Alliance for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (ASDA), a pressure group in Benin, is appealing to the international community to step into the ongoing political unrest in the country before the entire West African sub-region is thrown into chaos.
The Alliance warned the number of people forced to escape military brutalities is growing by the day and stressed if the world does not stop the phenomenon, a full-blown humanitarian crisis could set off.
Chairman of ASDA, Dr. Prosper Ladislas Agbesi, gave the warning at a press conference in Accra to address the political crisis in Benin.
The tiny West African state has witnessed post-election violence and security forces put on high alert following days of violence with confrontations between armed soldiers and unarmed civilians on the streets of Cotonu.
The unrest follows parliamentary elections in April in which candidates from opposition parties were barred from contesting, offering a blank cheque to President Patrice Talon’s government to fill the legislature with virtually appointed candidates.
Opposition parties demanded annulment of the parliamentary election because it was not representative culminating into street protests, which armed military men tried to clamp down leading to clashes with civilians.
Dr. Prosper Agbesi appealed to the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and European Union (EU) not to wait till the situation deteriorates before stepping in because the Benin people are suffering under President’s Talon iron rule.
According to him, human history has demonstrated consistently the current situation in Benin presents the likelihood of an impending blood bath and stressed, “While the people of Benin only have moral arms and ammunition, the forces they are opposing have all the physical weapons and the will to use them without restraint.”
“The people are determined to retrieve their country from the emergent autocracy but are coming up against a ruthless dictator who has blatantly shelved constitutional rule and respect for fundamental human freedoms and continually shows a willingness to use armed force to enforce his will.”
“These are grave times for Benin Republic and its people and the spread of democratic good governance, the rule of law, social justice, human rights and improved living standards.”
The ASDA Chair argued the only way to avert President Talon’s bid for autocratic power and restore Benin to normalcy without sacrificing precious Beninois lives is to apply non-violent pressure.
He said, “This means combination of passive civil disobedience at home and international pressure in the form of sanctions.”
Benin, he said, has a small economy that is highly dependent on economic assistance and therefore susceptible to economic sanctions to have the desired results.
“For instance, Benin is heavily reliant on Ghana for its power supply. It is also heavily reliant on transit trade and re-exports to land-locked neighbours for its economic performance.”
Dr. Prosper Agbesi, however, noted tightly focused sanctions would have a quicker effect and appealed for sanctions to be targeted President Talon and some members of his government.
The opposition in Benin, he said, wants change of government at the executive level to be followed by new inclusive legislative elections accompanied by restoration of civil liberties that have gradually been eroded since President Talon took office.
He appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and President Mahammadu Buhari of Nigeria to use their esteem status to restore Benin to the path of democracy and save innocent Beninois from distress and slaughter.