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Benin

 

Benin, independent nation of W Africa, formerly called
Dahomey. Once a French protectorate, it is a country of 40
ethnic tribal groups and a low-level economy.
 
Land and Economy. Located in the bulge on the S side of W
Africa, Benin is 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 rainy and two dry
seasons; average annual rainfall is 32in (813mm). Benin has
three plateaus, one fertile, another of bare rocks, and a
third with streams flowing to the Volta and Niger rivers
and including the Atakora range. The E section is a plain.
Subsistence agriculture is the economic base. Palm products
and cotton account for half of export revenues.
 
People. The leading class in Benin is composed of male-line
descendants of 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 Fulani
and the Somba tribe, hunters with no political
organization; E are Baribas. 90% of the population is
rural, and 65% practices animist religion. French is the
common language.
 
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. History. Benin's
history dates back to three principalities--Allada,
Porto-Novo, and Dahomey--in the S area who were being
pushed by the N Kingdom of Abomey in the 16th century.
Dahomey was the most aggressive, pushing N 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 coup
d',tats and changes of government since 1960. The
Marxist-Leninist military government in power since 1972,
led by Brig. Gen. Mathieu Kerekou, relaxed its authority
somewhat during the late 1970s and improved relations with
France. Benin became the center of an international
environmental controversy in 1988 when it became known that
European nations planned to dump toxic wastes there.
 
PROFILE 
 + Official name: People's Republic of Benin 
 + Area: 43,483sq mi (112,621sq km) 
 + Population: 4,663,832 
 + Density: 107.3per sq mi (41.4per sq km) 
 + Chief cities: Porto-Novo (capital); 
 + Cotonou Government: Military 
 + Religion: Animist, Christian, and Moslem (Muslim) 
 + Language: French(official) 
 + Monetary unit: CFA franc 
 + Gross domestic product: $1,400,000,000 
 + Per capita income: $340 
 + Industries: food processing, including beer, palm oil 
 + Agriculture: peanuts, cotton, coffee, tobacco 
 + Minerals: petroleum 
 + Trading partners: France (major), other members of
European Common Market, franc zone countries 
 



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