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Benin's President Faces More Opposition Two Years On


Benin's president Boni Yayi is facing increasing opposition two years after coming to power. Mr. Yayi, an independent banker and political outsider, succeeded Mathieu Kerekou who had ruled the small West African nation for all but five years since 1972. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Joel Aivo, a spokesman for the opposition Party for Renewal of Democracy says he speaks for many in Benin when he says he feels President Yayi has been a waste.

He says there was so much hope with a new president, who was a fresh face in Benin's political arena.

But he says in terms of access to health, buying power, democracy, and bringing about decentralization, he believes things are getting worse not better, despite repeated promises.

A total of 13 lawmakers previously allied to the president recently defected from the president's parliamentary group, saying they did not agree with government policy.

Criticism from outside political circles is more mixed, but intensifying as well.

Martin Assogba, the head of a non-governmental organization, says it all started well for Mr. Yayi, but that it has become too political recently.

He says Beninese want a developer, he says, at the head of their country, not a politician.

He gives as an example the fight against corruption, which he says had a promising start, but has since slowed down.

A presidential assistant and spokesman for Mr. Yayi, Eric Adja says new government programs such as free primary schooling, funding for youth employment, and micro-credit opportunities for market women are notable accomplishments.

"This is something exceptional in Africa," he noted. "I would like to share this conviction that we have a president with a vision. His vision is emerging Benin. It is to make our country an emerging nation, and just in two years, President Yayi Boni has helped build the national economy. We have economic growth from three percent, [and] now are targeting six percent."

Adja says the presidential camp has no problems with not having unanimity of thought, he says, but that constructive criticism is needed rather than just rhetoric.

"Criticism is useful for democracy," he said. "There is no democracy without differences of opinion. The problem is, what else do they propose? They should not just criticize, but they should also propose alternative ways of doing it. So we have a stable democracy in Benin and we hope that the opponents will join hands together with other ideas. We are open."

President Yayi has three more years in power, but his supporters from the coalition known by its French acronym FCBE (Force Cauris pour un Benin Emergent) which in English means the Seashell's Strength for an Emerging Benin, face a test during local elections scheduled for April 20.