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    Benin Essay

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    Benin is an independent nation in West Africa, formerly called Dahomey. It is a country with 40 ethnic tribal groups and a low-level economy. The land is located in the bulge on the southern side of West Africa and is bordered by Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Niger, with 75 miles (121 km) on the Gulf of Guinea. The coast is hot and humid, and there are two rainy and two dry seasons, with an average annual rainfall of 32 inches (813 mm).

    Benin has three plateaus: one fertile, another of bare rocks, and a third with streams flowing to the Volta and Niger rivers, including the Atakora range. The eastern section is a plain. Subsistence agriculture is the economic base, while palm products and cotton account for half of export revenues.

    The leading class in Benin is composed of male-line descendants of the Aja (Fons or Dahomey) who established the early kingdom. They were trained for civil service by the French and are the best educated. Literacy is 25% among school-age children. In the north are the nomadic Fulani and the Somba tribe, hunters with no political organization. To the east are the Baribas. 90% of the population is rural, and 65% practice animist religion. French is the common language. The government.

    Benin has been under military rule since 1970. The Constitution of 1977 instituted a national assembly, whose members belong to the sole legal political party, the Benin People’s Revolutionary Party. Benin’s history dates back to three principalities – Allada, Porto-Novo, and Dahomey – in the southern area who were being pushed by the northern Kingdom of Abomey in the 16th century. Dahomey was the most aggressive, pushing north and selling slaves. In 1863, the king of Porto-Novo sought French protection.

    By 1892, France had subjugated all groups and made them protectorates as part of French West Africa. In 1960, the country became independent as Dahomey. The official name was changed to Benin in 1976. Economic and regional rivalries have caused numerous military coups d’état and changes of government since 1960.

    The Marxist-Leninist military government, led by Brig. Gen. Mathieu Kerekou, has been in power since 1972. However, during the late 1970s, the government relaxed its authority somewhat and improved its relations with France. In 1988, Benin became the center of an international environmental controversy when it was discovered that European nations planned to dump toxic waste there.PROFILEOfficial name: People’s Republic of BeninArea: 43,483 sq mi (112,621 sq km)Population: 4,663,832Density: 107.3 per sq mi (41.4 per sq km)Chief cities: Porto-Novo (capital), CotonouGovernment: MilitaryReligion: Animist, Christian, and MuslimLanguage: French (official)Monetary unit: CFA francGross domestic product: $1,400,000,000Per capita income: $340Industries: food processing (including beer and palm oil)Agriculture: peanuts, cotton, coffee, tobaccoMinerals: petroleumTrading partners: France (major), other members of the European Common Market, franc zone countries.

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