Kérékou, Mathieu (mätyöˈ kāˈkāko͞o), 1933–2015, Beninois military and political leader, b. French Dahomey (now Benin). Serving in the military, he participated the 1967 coup and became chairman of the Military Revolutionary Council. He was a lieutenant colonel when he seized power in a coup in 1972, and subsequently instituted a Marxist-Leninist form of government, renamed the country Benin, nationalized banks and the oil industry, and established single-party rule by the People's Revolutionary party. In 1980 he was elected president by the national assembly and was reelected in 1984 and 1989; he retired from the army with the rank of general in 1987. Kérékou moved toward a more moderate form of socialism and attempted to attract foreign investment as the economy worsened, and ultimately was pressured into holding multiparty elections (1991); he lost the presidency to Nicéphore Soglo. In 1996 and 2001, however, he was again elected president, both times defeating Soglo, who accused him of fraud.
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