Kérékou, Mathieu mätyö´ kā´kāko͞o [key], 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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