Sunday, May 13, 2012


Members of the business community in Cotonou woke up this morning to be greeted by the menacing presence of hundreds of armed soldiers, policemen, combat-geared fire-service personnel and a couple of bulldozers probably deployed overnight by some government agencies to completely demolish the historical international market of Cotonou popularly known as Missebo market. This market established in 1972 by Biafran refugees has up till this moment been serving traders from as far as South Africa to the two Congos among other African countries. It also accommodates a good percentage of wholesale merchants from the middle and far east. One of the images shows stranded traders standing in clusters, unable to rescue some of their merchandise that have been covered in the pile of rubbles. Other images emerging from the scene prove that the demolition exercise has not been completely free from being bloody. One of the images captured by anonymous observer shows a woman wounded on her back with blood oozing from the deep cut said to have been inflicted on her by some members of the armed policemen. Amidst the crowd of helpless onlookers are some of the international traders who are unable to locate their customers except to track them by mobile phone calls. No official from the government agency in-charge of markets administration in Cotonou has agreed to speak to me. Surprisingly, the entire Benin press is blacked out from covering the event. No statement is issuing from any quarters whatsoever as to resettlement plans for the more than 1.5million displaced traders. STOP PRESS: A woman has just dug up the remains of her one-year old baby said to have been crushed by the bulldozer while sleeping in the woman's stall as she was trying to scavenge some of her burried merchandise.

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