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Protests broke out in Benin Republic Tuesday in another day of tensions as opposition demonstrators burned property of pro-government deputies and blockaded roads, days before President Patrice Talon faces an election.
Tensions have erupted in several towns around the West African country since Monday night, local residents and witnesses said, in the lead-up to Sunday’s ballot in which Talon is strongly favoured to win a second term.
Benin has long been seen as a vibrant multi-party democracy but critics say under Talon the country has veered into authoritarianism and opponents have been sidelined by a crackdown.
In Save in the central north region, a stronghold of former President Boni Yayi, angry youths ransacked a toll station at the entrance from the city, local residents said.
‘A dozen young people dismantled the toll facilities,‘ said Simboti Tcheitcha Victorine, a motorist who retreated to a nearby town. ‘Others chanted slogans hostile to President Patrice Talon.’
Motorcycles and several vehicles were also burned in the home of a pro-Talon lawmaker, local sources said.
Opposition leaders say the April 11 election is already rigged in favor of Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016.
Towards the north, the Save-Tchaourou route was still blocked Tuesday afternoon by tree trunks and burnt tires, witnesses reported.
In Tchaourou, the hometown of Yayi, young demonstrators attempted to attack a military vehicle, but a military source told correspondents that the driver and the vehicle suffered no damage. Talon is running against two little-known rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.
Government officials have dismissed opposition calls to rally in the streets and said the election will go ahead without any problems.
‘We have demonstrated that we are a democratic state,‘ government spokesman Alain Orounla said.
‘In accordance with democratic rules, we tolerate these little scuffles that we are not going to allow to continue because Beninese must go and vote in peace.’
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK