- Posted January 1, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The Africa we don't see
Open letter of Séverin Adjovi, mayor of Ouidah to the President Boni Yayi
Following a violent crockdown on labor protestors, the mayor of Ouidah wrote a letter to President Boni Yayi, questioning his Christian faith
Here is the transation of the full letter:
About the violent repression of trade unionists
On the eve of the New Year, let me express you my best wishes for good health, peace, wisdom, and happiness. May the Lord, in his mercifulness, bless you and spread his grace on you and your family. May he show you his kindness and fill you with the Wisdom of Solomon, so that you may rule our country in cohesion for the remaining two years of your last term in office. May he bless our nation, Benin, his sons, and his daughters! May he bless all political and social actors struggling to stand by our democracy and stifling any situation likely to endanger the democratic process that makes our reputation since 1990!
For awhile, I was resolute not to opine on any subject, on even the most burning issues. I wanted to devote myself entirely to the development tasks of the extraordinary city of Ouidah, land of my ancestors, which I have had the privilege for more than five years to govern. I want to pay tribute to the sons and daughters of Ouidah who trusted my modest person with such a demanding endeavor. It is for them that I moved to Ouidah, far from Cotonou where, everyone can witness, my business interests are, far so many other countries of the world where I have installed for forty years businesses that continue generating benefits at different rates, with the Lord’s bless.
But if I decided to write this letter, it is for our common love for the country Benin.
In fact, last Friday, December 27, in front of my cable TV, I strove to search TV channels where I could watch you delivering your speech on the state of the nation. I wanted to identify the mechanism by which you would thaw the tension brewing in the country.
It is in this context that I received news from Cotonou on the violent repression of the demonstration organized by labor unions. I then rushed to my Ipad to see the images, and when I saw unionists as Pascal Todjinou, Paul Essé Iko and Kassa Mampo ... lying on hospital beds while blood-soaked, I was upset in my heart. What is the message you sent to the nation?
I do not write to condemn you. I just write to draw your attention as Father of the Nation today to the meaning of such acts and the image they can give of our country.
Little while ago, I listened to your tributes to the great President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and I heard you say about him: “he embodied the values of humanism, non-violence, integrity, forgiveness, selflessness, love of freedom.”
So I thought you might be interested to follow in his footsteps, to benefit from the same concert of tributes after your two constitutional terms in office, and on the fateful day that destiny has established before anyone that sets his or her eyes on the sun.
But why such a violent suppression of a peaceful civil society protest authorized by the mayor of the city where it takes place?
I do not write to condemn you. It is not easy to run a country. But I know that you are a believer and I am only embarrassed myself, as a believer, by this excessive use of violence against peaceful and authorized demonstration, and I want to be convinced that you are not aware of these acts, that the police may be zealous, without your knowledge and at your expense, because it is your regime that is pointed out today and the world sees it and hears it.
Pascal Todjinou has been a freedom activist for a long time. I knew him when I was fighting against the Marxist-Leninist regime. I remember the risks he was taking when seeing me through in Paris, at 71/73 Avenue des Ternes, each time he went to meetings of the ILO in Geneva , while I was living in exile and was on the blacklist of the regime. I am grateful also for his courage and active participation in discussions of the Perspective 99 Club which led to the organization of the Round Table of Versailles. He has contributed to the great quality of the meeting, which gathered under my leadership, many prominent executives of our country in Paris including one currently member of your government, a person that I really appreciate and who is aware of this. As such, it is one of the progenitors of the National Conference of the Vive Forces of the Nation, because it is at Versailles that the proposal for a National Conference was made for the first time and recorded as recommendation on December 3th, 1989.
Since then, Pascal Todjinou has continued to show himself consistently as one of the pillars of the union movement in our country. Similarly, Paul Esse Iko and Kassa Mampo violently injured in this demonstration are activists who have paid for more than a quarter century, a particularly heavy price for their political activism in our country. Mr. Iko spent five years as political prison under the Marxist regime and has been a renowned trade unionist, like his mentor Gaston Azoua whom he succeeded. Did he deserve to be treated like a common criminal in demonstration whose only demand is the preservation of our nation’s democratic achievements? We may disagree with their ideas must respect their freedom of conscience and courage.
I do not condemn you. I just draw your attention to these facts, in your capacity as father of the nation, Benin, because I doubt you agree with the treatment of your social partners such as trade unionists, on the occasion of this demonstration.
