Nigerien Civilians Calm Despite Threat of Conflict With Benin

The Benin-Niger border crossing is set to be closed as per Niger’s fears that Benin might use the crossing to move ECOWAS troops and French equipment into Niger.

“[Benin] is accused of welcoming and transporting French equipment and ECOWAS soldiers to the border with Niger…At that location, residents say they are less worried.”

On 18 September, the Cameroon-based website,, published the below excerpted French-language article, which highlighted ongoing tensions in the region between Niger and Benin. According to the article, Niger’s military coup leaders, who overthrew the country’s democratically elected leadership in August, are closing the border with Benin. The new coup leaders in Niger allege that Benin is transporting Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) soldiers and French equipment to the border to support a potential invasion of Niger to restore the country’s civilian leadership.[i] The article notes that civilians in the Nigerien town of Gaya, which is situated near the border with Benin, remain unconcerned. Some civilians, for example, point to the longstanding territorial dispute over Lété (Summer) Island in the Niger River between Benin and Niger that began in 1963.[ii] The ramping up of forces on the Nigerien side of the border in response to the alleged ECOWAS actions now resembles that of 1963, but, civilians expect tensions to subside as they did 50 years ago. Nevertheless, geopolitical circumstances are different now. As the second excerpted French-language article from 20 September in Jeune Afrique reported, Niger has significant support in the Sahel from other post-coup countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso. For example, the article mentioned how Burkina Faso passed a law authorizing the country’s military forces to aid Niger if any other “external army,” such as Benin’s, intervenes in Niger’s domestic affairs. Unlike the border dispute in 1963, the current tensions have a greater probability of reverberating throughout West Africa.


“Niger: l’armée renforce son dispositif à la frontière du Bénin (Niger: the army reinforces its presence on the border with Benin),” (French-language Cameroon-based publication covering Francophone African affairs), 18 September 2023.

Nigerien soldiers reinforced their security measures in Gaya, a border town between Malanville in Benin and Kamba in Niger that is located more than 300 kilometers from Niamey. [Benin] is accused of welcoming and transporting French equipment and ECOWAS soldiers to the border with Niger.

At that location, residents state that they are less worried…. In the years 1963-64 there were tensions between Benin and [Niger] because of Lété Island and there was a law enforcement deployment in Gaya. So this is the second time that we have this type of deployment…,” explained a resident.

“Le Burkina Faso vote une loi autorisant l’envoi de soldats au Niger (Burkina Faso votes for a law authorizing the sending of soldiers to Niger),” Jeune Afrique (French language online publication focusing on pan-African affairs), 20 September 2023.

On September 19, the Transitional Legislative Assembly passed a law authorizing the sending for “three renewable months” a military contingent to neighboring Niger, which has been threatened by an armed intervention of West African countries since the coup of July 26. The law, which was proposed by the transitional government, was unanimously approved by 71 members.These three countries [Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali], which are led by military regimes, signed a charter on September 16 in Bamako to establish an alliance of “collective defense and mutual assistance”, thus creating the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).


[i] On 5 August, Benin announced that it would support ECOWAS to resolve the political unrest in neighboring Niger. Several West African states expressed willingness to military intervene in Niger if ECOWAS sanctioned an intervention. This could, therefore, imply that Benin will become a launchpad for an ECOWAS invasion of Niger if an invasion is sanctioned. See Philip Churm, “Benin pledges support for ECOWAS over Niger,”, 5 August 2023, 2023.

[ii] In the early 1960s, Dahomey (as Benin was known until 1975) and Niger failed to resolve through negotiations their border dispute over Lété (Summer) Island, but both countries’ militaries eventually disengaged from the border region. Ultimately, the International Court of Justice ruled in Niger’s favor in 2011. The island is 16 km long and 4 km wide and is passable by foot for pastoralists from one bank of the river to the other bank during the dry season. For more, see: Markus Kornprobst, “The management of border disputes in African regional subsystems: comparing West Africa and the Horn of Africa,” Journal of Modern African Studies 40:3 (2002), 369-393.

Image Information:

Image: The Benin-Niger border crossing is set to be closed as per Niger’s fears that Benin might use the crossing to move ECOWAS troops and French equipment into Niger.
Source: YoTuT from United States
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Niger Claims France and Other West African States Planning Military Intervention

The new military junta of Niger has demanded the departure of French troops stationed in the country. It has also accused Paris of colluding with other West African states to launch a military intervention into the country (Niger in green).

With each coup d’état, the process is the same: discussions take place with the juntas in power, the French are asked to pack up and Paris generally complies after a deaf dialogue.”

