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News in
Benin







Atlas Benin


K.A Former Pupils Worldwide

If you are a former pupil of Kilmarnock Academy
and you currently live or work in this country (or have lived in it for a period of time), then e-mail us at kaworldwide@kilmarnockacademy.co.uk with your details. The essential details are: your name; the years you attended Kilmarnock Academy; where in the country you live or work (if you no longer live or work in this country, please state the years you were in residence there).

If you want to - and it does make things a lot more interesting - you can also provide us with a brief account of a favourite place or fond memory or favourite anecdote or local customs or local cuisine (or anything else about this country that you'd like to share with us). You can, if you wish, also include one or two photographs of places you lived in or visited during your stay in this country.


K.A. International - Worldwide Learning Network
If you know of a school in this country (possibly one that your own children have attended) that would be interested in developing links and engaging in joint projects with pupils at K.A., then please e-mail kaworldwide@kilmarnockacademy.co.uk with contact details. You can get more information on this initiative by clicking here.

N. McIlvanney 2005

K.A Former Pupils in Benin

Name                                                   Years attended K.A.                                   Area, City or Town of Residence



K.A. Pupils' Postcards
If you are a pupil or former pupil of Kilmarnock Academy
and you have visited this country, then e-mail us at postcard@kilmarnockacademy.co.uk with your details. The essential details are: your name; the years you attended Kilmarnock Academy; where in the country you visited.

If you want to - and it does make this page a lot more worthwhile - you can also provide us with a brief account of a favourite place or fond memory or unusual experience or local customs or local cuisine or first impressions or lasting impressions. (You can, if you wish, also include one or two photographs of a place you visited in this country).


N. McIlvanney 2005

K.A Pupils' Postcards from Benin

Name                                                   Years attended K.A.                                    Area, City or Town Visited


Country (long form)

Republic of Benin
Capital
Porto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government
Total Area
43,482.83 sq mi
112,620.00 sq km
Population
6,395,919 note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS
Estimated Population in 2050
18,057,345
Languages
French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)
Literacy
37.0% total, 48.7% male, 25.8% female (1995 est.)
Religions
indigenous beliefs 70%, Muslim 15%, Christian 15%
Life Expectancy
49.24 male, 51.16 female (2000 est.)
Government Type
republic under multiparty democratic rule
Currency
1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes
GDP (per capita)
$1,300 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
N/A
Industry
textiles, cigarettes; beverages, food; construction materials, petroleum
Agriculture
corn, sorghum, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, rice, cotton, palm oil, peanuts; poultry, livestock
Arable Land
13%
Exports
cotton, crude oil, palm products, cocoa
Imports
foodstuffs, tobacco, petroleum products, capital goods
Natural Resources
small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber
Current Environmental Issues
recent droughts have severely affected marginal agriculture in north; inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification
Telephones (main lines in use)
28,000 (1995)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
1,050 (1995)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
N/A

History
The history of Benin is indistinguishable from that of the entire area of West Africa until the early part of the 17th century. Up until this time, the area had been divided into numerous principalities. It just takes one bad apple to spoil it for the rest of them, however, and in Benin's case a chief had a row with his brother and moved to Abomey before conquering the neighbouring kingdom of Dan, which became known as Dahomey (Fon for 'in Dan's belly'). He then made a pledge - repeated by each successive king - to leave more land than he inherited. Not surprisingly, this policy led to war after war, and a particularly bad relationship with the powerful Yoruba of Nigeria.

Of course, wherever there was a good fight, Europeans were never far behind, and the Portuguese and others began establishing trade posts at Porto Novo and Ouidah. The Dahomey traded with the Europeans; the hot item was prisoners of war sold into slavery in return for guns. For well over a century, an average of 10,000 slaves a year were shipped to the Americas, primarily Brazil and the Caribbean and particularly Haiti, exporting their knowledge and practice of voodoo. Benin had become perhaps the most beaten track by Europeans in Africa, and southern Benin had the dubious honour of being dubbed 'the Slave Coast'.

In the 1800s the French sashayed in and gained control of the coast, making the kingdom of Dahomey part of French West Africa. Named the 'Latin Quarter of West Africa', Dahomey became famous over the next century for its educated elite, employed as regional advisors. This education process backfired on the French; the locals became vocal and began agitating for equality. They even published a newspaper critical of the French.

After World War II the people of Dahomey modernised rapidly, forming trade unions and political parties. In 1960, and without much fuss, Dahomey attained independence from France. Due to their education, many Dahomeyans were running administrations throughout French Africa. Following independence, these officials were deported en masse, forming an unstable presence at home. In 1963 this boiled over into a successful military coup. For the next nine years Benin became the Bolivia of Africa. There were five coups, nine changes in government and five different constitutions. With typical wry humour, the locals refer to this time as le folklore. Despite all of this upheaval, the famous civil nature of the Fon people triumphed. No leader was ever killed, and when the army deposed General Soglo in 1967 they politely knocked on his door and told him, 'You're through'.

The pleasantries didn't last long. In 1972 Lt Col Mathieu Kérékou seized control, renamed the radio station 'the voice of the revolution' and fuelled anti-white sentiment. Marxism became the official ideology of the newly named Benin in 1974. There were assassinations, riots and strikes. A group of exiles, Europeans and a French mercenary landed at Contonou airport in 1977 in an attempted coup. They fought for a couple of hours then flew out again. The revolution led to centralised industry and agriculture, a warning to the churches and a militant spirit in the army, but was always more rhetorical than real. Private industry continued to flourish. By the mid-80s the economy was a shambles and the age of coups began again, with six attempts in one year alone. With the eyes of the world trained on Eastern Europe in the late 80s, the outside world barely noticed the strikes, riots, lootings and crackdowns on the streets of Porto Novo.

In 1990 Kérékou saw that his socialist plan was far from glorious, renounced Marxism and called a conference to rewrite the constitution. Despite being blamed for the failures and abuses of the past, Kérékou was the recipient of solid support from the delegates, who engineered another coup, installing him as leader. Free elections were held the following year. Kérékou was defeated, but amazingly was elected President again in 1996. An economic crisis in the mid-90s has been quickly overcome, due partly to increased growth, stability and a general sense of optimism.

In 2003, parliamentary elections ran smoothly despite the opposition’s accusations of government intimidation. The Union of Tomorrow’s Benin (UBF – a new coalition of parties that support president Kérékou) won the elections, although their existing seat majority was narrowed somewhat.