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Benin's 'father of democracy' Mathieu Kerekou dies at 82

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image copyrightAFP
image captionMathieu Kerekou came to power a second time after winning the 1996 election
Benin's former President Mathieu Kerekou, the man hailed as helping to usher in multi-party democracy in Africa, has died at the age of 82.
Mr Kerekou had two spells as president totalling nearly 30 years, first coming to power as the head of a Marxist regime in 1972.
But he then accepted the idea of multi-party democracy and organised elections, which he lost in 1991.
He became the first West African leader to admit defeat in an election.
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Current President Thomas Boni Yayi described the former president as a great man and declared a week of official mourning.

Analysis: Abdourahmane Dia, BBC Afrique

image copyrightAFP
The peaceful transfer of power in Benin in 1991 showed people in the region that a change of president can be achieved without violence.
The 1991 election was followed closely in West Africa and Mathieu Kerekou's willingness to step down - becoming the first regional leader to accept defeat at the ballot box - was welcomed.
His ideological shift, from hardline Marxist-Leninist to believing in multi-party elections, was in part due to the poor state of Benin's economy at the end of the 1980s, but also because of a change in global politics as the Cold War came to an end.
A speech in 1990 by then French President Francois Mitterrand to African leaders calling for an opening up of democracy on the continent also had a big impact.
Mr Kerekou responded to this call and is remembered with pride in Benin as the one who ushered in a new era in West Africa.
Mr Kerekou abandoned Marxism-Leninism as Benin's official ideology in December 1989.
He was under pressure because of the difficult economic situation and faced a series of protests.
He stepped down in 1991 after losing to Nicephore Soglo in a multi-party poll, but returned to power in 1996 having beaten Mr Soglo at the polls and then went on to win a second and final five-year term in 2001.

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