- Posted August 28, 2013 by
Former president Nicephore Soglo joins the fight against Boni Yayi's constitutional amendment
Benin government prevented a demonstration that was planned by the major opposition party, Union Fait la Nation (UN) on August 25, 2013. UN and a leftist party called for demonstration against the amendment of Benin constitution. In a press release, the Benin Interior Minister stated that according to information he received the demonstrators were likely to be targeted by unidentified gunmen.
While president Boni Yayi claims that he does not intend to seek a third term in office, an increasing number of political figures and prominent actors across the whole Benin society disagree with him on his stand for unilateral amendment of the constitution. Opposition and other critics remain very suspicious about the motives behind his determination to modify the constitution that bans the third term in office. Former president Nicephore Soglo, who ruled first the country after democracy was adopted, expressed last Sunday, his opposition to any modification to the constitution.
Boni Yayi justifies the move by the need to make sure Benin comply with international agreements and be able to effectively fight corruption. Under the draft amendment that has been introduced to the parliament for examination, no economic crime can go unpunished and a special court will be set up to control the wealth of officials serving in government.
However, the opposition, the catholic cleric, the labor, the business elite, judges, and the civil society are persuaded that the move is a trick because constitution currently provides a department in the supreme court where officials are due to state the among of their wealth before and after serving in office. However, many ministers and governmental officials never abide by these provisions. Moreover, the country has adopted recently the corruption fighting act that has not been really implemented by the government. While Boni Yayi has promised to make the fight against corruption one of the most important priorities of his policy, the people have not seen any different. Since 2006, Boni Yayi’s government has been marked by a succession of economic crimes and scandals.
Therefore, for many, the government’s drive to amend the constitution is insincere. If amended, the constitution would induce a change of republic and Benin people will technically be under a new republic. Boni Yayi would be allowed under such circumstances to take part in the next presidential elections scheduled for March 2016.
That is a ploy used by the former Senegalese president Wade to seek a third term in office. Thanks to the huge opposition of the Senegalese, Wade was defeated in the country’s last presidential elections. But many worry and fear Beninese may not be as lucky as the Senegalese. Boni Yayi was reelected after five years in office in Mach 2011 presidential elections that according to the opposition was marked by many irregularities. Until now, Benin electoral system remains controversial. The voter registration shows a growth of the population in the North and in the central part of the country where Boni Yayi’s stronghold is while the Southern population shrinks significantly. The South is the base of the opposition. Many voters in the South could not vote because either they were not registered or they could not find their names on the voter registry.
This makes many Beninese think that changing the constitution, even if the ban of third term is still adopted, can be used by Boni Yayi to stay in office beyond 2016. Such a practice has been taking place in many neighboring countries in the West African region where the heads of the states are able to stay in office indefinitely.
But the failure to hold their demonstrations does not seem to affect the moral of the opposition and other critics of the government. Zacharie Todan, Secretary of the opposition coalition, UN, said in face of the government ban on the demonstration, “we are resistant people and we will keep on the fight…” Opposition leader, Lazare Sèhouéto indicated that demonstration would be held every week from now on.
On August, 26, the former head of state, Nicéphore Soglo whose party is part of the ruling coalition, referring to the experience of neighboring West African countries, warned Boni Yayi of the consequences of an amendment made without consensus.