Benin’s environment and urbanisation ministry has begun a one-week sensitisation campaign across the country to raise awareness about rising pollution in this small West African country.

Secondary schools in Benin have been shut down and many government offices have been under-staffed as a result of a three-day strike by public sector workers to demand higher pay.

Eighteen-year-old Gnoulla Yempabou started as a farmhand in cotton fields in Benin, when he arrived from neighbouring Burkina Faso a few years ago. Now, Yempabou has his eyes on other business: he is slowly becoming interested in joining the child-trafficking racket. The work is less backbreaking and the profit is good. Statistics on child labour, as well as on child trafficking, varies in Benin. Some rights groups put the figure to as high as 150 000.

Etienne Houessou, publication director of the newspaper Le Télégramme, and three of his colleagues were assaulted and detained by police officers on 1 April. Three journalists were arrested and taken to Cotonou's central police station. Houessou went to the police station a few hours later, where he too was beaten up and then detained.

After her husband died, Louise Anagonou was banished from their matrimonial home, which she and her husband had built at Ouidah, a small town some 40 kilometres west of the commercial capital, Cotonou. ''In Benin, women are still kidnapped, forced into marriage, beaten and raped by their husbands,'' says Genevieve Boko-Nadjo of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), a non-governmental organisation, which has offices all over sub-Saharan Africa.