Bénin Heads of State

Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership
Female Heads of State in Bénin
(Dahomy until 1975) (Female suffrage 1946/56) 1892 der French Administration, 1958 Independent republic within the French Community, independent 1960  

Also see Benin Ministers

1993-98 2. Deputy Head of State, President of the Cour Constitutionelle Elisabeth Pognon
Her full name is Elisabeth Kayissan Ekoue épouse Pognon

1998-2008 2. Deputy Head of State, President of the Cour Constitutionelle Conceptia Ouinsou née Denis
Former vice-rector of Benin National University, Minister of Education in 1998 and was also sometimes known as Denis-Ouinsou or Denis epse Ouinsou. She lived (1946-2011)



Abomey (Dahomey)
The king of Abomey was assisted by a female official who served as compliment to the king and in some aspects as his double. When an office holder died, her name and estate were inherited by a direct descendant in her lineage. In the 19th century there existed not only the kpjito of the reigning king but women embodying all the previous kepojito. 

1704-08 Regent Princess Tassi Hangbe 
She does not appear in the official king's lists but it is generally agreed that she ruled after her brother Akaba (1685-1704) and was succeeded by another brother, Agaja, who became one of Abomey's most important rulers, who reigned until 1740. 

Circa 1716-40 Kpojito Adonon 
She was reign mate of the kings Akaba and Agaja. She appears to have been the first Kpojito, a title wich is translated as Queen Mother, but it literally means "the one who helped the Leopard", and her role was to serve as compliment to the king and in some aspects as his double, not the least in the spiritual world. The woman elected to this office was normally not related to the king. She was widow of king Wegbaja. She also served as priest for Aligbonon - mother of Akaba and Agaja, and thereby helped legitimizing the rule of their lineage.

1740-97 Kpojito Hwanjile 
Reign mate of King Tegbesu, whom she helped gain power after Agaja's death after a civil war with the designated heir. She - and possibly a successor trough positional succession - was actively involved in Abomey politics for at least 60 years. She was highly skilled in the supernatural, and she is believed to have been responsible for drastically changing the religious life of the kingdom. she enhanced the position of the king, by controlling the people via vodu and establishing a couple of creator gods - and they thereby set up a joint monarchy which controlled both the spirits and the earthly sphere. In 1797 she was involved in the murder of king Agonglo, and she was buried alive.

1774-89 Kpojito Chai 
Reign mate of King Kpengla, she is not known to have been a priestess, but the aim of her office was to serve as compliment to the king and in some aspects as his double, not the least in the spiritual world.

1789-97 Kpojito Senume 
Reign mate of King Agonglo. During his reign a new the cult of the Christian God was placed alongside the old gods, and one of his wife's, Sophie (Afro-Dutch woman) was placed in charge of this new vodun. 

1797-1818 Kpojito Kentobasin 
Reign mate of King Adandozan.

1818-58 Kpojito Agontime 
Reign mate of King Gezo (1818-58). She had been involved in the coup d'etat against king Agonglo in 1797 and was sold as a slave overseas. according to tradition that she established a number of Abomean deities in the new world. Tradition also relates that Gezo sent a delegation to Brazil to locate her and bring her back home. 

1858-89 Kpojito Zoïndi 
Reign mate of her son, King Gélé, who had won a succession-struggle prince Wensu who had been supported by one of the highest-ranking women in court, the Tononu Yavedo. As mother of the heir she had lived in seclusion and was therefore out of touch with the situation at court, and therefore her political influence was small, and actually her brother became Gélé's closest advisor.

1870s-1889 Tononu Visesgan 
In 1863 she was an assistant to Yavedo and by the 1870s she had emerged as the most influential woman in the palace. She "commanded" all the women of the court, and was the richest woman at court because of her successful trade endeavors. She was engaged in various succession-struggles, and emerged as a powerful spokesperson for accommodation with the French, in opposition with the heir, Behanzin, who seized her property in revenge after becoming king. Local court records from the early 1900s attests to her attempts to maintain control over women who had been granted to her by Gélé. 

1889-94 Kpojito Kamlin 
Reign mate of King Behanzin

1894-1900 Kpojito Kanai 
Reign mate of King Agoliagbo -the last king of Abomey.

Around 1972 The Koojito Adonon
A decendant of Dahomey's first Kpojito, Adonon (1716-40), the reign mate of king Agaja. Successive generations hold the title in perpetuity.

Around 1972 The Kpojito Hwanjile
The replacement by positional succession of Dahomey's second Kpojito Hwanjile, the reign-mate of King Tegbesu.

Ketu (Kétou)

1893-94 Regent Queen Mother Ida



Last update 08.11.08