Unprecedented violence marred Sunday’s legislative election in Benin
BY LOU SIFA
(Reporting by Daniel Assogba)
With the Internet and social media restored Monday morning after being cut off during the legislative election held on Sunday in Benin, a real picture of the violence that marred the election has finally emerged.
Even the minister in charge of security, Saca Lafia, acknowledged the election was not peaceful. In remarks broadcast on Monday, the minister said:
“The elections went well, generally in peace, all over the country. However, the process was marred by some incidents, notably in downtown Parakou, Save, Glazoue, Bante, Savalou and Manugri where out-of-control individuals destroyed voting materials and police equipment, and attacked police officers, private individuals and journalists.”
The images speak loudly, and show that these were not “incidents,” but rather serious, outright violence.
The minister goes on to say that in the central and northern regions of the country, demonstrators blocked the streets to impede traffic, and even attacked the security forces:
“In sum, some police officers were injured with locally-made weapons, notably in Save, and a press crew was physically attacked. But there was no death. Also, various threats made over the social media visibly stopped the voters from discharging their civil duties.”
Truth be told, the security forces showed restrain. Had they used their weapons to counter the unstoppable rage of the demonstrators, the loss of lives would have been in the hundreds, if not more. Unheard of in Benin’s history. Saca Lafia said:
“Faced with this situation, even when provoked, the public security and defense forces scrupulously remained committed to keeping order and protecting the citizens. With a notable professionalism, they dealt with the incidents in a way to avoid injuring anyone, to ensure the security of all those who went to vote.”
So, their boss, Minister Saca Lafia, congratulated them, and said the perpetrators of the violent acts will be harshly punished:
“For that reason, I want to salute the maturity of our people, and warmly congratulate our security and defense forces for their sense of duty and patriotism. Also, I want to assure the opinion that the authors and initiators of the acts of vandalism, violence and barbarism that occurred will be punished in the harshest terms in accordance with the laws of the republic.”
The minister ended his remarks with an assessment that is not supported by the facts, given that the unprecedented exclusion of the opposition parties from the election constituted a remarkable setback for Benin’s hitherto vibrant democracy.
“Finally, holding these elections on this day despite the incidents that occurred here and there is proof that the democratic process is resolutely on track in our country to allow it to continue its steadfast and legitimate march toward development.”
Clearly, the low turn out and the violence stopped the vote from taking place in some locations, with the Internet service and the social media cut off to impede communication. If, despite that, the results are validated by the Constitutional Court—which is expected because the Court is chaired by none other than President Talon’s former personal attorney—Saca Lafia, who also ran for parliament on Sunday, will be on his way to the parliament in no time.