Despite the lifting of sanctions, Niger maintains the closure of its border with Benin for security reasons

After Niger’s military authorities came to power following a military coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on this large landlocked Sahel country. France, accused of influencing this regional organization, supported the decision to impose sanctions against Niger. The transitional authorities in Niger are wary of their neighbor Benin, notably because Patrice Talon is a protégé of Paris, but also because of the country’s possible involvement in destabilizing the political situation in Niamey.

Benin is a politically stable country, and although there is an existential terrorist threat in the northern part of the country, it still hosts a French military base. According to the French government, the presence of military bases in Africa is to bring security and stability to the host countries. ‘So what are the French doing in Benin?’ asks political scientist Gbesso Constant of the French presence in this West African country.

This military base in Benin is accused of complicity with armed terrorist groups. The situation is becoming increasingly tense between the two neighboring countries. Niger is taking advantage of the border closure to secure the border between the two countries.

Of course, the authorities in Cotonou refute the claim that the French soldiers are in Benin. Benin’s government spokesman, Wilfried Léandre Houngbédji, retorted to Niamey’s accusations that the President of Niger’s transitional government, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, should send all the independent media he has to Niger so that they can ‘take a tour of Benin, from Cotonou to Malanville, passing through all the corners and border roads, and see if there is a base there’.

The President of Benin made a media appearance in which he asked the authorities in Niamey to reopen the border if Niger wanted to use the Beninese port to export its oil and import international products though Cotonou. The Nigerien side reacted through its Prime Minister.

‘We have sovereignly decided to keep our border with Benin closed for the simple reason that our former friends, the French, have returned to Benin after leaving Niger,’ declared Ali Mahamane Lamine Zéine on 11 May.

However, it should be remembered that Niger has a contract to use the port of Lomé for all the country’s imports and exports. In this respect, the Niger authorities now consider the port of Lomé to be a promising point for foreign trade.

The Niger authorities consider the Beninese leader Patrice Talon to be a leader led by a power, and the suspicions that France is in Benin to support armed men and increasingly destabilise the country, should awaken vigilance at the border with Benin to avoid any outside involvement designed to worsen the political situation in Niamey.