The former Beninese head of state and opponent in exile, Thomas Boni Yayi arrived in Cotonou on Wednesday, where he was to be received by President Patrice Talon to resolve the crisis that is shaking the country, according to the government and some members of his entourage, but this meeting did not take place.
This country of West Africa deemed stable is going through a serious political crisis since the legislative elections of April, whose opposition had been excluded.
The day went into confusion after a succession of announcements and denials. The opponent was accompanied by a large delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) involved in the resolution of the Beninese crisis. But it finally went without him to the presidency to exchange with Patrice Talon.
For his part, Boni Yayi, who arrived at the airport in the afternoon and warmly welcomed by a hundred supporters, finally visited another opposition leader and former president, Nicephore Soglo.
« Boni Yayi did not go to meet the president because he is convinced that his main complaint, which is the resumption of parliamentary elections, will not be taken into account », said on condition of anonymity to the AFP a close to Thomas Boni Yayi.
« He felt with the other leaders of the opposition that Patrice Talon will make commitments that he will not respect, as his habits, » he added.
A leader of his party, the Cauris Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE), told AFP that the opposition – and not just Boni Yayi – wanted to meet with the delegation of ECOWAS to present its grievances, suggesting that these exchanges could take place in the following days.
« At the moment, this is not a problem between Presidents Patrice Talon and Boni Yayi. It is a problem of Benin, a problem of democracy in the country « , explained Nouréini Atchadé, policy manager of FCBE.
« Festive meeting »
The spokesman of the government, Alain Orounla, had yet announced a meeting between the current president and his predecessor, irreducible political opponents, at the end of the council of ministers at midday.
« The president has expressed his wish to see our former president come back that nothing has forced him into exile and it is quite natural that he will receive it at his request, » he told the press. , evoking a « festive meeting » that was to take place « in the next few hours ».
« Heads of State of the sub-region have been constantly involved in the discussions between President Boni Yayi and President Patrice Talon, » Orounla added. « Some Heads of State and Government have appointed representatives to witness this summit meeting ».
Several relatives of the entourage of Thomas Boni Yayi, who was staying recently in neighboring Nigeria, also confirmed Wednesday to AFP his arrival in the Beninese economic capital and the meeting scheduled for the presidency.
The regional delegation, which includes former Nigerian President Abdusalami Abubakar and ECOWAS Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, had arrived from Niamey, Niger, where she had been received with Boni Yayi in the morning by the current president of the organization, the head of state Mahamadou Issoufou.
Gestures of appeasement
Former President Boni Yayi (2006-2016) was exiled after his home in Cotonou was surrounded for nearly two months by the police, following the disputed April 28 poll, whose opposition had been excluded.
The ensuing crisis led to protests and violence with scores of gun deaths.
President Talon has since multiplied acts of appeasement such as the amnesty of the perpetrators of violence during the demonstrations, or the organization of a political dialogue to which the main opposition parties were not invited.
He has also passed a new Constitution limiting the number of terms to two « in the life » of a president while it previously limited the possibility of being a candidate more than twice in a row. Boni Yayi’s entourage then denounced a measure designed to prevent the former president-in-exile from representing himself in the future.
The main demands of the opposition have not been met so far, namely the relaxation of new conditions for political parties to obtain legal recognition. This prevented Patrice Talon’s main detractors from participating in the elections six months ago.