By Omar Arouna*
According to news report from Mediapart Benin, President Patrice Talon started a 4-day visit to Washington, DC (Sunday January 26th to Thursday January 30th 2020), as part of an “economic and strategic mission”.
In the U.S, the Benin Head of State will meet the officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) including the Director General, Mr. Phillipe LEHOUEROU; the Vice-President of the World Bank, Mr. Hafez GHANEM; the President of the World Bank, Mr. David MALPASS; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina GEORGIEVA; the Chairman and CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mr. Sean CAIRNCROSS; the Secretary of State, Mr. Mike POMPEO; and Beninese working at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC.
It would be remiss of me if I did not remind my American sisters, brothers, friends, the Africanist community in Washington DC, as well as the president’s official hosts that Benin Republic, a country once dubbed the cradle of Democracy in Africa, is now an autocracy under the dictatorship of Patrice Talon. Benin is now:
- a country where basic human rights no longer exist and terror subsists;
- a country where dissenting voices are systematically tracked, repressed, jailed and/or exiled;
- a country where the last elections were non-inclusive and repressed in blood;
- a country where all 83 People’s Representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president;
- a country where the Army is ordered to shoot with live bullets at peaceful demonstrators;
- a country where journalists are silenced and jailed for practicing their craft;
- a country where privately owned or independent media, television and radio stations, newspapers critical to the government are outlawed and systematically shut down;
- a country where internet is systematically shut down during elections;
- a country where social media users and web activists are systematically tracked and jailed;
- a country where the constitution was changed on Halloween night without due process;
- a country where the separation of powers no longer exists and all three branches of government are under the sole control of the president;
- a country no longer investing in its people, no longer ruled justly and lacking economic and democratic freedom.
To simply quote the January 24th 2020 tweet from Ambassador Herman “Hank” Cohen a former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the President George W. H Bush Administration, “This marks the official end of Africa’s first Multiparty democracy and the Beginning of the Talon’s fascist regime.”
We hope and strongly believe that the visit could serve as a teaching moment in educating president Patrice Talon on core democratic values of sanctity of life, freedom of speech, truth in governance, justice, liberty, diversity, pursuit of happiness, common good, popular sovereignty and patriotism.
We would like to call upon Secretary Pompeo, the U.S Administration, U.S Congress and selected hosts, to challenge their visitor on the urgency of restoring democracy in Benin by organizing inclusive legislative elections with the participation of all political parties as well as bringing swiftly to justice sponsors and authors of the April, May and June, 2019 post electoral killing by the country’s armed forces.
*Former Benin Ambassador to the U.S