The Abomey kingdom of the Dahomian or Fon peoples, was established in
1625. A rich cultural life flourished, and Dahomey's wooden masks,
bronze statues, tapestries, and pottery are world renowned. One of the
smallest and most densely populated regions in Africa, Dahomey was
annexed by the French in 1893 and incorporated into French West Africa
in 1904. It became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958,and on Aug. 1, 1960, Dahomey was granted its
independence within the Community.
Gen. Christophe Solgo deposed the first president, Hubert Maga, in an army coup in 1963. He dismissed the civilian government in 1965, proclaiming himself chief of state. A group of young army officers seized power in Dec.1967, deposing Solgo. ln Dec.1969, Benin had its fifth coup of the decade, with the army again taking power. In May 1970, a three-man presidential commission with a six-year term was created to take over the government. In May 1972, yet another army coup ousted the triumvirate and installed Lt. Col. Mathieu Kerekou as president.
Between 1974 and 1989 Dahomey embraced socialism, and changed its name to the People's Republic of Benin. The name Benin commemorated an African kingdom that flourished from the 15th to the 17th century in what is now southwest Nigeria. In 1990, Benin abandoned Marxist ideology, began moving toward multiparty democracy, and changed its name again, to the Republic of Benin.