Republic of Dahomey

Last updated
Republic of Dahomey

République du Dahomey
Anthem:  L'Aube Nouvelle   (French)
The Dawn of a New Day
Benin (orthographic projection with inset).svg
Common languages French, Yoruba, Fon
Government Republic
Historical era Cold War
11 December 1958
1 August 1960
30 November 1975
Currency CFA franc
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of France.svg French Dahomey
People's Republic of Benin Flag of Benin (1975-1990).svg
Today part ofFlag of Benin.svg  Benin

The Republic of Dahomey (French : République du Dahomey; pronounced  [daɔmɛ] ) was established on December 11, 1958, as a self-governing colony within the French Community. Prior to attaining autonomy it had been French Dahomey, part of the French Union. On August 1, 1960, it attained full independence from France.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

In the British Empire, a self-governing colony was a colony with an elected government in which elected rulers were able to make most decisions without referring to the colonial power with nominal control of the colony. Most self-governing colonies had responsible government.

French Community

The French Community was an association of former French colonies, mostly from Africa. In 1958 it replaced the French Union, which had itself succeeded the French colonial empire in 1946.


In 1975, the country was renamed Benin after the Bight of Benin (which was in turn named after the Benin Empire which had its seat of power in Benin City, modern-day Nigeria), since "Benin" was deemed politically neutral for all ethnic groups in the state, whereas "Dahomey" recalled the Fon-dominated Kingdom of Dahomey.

Benin country in Africa

Benin, officially the Republic of Benin and formerly Dahomey, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. The majority of its population lives on the small southern coastline of the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in Cotonou, the country's largest city and economic capital. Benin covers an area of 114,763 square kilometres (44,310 sq mi) and its population in 2016 was estimated to be approximately 10.87 million. Benin is a tropical nation, highly dependent on agriculture. Benin is a large exporter of cotton and palm oil. Substantial employment and income arise from subsistence farming.

Bight of Benin bay

The Bight of Benin or Bay of Benin is a bight in the Gulf of Guinea area on the western African coast.

Benin City City in Edo, Nigeria

Benin City is the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is situated approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of the Benin River and 320 kilometres (200 mi) by road east of Lagos. Benin City is the centre of Nigeria's rubber industry, and oil production is also a significant industry. The indigenous people of Benin City are Edo and they speak the Edo language and other Edoid languages. The people of Benin City are known as Edo or Bini. The people of the city have one of the richest dress cultures on the African continent and are known for their beads, body marks, bangles, anklets and raffia work.


The Republic of Dahomey became independent of France on 1 August 1960. [1] In the words of the historian Martin Meredith, the young country "was encumbered with every imaginable difficulty: a small strip of territory jutting inland from the coast, it was crowded, insolvent and beset by tribal divisions, huge debts, unemployment, frequent strikes and an unending struggle for power between three rival political leaders". [2] These rivals were Justin Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin, who held sway in the southern and central regions of the country, Sourou-Migan Apithy, who dominated the southeast, and Hubert Maga, whose power base was located in the north. [3]

Martin Meredith is a historian, journalist, and biographer. He has written several books on Africa and its modern history.

Justin Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin politician

Justin Ahomadegbé-Tomêtin was a Beninese politician most active when his country was known as Dahomey. He arose on a political scene where one's power was dictated by what region of Dahomey one lived in. He served as president of the National Assembly of Dahomey from April 1959 to November 1960 and as prime minister of Benin from 1964 to 1965.

Sourou-Migan Apithy Beninese politician

Sourou-Migan Marcellin Joseph Apithy was a Beninese political figure most active when his country was known as Dahomey. He arose on a political scene where one's power was dictated by what region in Dahomey one lived in.

Upon independence, Maga became the first president of Dahomey. A political crisis in 1958, prior to independence, had led to Maga's Dahomeyan Democratic Movement joining a coalition government, with a subsequent crisis leading to Maga becoming the head of government in April 1959. [4] This compromise, however, was unable to solve Dahomey's problems, and an uprising broke out in October 1963, culminating in a coup d'état, and the replacement of Maga as president with Apithy. This also failed to bring about stability, and Apithy was removed in another coup, in December 1965. [5]

Dahomeyan Democratic Movement political party in Benin

The Dahomeyan Democratic Movement was a political party in French Dahomey.

The 1963 Dahomeyan coup d'état was staged on October 28, 1963, by Christophe Soglo, who took control of the Republic of Dahomey to prevent a civil war. He overthrew Hubert Maga, whose presidency faced extreme economic stagnation and a host of other problems.

