A Benin presidential candidate was wounded after shots were fired at his car soon after he filed his papers for the April presidential election, family members and the government said on Saturday.
Ganiou Soglo, a former minister and son of ex-president Nicephore Soglo, was wounded on Friday on the way to his farm in Zinvie, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the West African country’s commercial capital Cotonou.
He was one of 19 politicians who have filed papers for the April 11 ballot, including the incumbent Patrice Talon.
Soglo was treated at a hospital in Cotonou. “He is out of danger, but to remove the bullet, that will have to be in Ghana or Morocco,” a Soglo family member told AFP.
In a communique, Soglo said he was focused on his recovery and medical treatment after surviving a “vile” attack, without giving details.
“I assure you nothing will undermine my commitment to freedom.”
Many Benin opposition figures are either in exile or are barred from running in the election. That has prompted criticism that the former French colony, once seen as a model of democracy, has veered into authoritarianism under Talon.
Police have opened an investigation but have yet to issue a statement.
– ‘Running… is a nightmare’ –
Benin government spokesman Alain Orounla condemned the attack and said security forces would apprehend the assailants.
“The government will ensure the diligence of investigations promptly undertaken by the Republican Police services,” he said.
The opposition says the election is already fixed in favour of Talon, especially after a new provision of the electoral law requiring each candidate to be formally sponsored by 16 mayors or members of parliament.
Critics accuse Talon of leading a country once praised for multi-party democracy down an authoritarian road and say he is behind a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile.
During parliamentary elections in April 2019, no opposition parties were allowed to present lists of candidates for the vote.
A year later, only six opposition challengers to sitting mayors won in municipal elections that were boycotted by some opponents.
“Running in a presidential election in Benin today is a nightmare. From shameful exclusionary moves to assassination attempts to threats,” opposition candidate Reckya Madougou said before visiting the hospital.
Some opposition leaders have formed a coalition backing little-known academic Joel Aivo as a single candidate against the incumbent.
When Talon, a cotton baron, was first elected in 2016 on a modernising platform and a vow to stamp out corruption and mismanagement, he said he intended to serve only one term.