Benin: Cleric Attacked for Endorsing Opposition Candidate

A cleric escaped an abduction attempt at his home in Cotonou on January 24, 2016, but remains the target of a manhunt by security forces after he endorsed an opposition candidate over that of the ruling class in a televised discussion.

Pastor Elvis Dagba declared on January 22, 2016 on the privately-owned Golfe TV Africa that Patrice Talon is the best candidate in the February 2016 presidential election. This statement is believed to have disturbed close associates of Lionel Zinsou, protégé of outgoing president Yayi Boni and one of the leading contestants. Pastor Dagba also allegedly warned the electorate that Lionel Zinsou was pursuing a French agenda.

“From the day of this broadcast to date, I have received threats from all over,” the pastor said in an interview with the Matinal newspaper.

Dagba said on December 24, 2015, he was forced to flee his home because security forces had come to pick him up around 8. 00 Hours GMT, adding that he was saved by the populace who stood up to them. Nevertheless, the armed men broke his gate, beat up his watchman whom they handcuffed and carried into detention. They also arrested one of the pastor’s neighbours who opposed their action.

‘’What has happened shows that we are in a country where human rights and democracy are not respected,’’ the pastor lamented.

Joseph Djogbenou, a Member of Parliament and the lawyer defending Pastor Dagba, confirmed that the pastor’s house is surrounded by security officials.  “This is a blatant attack on freedom of expression”, the lawyer fumed.

The MFWA denounces the harassment of the cleric for his political views. We call on the authorities in Benin to rein in the trouble-makers involved in this act of intimidation and violation of freedom of expression. We also call on the state to ensure the safety of the pastor.

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