Following the 1965 coup, Colonel Christophe Soglo became president. A veteran of the French Army, he saw himself as a Dahomeyan Charles de Gaulle, banning all political activity with the stated aim of stabilising the country. [6] Civilian rule was in fact restored in 1968, but the tumult of the preceding years meant that the army remained a key player in Dahomeyan politics, with civilian presidents beholden to their military backers. [7] In October 1972, a coup (the fifth in the country's history) led by Mathieu Kérékou removed a civilian government (which had been headed by a triumvirate consisting of Ahomadégbé, Apithy and Maga). Kérékou would go on to proclaim his support for Marxism-Leninism, declaring the end of the Republic of Dahomey and the establishment of the People's Republic of Benin on 30 November 1975. [8]

Christophe Soglo Beninese politician

Christophe Soglo was a Beninese military officer and political leader and one of the most important figures in Benin's period of political instability and frequent, though usually bloodless, coups during the 1960s.

Charles de Gaulle 18th President of the French Republic

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 1944 to 1946 in order to establish democracy in France. In 1958, he came out of retirement when appointed President of the Council of Ministers by President René Coty. He was asked to rewrite the Constitution of France and founded the Fifth Republic after approval by referendum. He was elected President of France later that year, a position he was reelected to in 1965 and held until his resignation in 1969. He was the dominant figure of France during the early part of the Cold War era, and his memory continues to influence French politics.

Mathieu Kérékou politician

Mathieu Kérékou was a Beninese politician who served as President of Benin from 1972 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2006. After seizing power in a military coup, he ruled the country for 19 years, for most of that time under an officially Marxist–Leninist ideology, before he was stripped of his powers by the National Conference of 1990. He was defeated in the 1991 presidential election but was returned to the presidency in the 1996 election and controversially re-elected in 2001.

In film

Dahomey was chosen for some of the filming locations in the film The Comedians , with an all-star cast that included Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Lillian Gish, James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Brown, Alec Guinness, Raymond St. Jacques, Gloria Foster, Zakes Mokae, Paul Ford, Georg Stanford Brown, Peter Ustinov, Douta Seck and Cicely Tyson. The movie is the story of an adulterous affair placed against the backdrop of Haiti during the tumultuous dictatorship of François Duvalier, (known as "Papa Doc"). Dahomey resembled Haiti in many ways, both geographically and culturally, and it was safer to film there than in Haiti.[ citation needed ]

<i>The Comedians</i> (1967 film) 1967 film by Peter Glenville

The Comedians is a 1967 American political drama film directed and produced by Peter Glenville, based on the novel of the same name by Graham Greene, who also wrote the screenplay. The stars were Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, and Alec Guinness.

Richard Burton Welsh actor

Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and he gave a memorable performance of Hamlet in 1964. He was called "the natural successor to Olivier" by critic and dramaturge Kenneth Tynan. An alcoholic, Burton's failure to live up to those expectations disappointed critics and colleagues and fuelled his legend as a great thespian wastrel.

Elizabeth Taylor British-American actress

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was a British-American actress, businesswoman, and humanitarian. She began her career as a child actress in the early 1940s, and was one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1950s. She continued her career successfully into the 1960s, and remained a well-known public figure for the rest of her life. In 1999, the American Film Institute named her the seventh-greatest female screen legend.

See also

Related Research Articles

Émile Derlin Zinsou Beninese politician

Émile Derlin Zinsou was a Beninese politician and physician who was the President of Dahomey from 17 July 1968 until 10 December 1969, supported by the military regime that took power in 1967. Zinsou was present at the signing of the treaty that formed the African Union on 12 July 2000 in Togo.

Hubert Maga First president of Benin

Coutoucou Hubert Maga was a politician from Dahomey. He arose on a political scene where one's power was dictated by what region in Dahomey one lived in. Born a peasant in 1916, Maga served as a schoolmaster from 1936 to 1945, during which time he gradually gained considerable influence among the uneducated. He was elected to Dahomey's territorial assembly in 1947 and founded the Northern Ethnical Group, later renamed the Dahomey Democratic Rally. In 1951, Maga was elected to the French National Assembly, where he served in various positions, including premier from 1959 to 1960. When Dahomey gained its independence from France on August 1, 1960, Maga was appointed to the presidency, and was officially elected to that post on December 11.

