Benin. According to Countryaah, Benin Independence Day is August 1. Former President Nicéphore Soglo was elected mayor of Benin’s financial center Cotonou in February. Another opposition leader, Adrien Houngbedji, who is also the Speaker of Parliament, was appointed mayor of the capital, Porto-Novo. The appointments were a result of the success of the opposition parties in the municipal elections, whose decisive round was held in January.
In the parliamentary elections at the end of March, however, the opposition fared significantly. The Union of the Future Benin (UBF) government party, together with allied small parties, received 52 of Parliament’s 83 seats.
Thanks to increased cotton exports, Benin was able to perform well financially, which at the end of 2002 had a growth of 6% and inflation of only 2.5%. The country’s way of managing its economy was rewarded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which included Benin in its debt relief program for especially indebted countries. At the end of 2002, Benin had a foreign debt of EUR 1.6 billion.
For a few days in August, neighboring Nigeria kept its border with Benin closed in protest against crime in the border area. The border was opened since the Benin government promised efforts against smuggling, human trafficking and other criminal activities on the part of Benin. A parliamentary commission was set up to investigate cross-border crime and 44 suspected robbers were extradited to Nigeria.