Benin Authorities Say Second Coup Attempt Foiled in Five MonthsSerge-David Zoueme and Pauline Bax
Benin authorities said they foiled a plot to oust President Thomas Yayi Boni, the second coup attempt in five months attributed to a man now living in exile.
Johannes Dagnon, a Beninese businessman, and Pamphile Zomahoun, an army commander, were arrested for planning “to block the head of state from returning to Cotonou” and to install a military regime in the West African nation, state prosecutor Justin Gbenameto told reporters yesterday in Cotonou, the capital.
Dagnon is an associate of Patrice Talon, another Beninese businessman who has been living in France since authorities accused him of planning to kill Yayi Boni by having a physician replace his daily heart medication with poison, Gbenameto said.
“The investigation is ongoing” into the apparent first attempt, he said.
Three people were arrested in October in connection with the alleged conspiracy to poison Yayi Boni. In December, Benin’s prosecutor asked France to extradite Talon.
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.
Yayi Boni has ruled Benin, situated between Nigeria and Togo and known as the birthplace of voodoo, since 2006 and won a second term in office in 2011. He traveled to Equatorial Guinea last month for a summit with South American leaders, Gbenameto said.
“There are concerns that Yayi will try and amend the constitution to give himself a third term in power, which could increase the risk of coup plots as anti-Yayi elements attempt to prevent the president from monopolizing power,” Robert Borthwick, Africa analyst at the Bath, U.K.-based risk-analysis company Maplecroft, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The 60-year-old leader has “vigorously pursued those involved in the last coup attempt and is extremely sensitive to perceived or substantive threats to his rule,” Borthwick said.
Benin’s $7.3 billion economy relies on agriculture including cotton to generate more than a third of total output and provides employment for 70 percent of its workforce, according to the African Development Bank.