Wole Soyinka. Photo credit: Abiola Balogun.

Professors Wole Soyinka and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. are among a group of 50 African and American intellectuals who have signed a letter to President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic calling for fresh elections in the country. Premium Times reports that the group condemns how “Mr Talon suppressed opposition’s participation in the election by colluding with the electoral commission to disqualify his most potent challengers, leaving only two political parties that support his ambition.”

The letter—among whose signatories are Jacob Olupona, Ropo Sekoni, Catherine Coquery, and Francis Affergan—is said to praise Benin’s 30 years of constitutional democracy while warning that “this democratic model is in great danger.” It describes the country’s April 28 parliamentary poll—widely boycotted by voters—as “particularly turbulent and marked, in some places, by deadly violence.”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Photo from Variety.

“We respectfully appeal to the democratically elected President, Patrice Talon, to courageously invalidate the results of these highly contested elections,” it reads. “We ask President Talon to call new elections on a new basis that guarantees, instead of excluding it before hand, the effective participation of the opposition in an open and transparent national competition.”

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Premium Times reports that, according to official data, “about 27 per cent of the five million registered voters took part in the parliamentary poll to fill 83 seats,” while “some independent estimates put the turnout at barely 10 per cent. Even supporters of the president also reportedly boycotted the exercise.”

Elected in 2016 on promises of a stronger economy and democracy, Talon’s three years in office has seen “complaints. . . mounting that Mr Talon, 61, was cracking down on civil space in a country once seen as a model for democracy on the continent.”

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