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A 2nd death was reported on Friday after troops opened fire with live rounds to ‘clear’ a protest in central Benin just days before President Patrice Talon seeks re-election.
The incumbent president, Talon, a cotton magnate who was first elected in 2016, is expected to cruise to an easy victory in Sunday’s ballot with most of his main opponents exiled or disqualified, however, some of the government’s pre-election moves have elicited protests which are mostly coming from opposition bastions mostly in the centre and north of the country.
On Thursday, troops stationed at the protest ground fired tear gas and live rounds in the air to break up protesters who had blocked a major highway in the central city of Save.
According to state officials, at least one person killed and at least five wounded by gunfire.
‘One of those wounded by bullets has died this morning. So the toll is now two dead and five wounded,‘ Save city mayor Denis Oba Chabi told newsmen.
‘The situation is calm and youths have not erected any new barricades, and after negotiations,/ the military has returned to the barracks.’
Benin was long praised as a thriving multi-party democracy in often troubled West Africa, but critics say Talon has steered the country into authoritarianism with a steady crackdown on his opponents.
Most are in exile, have been disqualified by electoral reforms or targeted for investigation by special court critics say Talon has used as a political tool.
A government spokesman Alain Orounla said on Thursday security forces were attacked by ‘drugged and armed’ youths and had responded when they came under fire.
An opposition leader Joel Aivo, who is one of those disqualified from running in the election on Friday said; ‘It is our people’s constitutional right to protest in the street, to express themselves and to have their voices heard,‘
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc condemned ‘peaceful protests that gradually turned violent in several cities across the country.’
The US State Department on Friday also called on all in Benin to remain peaceful.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK