After Benin’s Constitutional Court approved the provisional results of the West African country’s April 11 presidential election, newly re-elected President Patrice Talon in a speech to the nation called on the people of his country to work in "concord, unity, peace and security.”
But unity and peace have not been the watchwords for events related to the presidential election in Benin this year. Prior to the election, with President Talon’s support, laws were pushed through the National Assembly that made it difficult for opponents to run in the election, and many opposition leaders have left the country. During the voting itself, polling centers in some areas of the country were unable to open.
In addition, a number of opposition leaders who have remained in the country have been arrested for what observers say are politically motivated reasons.
In a statement, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the United States “notes with concern the numerous arrests of opposition political leaders related to the April 11 presidential elections. Among the democratic principles our two countries share is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty through a prompt, fair, transparent and apolitical criminal justice process. This principle,” he added, “as well as freedom of expression and assembly is enshrined in both the Beninese and U.S. constitutions.”
Some of the opposition leaders who have been arrested have been detained on suspicion of “financing terrorism” and “inciting violence.”
Spokesperson Price said, “While we take allegations of terrorism and incitement to violence seriously, the Beninese people deserve to be regularly informed on the status of these cases. Our global security partnerships depend upon partner countries’ adherence to human rights obligations and commitments and to ensuring security forces and the judicial system are not used for political purposes.”
The United States is “monitoring the government of Benin’s actions closely,” said Mr. Price. “Respecting and protecting fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and judicial independence are essential to every democracy. Countries that protect human rights enable greater prosperity and security for all people.”