This famous man that some nickname “The Chameleon” and for some others, “The man with sunglasses“, celebrated his 81st birthday anniversary last Tuesday.
In fact, General Mathieu Kérékou, former president of Benin is just 81 years old.
The latter made the history of Benin of these latest fifty years and it is what makes him special.
Even though he is no more in power, the man continues playing in his own way an important role in the Beninese political life.
In order to mark in a symbolic way this happy event, a delegation from the Foundation bearing his name “Mathieu Kérékou foundation” went to his place of residence not far from the three banks crossroads in Cotonou.
Through singings and dancing, the delegation paid an emotional tribute to the man who had managed Benin for 27 years: at first for 17 years from 1972 till 1990, during the Marxist-Leninist Revolution that he established two years after he came to power by force, then, for two five-year mandates in the era of the “democratic Revival“.
Let us note that the president did not come out to meet his guests. According to sources close to the family, Mr. Kérékou is at present unwell.
His wife thus promised to call them back for a new party later.
Born on 2nd September 1933 in Kouarfa not far from Natitingou, Mathieu Kérékou was the president of the Republic of Dahomey, later the People’s Republic of Benin from 26th October 1972 till 1st March 1990, and then that of Benin from 4th April 1996 to 5th April 2006.
Having studied in military academies in Mali and Senegal, Mathieu Kérékou served at first in the French army then in the army of Dahomey where he obtained the grade of adjutant.
He got to power during a coup d’état on 26th October 1972. He put into prison the previous three presidents. In 1975, he then renamed the country People’s Republic of Benin and set up a Marxist-Leninist government supervised by the Revolution National Council (CNR).
He set up a repression policy against all opponents to the regime and especially against intellectuals among whom many people had to find refuge abroad. He undertook a series of banks and oil industries nationalization.
Contrary to other African heads of States, under the pressure of media, intellectuals and public opinion, Kérékou could not change the Constitution that limits the age at which it was possible to be President as well as to compete for more than two mandates. Nicéphore Soglo underwent the same constraint of age.
Shortly before the ballot and just before the results of the first ballot, Kérékou showed a doubt on his regularity but unconfirmed by the international observers, what could give way to reluctances from Kérékou to abandon the power.
Nevertheless, the elections of March 2006 were regular and the election of Yayi Boni, the current Beninese Head of State, put an end to 27 years of Mathieu Kérékou’s power.
Original text by: Blaise AKAME