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Benin

1997 Benin

Benin - or Dahomey, which the country was named until 1975 - is among the poorest countries in the world. It is located in an area dominated by the Yoruba culture of Ife, where the Ewe people of the same linguistic tradition established two kingdoms in the 17th century: Hogbonu, today Porto Novo, and the more well-known Abomey, in the interior of the country. These kingdoms were built during the period when the slave trade was at its peak, and the population nourished themselves as intermediaries for the slave buyers.

According to Countryaah, the Fon kings of Abomey founded a centralist state that extended beyond Benin's present borders. A modern, disciplined army, equipped with European weapons - an army that probably included a large number of women, which lasted until the end of the 19th century! - allowed the people to break through the defense of Alafin de Oyo, in Nigeria , and occupy a number of Yoruba cities. English, French and Portuguese traders from the 17th century used the port of Ouidah, which was the center of the slave trade , as a gathering place for the Negro slaves.

The kingdom of Abomey suffered a severe blow when the English banned the trade in slaves in 1818, but King Ghezo, 1818-1856, secretly continued the transports to Brazil and Cuba . He also supported the development of agriculture and introduced a rigid, state monopoly on foreign trade.

His grandson Benhazin inherited a wealthy nation in 1889, which, however, threatened colonization. French troops landed in 1891; they were met by the fonts, unable to prevent the conquest of the capital in 1892. The king and army retreated to the jungle, from which they continued the resistance struggle until 1894. Benhazin, who became a symbol of anti-colonial resistance, died in exile at Martinique in 1906.

The first thing the colonizers did was to destroy the central, political structures of the phon monarchy. All the rules of the old society were abolished, and a social system was introduced which allowed the crude exploitation of labor. The French monopolized the trade in palm oil, which ruined the families that, for almost a century, had resisted the foreign influence.

The colony of Dahomey, which had its name from the French, could no longer feed its own inhabitants in the early 20th century. When the country gained independence in August 1960, it exported the same amount of palm oil as in 1850 and now had a population that was 3 times larger.

Independence was partly a result of the weakness of France after World War II and was partly due to the efforts of a group of nationalists, educated in Europe. They were led by Louis Hunkanrin and fought for 20 years the systematic forced labor imposed by the French administration. Despite the ban on any local political organization, Hunkanrin founded the League for Human Rights, which was met by fierce repression by the French. Hundreds of villages were burned, nearly 5,000 people were killed and Hunkanrin fled to Mauritania.

In 1960, the French were no longer able to support Dahomey financially and decided to offer the country independence. The autonomous government took over a collapsed economy and a society, deeply divided by corruption. It marked the beginning of a period of great instability, with no less than 12 civilian and military governments in 16 years.

The elite of the colonial era had completely disappeared when Major Mathieu Kerekou, on October 26, 1972, as leader of a group of young officers, conducted a coup d'état in protest against corruption and despotism. Two years later, Marxism-Leninism was introduced , the country's name changed to Benin and a municipal organized political and economic system was introduced. All foreign possessions were nationalized and Benin's popular Revolutionary Party was founded, the only party in the country.

The revolutionary society soon fell victim to numerous foreign organized attacks. In January 1977, an unsuccessful invasion attempt was made with the participation of French mercenaries and inspired by Gabon and Morocco.

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