The political opposition in Benin, Alliance for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (ASDA) has called for a change of government at the executive level, followed by new, inclusive legislative elections and accompanied by the restoration of the civil liberties in Benin.
According to the group civil liberties have been eroded since President Patrice Talon took office.
At a press conference addressed by Dr Ladislas Prosper Agbesi, Chairman for ASDA in Accra over the political situation in Benin, he indicated that the future of Benin and its people now lies largely in the hands of the international community which they trust will do the right thing in the best interests of the entire global village by showing clearly that “it will not allow any groups of people to openly replace democracy with autocracy at the expense of the populace of any one country or group of countries.”
He said Eighteen years after Benin Republic returned to a truly democratic era which has flourished since to the benefit of its people, democracy is being forcible discarded and replaced with autocracy.
According to him over the past few months, autocracy has exploded into an open agenda, executed by Beninoise President Patrice Talon and his cohorts in government.
He said: “Today, as I speak to you, Benin has been transformed into what is effectively a one party state. The over ten political parties in opposition – which instructively have been reduced from about 200, by Talon’s legislative changes – in Benin have no representation at all in the country’s 83 member legislature, the National Assembly, having been barred from contesting the most recent parliamentary elections held in March, through sudden and unconstitutional changes to the electoral code, introduced a month to those elections. It is instructive that the new legislature, comprising entirely members of the president’s party and his closes political allies, was elected into office by just 27% of the registered electorate, which translates into less than 10% of the country’s entire populace.”
Dr Ladislas Prosper Agbesi also averred that the political opposition in Benin is hopefully looking forward to immediate discussions with their bilateral development partners and the multilateral political and economic institutions to which they are signatories, particularly ECOWAS, the AU, the EU and the United Nations, over the situation in Benin.
Although they said they recognised the fact that the international community on whom they are now relying may not necessarily desire an immediate change of the executive arm of government, they are willing to accept this “as long as our other objectives are pursued, with the confidence that existing governance structures and legislations, prior to Talon’s autocratic coup, set the grounds for a peaceful, fully constitutional change of government soonest; and that with the awareness that the Beninoise people now have, they will implement such change at the earliest opportunity.”
Touching on the electoral process in Benin which brought in President Patrice Talon, those changes and the electoral results they have generated have been roundly rejected by the Beninoise people, who are now out on the streets in masse, demanding their reversal, and are being met with violent responses by elements of the security forces, including army units that the President has deployed to ruthlessly crush the people and their collective will.
“But now for the first time, the sustainability of Benin’s democracy is at risk and with it arguably the best model for sustainable democracy that Africa has. President Talon and his cabal are making an open bid for autocratic, unchallenged power. This is the clear and present reality and the President is not even trying to hide it,” he said.
He said, the President has achieved much in his effort towards establishing his autocracy in Benin and the National Assembly is no longer an independent legislative arm of government.
This, he noted empowers him to move on to the next stage, which is his actual end game, “constitutional reform which legalize the autocracy he is bent on establishing.”
He however added that Information about the planned reforms has focused primarily on Talon’s intention to reduce the president’s tenure from a maximum of two five year tenors to one six year tenor, a move, the opposition said was meant to create the impression that he wants to curb presidential powers rather than expand them.
“Right now he is ruling without any legislative checks and balances whatsoever. And the overwhelming majority of the people, who are actively protesting what he is doing, are being met with armed force, and thus are being injured, maimed and even killed on the streets of their own country by agents of the very government which claims it is in office through the mandate those people gave it,” he said.
Prosper Agbesi said Beninoise people are suffering the effects of Talon’s inordinate personal ambition and the selfish, single minded, immoral way in which he is striving to fulfil it.
He said Fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression and association have to all intents and services, been revoked, and it will take the international community to intervene and bring sanity and the needed reforms to Benin.
By PROSPER AGBENYEGA