We asked you five questions about Benin. Here come the answers!
- The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but where is its seat of government?
Cotonou, the largest city. Although Parliament is based in Porto-Novo, most government departments are based in Cotonou, 40 km (25 miles) away. Before the French took over the government of what was then Dahomey, the capital was Abomey, about 120 km (70 miles) inland.
- By whom was Porto-Novo established, and what was its primary purpose?
There were earlier settlements on the site of Porto-Novo, but it was founded under that name and extensively redeveloped by the Portuguese Empire in the 16th century as a port for their slave trade. It became the capital of Dahomey in 1900, four years before the French converted their protectorate into a fully-administered colony.
- What did the “Annual Customs of Dahomey” involve?
Led by the Kings of Dahomey, they were essentially an occasion for: giving gifts and receiving tribute; vodun (voodoo) religious ceremonies, including human sacrifices; military parades; political consultations. Items connected with the Annual Customs are on display at the Abomey Historical Museum, in the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Why is Hubert Maga significant in Benin’s history?
He was the Republic of Dahomey’s first President. Born and raised in northern Dahomey, which was his powerbase, he struggled to win support from elsewhere in the country but was able to capitalise on resentment of the coastal region’s domination of politics. Together with leaders from the south-east and south-west, he steered Dahomey first to autonomy in 1958 as Prime Minister (a compromise after his southern counterparts failed to agree) and then to independence in 1960 as President. He was overthrown in a coup three years later, returned as part of a triumvirate leadership in 1970, but all three men were overthrown and imprisoned in 1972; they were released in 1981. He died in 2000.
- Many Beninese people have Akan names, following a tradition founded by the Ashanti people of Ghana. What are Akan first names normally based on?
Days of the week or order of birth. Middle names have a lot more variety and may be based on their order of birth as a twin, describe the circumstances of their birth, or be taken from an ancestor.
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