afrol News, 27 October - The 71-year-old President of Benin, Mathieu Kérékou, has urgently been admitted to a Parisian hospital. According to local sources, he left Benin unconscious last week, while official sources in Cotonou hold that President Kérékou is "at good health" and only went to France for a "routine health check".
A spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs today confirmed the presence of President Kérékou in Paris. Asked whether the Beninese President was in the Parisian American Hospital and whether "he left his country unconscious," the French spokesman however declined to answer.
Also he Beninese Presidency today confirmed Mr Kérékou's stay in France. A presidential spokesman today told the French news agency AFP that the President "is in good health," rejecting the speculations of an emergency transport to France. He however could not indicate when President Kérékou was to return to Benin.
Speculations about the 71-year-old President's health started several days ago, and only yesterday, sources at the Beninese presidency confirmed that Mr Kérékou was out of the country. He had left Benin last week, but no official statements had announced the sudden departure.
Unnamed witnesses at the President's office claimed they had observed the Beninese Head of State being "unconscious at his departure from Cotonou," AFP yesterday reported from the capital. Other sources in Cotonou claim that Mr Kérékou left Benin already on 13 or 14 October, meaning that he has been hospitalised in Paris for around two weeks. This is however rejected by the Beninese Presidency, saying Mr Kérékou is in Paris for a routine health check.
President Kérékou has headed Benin for most of the time since a military coup in 1972. Since the 1990s, however, he took part in the thorough democratisation of Benin and has been elected in free and fair elections several times since 1996. Benin has become an example of democracy, human rights respect and press freedom in the troubled West African region.
His pro-democracy and pro-development policies have made Mr Kérékou a popular politician in Benin, where he has contributed much to the political stability of the country. He was last re-elected in 2001 - at the age of 68 years - and has demonstrated no desire to retire.
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