African Languages, Development and the State

By Richard Fardon; Graham Furniss | Go to book overview

4

The politics of language in Bénin

Mamoud Akanni Igué and Raphael Windali N’Ouéni

MAMOUD AKANNI IGUÉ WRITES

In the early years after the independence of Dahomey in 1960, the government set the economic development of the country as its priority and was then subject to a number of coups stemming from the fact that Dahomey had little by way of resources with which to effect such development. These difficulties were aggravated in the immediate post-Independence period as a result of the repatriation of many hundreds of Dahomeans from other francophone African countries when those countries became independent themselves. These returning expatriates joined forces with a locally-produced, newly-graduating élite in search of salaried employment. As a result of trade union and student strikes, the regime of the first president of the Dahomean Republic, Hubert Maga, fell in 1963. The army, having deposed Maga, ceded power first to Ahomadegbe and then Apithy. Two years later the army intervened again, and Colonel Soglo ruled with the assistance of civilians until 1967, when Lieutenant-Colonel Alphonse Alley became Head of State following another coup. In August 1968 the army named Dr Zinsou as Head of State following the annulment of presidential elections because of election irregularities. Then in 1969 Lieutenant-Colonel De Souza overthrew Dr Zinsou. On the 26th October 1972 a further military coup saw the rise to power of Lieutenant-Colonel Mathieu Kerekou.

In November 1972, the new régime under Kerekou set out a programme of reconstruction and national independence whose general thrust was a rejection of foreign models. For the first time the programme of the new ‘revolutionary military’ government addressed the issue of language policy for the new République Populate du Bénin proclaimed in November 1975:

until now teaching, education and culture have been at the service of foreign domination and exploitation. Equally this new policy of na-

-55-

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