Can China resolve Niger-Benin border dispute? – DW – 05/15/2024 | EUROtoday

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Tensions between West African neighbors Niger and Benin started with the July 2023 army coup in Niger and the arrest of the nation’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

The West African bloc ECOWAS has condemned the coup and imposed sanctions on the Nigerian army regime led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.

In Benin, the protests towards the coup leaders have been notably express. Beninese President Patrice Talon loudly demanded Bazoum’s reinstatement and even advocated for a army intervention by ECOWAS troops towards the coupists in Niger.

Kombobild: Patrice Athanase Guillaume Talon und General Abdourahamane Tiani
A conflictual relationship: Benin’s President Patrice Talon (left) and Niger’s ruler General Abdourahamane TianiImage: Yanick Folly/AFP/Getty Images, ORTN/TÈlÈ Sahel/AFP

Niger closes borders to Benin

Niger’s army leaders responded promptly by closing the borders with Benin.

Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel Regional Program on the Bonn-based Konrad Adenauer Foundation suppose tank, who lately visited Niger, described the scenario on the Niger-Benin frontier.

“The borders remain closed and Niger does not seem ready to reopen them soon,” stated Laessing. “There are Nigerien army troops stationed at the border with Benin. The Nigerien government is still afraid that ECOWAS or France could try to reinstall the ousted president through military intervention.”

Laessing advised DW that there’s a sure diploma of paranoia in Niger.

What are the implications of the border closure?

Trade between Niger and Benin has virtually come to a standstill, leading to vital monetary losses, particularly on the Beninese aspect.

Before the coup, nearly all of Niger’s imports — meals, automobiles, client items, and so forth. — traveled by means of Benin’s port of Cotonou .

Alternative routes, equivalent to by means of Togo’s port of Lome after which by means of Burkina Faso, have been thought-about difficult, to not point out unsafe resulting from an Islamist insurgency Burkina Faso.

Despite the dangers, Niger more and more shifted its imports by means of Burkina Faso, and expanded its cooperation with the nation that has been dominated by a army junta since a violent coup in January 2022.

The incontrovertible fact that Burkina Faso and Niger are actually politically and economically approaching one another whereas commerce relations between Niger and Benin collapse has raised eyebrows in Benin.

After the lifting of ECOWAS sanctions towards Niger, Benin demanded that Niger instantly reopen their shared borders.

“To emphasize the demand, Benin has now resorted to a highly effective means of pressure,” stated Laessing. “Benin says that Niger’s oil exports to China through a newly built Chinese pipeline to the port of Cotonou can only begin when the borders between the two countries are reopened.”

Niger – making a brand new house in a transit nation

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Conflict escalates

Benin’s resolution to not permit ships carrying Nigerien crude oil to enter the port of Cotonou has threatened the survival of Niger’s army junta.

More than 90,000 barrels of crude per day have been earmarked for delivery to China by means of a pipeline that travels by means of Benin.

The Chinese state-owned firm China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) had even signed a memorandum of understanding to this impact — and accomplished an nearly 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline between Agadem in japanese Niger and Seme-Kpodji, close to Benin’s port of Cotonou.

But in the interim, Benin is thwarting Niger’s plans and prohibiting the loading of Nigerien crude oil onto Chinese ships — a resolution that was made on May 6 on the highest authorities degree and communicated to the Chinese ambassador in Benin in addition to the pipeline administration firm.

Is the blockade authorized?

According to Beninese political analyst David Morgan, Benin’s resolution to quickly block the export of Nigerien crude oil to China by means of Beninese ports is “at least understandable.”

Benin may justify invoking the precept of state sovereignty and the precept of reciprocity, which means that the Nigerien aspect had additionally closed the borders with its neighbor, and thus should count on an identical countermeasure, stated Benin.

“This measure by Benin aims to force Niger to reopen its borders so that the populations on both sides of the border can resume conditions for common trade,” Morgan added.

At the identical time, Morgan means that Benin’s resolution to dam Niger’s crude oil exports may probably contravene worldwide legislation.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a world settlement offering a authorized framework for all marine and maritime actions, landlocked states like Niger are legally assured entry to the ocean.

“Now it needs to be examined whether the decision of the Beninese government corresponds to this internationally anchored guarantee of access by landlocked states to the sea,” Morgan advised DW.

Workers from Niger and China on the construction site of an oil pipeline in Gaya, Niger, in October, 2022
Nigerien authorities in November inaugurated the large pipeline that may carry crude oil extracted by the CNPC to neighboring BeninImage: Boureima Hama/AFP/Getty Images

Great financial injury

The battle inflicts nice financial injury on each nations, in keeping with Ulf Laessing, who advised DW that Niger and Benin rely upon one another.

“But Niger, it seems, needs Benin more than vice versa because oil exports can only go through Benin,” Laessing stated. “The pipeline was built that way. The oil pipeline, which was supposed to go into operation these days, runs through Beninese territory.”

Indeed, Niger urgently wants income from oil exports to China. Since the 2023 coup, Niger has been going through main monetary difficulties.

Laessing identified that Western nations have suspended improvement assist, aside from humanitarian help. Therefore, oil exports are essential for the Nigerien regime.

A tug boat manoeuvres in the Port of Cotonou in Benin
Benin has blocked exports of crude oil from Niger through its Port of CotonouImage: AFP through Getty Images

Can China mediate an answer?

“The key lies with China, which maintains good relations with both countrie,” stated Laessing. “China will probably try to mediate. After all, China built the oil pipeline. And it’s also Chinese companies that buy oil from Niger.”

All three nations concerned — Niger, Benin and China — connect nice significance to the enterprise of crude oil and the pipeline.

As lately as April, representatives from the three nations celebrated the completion of the Seme-Podji pipeline as a “trailblazing” mission.

Ultimately, Niger and Benin want one another.

The port of Cotonou needs to proceed dealing with imports for Niger. And Niger urgently must pump its crude oil by means of Beninese territory in direction of Cotonou to forestall state chapter.

“In this respect, I hope that both countries, apart from the hostile rhetoric, will come together again soon, with the mediation of the Chinese,” stated Ulf Laessing.

Rodrigue Guezodje contributed to this text, which has been tailored from German.

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