Benin's police have opened an investigation into what some government officials are calling a possible assassination attempt on President Thomas Boni Yayi. Mr. Yayi was unharmed in Thursday's attack, which officials say may have been a simple robbery attempt. As Kari Barber reports from our regional bureau in Dakar, officials hope the incident will not affect upcoming parliamentary elections.
A spokesman for Mr. Yayi says the president is doing well after gunmen fired on a vehicle in his entourage late Thursday in the north of the country.
It is unclear whether anyone was injured in the attack.
Mr. Yayi was leaving a parliament election campaign rally when the incident occurred.
Officials say Mr. Yayi was in a different car than he would typically ride in. The car he normally would have been in was riddled with bullets.
Spokesman for the president Edgar Guidibi says the government is hopeful the attack will not negatively affect the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 25.
He says the government has no leads on the assailants. Guidibi says he believes the attack was either the work of mafia who wanted to attack the president or random violence from common robbers.
He says people across the country are watching carefully to make sure violence does not mar the polls and the campaign process.
Guidibi says the country is typically peaceful and calm.
Local journalist Gerard Guedegbe says bandit attacks are common in the area the president was traveling.
"Where this situation happened is a trade center between Nigeria and Benin and many traders used to be here, and sometimes people use to trap them," he said. "They would put some branches from trees on the road and trap them and if they resisted, they would shoot them. They think this is what happened to the president yesterday."
Guedegbe says the population is waiting eagerly to find out if this attack was aimed at the president, and if the attackers are found.
Benin has had a multiparty, democratic political system since the 1990s. The country is hailed as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa.