officially the Republic of Benin,
is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo, Nigeria,
Burkina Faso and Niger. It has a
short coastline at its south. During the colonial period and at
independence, the country was known as Dahomey.
It was renamed on November 30, 1975, to Benin after the
body of water on which the country lays, the Bight of
Benin, which had in turn been named after the Benin Empire.
of Dahomey formed from a
mixture of ethnic groups on the Abomey plain. It covered the southern third of
the present country. The kings of Dahomey
sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery, which flourished in the
region of Dahomey for almost
three hundred years, leading to the area being named "the Slave Coast".
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Dahomey started
to lose its status as the regional power. This enabled the French to take over
the area in 1892. In 1899, the French included the land called French Dahomey
within the French West Africa colony. In 1958,
France granted autonomy to
the Republic of Dahomey, and full independence as of
August 1, 1960. For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period
of turbulence, involved several coups and regime changes. On October 26, 1972,
Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the ruling triumvirate, announced that the
country was officially Marxist, started his 29 years’ ruling of this country
(he was defeated in the election of 1991-96 term). On November 30, 1975,
he renamed the country to People's
Republic of Benin and
changed it to the Republic of Benin
on March 1, 1990 after he renounced Marxism in 1989. Benin is one of the poorest
countries in the world, about a third of the population live below the
international poverty line.