Portal:Benin

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Benin (bi-NIN), officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north; its short coastline to the south leads to the Bight of Benin.

Its size is just over 110000 km2 with a population of almost 8,500,000. Its capital is the Yoruba founded city of Porto-Novo but the seat of government is the Fon city of Cotonou.

A democratic government between 1960 and 1972 was followed by a self-proclaimed "Marxist-Leninist" dictatorship between 1972 and 1991, which was highly repressive and led to economic collapse. Multiparty elections have taken place since 1991. About a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day. Main income sources are subsistence agriculture and cotton.

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Gbe languages.png

The Gbe languages (Ewe pronunciation: [ɡbè]) form a cluster of about twenty related languages stretching across the area between eastern Ghana and western Nigeria. The total number of speakers of Gbe languages is between four and eight million. The most widely spoken Gbe language is Ewe (3 million speakers in Ghana and Togo), followed by Fon (1.7 million, mainly in Benin). The Gbe languages were traditionally placed in the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo languages, but more recently have been classified as Volta-Niger. They include five major dialect clusters: Ewe, Fon, Aja, Gen, and Phla-Pherá.

Most of the Gbe peoples have come from the east to their present dwelling-places in several migrations between the tenth and the fifteenth century. Some of the Phla-Pherá peoples however are thought to be the original inhabitants of the area who have intermingled with the Gbe immigrants, and the Gen people probably are immigrants from the north of Ga or Fante origin. In the late eighteenth century, many speakers of Gbe were enslaved and transported to the New World, causing Gbe languages to play a role in the genesis of several Caribbean creole languages.

Around 1840, German missionaries started linguistic research into the Gbe languages. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Africanist Diedrich Hermann Westermann was one of the most prolific contributors to the study of Gbe. The first internal classification of the Gbe languages was published in 1988 by H.B. Capo, followed by a comparative phonology in 1991. The Gbe languages are tonal, isolating languages and the basic word order is Subject Verb Object. (Read more...)

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Cové1.jpg
Credit: Grete Howard

The Gelede masked festival of Cové, Benin.

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edit Justin Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin (January 16, 1917 in Abomey – March 8, 2002 in Cotonou) was a Beninese politician most active when his country was known as Dahomey. He arose on a political scene where one's power was dictated by what region in Dahomey they lived. He served as president of the National Assembly of Dahomey from April 1959 to November 1960 and as prime minister of Benin from 1964 to 1965.

Ahomadégbé became President as part of a system that rotated the office between three leading political figures: Ahomadégbé, Hubert Maga, and Sourou-Migan Apithy. Maga peacefully handed power to Ahomadégbé on May 7, 1972. On October 26, 1972, he was overthrown in a coup d'état led by Mathieu Kérékou. All three remained under house arrest until 1981.

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