Useful country information
Land area: 42,710 sq mi (110,619 sq km); total area: 43,483 sq mi (112,620 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 10,160,556 (growth rate: 2.81%); birth rate: 36.51/1000; infant mortality rate: 57.09/1000; life expectancy: 61.07
Capital (2011 est.): Porto-Novo (official), 314,000;
Largest city and seat of government: Cotonou 924,000
Monetary unit: CFA Franc
National name: Republique du Benin
Ethnicity/race: Fon and related 39.2%, Adja and related 15.2%, Yoruba and related 12.3%, Bariba and related 9.2%, Peulh and related 7%, Ottamari and related 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa and related 4%, Dendi and related 2.5%, other 1.6% (includes Europeans), unspecified 2.9% (2002 census)
Religions: Catholic 27.1%, Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, Protestant 10.4% (Celestial 5%, Methodist 3.2%, other Protestant 2.2%), other Christian 5.3%, other 15.5% (2002 census)
National Holiday: National Day, August 1
Literacy rate: 42.4% (2010)
Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence on 1 August 1960, as the Republic of Benin.
A succession of military governments ended in 1972 with the rise to power of Mathieu KEREKOU and the establishment of a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles.
A move to a representative government began in 1989. Two years later, free elections ushered in former Prime Minister Nicephore SOGLO as president, marking the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. KEREKOU was returned to power by elections held in 1996 and 2001, though some irregularities were alleged.
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