Benin, independent nation of W Africa, formerly called Dahomey. Once aFrench protectorate, it is a country of 40 ethnic tribal groups and alow-level economy. Land and Economy. Located in the bulge on the S side of W Africa, Beninis bordered by Nigeria, Toga, Berkina Faso, and Niger, with 75 mi (121km)on the Gulf of Guinea. The coast is hot and humid, and there are two rainyand two dry seasons; average annual rainfall is 32in (813mm).
Benin hasthree plateaus, one fertile, another of bare rocks, and a third withstreams flowing to the Volta and Niger rivers and including the Atakorarange. The E section is a plain. Subsistence agriculture is the economicbase. Palm products and cotton account for half of export revenues. People.
The leading class in Benin is composed of male-line descendantsof the Aja (Fons, or Dahomey) who had established the early kingdom. Trained for civil service by the French, they are the best educated;literacy is 25% among school-age children. In the N are the nomadic Fulaniand the Somba tribe, hunters with no political organization; E are Baribas. 90% of the population is rural, and 65% practices animist religion. Frenchis the common language. Government.Order now
Benin has been under military rule since 1970. Theconstitution of 1977 instituted a national assembly, whose members belongto the sole legal political party, the Benin People’s Revolutionary Party. History. Benin’s history dates back to three principalities–Allada,Porto-Novo, and Dahomey–in the S area who were being pushed by the NKingdom of Abomey in the 16th century. Dahomey was the most aggressive,pushing N and selling slaves. In 1863 the king of Porto-Novo sought Frenchprotection.
By 1892 France had subjugated all groups and made themprotectorates as part of French West Africa. In 1960 the country becameindependent as Dahomey. The official name was changed to Benin in 1976. Economic and regional rivalries have caused numerous military coup d’tatsand changes of government since 1960.
The Marxist-Leninist militarygovernment in power since 1972, led by Brig. Gen. Mathieu Kerekou, relaxedits authority somewhat during the late 1970s and improved relations withFrance. Benin became the center of an international environmentalcontroversy in 1988 when it became known that European nations planned todump toxic wastes there.PROFILEOfficial name: People’s Republic of BeninArea: 43,483sq mi (112,621sq km)Population: 4,663,832Density: 107.3per sq mi (41.4per sq km)Chief cities: Porto-Novo (capital);Cotonou Government: MilitaryReligion: Animist, Christian, and Moslem (Muslim)Language: French(official)Monetary unit: CFA franc Grossdomestic product: $1,400,000,000Per capita income: $340Industries: food processing, including beer, palm oilAgriculture: peanuts, cotton, coffee, tobaccoMinerals: petroleumTrading partners: France (major), other members of European Common Market,franc zone countries