Benin Coup Against President Foiled, Prosecutor Says

Benin authorities foiled an attempt to oust President Thomas Boni Yayi and install a military regime in the West African nation, state prosecutor Justin S. Gbenameto said.

Pamphile Zomahoun, an army commander, and Johannes Dagnon, a Beninese businessman, were arrested for planning “to block the head of state from returning to Cotonou” and to institute a military regime, Gbenameto told reporters yesterday in Cotonou, the capital. Joseph Djogbenou, a lawyer for Dagnon, said on television that his client had no involvement with any coup plot. No lawyer for Zomahoun could be identified.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Gbenameto said.

Yayi has ruled Benin, situated between Nigeria and Togo on the Gulf of Guinea, since 2006 and won a second term in office in 2011. The 60-year-old leader, who in January completed a one-year term as chairman of the African Union, traveled to Equatorial Guinea last month for a summit with South American leaders, Gbenameto said.

Security Minister Benoit Degla vowed to jail everyone involved in the alleged coup plot.

“Benin does not deserve this coup,” he said in a statement on state television.

Last year, businessman Patrice Talon was also suspected of an attempted coup and is now living in exile in France. The president’s niece, his personal physician and others were arrested after being accused of scheming to replace the president’s heart medication with poison.

Benin’s $7.3 billion economy relies on agriculture to generate more than a third of total output and provides employment for 70 percent of its workforce, according to the African Development Bank.

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