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sunnuntai 20. syyskuuta 2015

Benin, Cool Facts #69

<= 68. Burkina Faso                                                                                                            70. Mali =>

1. Dahomey Kingdom - Black Sparta

The Dahomey Kingdom became the biggest force in Benin in the 1700s. Dahomey concentrated heavily on military preparation and achievement. Young boys were apprenticed to older soldiers and taught the military customs before they were old enough to join the army. Dahomey had also an elite female soldier corps, called the Ahosi, which the European called the Dahomean Amazons. This military culture of Dahomey earned them the nickname of black Sparta. The city-state of Porto-Novo was a longtime rival to the kingdom of Dahomey.

Dahomey Amazons

2. Dahomey - Benin 

In 1972 major Mathieu Kerekou rose in power and declared Dahomey as a Marxist country. Three years later in 1975 Kerekou changed the name of the country from Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin. The name was selected for its neutrality, Dahomey was a name taken from the Dahomey Kingdom which didn't represent the whole country such as Porto-Novo, Atakora and the kingdom of Borgu. Benin used the Ghanaian flag as a model for their flag with Pan-African colors and like Ghana, Benin had adopted a name from a historical kingdom which located somewhere else than in the current Benin or Ghana. The ancient Ghana was located in Sahel area and Benin in the current Nigeria.  

Flag of Dahomey Kingdom

3. Slave Coast

In the 1600-1700s European slave traders arrived to the coast of Benin and established trade bases, where from they traded slaves with the king of Dahomey. The slave trade began first in 1472 with an agreement with the Portuguese, and lasted until 1885, when the last slave ship departed to Brazil. In the most profitable years the king of Dahomey was estimated to earn 250,000 British pounds from the slave trade. In 1780s about 100,000 slaves were traded but by the 1860s the number had declined to 24,000 per decade as a result of slavery being abolished in most parts of the world.

Nicknames for different African countries during the colonial times: 

Slave Coast = Benin
Ivory Coast = Ivory Coast
Gold Coast = Ghana
Pepper Coast = Liberia

4. Birthplace of Voodoo

Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo. The Voodoo culture spread from Benin to the Caribbean with the slaves. The town of Ouidah in the coast of Benin is the spiritual center of Beninese Voodoo. According to the statistics 17.3% of the population practice Voodoo in Benin. Other countries where it's still practiced are for example Haiti, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Brazil. Nowadays Voodoo incorporates also many aspects of Christianity.

Voodoo ceremony in Ouidah

5. Democracy

The beginning of the independence was hard for Benin, there were 8 military coups, before Mathieu Kerekou managed to stabilize his power in 1972. Benin was Marxist from 1972 until 1990. In 1991 first free elections were held after three decades. Nicephore Soglo won Kerekou and thus Kerekou became the first black African president to step down after an election. In 1996 and again in 2001 Kerekou won the presidential elections, but in 2006 Kerekou rejected to run for the presidency, because the constitution prevented the re-election. Currently Benin is a model country in Africa about pluralistic democracy.

Nicephore Soglo (left) and Mathieu Kerekou (right)


1600s Dahomey Kingdom is ruled by king Wegbaja with Abomey as the capital
1600-1700s The European slave traders started slave trade with the king of Dahomey
1700s Profitable slave trade gave Dahomey the nickname Slave Coast
1890s The French went into war with the Foni conquering Abomey
1894 The French defeat finally king Behanzin's troops and attaches Dahomey to the French West Africa
1946 Dahomey becomes an overseas territory of France
1952 The first political parties are born after the general strike
1958 Dahomey becomes an autonomic republic
1960 Dahomey becomes independent
1972 After many military coups, major Mathieu Kerekou managed to stabilize his power and declared Benin as a socialist people's republic
1975 The name of the country was changed from Dahomey to Benin
1990 Multiparty system was permitted after the renunciation of Marxism-Leninism
1991 First free elections in three decades, Nicephore Soglo won the elections
1996 Mathieu Kerekou becomes the president
2001 Kerekou wins the presidential elections again

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

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