Benin’s surroundings in coastal West Africa and position as an intermediary stop for travelers traveling from Mali into Nigeria make it an essential geopolitical guard for containing the expansion of terrorist groups between Nigeria and the Sahel. Benin is a French-speaking West African nation and is the home of the Vodun religion and house to the former Dahomey Kingdom from circa.
It would seem that Benin is now handling threats of terrorism seriously, declaring to have confined 700 suspects, most of whom are from Benin, Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso on May 23. The country has also, in some circumstances, been overly tired of potential terrorists compelling on its territory, such as when it arrested and then expelled the Belgian Jean-Louis Denis in January. He had once been detained in Belgium for recruiting for the Islamic State, but had in this matter traveled to Benin on behalf of an Islamic humanitarian organization.
Benin itself has been faced by jihadists since the first incursion in the country was carried out in the country’s north by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims. It became obvious that terrorism might be becoming a more significant issue locally after May 2019, when two French tourists were abducted and their tour attendant was shot dead in a national park in northern Benin.
The captives were, however, freed by the burglars, who were loosely affiliated with JNIM or Islamic State in Greater Sahara. Meanwhile, if these two cases were not of enough reference to Benin, in June 2022, JNIM also declared its first raid in neighboring Togo, which displayed the broader expansion of JNIM and ISGS towards coastal West Africa.
Moreover, statements of JNIM crossing routes with Ansaru, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Nigeria, in Benin have developed a sense of urgency for Benin—and the area more broadly—to yield more attention to Benin counter-terrorism efforts. Ansaru’s first-ever abduction of a British and Italian engineer was also in Kebbi State, Nigeria, which is simply across the border from Benin.
This suggests that Ansaru was knowledgeable and capable of working from Benin. As recently as 2022, the Nigerian security services had cautioned of potential terrorist aggression in Kebbi, especially of prison breaks. The truth that Hausa is the lingua franca in northern Nigeria as well as in some neighboring regions of northern Benin supports facilitating cross-border procedures by Nigerian bandits and jihadists like Ansaru.
Despite its moderately small territory and population of 13 million, Benin’s military can consolidate on the JNIM and ISGS danger in part because its resources have not been redirected to other theaters, such as the Multinational Joint Task Force’s fight against Boko Haram sections around Lake Chad. Benin is a partner of the MNJTF along with the four Lake Chad basin countries—that is to state, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon—and committed 150 soldiers to the MNJTF in 2016.
Despite this, Beninese soldiers have not been combating Boko Haram and the country’s assistance to the MNJTF has been largely extended. Had the MNTJF not been so involved in combatting Boko Haram sections, the multilateral organization might have been capable of supporting Benin along the Nigeria-Benin-Niger-Mali border axis. Alas, the MNJTF’s shortage of funding is hindering its ability to execute operations around Lake Chad, let alone increase its efforts along Benin’s borders.