government
President elected for five-year term (eligible for a second term)

Government structure
President, Council of ministers (appointed by the President)

Military Statistics
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,279,053 and females age 16-49: 1,292,438
Expenditures: 1.7% of GDP
Branches: Army (l'Arme de Terre), Benin Navy (Forces Navales Beninois, FNB), Benin People's Air Force (Force Aerienne Populaire de Benin, FAPB)

Former Rulers
1960 – 1972 Hubert Maga
May 1972 - October 1972 Justin Amohadegbe
1972-1991 Mathieu Kerekou
1991-1996 Nicephore Soglo
1996-2006 Mathieu Kerekou

Capital
Porto Novo
Altitude: 39m
Population: 234,000

Population
Size: 9,100,000 (2011)
Life expectancy: 59 years
Gender make-up: Male: 49.99% and Female: 50.01%

Geography
Area: 112,622sqkm
Land boundaries: Burkina Faso 306km, Niger 266km, Nigeria 773km, Togo 644km

GDP per capita
$ 1,500 (2011)

$ 1,500 (2010)

Major Languages
French (official), Fon, Yoruba

Religious portfolio
Christian 42.8% (Catholic 27.1%, Celestial Church of Christ 5%, Methodist 3.2%, other Protestant 2.2%, other 5.3%), Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, other 15.5%

National Make-up
Fon and related 39.2%, Adja and related 15.2%, Yoruba and related 12.3%, Bariba and related 9.2%, Peulh and related 7%, Ottamari and related 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa and related 4%, Dendi and related 2.5%, other 1.6% (includes Europeans), unspecified 2.9%

Natural Resources
Limestone, Marble, Timber, Natural gas (untapped), Small offshore oil deposits

Main exports
Cotton (80%), Cashews, Shea butter, Textiles, Palm products, Seafood

Land Use
Arable land: 23.53%
Permanent crops: 2.37%
Other: 74.1%

Monetary Unit/Currency
CFA franc

Dialling Code
+229

Internet Code
.bj

Transport
Main port (and biggest city): Cotonou
Main airport: Cadjehoun Internatinal Airport; located 5km from Cotonou city centre

Modern issues

Environmental

The main environmental issues facing the people of Benin are desertification, deforestation, wildlife endangerment, and water pollution.
The spread of the desert into agricultural lands in the north is accelerated by regular droughts. Benin has also lost 59% of its forests from uncontrolled agricultural practices and fires

Political

Benin is widely and internationally feted as a functioning multi-party democracy

Yayi Boni was re-elected this year with 53% of the vote, though a number of appeals were made to the Constitutional Court asking it to invalidate votes in certain areas over allegations of massive fraud

President Thomas Boni Yayi continues to keep tight control over the state, in 2011 several demonstrations were banned when trade unions and civilians sought to protest against corruption and the rising cost of essential goods

Economic

Yayi Boni took some positive steps this year which could potentially have positive outlook on county’s future; following an official trip to China he secured $34 million in loans and grants, part of which will fund an anti-piracy patrol and launched a major campaign to arrest growing drop-out rates

Social

Benin suffers from unemployment, malnourishment and similar social problems of underdevelopment
The age structure of the population is heavily skewed, with almost half of the total being 15 years and below

Foreign Affairs

Benin’s fulsome embrace of multi-party democracy has led to rapid improvement in relations with the US, nearly supplanting the traditional ties with France
Relations remain stable with regional power Nigeria
Benin has mediated in the political crises in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Togo and made a contribution to the UN force in Haiti.
In early 2003, Benin provided a peacekeeping contingent to the Ecowas stabilisation force in Cote d'Ivoire.


The Major Conflicts

Period of ethnic instability
When: Between independence and 1972
Who : Hubert Maga, Justin Ahomadegbe and Sorou Apithy.
Why: Power struggle between the three ethnic chieftains
Outcome: Mathieu Kerekou’s military takeover in 1972

Struggle for political pluralism
When: 1989 to 1991
Who: Multi-party campaigners and opponents of the regime teamed up. In 1989 detachments of the army also rioted over non-payment of salaries
Why: The reformists wanted an end to one-party rule and convening of multi-party elections
Outcome: Kerekou organised a National Conference where multi-partyism was legalised and elections held in 1991

Border disputes
When: 2007
Who: Benin and Burkina Faso
Why: Dispute over three villages on their common border
Outcome: Ecowas intervened to resolve the dispute. (In 2005, Nigeria ceded 13 villages to Benin along their common border)

What to see?
The Abomey Historical Museum located in the city of Abomey. It is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Sports
Popular Sports
Soccer

Famous sportsmen and sportswomen
Razak Omotoyossi: Joint top scorer in the 2008 World Cup/Nation Cup soccer qualifiers with Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o
Moussa Latoundi : A member of Benise 2004 African Nations Cup soccer team

Quirks
Has gone through one of the most hardline Marxist regimes to one of the continent’s most progressive multi-party democracies