Soon after seizing power, the military junta of GEN Tchiani in Niger made it clear that it wanted the French military out of the country. As anti-French protests proliferated in the capital, Niamey,[i] the junta quickly annulled former security cooperation agreements with France. The playbook was familiar, as the first accompanying article from Le Journal de l’Afrique articulates: “With each [West African] coup d’état, the process is the same: discussions take place with the juntas in power, the French are asked to pack up, and Paris generally complies after a deaf dialogue.” However, given a general reluctance for obeisance to the junta, France did not move its approximately 1500 troops immediately but stated that it would do so “once certain conditions are met.” Accordingly, French troops appear to have remained on bases in Niger or repositioned to Chad or Benin.

Tchiani’s junta has accused France of planning a military intervention in collusion with Niger’s neighbors as a result of this delay, combined with the repositioning of these French troops in other countries.[ii] According to the second article from the pan-African news aggregator, the Nigerien junta has claimed that France is repositioning troops in Senegal, Benin, and Côte d’Ivoire for a military intervention in Niger. Acting on this fear, as per the third article from TogoBreakingNews, the Nigerien junta broke off military relations with Benin, accusing it of harboring “military personnel, mercenaries, and material of war,” under the auspices of “an aggression sought by France, with members of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States], against Niger.” This follows a broader pattern of the vilification of France by francophone governments around the continent.[iii] Paris has rejected the claims of collusion. The most recent discord between Niger and France is the latest in an increasingly predictable pattern. France’s status in West Africa is arguably the worst it has been in years as francophone West African militaries conduct putsches, consolidate power, accuse France of malfeasance then demand its departure, and often, subsequently invite in Russia and the Wagner Group.


Ben Eddine, “Les troupes françaises, sans base militaire fixe? (French troops, without a permanent base?),” Le Journal de l’Afrique (pan-African news aggregator), 8 September 2023.

It has become a habit for the French ministries of the Armed Forces and of Defence. With each coup d’état, the process is the same: discussions take place with the juntas in power, the French are asked to pack up and Paris generally complies after a deaf dialogue. After Mali, Niger. It’s been over a month since Niamey and Paris clash over military presence in Niger. The military agreements linking the two countries have been denounced by the junta in power in Niger. 

Because Paris would be in the process of redeploying part of its 1 soldiers stationed there in another African country. France may have taken the time to contest Niger’s demands, so it finally gave in. While French soldiers no longer dare leave their respective bases and French aircraft have not taken off for several weeks, France affirms that it will withdraw “certain military elements” as soon as security conditions are met.

Bamba Mousa, “Niger: Situation de crise – La France dément préparer une intervention militaire (Niger: crisis situation – France denies preparing a military intervention),” (pan-African news aggregator), 11 September 2023.

Tensions between Paris and Niamey gave rise to a new skirmish last weekend. While continuing to refuse a rapid withdrawal of its troops from Niger, France denied the accusations made on Saturday September 9 by the junta, which accuses it of “deploying its forces in several countries of the Economic Community of African States of the West as part of preparations for an aggression against Niger, which it is considering in collaboration with this community organization.”

After the coup d’état of July 26, ECOWAS brandished the threat of military intervention as a last resort in the event of failure of negotiations, in order to restore constitutional order, to release the overthrown president Mohamed Bazoum and to restore its functions. A decision supported by France, which has around 1,500 soldiers in Niger. In a statement a few days ago, Niamey accused France to position troops and military equipment in Benin, Ivory Coast and Senegal, in preparation for an attack on Niger.

Didier Assogba, “Niger: Le Bénin accusé d’abriter des mercenaires (Niger: Benin accused of harboring mercenaries),”, 13 September 2023.

The military in power announced the denunciation of the military agreement of July 11, 2022 with Benin.For the new Nigerien authorities, this decision is justified by the authorization granted by the Beninese government for the stationing in the country of “soldiers, mercenaries and war materials” in the perspective of “an aggression desired by France, in collaboration with certain ECOWAS countries against Niger.”


[i] For more information on the anti-French sentiments in the African security sphere, see: Jason Warner, “Anti-French Sentiment Undergirds Overthrow of Nigerien Government,” OE Watch 08-2023.;  Jason Warner, “French Researchers Respond to Wave of Anti-French Sentiment in Africa,” OE Watch 07-2023.; Matthew Kirwin, Lassane Ouedraogo, and Jason Warner, “Fake News in the Sahel: ‘Afrancaux News,’ French Counterterrorism, and the Logics of User-Generated Media,” African Studies Review, 65 (4): December 2022, 911 – 938.

