Earlham Associate Professor of Politics Jennifer Seely, right, is pictured on a recent trip to Benin.

Politics professor talks Benin ‘Poison Plot’ with Radio France International

May 30, 2014

Leading English media covering the “poison plot” of Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi recently turned to Earlham Associate Professor of Politics Jennifer Seely for her perspective on the ongoing scandal.

Seely told a reporter from Radio France International’s English edition that the two-term president’s pardon of a businessman accused of poisoning him was a surprise ending to the saga. The move was also likely motivated by his political ambitions.

“Boni Yayi appears to be seeking a third term and, to do so, he needs support from the Legislature to change the constitution,” Seely says. “The plot wasn’t doing him any favors and exposed the fact that there are factions who are angry with the current president and would like to see a change.

“Now, he can focus on other things,” she says. “He needs a new platform for which to move forward and do some new things that will impress the Beninese people.”

Link: Seely talks to Radio France International's Daniel Finnan

Seely, the author of Legacies of Transition Governments: Cases of Benin and Togo (2009 Palgrave Macmillan), says the nation’s successful transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1990 offers hope for other countries in west Africa.

“Military coups typically spark political change in this region of Africa, but not in Benin,” Seely says. “There was this amazing bloodless transformation where everybody got together at a National Conference and asked ‘What kind of government do we want to have?’”

As a political expert of a predominantly French-speaking country, the media often taps Seely to shape newscasts about Benin.

Seely’s scholarly interest has been linked to Benin since becoming a Peace Corps volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1980s.

She has conducted extensive research in the region on democratic transition with funding from the Fulbright exchange program. She also traveled to Benin in 2012 with a group of Earlham students for a May Term to study democracy.

But Seely says Benin is overlooked because of its small size and political stability.

“People often treat African countries like they only have something to learn, not something to teach,” Seely says. “But Benin has an incredible wealth of experience because of their successful non-violent democratic transition. They know what works.”

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at (765) 983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

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