Alphonse Alley Beninese army officer and politician

Alphonse Amadou Alley was a Beninese army officer and political figure. He was most active when his country was known as Dahomey. He was born in Bassila, central Dahomey, and enrolled in schools in Togo, Cote d'Ivoire, and Senegal before enlisting in the French army in 1950. He saw combat in Indochina from 1950 to 1953, in Morocco from 1955 to 1956, and in Algeria from 1959 to 1961. After the coup in 1965, President Christophe Soglo promoted Alley Chief of Staff of the Army. Young army officer Maurice Kouandété was appointed Alley's chef de cabinet in 1967.

Elections in Benin

Elections in Benin take place within the framework of a multi-party democracy and a presidential system. Both the President and the National Assembly are directly elected by voters, with elections organised by the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA).

Maurice Kouandété Military Officer

Iropa Maurice Kouandété was a military officer and politician in Benin. He was born to Somba parents in the Gaba District of Dahomey. Kouandété enrolled in the army in his late teens. Over the years, he became popular among junior soldiers in the north and gained the contempt of those in the south. Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post described Kouandété as a "moody, brilliant and highly ambitious soldier".

Assogba Oké was a Beninese politician and diplomat, mostly active when his country was known as Dahomey. Replacing Chabi Mama, Oké became Foreign Minister in 1960, lasting until 1962.

Paul-Émile de Souza President of Dahomey

Colonel Paul-Émile de Souza was a Beninese army officer and political figure. He was chairman of the Directory of Dahomey from December 13, 1969 to May 7, 1970.

Paul Darboux was a Beninese merchant and politician, most active when his country was known as Dahomey.

1970 Dahomeyan presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Dahomey on 28 March 1970. Although they were won by Justin Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin, disagreements between northern and southern politicians meant that the results were later annulled, and instead a three-member Presidential Council was created to rule the country, rotating the presidency every two years. It was composed of Sourou-Migan Apithy, Hubert Maga and Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin, who had all received over 25% of the vote. Maga served the first two-year term, before handing over to Ahomadégbé in 1972, who was then removed from office by a coup led by Mathieu Kérékou later in the year. Voter turnout in the election was 56.7%.

Presidential Council (Benin)

The Presidential Council was a triumvirate system of government in the Republic of Dahomey from 7 May 1970 until 26 October 1972. The Presidential Council included Hubert Maga, Justin Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin, and Sourou-Migan Apithy as equal members of a council which held all legislative and executive power in the state of Dahomey.

1946–47 Dahomeyan General Council election

Elections to the General Council were held in French Dahomey in December 1946 and 5 January 1947. The result was a victory for the Dahomeyan Progressive Union, which won 20 of the 30 seats.

Dahomeyan Unity Party political party in Benin

The Dahomeyan Unity Party was a political party in the Republic of Dahomey.

Dahomeyan Democratic Party political party in Benin

The Dahomeyan Democratic Party was the sole legal political party in Dahomey from 1963 until 1965.

Pascal Chabi Kao is a Beninese politician.

Joseph Adjignon Keke was a Beninese politician.

1972 Dahomeyan coup détat

The 1972 Dahomeyan coup d'état was a military coup staged on 26 October 1972 by Major Mathieu Kérékou, who took control of the Republic of Dahomey and ended a system of government established following the annulled 1970 presidential election, in which three members of the Presidential Council were to rotate in power. Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin served as the Chairman at the time of the coup.


  1. Meredith, Martin (2013). The State of Africa . Simon & Schuster. p. 69. ISBN   9780857203885.
  2. Meredith, Martin (2014). The Fortunes of Africa. Simon & Schuster. p. 601. ISBN   9781471135439.
  3. Decalo, Samuel (1990). Coups and Army Rule in Africa. Yale. pp. 95–96. ISBN   0300040458.
  4. Post, Ken (1964). The New States of West Africa. Penguin. pp. 55–56.
  5. Decalo, Samuel (1990). Coups and Army Rule in Africa. Yale. pp. 98–99. ISBN   0300040458.
  6. Meredith, Martin (2013). The State of Africa. Simon & Schuster. pp. 177–178. ISBN   9780857203885.
  7. Decalo, Samuel (1990). Coups and Army Rule in Africa. Yale. p. 99. ISBN   0300040458.
  8. Dickovick, J. Tyler (2014). Africa. Stryker-Post. p. 70. ISBN   9781475812374.

Coordinates: 6°28′N2°36′E / 6.467°N 2.600°E / 6.467; 2.600