Benin ‘foils plot’ to poison country’s leader and AU Chairman

Benin President and current Chairman of the African Union Dr Yayi Boni

A plot to poison Benin’s leader and current Chairman of the African Union, Dr Thomas Yayi Boni, has been foiled by the country’s presidency after those involved were arrested before they could carry out their act. Yayi’s niece, doctor and ex-minister, were arrested in a conspiracy allegedly prompted by his decision to end major business concessions.

Making the announcement, Benin’s public prosecutor, Justin Gbenameto, told journalists that prosecutors “have requested their indictment for criminal conspiracy and attempted assassination of the head of state”. Those arrested include Moudjaidou Soumanou, former minister of commerce; Ibrahim Mama Cisse, Yayi’s personal doctor; and Zouberath Kora-Seke, one of Yayi’s nieces, who worked at the presidency. “Thankfully, the plot was not successful,” said Gbenameto. “Zouberath spoke about it with her sister and others, and it was those people who warned the head of state.”

The 60-year-old Yayi is an economist who first took office in 2006 and won re-election last year. It was alleged that the president’s niece and his doctor were promised $2 million to replace Yayi’s anti-pain medicine with poison. According to prosecutors, Soumanou played an intermediary role. The instigator of the plot was alleged to be a Benin businessman named as Patrice Talon, a former ally of the President who has recently been at odds with him.

Talon is currently out of the country and has not been detained, but Gbenameto told the AFP news agency that Benin authorities intended to issue an arrest warrant for him. “On October 17, according to various people, during the head of state’s trip to Brussels, his niece who accompanied him was said to have been invited to the hotel where Patrice Talon was staying,” Gbenameto said. “He had succeeded in convincing her to give the head of state products which would have been provided by the head of state’s personal doctor.”

An aide to the president, speaking on condition of anonymity, alleged that the plot may have been linked to a decision to end a monopoly for a company supplying materials for the cotton industry as well as a major port contract. Both the port and cotton industry in the West African nation of some nine million people are major sectors of the country’s economy.

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