Opposition Figure Charged With Terrorism In Benin

A leading figure in Benin’s opposition and a fellow party worker have been charged with criminal association and terrorism, their lawyer said on Tuesday, in a case that has sparked accusations of authoritarianism ahead of presidential elections.

Bio Dramane Tidjani, from the opposition Democrats party, and his associate Mamadou Tidjani were charged late Monday by a special court in Cotonou, attorney Renaud Agbodjo said.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the nature of the charges against the pair, who had been in custody since February 22.

Bio Dramane Tidjani is not well known by the public but is important within the party and close to its leader, Rekiath Madougou.

“Bio Dramane Tidjani and Mamadou Tidjani are political hostages,” Madougou said.

Last month, two other members of her party, former MPs Noureini Atchade and Justin Adjovi, were brought before the same tribunal, the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court (CRIET), but were released after being questioned.

The charges come ahead of presidential elections on April 11 that will pitch President Patrice Talon against two lesser-known candidates — former minister Alassane Soumano and Corentin Kohoue, a dissident opposition figure.

Seventeen other candidates, including Madougou, have had their candidacies rejected by the electoral commission for failing to garner signatures of support from 16 mayors or MPs.

The signature threshold was introduced by Talon in a contested election reform.

It has been attacked as a blow to multi-party democracy in a country long viewed as a beacon of vibrant debate. In parliamentary elections in 2019, opposition parties were unable to field any candidates.

Madougou, who is an ally of Talon’s main rival, former president Boni Yayi, said she was a victim of “fantasy accusations and delusions by a controlled judiciary.”

Talon, a cotton tycoon, was elected in 2016.

He had initially said he would complete only one mandate, later changing his mind and announcing in mid-February he was running again.