Benin was a center of African civilization, wealth, and strength seven hundred years ago, though its early history goes back even farther. Much of its commercial success came as a result of the slave trade, which began after Europeans arrived there in the late 15th century and continued until 1885. Under French domination until independence in 1960, the country found it hard to stabilize after the French withdrew. Over two decades of corrupt Marxist-led rule left the economy in disastrous shape and led to the ouster of the Marxist regime in 1991. In 1995, the Marxists regained power but in 1998, were again ousted.

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