[ii] The ECOWAS bloc have considered their own military intervention into Niger because of the undemocratic transfer of power in Niger. For more on perspectives of the potential ECOWAS intervention, see: Jason Warner, “West African States Split on Potential Intervention in Niger,” OE Watch 08-2023.

[iii] For examples of claims of French malfeasance by governments in Africa, see: Jason Warner, “CAR Joins Mali in Accusing France of Funding Terrorists,” OE Watch, 04-2023.; Jason Warner, “Mali Claims France Funded Terrorists; France Denies,” OE Watch, 10-2022.;

Image Information:

Image: The new military junta of Niger has demanded the departure of French troops stationed in the country. It has also accused Paris of colluding with other West African states to launch a military intervention into the country (Niger in green).
Attribution: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As Sahelian Jihadists Expand South, Côte d’Ivoire Stands as Model of Success

While much of the rest of the Sahel has become engulfed in jihadist violence, Côte d’Ivoire, highlighted here, has had surprising success at avoiding the same violence.

“The goal is to reverse perceptions among border communities that the state has abandoned them. Doing so will reduce the risk that they are exploited by insurgents.”

For the past several years, a primary concern in the Sahelian region of West Africa has been the ability of groups associated with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda to push southward as they march to the littoral of the Bight of Benin.[i] While Mali and Burkina Faso continue to be the epicenters of jihadist activity, even historically immune countries like Togo, Benin, and Ghana have seen their northern regions, which border Mali and Burkina Faso, experience violence from these groups.[ii] However, as the accompanying article from the pan-African think tank The Institute for Security Studies articulates, Cote d’Ivoire, which would reasonably experience similar threats, seems to have figured out how to protect itself from this southern push. According to the authors, the country’s success is due to its commitment to strategies of security and development. On the security side, the article notes that its “military and security interventions played a notable role in achieving the prevailing calm.” These included several standard practices: the creation of a nationwide counterterrorism strategy; the addition of new weapons and armored vehicles; and the creation of a new counterterrorism center. Yet from the authors’ perspectives, the real success story has been Côte d’Ivoire’s citizen-centric development efforts, targeting populations living in its rural north, who are most susceptible to violence and radicalization. To discourage their joining the insurgents, the government’s social program seeks to “improve civilians’ living conditions” to “reverse the perception among border communities that the state has abandoned them” so as to “reduce the risk that they are exploited by insurgents.” The development program has focused on improving infrastructure, health, youth employment, and social safety allowances. A recent report by the global think tank International Crisis Group draws similar conclusions,[iii] further underscoring the broader perception of Côte d’Ivoire’s efficacy on this front. As the United States and partner countries seek to stem the tide of jihadist violence, Côte d’Ivoire’s approach might bear attention as a model that could be replicated elsewhere in the region.


William Assanvo, “Has Côte d’Ivoire found the solution to violent extremism?,” Institute for Security Studies (centrist pan-African security studies think tank), 25 July 2023.

No significant terror attacks have been reported in northern Côte d’Ivoire over the past two years, suggesting that its approach to addressing the problem has been effective. With many other states in West Africa still facing a growing threat, what is the country doing right?

Côte d’Ivoire’s border area with Burkina Faso was under substantial pressure from violent extremist groups between 2020 and 2021. Almost 20 attacks and incidents attributed to these groups were recorded in that period. These included attacks against positions and convoys of the defence and security forces, incursions into Ivorian territory, propaganda sermons, threats and intimidation of civilians.

In response, the government focused first on military and security operations, and then supplemented these with a social programme…

Following the Grand-Bassam attack, efforts to strengthen the security apparatus continued, including developing a national counter-terrorism strategy in 2018.

From 2019, the growing presence of extremists in Burkina Faso’s forests along the border with Côte d’Ivoire led to increased vigilance and a stronger military presence in the north. In May 2020, a joint military operation was conducted with Burkina Faso.

This saw the creation in July 2020 of an operational zone in the north, the set-up of military camps in some border localities, and significant investments in increasing the defence and security forces’ functional capacity. This included human resources, air assets, armoured transport vehicles and surveillance equipment.

A counter-terrorism intelligence centre, Centre de renseignement opérationnel antiterroriste, was created in August 2021 to improve intelligence gathering. Better regional cooperation between countries, particularly within the framework of the Accra Initiative in which Côte d’Ivoire participates, was another important part of the response.

