Benin’s border closure sparks Niger dispute

Tensions between Benin and Niger have escalated with Benin blocking all river crossings on their shared border. 

This comes despite the West African bloc ECOWAS lifting sanctions on Niger’s military junta in February.

The move follows accusations exchanged by both sides regarding the movement of goods across the border. 

Benin initially opened its border when ECOWAS sanctions were lifted, but Niger kept its side closed. This angered Benin’s President Talon, who accused Niger of treating them like an enemy.

Previously, Benin tolerated informal trade across the Niger River, particularly the transport of food staples like cereals.

This was seen as a gesture of solidarity with their neighbor. However, the recent closure suggests a shift in Benin’s stance.

According to Beninese officials, the closure applies to both land and river crossings. 

They justify the decision by citing security concerns and the lack of control over goods transported on boats across the river.

Reports from Malanville, a town on the border, indicate a significant deployment of Beninese security forces to enforce the closure. 

Local residents also mentioned witnessing Nigerien citizens being turned away from the river by troops on the other side.

This latest development adds to the strain on trade between the two countries. 

Benin’s President blames informal border crossings for rising food prices, which fueled recent protests. 

While Benin continues to allow the export of Nigerien oil through its port, the overall relationship appears to be deteriorating.

The situation highlights the ongoing challenges faced by West Africa, including political instability, threats, and economic hardship. 

The ability of regional organizations like ECOWAS to foster cooperation and address these issues will be crucial in the coming months.

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