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Ex-leader leaves Benin with political crisis unresolved

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Benin’s former leader Thomas Boni Yayi (2nd L, white) prepares to shake hands with Benin’s President Patrice Talon upon his arrival in Cotonou, Benin on November 20, 2019, for a brief meeting with Benin’s President five months after leaving de-facto house arrest amid a political standoff. – Boni Yayi quit the West African nation in June ostensibly for medical treatment after being confined to his home following his criticism of one-sided parliamentary elections that sparked protests. He was due to meet rival Talon alongside a delegation from regional bloc ECOWAS and would then jet out of the country immediately after the encounter, sources said. (Photo by Yanick Folly / AFP)

Former leader Thomas Boni Yayi has left Benin without meeting President Patrice Talon, after briefly returning from exile for talks aimed at easing a political crisis, sources said Thursday.

Boni Yayi flew in to Benin on Wednesday after spending some five months abroad. He had gone into exile after being held under de facto house arrest for criticising parliamentary elections that sparked mass protests in the West African country.

He had been expected to meet rival Talon alongside a delegation from regional bloc ECOWAS for talks aimed at resolving the tensions set off by the April vote.

But allies of Boni Yayi, Talon’s predecessor as president from 2006-16, said he left Cotonou abruptly on Wednesday evening without meeting the president as he believed his demand for a re-run of the election would be rejected.

The former French colony has previously been seen as among the region’s most stable democracies.

But Talon, a former business magnate, has been accused of carrying out a concerted crackdown that has driven key rivals into exile.

Boni Yayi’s reappearance in the country came after Talon, seeking to paper over the political crisis, urged his return.

Parties allied to Talon won all the seats at the disputed April polls after opposition groups were effectively banned from standing.

Talon, who made his fortune in cotton, hosted a political “dialogue” last month to try to calm the tensions but several main opposition groups were not invited to the event.

The country subsequently tweaked its constitution and electoral law but the opposition complained that the changes fell well short of their expectations.


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