France's Hollande says Benin a 'benchmark' in democracy

2015-07-02 22:12
File, AFP

File, AFP

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Cotonou - French President Francois Hollande on Thursday hailed Benin as a "benchmark" in democracy, as he kicked off a whistlestop African tour that will also take him to Angola and Cameroon.

The French leader was speaking alongside his Beninese counterpart , who has pledged to respect the constitution and not seek a third term next year, in stark contrast to other heads of state on the continent who have struggled to let go of power.

"You are a benchmark in terms of democracy. I'm here to show that there are examples to be held up," he told lawmakers in Cotonou. He is the first French president to visit the tiny West African nation since 1983.

The former French colony has gone through three smooth democratic transitions since 1990 when the nation's communist dictatorship fell.

Presidential elections are due again next year, and there had been concern that Boni Yayi would try and change the constitution to seek a third term - though he has flatly denied he will.

In contrast, neighbouring Burkina Faso was hit by violent unrest last year when former president Blaise Compaore tried to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.

Compaore's bid sparked mass protests that forced him to resign in October 2014, prompting the military and an interim government to take control of the country.

Further afield in Burundi, more than 70 people have been killed in two months of protests and a failed coup attempt sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's defiant bid for a third term.

Later Thursday, Hollande flies to Angola, where the constitution was changed in 2010, allowing current President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos - in power for nearly 36 years - to stand in 2012 and 2017 elections.

He is expected to sign a series of deals, as Paris aims to diversify its economic ties with Luanda beyond the oil sector.

Read more on:    francois hollande  |  thomas boni yayi  |  benin  |  west africa

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