Foreign policy and defense
Benin is a nation in Western Africa. Its capital city is Porto-Novo. Since democratization in the early 1990s, Benin has strengthened relations with the West, especially the former colonial power of France and the United States. Benin has also played an active role in attempts to resolve conflicts in the region and has participated with troops in several regional and UN-organized military operations.
As chairman of the West African Cooperation Organization Ecowas, Benin’s then-President Nicéphore Soglo mediated in the conflicts in Liberia and Togo in the early 1990s. Benin also participated in the organization’s peacekeeping operation in Guinea-Bissau in 1999 and sent an alliance to the Ivory Coast peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast in early 2003 as well as to Liberia later that year. The country also sent troops to UN operations in Sudan and Congo-Kinshasa in 2005, Central African Republic and Chad in 2007 – 2010 as well as a police force to the UN operation in Haiti from 2004. About 600 Beninese soldiers participated in the Ecowas operation in Mali 2013, which later became a UN intervention, and also in the UN force in the Central African Republic from 2014.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Benin for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
To meet the threat from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been collaborating since 2014 by exchanging intelligence information. The terrorist movement originated in Nigeria but is increasingly moving across borders. In the summer of 2015, the countries agreed to form a joint military force under Nigeria’s leadership to fight Boko Haram.
Benin’s relationship with its neighbors is generally good, but there has been disagreement over the border between the states, including with Niger on the right to 25 small islands in the Niger River. However, this dispute left the two countries jointly before the International Court of Justice in The Hague to decide on and both accepted the court’s ruling, which came in 2005: 16 islands fell to Niger, nine Benin. The country has also accused Burkina Faso of moving its border markings into Beninese territory. In 2009, this dispute was also referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The disputed border area is jointly administered by the two countries until they fall.
Good relations with the regional superpower and important trading partner Nigeria are important for little Benin. Issues regarding border demarcation, both on land and at sea, have been resolved between the countries themselves. However, Nigeria has sometimes criticized Benin for not adequately guarding the border between the countries and stopping the widespread smuggling of Nigerian oil and capital goods or preventing the trafficking of women and children (see Social Conditions). Despite joint action by the two countries, problems along the border have continued. In 2007, together with Togo, they both established a common growth zone with the aim of integrating the countries’ economies and promoting peace, security and economic development. As part of this, Nigeria provides its partners with cheap energy.
Benin has also embarked on enhanced security cooperation with Nigeria since the piracy business has grown in the waters offshore. In 2011 and 2012, pirates carried out 22 attacks on ships off the coast of Benin and in nine cases the pirates managed to hijack the ships, which often had oil as cargo, which the pirates then sold on the black market. The port operations in Cotonou, which are so important to Benin, were severely affected when the number of vessels arriving at the port fell sharply as a result of the piracy hijackings. In resolutions, the UN Security Council called on governments, regional organizations and the outside world to work together to deal with the issue and Benin and Nigeria initiated joint monitoring of the waters by patrol boats. Since 2013, no cutting attempts have been reported.
Relations with Togo were strained in connection with the Togolese presidential election in 2005 (see Togo: Modern History) when more than 26,000 Togolese fled to Benin. Most have since returned, but at least a few, three thousand have remained in Benin.
The military, which for many years dictatorially ruled the country, has long since retreated to the barracks. The military service is 18 months and has previously been based on a selection system. However, the government again introduced mandatory military duty in May 2007. The government has invested in strengthening the military’s ability to stop piracy during the 2010s and, among other things, procured high-speed boats for these purposes. China has contributed funds to a patrol boat.
FACTS – DEFENSE
6,500 men (2017)
The air Force
250 men (2017)
500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP
1.2 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget
5.2 percent (2017)