Africa Defense Forum
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Benin Boosts Military Presence in North to Stop Cross-Border Attacks

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Benin’s military is working to reassure communities in its northern border areas that it can protect the region from further terrorist incursions from Burkina Faso, Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel.

“The Beninese army is sufficiently equipped to ward off all the scourges that can disturb the tranquility of the Beninese,” Alain Fortunet Nouatin, Benin’s minister of defense, recently told africanews.com.

Long considered one of West Africa’s most stable nations, Benin has seen its stability threatened since terrorists based in Mali attacked the border town of Porga in December 2021. That attack came after multiple reports of extremists moving easily between Benin’s Atacora and Alibori provinces and neighboring regions of Burkina Faso and Niger in 2020 and 2021.

Since then, Benin has been the target of at least 20 attacks reaching farther into its territory.

The attacks are part of a regionwide push by groups based in landlocked Sahel countries to establish transport corridors through Benin and other Gulf of Guinea nations. Similar attacks have been launched against Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. Ghana is considered a transit point for extremists.

“There is no longer any doubt: Benin is in a war against terrorism,” Benin’s Vice President Mariam Chabi Talata said during a ceremony to honor five Soldiers killed by terrorists in April by a roadside bomb Pendjari National Park.

Benin announced an agreement with Niger on July 11 that commits the two countries to jointly fight extremists operating along their common border.

“The signing of this agreement marks the beginning of an era of much closer cooperation in the area of defense and security between the Republic of Niger and the Republic of Benin,” Nouatin said during the ceremony with Nigerien Minister of National Defense Alkassoum Indattou.

Extremists are using the sprawling W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) system of wildlife refuges as a hideout and base from which to launch attacks. The refuge complex straddles the border of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Before the Pendjari attack in April that killed five soldiers, a roadside bomb planted in W National Park killed four rangers and an anti-poaching trainer in February.

Officials with African Parks, which helps manage Benin’s parks, believe extremists are crossing the border from hideouts on Burkina Faso’s side of the Pendjari River. African Parks anti-poaching rangers in 2020 spent 36 hours chasing suspected armed extremists through W National Park in northeast Benin. The men, who entered the park from Burkina Faso, escaped into Nigeria.

Benin has responded to the cross-border attacks by establishing a military base in the region, increasing its military presence, and placing checkpoints along the road between Porga and Tanguiéta about 60 kilometers inland.

Some residents say the situation is disrupting daily life and business in the area.

Residents no longer feel secure enough to go about business, from personal shopping and travel to tourism, Robin Accrombessi, president of The Voice of Consumers, a consumer rights association, told africanews.com.

“We are in constant fear,” he said.

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