Benin is in talks with Rwanda over logistical aid and military expertise to combat jihadists on its northern border, a Beninese government official said on Friday.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has already sent troops to help Mozambique fight Islamist militants in its north and also deployed forces to help stop violence in the Central African Republic.
Benin’s armed forces are battling an expanding threat from jihadist conflicts across its northern border in Burkina Faso and Niger, with around 20 incursions since 2021.
“As with Niger and Burkina Faso, we are discussing logistical support and the supply of expertise with Rwanda,” Benin’s presidential spokesman Wilfried Houngbedji said
“But the coming agreement will not provide for the deployment of Rwandan troops on the ground.”
His remarks came after Paris-based specialist website Africa Intelligence reported that Benin was negotiating the deployment of Rwandan troops inside Benin to help fight jihadists.
It said talks were in the final stages with the first of hundreds of Rwandan troops and experts expected to arrive in Benin in October. According to the article said only a few African heads of state in the region had been notified.
“I cannot comment on that, but what I can confirm is that we have an existing defence cooperation between our two countries,” Rwanda Defence Force spokesman Ronald Rwivanga said when asked about the article.
Benin’s Armed Forces Chief of Army Staff, Brigadier General Fructueux Gbaguidi in July visited Rwanda for talks to deepen the existing relations between the two armies, according to a Rwanda defence ministry statement.
Benin President Patrice Talon has told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he needs more equipment, especially drones, to help combat violence in the north.
France withdrew its troops from Mali this summer, removing a major military force in the battle against jihadism in the Sahel.
West African coastal states from Benin, Togo and Ghana to Ivory Coast are increasingly concerned about the spread of violence from Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists operating in their northern neighbours.
Togo’s first acknowledged jihadist attack was in May 2022. Benin’s first known fatal attack came in December, when two soldiers were killed near the border with Burkina Faso. In Ivory Coast, four members of the security forces died in 2021, after 14 in 2020.
Gulf of Guinea states have increased their military presence in northern border regions, with Togo imposing a state of emergency in its far northern provinces.
Rwanda’s military last year deployed around 1,000 troops in Mozambique’s north alongside contingents from other southern African countries as well as support from Europe and the United States.
Sources say Rwanda’s troops have been among the most effective and are the force deployed most frequently to combat operations in northern Mozambique.
Mozambique’s nearly five-year-old jihadist insurgency has killed more than 3,700 people and driven more than 800,000 from their homes as well as suspending a multi-billion dollar gas project.