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History of Benin

From Academic Kids

Note: The historical empire that was governed from the 14th Century until 1897 by the Oba of Benin, from a seat of power sited at Benin City in present-day Nigeria, is easily confused with the modern nation of Benin, formerly the French colony of Dahomey, Nigeria's neighbor to the west.

The Republic of Benin was the seat of one of the great medieval African kingdoms, called Dahomey, governed from the capital, Abomey, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Kingdom of Benin

During the 13th century, the indigenous Edo people of the west Niger area were run by a group of local chieftains, but by the 15th century a single ruler known as the 'oba' had asserted control. See Kingdom of Benin. Under the dynasty established by Ewuare the Great, the most famous of the obas, Benin's territory expanded to cover a region between the Niger River delta and what is now the Nigerian city of Lagos. The obas brought great prosperity and a highly organized state to Benin. They also established good relations and an extensive slave trade with the Portuguese and Dutch who arrived from the 15th century onwards.

Colonial Benin

The decline of the obas began in the 18th century when a series of internal power struggles began which lasted into the 19th century, paving the way for the French takeover and colonization of the country in 1872. In 1904, the territory was incorporated into French West Africa as Dahomey.

Under the French a port was constructed at Cotonou, and railroads were built. School facilities were expanded by Roman Catholic missions. In 1946, Dahomey became an overseas territory with its own parliament and representation in the French national assembly; and on December 4, 1958, it became the République du Dahomey, self-governing within the French Community.

Post-colonial Benin

On August 1, 1960, the Republic of Dahomey gained full independence from France. The first president was Hubert Maga, who bore the title Prime Minister during the country's last year under French rule. Instability caused by economic troubles, social unrest and ethnic tensions brought about a coup in 1963 and Justin Ahomadegbé was appointed president until he was deposed in 1969 and Lt. Col.Paul-Émile de Souza was made president.

When elections were cancelled in 1970, a three man presidential council was appointed, it included Maga, his politically ally Sourou Migan Apithy and Ahomadegbé. Another coup was staged in 1972 and a government led by Major Mathieu Kérékou was installed. The name of the country was changed to Benin in 1975. From 1974 to 1989 Kérékou ran the country as a socialist state, earning for the country the label of "Africa's Cuba". Free elections were reestablished in 1991, and Kérékou was defeated by Nicéphor Soglo, Soglo however lost the 1996 election to Kérékou and he has remained in power since despite allegations of electoral fraud in the 2001 election.

See also: The History of Africa

Reference

  • Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.
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