The military and security interventions played a notable role in achieving the prevailing calm. Land, air and intelligence operations have contributed to reducing armed groups’ ability to carry out incursions, move around, and operate within Ivorian territory. And reinforcing the presence of soldiers along the border has reassured civilians. It is also possible that the lull is due to the extremists withdrawing across the border to continue their violence there or adopt a low profile.

While this period of calm prevailed, the social component of the Ivorian response to the terror threat was started. It is being implemented under the framework of the government’s second social programme (PS Gouv 2), which runs from 2022 to 2024. The programme’s first strategic axis includes addressing the fragility in the northern border areas.

The programme was announced in November 2021 and officially launched in January 2022. It aims to improve civilians’ living conditions by enhancing infrastructure and access to basic social services. The goal is to reverse perceptions among border communities that the state has abandoned them. Doing so will reduce the risk that they are exploited by insurgents. The programme focuses on education, health, access to electricity and drinking water, road maintenance, professional integration and youth employment, and providing social safety allowances.The Ivorian approach of combining a military, security and social response isn’t in itself innovative or fundamentally different from that used by neighbouring countries facing terrorism. Notable examples are in central Mali, the Burkina Faso region of the Sahel, and northern Togo. The difference in Côte d’Ivoire could lie in its implementation of these strategies.


[i] For more on the push of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants towards the West African coast, see: Jason Warner, “UN Warns About Islamic State Surging in Africa and Afghanistan,” OE Watch, 03-2023.; Jason Warner, “Coastal West African States Brace for Wave of Terrorism From the Sahel,” OE Watch, 10-2022.

[ii] West African states have taken various approaches to dealing with jihadist insurgents, especially on the topic of negotiations. For more, see: Jason Warner, “Sahelian Countries Divided on Negotiating With Al-Qaeda, Islamic State Militants,” OE Watch 07-2023. 

[iii] The International Crisis Group report largely agrees that the dual security and development approach of Côte d’Ivoire has been important, but also notes that the country’s broader focus on economic development; the northern region’s importance as a base of power for the ruling party; religious tolerance; and an ethnically and regionally balanced military also played their own roles. To read the International Crisis Group study on the topic, see: International Crisis Group, “Keeping Jihadists Out of Northern Cote d’Ivoire,” International Crisis Group, 23 August 2023.

Image Information:

Image: While much of the rest of the Sahel has become engulfed in jihadist violence, Côte d’Ivoire, highlighted here, has had surprising success at avoiding the same violence.
Attribution: TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0

West African States Split on Potential Intervention in Niger

Mohamed Bazoum, the former president of Niger, was deposed by a military junta in July 2023.

“Senegal, Benin, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire have said they are ready to send troops, but face internal criticism and hesitation from other West African countries.”

The overthrow of the civilian government in Niger has prompted talk of military intervention by the standby force of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore deposed president Mohamed Bazoum to power. Those threats by the leader of ECOWAS, Nigerian President Bola, have led to ruptures in the African international order.

On one side are those West African states that showed some support for the proposed intervention. These tended to be the region’s more democratic and pro-Western states. Nigeria, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Benin have all said at one time or another that they would commit troops, according to the first article from AfricaNews. The article also notes that Niger recalled its ambassador from Abidjan in protest in the aftermath of Côte d’Ivoire’s announcement of its intent to contribute forces.

On the other side are those West African states which, because of their own domestic makeup, have sided with the military junta in Niger and refused to participate in any ECOWAS intervention. As per the second article from, the most prominent among these are Burkina Faso and Mali, both of which are ruled by military juntas that came into power under-girded by anti-French, pro-Russian[i] discourse. Flatly rejecting intervention, they expressed that they would instead send a joint delegation to Niger “in solidarity” with the Nigerien junta. The article also underscores that non-ECOWAS members Chad and Algeria, both of which share borders with Niger, assured Niger that they would not participate. Thus, of the seven countries that border Niger, four have said that they would not support intervention (Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Algeria), two stated that they would (Nigeria and Benin), with the seventh, Libya, not having made a clear statement so far of its stance on intervention. Despite the different positions on possible ECOWAS intervention, some broad threads do run through the region. All current, non-suspended ECOWAS members (which excludes Mali and Burkina Faso) have condemned the overthrow and encouraged mediation, even if they do not support military intervention. Broad agreement exists outside of ECOWAS too: such a military intervention poses great risks to the security of the broader West African region, with a significant risk of leading to a region-wide war.


“Les militaires rappellent l’ambassadeur du Niger en Côte d’Ivoire, (Military junta recalls Nigerien Ambassador from Ivory Coast), 15 August 2023.

