Benin’s long-ruling former president, Mathieu Kerekou, has died at the age of 82, leading to a week of national mourning.
Mr. Kerekou, a Marxist, who seized power in a coup ruled for 28 years and set a new wave of African democracy.
Announcing the death on Thursday, President Boni Yayi of Benin Republic described Mr. Kerekou as “a great man”.
He added that “in the government’s name, I declare a week-long state of national mourning with all flags in the land flying at half-mast’’.
Considered by many to be the father of modern Benin, Mr. Kerekou was born in 1933 and received military training in Mali and Senegal before joining former colonial master France’s army and rising through the ranks to major.
He seized power in 1972 and converted to a Marxist ideology two years later, although he later renounced Marxism and came to accept multiparty democracy, organising a broad-based national dialogue in 1990 and stepped aside when he lost a vote the following year.
Mr. Kerekou made a political comeback five years later and was eventually re-elected in 2001 but faced with term limits and age restraint, he ceded power to Boni Yayi in 2006.
In the streets of the capital Cotonou, the mood was sad in some quarters but celebratory in others.
While some expressed sadness, others described him as someone who murdered freedom in Benin.