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Benin parliament vows amnesty and reform to try ease crisis

National Assembly president Louis Vlavonou announced an 'amnesty' for 'all those who are implicated in the events following the legislative elections... so that they can find their liberty and peace'.

FILE: Protesters gather on the streets of Cadjehoun, the stronghold of former president of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni, on 2 May 2019 in Cotonou. Picture: AFP

COTONOU - Benin's parliament on Thursday announced plans to issue an amnesty for those still detained as a result of post-election unrest and vowed to vote on "electoral reform" aimed at easing a political crisis in the country.

Protests rocked the West African nation following a parliamentary vote in April earlier this year that saw President Patrice Talon's allies win all the seats as opposition groups were effectively banned.

Dozens of people remain detained following the deadly demonstrations, which led rights group Amnesty International to warn that post-election "repression reached disturbing levels".

National Assembly president Louis Vlavonou announced an "amnesty" for "all those who are implicated in the events following the legislative elections... so that they can find their liberty and peace".

At the opening of the parliamentary meeting on Thursday, Talon had called for the legislature to "examine the conclusions" of a national dialogue that took place without the president's main political rivals.

Vlavonou said the parliament would pass several laws to enact the conclusions of the dialogue.

Most of the nine political parties that took part in those talks are close to the president - and none of the main opposition parties were invited.

The president - a former business magnate - has been accused of driving his leading challengers into exile with a concerted crackdown on his political foes.

Talon, who made his fortune in cotton, came to power in 2016 on a modernising platform as he vowed to stamp out corruption and mismanagement in the country that has a reputation as one of the region's most stable democracies.

His opponents have called for the return of exiled leaders, the release of his political foes and for all parties to be allowed to take part in elections.

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