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August 02, 2010

Benin Silences RFI After Report on Presidential Scandal

Radio France International is back on the air in Benin after the West African nation's government silenced it for 14 hours after it reported that lawmakers were attempting to impeach the president.

The FM signal of the French state-owned radio station went dead in Benin shortly after midnight Tuesday.  Later that morning, the RFI correspondent, Raissa Gbedji, told reporters he was questioned for several hours by Benin's media regulatory body.

No reason was given for why RFI's signal was cut.

On Monday, Gbedji reported that 50 of Benin's 83 members of parliament accused President Boni Yayi of being involved in a financial scandal that defrauded investors of some $200 million (100 billion CFA francs).

The deputies accused Mr. Yayi last week of "abuse of authority and perjury," and called for a trial.  They say Mr. Yayi, a former banker, facilitated the activities of an investment company, ICC Services, which in turned funded the presidency and associated organizations.

ICC is accused of luring investors with promises of high interest rates, and then embezzling the money.

On July 7, Mr. Yayi fired his interior minister for involvement in the swindle.

Mr. Yayi was elected in 2006.  He pledged to fight corruption.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Benin on 50 years of independence, saying Benin's vibrant democracy and stability made it a key ally for the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.