The coup leaders recalled the Nigerien envoy in Abidjan on Monday (Aug. 14) after remarks by Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

On his return from a summit of the ECOWAS August 10, Ouattara said the heads of state had agreed a military operation should “start as soon as possible”…

“Far from being the expression of the will of the brotherly Ivorian people, whose friendship with the people of Niger is unequivocal, this unusual declaration by President Ouattara and his eagerness to carry out an aggression against Niger which is in every way illegal and senseless, reflects in reality an order addressed to him and certain of his peers in the ECOWAS by other external powers, with the aim of preserving interests that no longer match those of today’s Niger.”…

Senegal, Benin, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire have said they are ready to send troops, but face internal criticism and hesitation from other West African countries.

Mimi Mefo Takambou, “Burkina Faso: Mali and Burkina Faso Send Joint Delegation to Niamey ‘In Solidarity’ With Niger,”, 11 August 2023. 

Mali and Burkina Faso will send a joint official delegation to coup-hit Niger on Monday in a show of “solidarity” between the nations – all of whom are ruled by juntas. Meanwhile a source close to regional bloc Ecowas said an immediate military intervention to restore Niger’s toppled president was not on the cards.

The delegation, announced by the Malian army, is expected to arrive in Niger on Monday, according to Niger’s foreign ministry.

The country’s coup leaders defied a Sunday deadline from the West African bloc Ecowas to reinstate democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum or face possible military action.Algeria and Chad, which are not part of Ecowas but share borders with Niger, have both stated they will not participate in any military operation.”


[i] For more on Burkina Faso’s relationship with Wagner and Russia, see: Jason Warner, “Russia-Supported Military Rulers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Continue To Deepen Ties,” OE Watch, 04-2023.; Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism With Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Mohamed Bazoum, the former president of Niger, was deposed by a military junta in July 2023.
Attribution: BY-SA 4.0

Benin Park Rangers Take on Counterterrorism Tasks

“In Benin, there is a lot of communication between us [park rangers] and the Beninese armed forces, but our roles are very distinct.”  

The French-language Beninese investigative media website published an article discussing an attack that left two Beninese police officers and two militants dead along Benin’s northern border with Burkina Faso.  A separate excerpted article in the Paris-based pan-African website discussed the incident in the context of Pendjari Park rangers, who work in the area.  Although no one has taken credit for the attack, it occurred in the area of operations of the al-Qaeda–affiliated Group for Support of Muslims and Islam (JNIM).  According to the article, the rangers acknowledge that they now coordinate with security forces to monitor jihadists’ infiltration into bases in the national park.  Current protocol for the park rangers when confronting jihadists is to contact the Beninese military and withdraw to allow the soldiers to intervene.  The article suggests that if the rangers are to be trained by a third party, the contractors should be former soldiers because they already have some relevant skills for both conservation and encountering terrorist groups.  In addition, although the park rangers acknowledge that several of them have lost their lives to jihadists in the Sahel in recent years, they are determined to continue working.  The rangers also note that they are not capable of developing a strategy to prevent terrorism, but it is necessary for the governments in the Sahel to formulate a more comprehensive strategy for how park rangers should deal with not only poachers, but now also jihadists.


“Quatre morts dans une Attaque terroriste (Four dead in a terrorist attack),” (French-language Beninese website), 26 June 2022.

The Commissariat of Dassari, commune of Matéri, department of Atacora was attacked by an armed group on the night of Saturday June 25 to Sunday June 26, 2022. The result was four dead, including two on the Beninese side and significant material damages.

Source: “African Parks: ‘Au Bénin, face aux jihadistes, nous ne définissons pas la stratégie militaire’ (African Parks: ‘In Benin, faced with the jihadists, we do not define the military strategy’),” (Paris-based pan-African website), 25 June 2022.

The rangers are armed according to the park where they work for the needs of the missions entrusted to them.  Their training, on the other hand, is relatively standard: it includes modules on respect for human rights, on escalation during an engagement, on how to deal with different risks and on how to behave when arriving at a crime scene.We use external trainers, who work under the direction of our head instructor.  The outside supporters are often former soldiers, some of whom also have real expertise in the field of conservation.  Our role is not to carry out national security missions, but to preserve the integrity of the areas entrusted to us.  Our rangers are trained to fight against poaching, but are effectively confronted with all kinds of threats, including jihadists.  In Benin, there is a lot of communication between us and the Beninese armed forces, but our roles are very distinct.  And when it is established that jihadists are involved, we withdraw immediately and let the military intervene.