(b. 2 Sept. 1933).
President of Benin 1972–91, 1996–2006Born in the provincial capital of Natitingou (western Benin), he enlisted in the French colonial army and became an officer in the armed forces of the newly independent state in 1961. In a decade of political instability and military coups he became vice‐president of the military revolutionary council and took part in the overthrow of President Soglo in 1967. He only became politically active in 1972, however, when in a coup he declared himself President, Prime Minister, and Defence Minister all in one. His power was rubber‐stamped by a Revolutionary People's Council in 1980, 1984, and 1989. In 1987 he took the first steps toward democratization by resigning as chief of the military. He gave way to popular protest and allowed presidential elections in 1991. Following his defeat he became one of the few leaders of a Black African state to resign voluntarily, only to win a narrow election victory in 1996. Subsequently, he pursued a moderate economic policy, but he was unable to reduce his country's economic reliance on France on the one hand, and Nigeria on the other. He was re‐elected in 2001, but did not run again in 2006 because of the constitutional age limit of 70 for presidential candidates.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).