Protests spread in Benin as president readies for re-election bid

PUBLISHED: Tue, 06 Apr 2021 15:53:39 GMT

COTONOU, April 6 (Reuters) – Opponents of Benin’s President Patrice Talon protested in several cities and towns on Monday night and Tuesday morning, denouncing his decision to stand for re-election next week.

Talon, who came to power in 2016, is due to run against two challengers on Sunday, despite a promise he would serve only one term.

Hundreds of people marched, burned tires and set up road blocks in the commercial capital, Cotonou, a Reuters witness said. Posts on social media showed demonstrations also taking place in the central city of Parakou and three other towns.

“We want the president to leave. Five years means five years,” said Cotonou protester Rodrigue Amadou.

In that city, most protesters had been dispersed by midday and military vehicles patrolled the streets.

The opposition want Talon to honour a promise made when he was first elected to step down after five years to avoid “complacency” and seek to limit future presidents to a single term.

They also say that his term ended on April 6, rejecting a constitutional revision in 2019 that extended the mandate until May.

On Monday night, a government spokesman labelled the protests a “totally pointless cause.”

Benin’s image as a bastion of democracy and stability in West Africa was dented by the exclusion of opposition leaders from parliamentary elections in 2019, which sparked rare unrest.

Under Talon, leading opposition figures have also faced targeted harassment from the authorities, including through the courts, according to U.S. democracy watchdog group Freedom House. (Reporting by Allegresse Sasse; Writing by Nellie Peyton; editing by John Stonestreet)

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