Benin ALERT: Police tear gas and arrest demonstrators

On May 6, 2015, gendarmes and police officers fired tear gas at demonstrators in Cotonou.

 The MFWA’s correspondent in Benin reported that members of the opposition and civil society organised a peaceful march to protest an attempt to arrest Member of Parliament Candide Azannaï on May 4 at his home in Cotonou.

Azannaï, who was a minister in President Boni Yayi’s government but later defected to the opposition, has been linked with Patrice Talon, a man suspected by the authorities to have been responsible for an attempt to poison President Yayi. Azannaï is also said to be opposed to a potential constitutional amendment to enable the president to run for a third term.

According to the correspondent, the policemen and gendarmes prevented the demonstrators from meeting at Red Star Square, their rallying point. They were, however, able to organise themselves and started the march, but the police tear-gassed them and prevented them from delivering their statement.

The demonstrators subsequently decided to go to CANAL 3 to make their statement. However, the policemen and gendarmes followed them there and fired more tear gas into the television station and its environs.

The policemen and gendarmes then arrested some demonstrators and seized their cars.

“It is not clear the number that were arrested, while the police claim they arrested 14 of the demonstrators, the organisers claim 30 people were arrested,” the MFWA’s correspondent said.

According to the correspondent, 14 people appeared before the State Prosecutor at the Cotonou magistrate’s court on May 7. Seven of the arrested demonstrators were reportedly sent to the Cotonou civil prison.

It should be stated that the Minister of the Interior had banned the march, but the Mayor of Cotonou authorised it.

The MFWA condemns this attack on the demonstrators who were exercising their civil and human rights. We call on the President Yayi to urge the police and gendarmerie to respect the right to assembly and to demonstrate in Benin.

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