Mr. Kassa Mampo, Deputy Secretary, the most seriously injured of all, I do not know much. But according to my information, he has already been imprisoned five times since your coming to power in 2006 after serving five year sentence under the Marxist regime. He was released from Missérété prison just six months ago. He is not a thug. He was in prison for taking part in a demonstration in Natitingou where people demanded acceleration of infrastructure construction destined for August 1st Independence Day. Is not that luckily an act of a patriot?
I would not wish that your regime is likened to the bad old days of Marxism. President Kerekou repented of it, and when the people have given him a chance, he made the effort to draw a line on the methods of the past?
I listened to your speech on the state of the nation. Good intentions you have expressed impress me. But they cannot be achieved without a climate of social peace. I still believe that you have very high ambitions for our country and you are a builder. But if the fruit does not hold the promise of flowers, you could win by humbling yourself before the Lord and imploring him to grant you the wisdom that he gave King Solomon, to lead his people well.
About the economic state of the nation
The youth unemployment rate is 70% in our country according to the same figures of WAEMU whose Chairman you are. Concerning the Human Development Index (HDI), the country is rated 155th of 156 countries assessed. We have the least efficient WAEMU economy and I heard you saying as a good Wassangari that you are ashamed. I do not pretend to have the miraculous solution. But I think if you work sincerely and with concerted political, economic and social partners, you could start by finding some solutions and social tension could be soothed. Consensus is one of the pillars of the National Conference. It is this factor that binds the layers of our society as well as the older generations to the younger ones.
But do young people in our country today feel fulfilled? In your speech on the state of the nation, you also identified the issue of youth and women employment as one of the most important problems of our country today.
“A youth work is a source of prosperity and also a factor of stability, and peace. In contrast, a youth suffering from unemployment is a ticking time bomb,” did you mentioned. My experience of entrepreneur and state man convinces me that it is the private sector that creates wealth, hence employment.
That is why, while praising your efforts for job creation and your government for injecting billions in youth employment, I would respectfully point out that they are useless if you do not associate the private sector.
So I think our nation would benefit if you bury the tomahawk and as good father, make peace with entrepreneurs such as Patrice Talon, Sebastien Ajavon Issa Salifou, and many other who create job.
I would not go back to my own case with Telecel-Moov/Etissalat because it still hangs before arbitration bodies at regional level.
I address you on behalf of our common nation, so that you make work Mr. Moses Mensah, my old friend and adviser of Perspective 99 Club since 1987, who has greatly contributed to discussions on the Round Table of Versailles, and therefore the discussions on the National Conference, while he was a senior official at FAO in Rome. You appointed him High Commissioner of Concerted Governance. This shows that you are concerned about social cohesion. Please remember to try to make the best of him, because he is very good.
Some of our compatriots are in jail for a case of attempted coup grafted to another of poisoning. The general view is that they appear as political prisoners and victims of your persecution. I would not necessarily say that this is the case. I do not know. But I am not truly free if I deprive someone else of his or her freedom ... “for a man who deprives another of his freedom is a prisoner of hatred,” said your beloved Nelson Mandela in his book a Long Way Toward Freedom. I would humbly ask you to follow his example to finish your final term in beauty as “the end of all things is better than its beginning,” says the book of Ecclesiastes.
Humility is not an easy thing for a man who has power. I may be pretentious to advise you, never having been President of the Republic.
Furthermore, I do not have and can never pretend to approach the eminence of Mandela. How many of us also come to his ankle?
But his life fascinates me and I always tried to spread the justice he embodies around me in all my charges, whether as entrepreneur, MP, minister, mayor, or even simply father. I think the day when I leave, I shall be able to defend my case before the Supreme Judge. I will tell him that I have tried to live as a righteous man. I will tell him what I have acted righteously. I have fought oppression. I have uplifted the humble that has been bullied. I have helped those whom fate has broken. I have shared the pain of the widow and the orphan. I have uplifted those who wavered. I have strengthened the weak hands. I have strengthened the knees that have been bent. I have tried to reconcile the political actors of my country. I have tried to avoid confrontation between the sons of our country. I know it is not enough. But I am not Mandela.
However, I send my good wishes to the entire nation, the sons and daughters of Ouidah, the wise men of our country, the Catholic clergy, and believers of all obedience.
I extend my good wishes to the men who had the responsibility to lead this country and who have kept it whole and intact for fifty years, President Zinsou Kerekou, President Soglo.
To all political and social forces of our country!
to President Adrien Houngbédji, my friends of the Union Makes the Nation, supporters of the Head of State, Abdoulaye Bio Tchané, Pascal Irénée Koupaki!
To all the children of Benin!