Ambassador Oliver Nette/Photo: EU

Benin expels EU ambassador for interfering in local politics

The government of Republic of Benin has expelled the EU ambassador to the country for interfering in its internal affairs.

Ambassador Oliver Nette, a German-born diplomat, was issued the expulsion order over his activities which the Beninese government considers as interference in its domestic political affairs.

“He has interfered too much in domestic affairs,” a senior Beninese diplomat reportedly told the news agency AFP on condition of anonymity. “He constantly calls on civil society to protest against the government.”

The Paris-based Jeune Afrique magazine, citing sources in the government, reported that Nette “on several occasions and during various meetings” undermined the “legitimacy” of the current parliament, elected in May under a new, controversial election law. Opposition parties were effectively barred from participation in the polls because they did not meet the stricter criteria laid out in the law.

The EU has demanded clarifications from the Beninese government over the expulsion of its ambassador. An EU spokeswoman confirmed that Nette had been asked to leave latest by 1 December and said that Benin authorities informed the European bloc of the decision one week ago.

“For the EU, nothing can justify such a measure in the generally good relations that have existed up until now between the EU and Benin,” she said, according to the AFP.

“We have demanded as a matter of urgency from our partners in Benin some clarification on the specific reasons for their decision, but we have not received them yet,” the EU spokeswoman was reported as saying.

Benin has been embroiled in a political crisis for more than a year over President Patrice Talon’s alleged repression of the political opposition.

Opposition parties were excluded from the parliamentary elections, held in May 2019 and which recorded only about 25% voter turnout.  Turnout has not been below 50% since Benin’s transition to democracy in 1990. The ruling party won the controversial polls and now totally controls the legislature.

The country has witnessed several public protests calling for the resignation of Talon, who was elected in 2016, with rights groups, such as Amnesty International, warning of the descent of Benin, which has a reputation of a stable democracy in the region, into dictatorship.

Kola Tella

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