President overturns ban on opposition protest
On 16th March 2017, the ban on activities of all student associations, federations and unions issued by the government in October 2016 was rendered "null and void" by the Constitutional Court of Benin. The ban was ruled unconstitutional as it violates freedom of association as enshrined in the country's constitution. Student unions and members of civil society welcomed the court decision.
On 26th July, the Council of Ministers approved a new decree on the conditions for collaboration of student organisations with the central state and university administrations, thereby complying with the decision of the Constitutional Court and observing students' rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. The government, however, still urged students to improve their organisation and warned that freedom of association cannot give way to anarchy.
On 22nd June, President Patrice Talon bypassed the decision of the prefect of Littoral department to ban planned anti-government protests organised by the opposition and civil society. In an official communiqué, President Talon urged the prefect to authorise the marches as planned and further called on the security forces to ensure the demonstrators' safety. He further reiterated the importance of respecting freedom of expression, even for those who hold different political views. He concluded by asking his supporters to refrain from holding a counter-march and rather asked them to work towards achieving the government programme - Bénin révélé - to advance the lives of every citizen. Consequently, close to 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Cotonou on 22nd June in response to the call made by the Front pour le Sursaut Patriotique to denounce poor governance within the Talon administration. At the same time, the labour unions of the port of Cotonou staged a two-day strike against what they call "disguised privatisation".
On 28th August, a peaceful protest with hundreds of participants took place in support of Kémi Séba, a French-Beninese activist who was detained in Dakar, Senegal for burning 5,000 francs CFA on 19th August as a call to abolish the francs CFA, a currency used in West Africa. The protesters burned 1,000 and 500 francs CFA bills.This followed a peaceful protest on 19th August organised by the civil society organisation - Urgences Panafricanistes. Civil society actors across West Africa were successfully mobilised to protest against what they call Françafrique - neocolonialism, and in particular, against the CFA. Such a demonstration was held in Cotonou followed by a press conference during which youth activists expressed their concerns over the country’s ties with France.
In July, freedom of artistic expression was championed by the project “Call-Shop” that aims to connect spectators and artists with performances, audiences and teams. The initiative was developed by the Association Pool of Germany, in collaboration with the association KATOULATI of Benin, and aims to fight against the discrimination of African artists.