India president announces $100m loan for Benin

India's president has announced a loan of $100m (£82m) for developmental projects in Benin on a visit to the West African nation.

Ram Nath Kovind was received in Cotonou by President Patrice Talon on Monday - on the first stop of a West African tour Africa. He is continuing on to The Gambia and Guinea.

Presidents of India and Benin
President of India

It is the first visit by an Indian head of state to the three countries.

President Kovind also addressed Benin's National Assembly in the capital, Porto-Novo, and attended a banquet hosted in his honour. He tweeted a clip of his parliamentary speech, saying it was an historic day in relations between the two countries:

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He said that India was committed to support Benin’s growth and development and that he was "happy to note that implementation of the $42.6m credit for upgrading of water supply schemes in 103 villages in Benin, is proceeding well".

Defence and security co-operation were also on the agenda, with India offering further training assistance to Benin to expand its anti-piracy capacity.

Slain Benin tourist guide hailed

People have been paying tribute to Fiacre Gbédji, a Beninese guide who was killed by militants in northern Benin on 1 May.

Mr Gbédji was taking two French tourists on a safari in the remote Pendjari National Park in northern Benin when they were attacked.

His disfigured body was found shortly after they disappeared, along with their abandoned vehicle.

The tourists were taken hostage but were rescued last week by French special forces. Two hostages, from US and South Korea, were freed as well.

Two French soldiers and four kidnappers were killed in the operation.

Mr Gbédji's employer, Move with Africa programme, mourned him as a dedicated colleague who was always smiling and affable.

He was a father of five and also served as an educator Natitingou, in the north-west of the country, Libre Belgique newspaper reports.

A government delegation led by the tourism minister visited Mr Gbédji's family to express their condolences.

A French official also sent condolences to his family:

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'Lethal force' used against Benin protesters

Army and police in Benin's commercial capital, Cotonou, have been using force to clear hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the home of the former president, Thomas Boni Yayi.

Witnesses have told AFP news agency that three people were killed. Details are still coming in.

Supporters of Mr Yayi took to the streets on Wednesday after he called for the results of Sunday's parliamentary election to be annulled.

Later that night, members of Benin's security forces "went against orders" and used "lethal weapons" against opposition protesters, Benin's interior minister has told French-language broadcaster RFI.

But other government members have denied the use of live rounds, according to RFI.

Protesters barricade the streets of Cadjehoun the stronghold of former president of Benin Thomas Boni Yayi on 2 May 2019, in Cotonou.
Protesters have barricaded streets in the Cadjehoun neighbourhood of Contonou

Mr Yayi is one of a number of high-profile figures who have challenged the legitimacy of Sunday's parliamentary election, in which no opposition candidates were allowed to take part.

Initial results showed turnout was just 23% - a record low.

Benin election: Low turnout after opposition barred

Benin election officials

Just 23% of those who registered to vote in Benin bothered to cast their ballots in Sunday's parliamentary election, in which opposition candidates were barred from running.

This was a record low turnout, AFP news agency reports.

The candidates who did run were from parties aligned to President Patrice Talon.

Opposition hopefuls were unable to take part as they did not meet new stringent eligibility requirements.

Benin has often been held up as a model of democracy. Five years ago candidates from 20 parties were able to run for parliament, AFP says.

Benin opposition wants vote annulled

Politicians in Benin on Monday evening gave the president 24 hours to invalidate the results of Sunday's legislative election, which didn't have a single opposition party on the ballot.

But a spokesman for the president has dismissed their challenge. Wilfried Léandre Houngbedji labelled their actions "fear-mongering" and says the polls were conducted in line with the law, RFI reports.

Opposition figures grouped together and issued their demand on Monday evening after meeting in the main city, Cotonou. The group includes a number of high-profile figures, including former Presidents Boni Yayi and Nicéphore Soglo.

Voter turnout in elections was potentially the lowest in decades, according to AFP.

A Beninese voter arrives to cast her ballot on Sunday 28 April 2019.
Voters were given ballots which featured no opposition parties

Five opposition parties had been barred from taking part in Sunday's polls by electoral authorities, who ruled they did not meet the requirements. New electoral laws pushed through this year mean a party had to pay about $424,000 (£328,000) to field a list for the 83-seat parliament.

The two parties that met the criteria - Republican Bloc and the Progressive Union - are loyal to President Patrice Talon, who has been in power since 2016.

Internet access has been restricted with social media and messaging apps blocked in the West African nation.