Benin: the Yayi Boni enigma

The least one can say about Benin President Yayi Boni is that he is not your ordinary, “typical” kind of African President.  He welcomes guests in his presidential palace of “La Marina” in Cotonou with such ease that one might think that he has done that for all of his life, and that he came to power after a populist “coup”. But he has not. As a former banker and head of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), Yayi Boni was more like a technocratic international civil servant, like Benin is used to breed and send to the World Bank and IMF in Washington. But Yayi Boni’s true passion was politics, and he has secretly sworn, by the beginning of 2000, that he would climb the latter to become President of his country. For many of his friends with whom he shared this ambition, he seemed at best like an idealist, and for some of the people he tried to convince that he would be his country’s next leader, he was merely a lunatic. But Yayi Boni was neither of those; he was a man with an ambition, and means to fulfill it. His main opponent during the 2006 presidential campaign was Adrien Houngbedji, long time historical opponent to then-president Mathieu Kerekou. Hougbedji was the favorite to win this presidential race, and regional godfather and Gabonese president Omar Bongo supported him. Yet Yayi Boni managed to get a sweeping 40% of votes during the first round of the presidential election, and finally got more then 70% in the final vote. When asked about which animal he prefers, Yayi Boni likes to compare himself to a turtle: “steady, slow, but yet with a very strong will”. Maybe what people don’t know about this enigmatic President, is that he is a man of Faith, a convert to evangelist church with a very strong belief in resurrection. This faith gave him the power to sustain himself in power during the second election held in 2011, in which he got reelected despite previsions that he would be beaten. A real phoenix performance…

About Geraldine Boechat 1535 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia