Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2018 13:39:30 +0100

Cotonou, Feb 7, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's public sector unions on Wednesday claimed "a small step forward" following a meeting with President Patrice Talon over weeks of strike action that have paralysed the public sector.   Union leaders met government officials and Talon on Tuesday night to discuss an end to the crisis, which has seen mass walk-outs at hospitals, schools and courts.

"We brought up the question of freedoms and expressed our unhappiness... the head of state did not dismiss it," Anselme Amoussou, of the confederation of independent unions, told AFP.   "There's been a small step forward", he added but maintained that planned strike action would not be suspended.   Benin has been gripped by industrial action for weeks over Talon's proposed free-market reforms that are intended to kick-start the country's economy.   Unions want better pay and conditions for their members and also opposed a plan to ban public sector workers from going on strike.    The constitutional court last month declared the proposed law to be unconstitutional.

Talon said the government "did not have the means" to take on commitments of 700 billion CFA francs ($1.3 billion, 1.1 billion euros) in the next 10 years.   To do so would not be responsible and was unrealistic, he added in a statement published late on Tuesday.   The government has set up a commission to look into the demands of public sector workers. It is due to report on February 15.   Talon, a former businessman who made his fortune in the cotton sector, vowed that he would increase dialogue with the unions in the future.
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2018 15:18:44 +0100

London, Jan 31, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's vast Pendjari National Park, one of West Africa's last remaining wildlife refuges, will receive $23.5 million (18.9 million euros) to help protect it and fight poaching, donors announced in London on Wednesday. 

The Benin government will provide $6 million (4.8 million euros), with the National Geographic Society donating $7.5 million (6 million euros) and the US Wyss Foundation stumping up the rest through the African Parks NGO, the groups said at a press conference.    The 4,800-square-kilometre Pendjari is one of the three parks in the "WAP" complex (W, Arly and Pendjari) that spans across covers Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger, and is one of the last remaining wildlife sanctuaries in West Africa.    It is home to the cheetah, West African Lion, antelope and buffalo.

The UNESCO World Heritage site, which is located more than 12 hours away from the economic capital Cotonou, has suffered from decades of neglect, and is under threat from poaching and population growth.    "Pendjari National Park is an exceptional reserve, but its long-term future has been under threat," said Benin President Patrice Talon.   "The support we are seeing for this landscape is extraordinary and could not have come at a more important time. This partnership will help us create a sustainable future for this landscape," he added.
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 2018 22:40:22 +0100

Cotonou, Jan 4, 2018 (AFP) - Magistrates in Benin on Thursday announced a five-day strike in protest against a parliamentary decision to ban strikes by workers in essential services.    The National Union of Benin Magistrates (UNAMAB), said its members would hold a five-day strike starting on January 8.   "We cannot tolerate such a democratic retreat.. it is urgent to respond vigorously to the beginning of the liquidation of Benin's democracy," UNAMAB said in a statement.

The controversial law voted in by parliament on December 28, bans strikes by "the military, public security agents (including police, customs officers and firefighters), health services workers, judicial staff, prison officers and those concerned with state security".   On Wednesday Justice Minister Joseph Djogbenou spoke out in support of the new law saying that "the state can, in the public interest and constitutional needs, ban specific sectors from the right to strike".   Benin's struggling economy is largely dependent on trade with its larger neighbour to the east, Nigeria, which has itself not long emerged from a months-long recession.

President Patrice Talon's plans for recovery, including liberalising the economy -- at a time of rising costs of living and tax -- have seen a wave of industrial action in recent months, including the court and education sectors.   Health workers went on strike from September to November last year over proposed privatisation plans, which are part of Talon's wider free-market reforms which he hopes will kick-start the small west African country's slowing economy.   In October and November judicial staff went on strike in protest against nominations by the justice ministry and to demand salary reviews.
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2017 13:58:25 +0100

Cotonou, Nov 4, 2017 (AFP) - Benin's government and health sector unions have reached an agreement to end a crippling two-month strike that saw treatment in public hospitals and clinics grind to a halt, the government said on Saturday.   Workers walked out in August over proposed privatisation plans, which are part of wider free-market reforms from President Patrice Talon's government to kick-start the country's slowing economy.

The walkout is said to have been responsible for the deaths of a number of patients and led to mounting public anger.   But a government source said an agreement was signed late Friday and that nearly 2.5 billion CFA (3.7 million euros) would be made available towards improving salaries and conditions.   Benin's economy is largely dependent on trade with its larger neighbour to the east, Nigeria, which has itself not long emerged from a months-long recession.

Talon's plans for recovery -- at a time of rising costs of living and tax -- have seen a wave of industrial action in recent months, including the court and education sectors.   One union leader said the government had agreed to postpone the creation of a working group to look into the implementation of the privatisation plan.

Development minister Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, who led the negotiations, said: "The government showed its willingness to meet the demands of the health sector unions and to end the strike in this very crucial sector."   The government gave "its agreement in principle to resolve, in the shortest time possible, concerns about workers' jobs in the sector", he added.
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2017 05:22:07 +0200

Niamey, Sept 10, 2017 (AFP) - The Niger Basin Authority issued a warning Saturday of possible flooding in Benin and Nigeria, two countries downstream on the river, which is currently flooding in Niger.   "We appeal to all residents downstream (of the Niger River)... because the water keeps rising," the NBA's Soungalo Kone said late Saturday, speaking on Niger television.   The NBA has issued its second-highest alert level of orange, warning that further flooding is highly likely following months of heavy rain in Niger and Mali.   "It's a question of hours to get to a red alert -- the waters can rise very suddenly," said Lawan Magadji, Niger's minister of disaster management, speaking on local television.

Floods are threatening villages and some sections of the capital Niamey, the minister said.   The ministry has already announced plans to evacuate residents in affected areas and reinforce dykes.   The government has set up sites for people displaced by the flooding, the minister said.    Almost all Niamey's some million and a half residents live along the river banks.   Some of the homes at risk are located in the former bed of the Gountou-Yena river, which is now once again filling with water.   Flooding has killed 44 people across Niger since June, according to the civil protection agency, after more than 50 deaths from flooding last year.
More ...