Bishops in Benin Urge Government to Abolish “sponsorship” Law for Presidential Candidates

The leadership of the Catholic Christian Observatory for Governance (OCCG), an organ of the Episcopal Conference of Benin (CEB), has called on the government of the West African country to abolish the electoral law, which requires aspiring presidential candidates to have the sponsorship of Mayors.

In a collective statement availed to ACI Africa Tuesday, December 8, the members of OCCG say because Members of Parliament passed “non-consensual interpretative laws … which led to the appointment of many Mayors of the same political persuasion, (it will make) the fair and equitable application of sponsorship complex.”

“Sponsorship fulfils its function and shows its relevance in a context of pluralist democracy where elected officials, personalities and citizens entitled to sponsor candidates come from the parties of the movement and the opposition,” say the members of OCCG in their statement dated December 4. 

Sponsorship, they however note, “can legitimately become a source of suspicion and frustration that can lead to unpredictable conflict and violence when those called upon to sponsor others all come from the same political bloc.”

Members of Parliament in Benin passed a new electoral law that requires aspiring presidential candidates and their running mates (vice-president) to have the sponsorship of at least 10 percent of the Mayors or their deputies before vying for the political seats in November 2019. 

In the December 4 collective statement signed by OCCG President, Fr. Nathanaël Yaovi Soede and other members, OCCG members call on parliamentarians and the constitutional court to “take the measures required for the suppression (of the sponsorship law) in the current context where it raises problems that make it difficult to apply it as well as the organization of a transparent, credible and peaceful presidential election.”

Making reference to the reluctance to amend the electoral law, they add, “The OCCG wonders whether Benin will be able to emerge from the current political crisis situation if it refuses to take corrective consensual action on the sole grounds that laws have already been passed and must be enforced, whatever the dangers on the horizon.”

In the statement, OCCG members further encourage “fair and equitable treatment of applications for administrative declarations of political party formation and candidacy for various elections at all levels of political life.”

Regarding the April 2021 polls, the members of the organ of the Catholic Bishops in the country say that they expect the President who is the “supreme guarantor of state and security in the country” to ensure the election is “inclusive, transparent and peaceful.”

The members of the Fr. Nicodeme-led organ also urge the Beninese authorities to establish a dialogue with “the bereaved and those who are facing painful psychological and social situations as a result of the frustrations and violence that marked the legislative elections of 2019 and the municipal elections of 2020.”

They also express “the strong wish that the authorities and all parties reach reconciliation before the 2021 presidential election.”

“The OCCG is counting on the Government to ensure that national unity, democracy and human development are consolidated with ‘the return to the fold of all sons and daughters of Benin who are forced to leave the national territory for one reason or another, the full enjoyment of freedom of expression and movement by all citizens, and finally the restoration of a climate of peace and trust in the country’,” they say in the December 4 statement.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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