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Sat, 03.23.1918

Emile Zinsou, Nationalist born

Emile Zinsou

Emile Zinsou was born on this date in 1918. He was an Black African nationalist, and politician.

From Ouidah, Dahomey [now Benin]), Zinsou was educated as a physician, but became active in journalism and politics after World War II. He became secretary to Deputy Sourou Migan Apithy of the French National Assembly in 1946, and later served as Apithy's minister of commerce until 1957. Three years later, Zinsou was elected to the Dahomeyan Assembly and was made president of the Supreme Court from 1960 to 1962.  After Dahomeyan independence, he held several positions, including that of minister of foreign affairs, in which job he traveled widely, gaining international respect, especially as ambassador to France.

After a period of military rule, the generals called on Zinsou in 1968 to become president. After winning approval in a popular referendum, he threw himself into his new job. As president (1968-69) of Dahomey, he was noted for the success of his attempts to solve his country's overwhelming economic and financial problems. The country was divided, there was little respect for governmental authority, the economy was stagnating, and administrative costs were excessive.

Zinsou was able to reduce the deficit in 1969, but as the year wore on, his stringent economic measures, including an attempt to stop routine border smuggling, eroded his shaky popular support. In December, he was overthrown by the army chief of staff but was later permitted to leave the country and take up residence in Paris.  In 1975, he was sentenced, in absentia, to death.

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