Benin is a West African country of modest size, but with an extremely prestigious history. Until 1894, date of the French conquest of the kingdom of Danxomè, the various peoples that make up present-day Benin lived in relative harmony and resisted colonization in all its forms as best they could. Benin also belongs to the cultural continuum whose religious inventiveness gave birth to the Orisha and Vodun religion, which is now found in Haiti, Cuba, Brazil and other countries in the Americas and the Caribbean. It is also, together with Nigeria, the source of the vast literature of Ifa, which is now recognized as a universal wisdom and included by UNESCO on the list of the intangible heritage of humanity.
Above all, for almost thirty years, the Republic of Benin has been able to organize a democratic political life, with regular votes and non-violent alternation. The constitution guarantees multi-partyism and freedom of expression. The opposition parties were respected and were always able to run freely in the elections, thus offering Beninese citizens real political alternatives. Presidents Nicéphore Soglo (1991-1996), Mathieu Kérékou (1996-2006) and Boni Yayi (2006-2016) respected these principles: legislative and presidential elections were regularly held without hindrance. Patrice Talon was elected in 2016, while his predecessor was supporting another candidate.
Today, however, this democratic model is in great danger. Indeed, after an amendment to the electoral code on September 3rd, 2018, the Constitutional Court belatedly included a certificate of conformity in the list of documents to be provided; this certificate was to be requested from the Ministry of Interior. Finally, in March 2019, the National Autonomous Electoral Commission validated only two candidature files, whose shortcomings seemed “minor” to the commission. The lists thus selected (the Republican Bloc and the Progressive Union) for the parliamentary elections both support President Talon.
The opposition lists were therefore unable to run in legislative elections on April 28th, 2019.
The result is dramatic for democracy: only 27% of voters according to official figures, 10% or even less according to other estimates, went to vote on that day. The electoral participation has never been so low in thirty years of democratic life.
Voting day was particularly turbulent and marked, in some places, by deadly violence. Worse still, three days later, following what was rightly or wrongly taken for an attempted arrest, demonstrations of protest and support for former President Boni Yayi left several people dead and seriously wounded, victims of shootings from the army in the Cadjèhoun district of Cotonou, the country’s economic capital.
We must react before the worst happens. On behalf of the international scientific community and the international community of artists and intellectuals, men and women, anxious to prevent a civil war in a country we love and which has given us so much in the distant and recent past, we respectfully appeal to the democratically elected President, Patrice Talon, to courageously invalidate the results of these highly contested elections.
We ask President Talon to call new elections on a new basis that guarantees, instead of excluding it before hand, the effective participation of the opposition in an open and transparent national competition.
Francis AFFERGAN, Professor emeritus of anthropology, Université Paris Descartes (Faculté SHS Sorbonne), France
Maurice AHANHANZO GLELE, Professor of Law, Former member of the Constitutional court of Benin (1993-2003), Benin
Eugénie R. AW-NDIAYE, Professor of information science, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal
Suzanne Preston BLIER, Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and African and African American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., USA
Vicentia BOCO, Professor of medicine, Université d’Abomey Calavi, Former minister, Benin
Pieter BOELE VAN HENSBROEK, Dept. director of Globalization Studies, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Tanella BONI, Philosopher, Writer
Jean-Paul COLLEYN, Professor of anthropology, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France
Catherine COQUERY VIDROVITCH, Professor emeritus of African History, Université Paris Diderot, France
Saskia COUSIN-KOUTON, Anthropologist, associate professor, Université Paris Descartes (Faculté SHS Sorbonne), France
Paulo Fernando DE MORAES FARIAS, Honorary Professor, University of Birmingham, UK
Pathé DIAGNE, Professor of linguistics, Publisher, Dakar, Senegal
Suleyman Bachir DIAGNE, Professor of philosophy, Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University, New York, USA
Boubacar Boris DIOP, Writer, Senegal
Erwan DIANTEILL, Professor of anthropology, Université Paris Descartes (Faculté SHS Sorbonne), Vice-president of the Intergovernmental Council of the MOST program of UNESCO, France
Robert S. M. DOSSOU, Attorney at Law in Benin, Former president of the Constitutional court of Benin
Jean-Pierre DOZON, Professor of anthropology, Institut de recherche pour le développement & Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France
Zakari DRAMANI-ISSIFOU, Historian, writer
Henry John DREWAL, Evjue-Bascom Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Franziska DUEBGEN, Professor of philosophy, Westfälische Wilhelms University, Münster, Germany
Aziz Salmone FALL, Political scientist, Senegal
Makhily GASSAMA, Professor of literature, Former minister of culture of Senegal
Henry-Louis GATES Jr., professor, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., USA
Paulin J. HOUNTONDJI, Professor emeritus of philosophy, National Universities of Benin
Bogumil JEWSIEWICKI, Emeritus, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada
Lazare KI-ZERBO, Professor of philosophy, independent researcher
Yacouba KONATE, Philosophy Professor, Houphouet-Boigny University, Abidjan, Ivory Coast
- A. MASOLO, Professor of Philosophy, University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA
- Pierre MÊTINHOUÉ, Associate Professor, Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin
Landry-Wilfrid MIAMPIKA, Professor, Alcala University, Madrid, Spain
Seyni MOUMOUNI, Professor, Université Abdou Moumouni, Niamey, Niger
Issa N’DIAYE, Professor of philosophy, University of Bamako, Former Minister, Mali
Aloyse-Raymond NDIAYE, Professor of philosophy, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal
Mamadou NDOYE, Former Minister of Literacy campaigns, Senegal
Joël NORET, Professor of anthropology, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Jacob OLUPONA, Professor of African Religious Traditions, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., USA
Mogobe RAMOSE, Professor, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South-Africa
João REIS, Professor emeritus of history, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil
Adama SAMASSÉKOU, Former Minister of Education, Bamako, Mali; President of the World Conference of Humanities
João Jorge SANTOS RODRIGUES, President of the cultural association OLODUM, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Luca M. SCARANTINO, President of the International Federation of Philosophy Associations (FISP), President of the 25th World Congress of Philosophy (Melbourne 2023)
René SEGBENOU, Development sociologist, Cotonou (Benin)
Issa SHIVJI, Former Professor of Law & Mwalimu Julius Nyerere University Professor in Pan-African Studies, University of Dar es Salaam
Fatou SOW, Sociologist, CNRS (Université Paris Diderot, France) and Dakar, Senegal
Wole SOYINKA, Emeritus Professor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Nobel Prize of Literature
Gilles YABI, Economist and political scientist, President of the board of West Africa Citizen Think Tank (WATHI)
Olabiyi J. YAÏ, Professor of Yoruba and African Studies, University of Florida (Gainsville, USA), Former permanent delegate of Benin at UNESCO, Former president of the executive council of UNESCO
Jeanne ZOUNDJIHEKPON, Professor of Genetics, National Universities of Benin
Ropo SEKONI, Chair of Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Lagos, Nigeria