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23.06.2019 Benin

Ex-president Boni Yayi leaves Benin amid political crisis: party

Benin's former president Thomas Boni Yayi is said to have left the country.  By Yanick Folly (AFP/File)
LISTEN JUN 23, 2019
Benin's former president Thomas Boni Yayi is said to have left the country. By Yanick Folly (AFP/File)

Former Benin president Thomas Boni Yayi left the country on Saturday for health reasons, a spokesman for his party said, after two months of political crisis following controversial elections in April.

Boni Yayi, who had been under effective house arrest in northern Benin, left the country after "his health deteriorated rapidly", Noureni Atchade, spokesman for his Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) party, said in an interview with Radio France Internationale without giving details.

Protests first erupted in Benin after April 28 parliamentary elections. At least two people have died in clashes with police who resorted to gunfire.

The crisis has stoked concerns of an authoritarian turn in a country once seen as a democratic example in the region.

The voting took place without any opposition candidate, and all 83 members of parliament now come from the only two parties allowed to take part, both allied to President Patrice Talon.

Changes to electoral rules had effectively barred opposition parties from fielding candidates.

The demonstrators had demanded the lifting of a police cordon around Boni Yayi's house in the country's economic capital Cotonou.

The former president, Talon's predecessor, left the country without giving an explanation to the authorities, the party spokesman said, while stressing that he is not evading justice.

Most high-profile opponents of the Benin president now live in exile.

Boni Yayi had been seen as a symbol of opposition staying put in the country. He had denounced an "electoral coup" following the April polls, calling for the results to be annulled and for the people to rise up.