Tensions between neighboring West African nations Benin and Niger are escalating amid a deepening dispute over oil exports.

This latest flare in tensions comes as Niger accuses Benin of kidnapping five of its nationals. Benin authorities arrested the Nigerien citizens at its Seme port last week.

Niger's military junta says those arrested were a team from the Nigerien-Chinese oil company Wapco Niger and included the company's deputy managing director and four other executives.

Wapco Niger is a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation, China's state-owned oil company.

According to the junta, the delegation was in Benin to monitor the loading of Niger's crude oil shipments to China.

Landlocked Niger relies on Benin's Seme port to export its crude oil, which flows to Benin through an almost 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) Chinese-built pipeline from its Agadem oilfield.

For its part, Benin said it arrested the Nigeriens after they illegally entered the port, where the storage tanks for the cross-border pipeline are located. Benin authorities alleged the Nigerien team claimed to be Wapco employees and used fake badges to enter the facility.

Mario Metonou, Benin's special prosecutor, also accused two of those detained of being agents of Niger's junta.

"Investigations are ongoing to ascertain the true motives of the accused amid recurring reports of planned threats to Benin's national security," Metonou said last Thursday.

The incident came just weeks after Benin agreed on May 15 to provisionally let the first shipload of Nigerien oilat the Seme terminal.

But the nations haven't yet agreed on a long-term solution. And the loading of Chinese ships with Niger's oil at Seme port reportedly remains at a standstill after Niger's junta said it would block oil flowing through the pipeline in retaliation for the arrest of its citizens.

"We are no longer going to send our oil through the pipeline until the Beninese decide to honor their commitment and until the Chinese partner gets them to honor their commitment because, apparently, that is the only party they are listening to," Niger's petroleum minister Mahamane Moustapha Barke said following the arrests.

According to African Energy, stopping the oil flow would deprive Benin of oil transit fees worth $31 million (€28.9 million) a year.

Reopening the common border is another stumbling block in relations between the two countries. The tensions go back to the July 2023 coup in Niger, which led the regional bloc ECOWAS to impose strict sanctions on Niger for more than six months.

In March 2024, Niger reopened its border with Nigeria following the lifting of sanctions imposed by ECOWAS. Nigeria shut its border for several months after the military took power and rejected demands to return power to a civilian government. But despite the lifting of sanctions, Niger refuses to open its land border to Benin, which it accuses of harboring French bases on its territory. The Nigerien junta expelled French troops previously stationed in the Sahel nation.

Benin governance expert Francis Euloge Atad said alternative stakeholders need to get involved in mediation efforts to help ease the situation.

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"If Niger wants to put an end to the pipeline or divert the pipeline's route in the same way that it is diverting its goods, why this attitude?" he told DW. "How can we live together, especially those on either side of the two borders? These are all unanswered questions that force us to seek mediation, for example, by a religious figure, who should be carefully chosen."

Meanwhile, on the streets of Benin's Cotonou port, near Seme, people told DW they wanted both governments to end the deadlock.

"This crisis mustn't continue. The leaders really need to take action against this as a peaceful and balanced resolution would be beneficial for both countries and their people," one woman told DW.

"I believe it is vital that our leaders, both in Benin and Niger, find peaceful and diplomatic solutions to put an end to these tensions so that the people can live in harmony and focus on development," said another passerby.

Edited by: Chrispin Mwakideu

QOSHE - Benin-Niger oil export row flares again - Rodrigue Guezodje
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Benin-Niger oil export row flares again

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13.06.2024

Tensions between neighboring West African nations Benin and Niger are escalating amid a deepening dispute over oil exports.

This latest flare in tensions comes as Niger accuses Benin of kidnapping five of its nationals. Benin authorities arrested the Nigerien citizens at its Seme port last week.

Niger's military junta says those arrested were a team from the Nigerien-Chinese oil company Wapco Niger and included the company's deputy managing director and four other executives.

Wapco Niger is a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation, China's state-owned oil company.

According to the junta, the delegation was in Benin to monitor the loading of Niger's crude oil shipments to China.

Landlocked Niger relies on Benin's Seme port to export its crude oil, which flows to Benin through an almost 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) Chinese-built pipeline from its Agadem oilfield.

For its part, Benin said it arrested the Nigeriens after they illegally entered the port, where the storage tanks for the cross-border pipeline are........

© Deutsche Welle


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