Post-Independence period in the Republic of Benin.
Welcome back again on my blog. I am very excited to be back as well. Today, I am very interested in talking about what it was like some years after the independence period of the Republic of Benin. You might recall in my previous blog where I was talking about Dahomey! Well the Republic of Benin was named to replace the so called Kingdom of Dahomey after independence. So, up to now, that is the name used to identify that African country.
I have always been amazed by learning about the African history especially the journey from slave trade to the presence of colonialists, to the world wars, and so on. Well, to recall just a little bit about the Republic of Benin, it has been colonized by the French from beginning of the 20th century to 1958. The republic of Benin officially gained its independence in 1960. However, that doesn’t mean that they were going to be fully established again and controlling their resources however they wanted. I believe that the colonial period left a very big gap to fill as the people of Benin were trying to rebuild themselves and move forward to a better future. I found an amazing article that was written in October 1978 and it was talking about the struggles that the Republic of Benin had to go through as they were starting to develop their country; especially their economy.
The articles says that in 1977, Gabon waged war on Benin and that “On board the huge aircraft were highly trained mercenaries recruited and trained by former colonial powers.” (Seattle Skanner 1978). This helps us to see one of the effects of colonialism such as training Africans to be mercenary fighters instead of peace keepers. With the knowledge that the people of Gabon gained from military base of Ben Guerrir in Morocco, they were able to start a war against their fellow African country in search to dominate over their economy especially their city of Cotonou. I was really amazed by how “Behind the attempt to overthrow the people’s Republic of Benin, international observers saw the fine hand of former French colonialism at work.” (Seattle Skanner 1978). This was very interesting to me because it shows how other nations got to also realize the effects of French colonialism as well in this Benin-Gabon incident. In addition, the article mentions that the war was behind French-effort so that Gabon would increase economic pressures on the developing Benin. That’s strange!!! Why would they want to destroy the economy of Benin?
Well, it is very remarkable to know that the Republic of Benin has succeeded in fighting against French authorities including those who wanted to stay in power after their independence. The article mentions it very beautifully saying that Benin, “more importantly defied French neo-colonialism masquerading in the benign garb of post-World War II French efforts to dominate her former West African colonies through cultural and economic ties” (Seattle Skanner 1978). The colonial powers wanted to stay in higher positions where they would control the economy because they had already gained a lot from the resources from Africa. So, giving all of that up in 1960 wasn’t easy for colonialists after the gaining of independence of the colonized countries.
I would say that after independence, it takes great courage, unity and determination to be able to move from one place to a better place as a colonized country. The article says “The People’s Republic of Benin, like other West African states, is a poor country, but a determined one in her pursuit of her national destiny” (Seattle Skanner 1978). This shows us that even though they didn’t have a lot rich resources, they had the mission to keep moving forward as one united country. This is amazing!!! Go Benin!
Furthermore, one other issue that Benin faced apart from the insecurity caused the waged war, Gabon was deporting the Benin population back to Benin. The article discussed how only the unskilled were sent back. This to me shows that Gabon wanted to keep only the skilled ones to work for them while the others were forcibly sent back. I was very saddened to hear see that “many were murdered in Gabon after protesting the confiscation of their property and the brutality inflicted on men, women and children.” (Seattle Skanner 1978). We can clearly see that the people of Benin, living in Gabon, had no rights to live freely like how they wanted since many of them had started protests about the violence done towards them.
The article goes on talking about how the president of Benin Mathieu Kerekou organized a committee to be in charge of welcoming the deported people from Gabon. I was very interested seeing that not only Benin came to the rescue of the refugees, but also other fellow African countries such as Algeria, Sudan came to assist as well. The article mentions that “To date, Libya has donated foodstuffs while the Algerian government plans to send massive relief of all kinds” (Seattle Skanner 1978). I really liked the joining of forces to come to support the Republic of Benin.!!!
When countries gain independence, they still face issues from which some come from manipulated neighboring countries by their colonialists like Gabon. However, it is very important to see the Republic of Benin as an example of a country which tried to grow moving towards its identity. Despite different problems that it faced like refugees, being poor and the waged war by Gabon, it is crucial for us to see the power of support by fellow African countries. As we saw above, it had been 18 years after independence but the colonial powers still wanted to control. This teaches us that it takes a long time for colonialists to completely give up the powers they held in their colonies. But the Republic of Benin shows us that fighting against colonialism and neo-colonialism is possible.
The People’s Republic Of Benin