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Author : Michaël Matongbada
Affiliated organization : Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Africa
Site of publication : issafrica.org
Type of publication : Article
Date of publication : 27, July 2020
National authorities and local communities worry that kidnapping could exacerbate Benin’s security challenges and provide an entry point for extremists operating nearby. There has been no evidence of kidnappers being linked to violent extremist groups. Still, such incidents could be exploited by terrorists operating in neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. Extremists are already obtaining logistical and financial resources from West African coastal states.
The local population and civil society organisations told the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) that the phenomenon began in 2016 in the Tchaourou commune, located in the northern Borgou department.
Locals say kidnapping for ransom in Benin has evolved from the armed and highway robberies observed in the northern communes since 2005. These attacks are explained by the lack of income-generating activities in these areas, among others. Locals believe establishing special border surveillance units in 2015, and an increased police presence in the region led to bandits refining their strategy and reverting to kidnapping.
The local population and civil society organisations told the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) that the phenomenon began in 2016 in the Tchaourou commune, located in the northern Borgou department
In 2021, Benin’s government created a technical committee to monitor and secure pastoral transhumance zones and combat abductions. The committee is mandated to, among other things, oversee the implementation of the December 2019 law prohibiting the cross-border movement of livestock.
The continuation of kidnapping for ransom threatens Benin’s security and social stability in three ways. First, it stokes tensions between local communities and Fulanis, who are accused of being involved in the kidnappings. Any collaboration between the police and hunters or herders to stop the abductions could trigger intra- and inter-communal conflicts. In 2014, officers in some localities used Dambanga hunters to track and arrest highway robbers. Instead of handing suspects over to the police, the hunters allegedly tortured, abused or murdered suspects.
Second, the prohibition of transhumance is unlikely to stem kidnapping in Benin as it doesn’t address the root causes of the problem. It also won’t reduce the risk of kidnappers turning their attention to communities other than herders or hunters.
In 2021, Benin’s government created a technical committee to monitor and secure pastoral transhumance zones and combat abductions. The committee is mandated to, among other things, oversee the implementation of the December 2019 law prohibiting the cross-border movement of livestock
Finally, ISS research in the region shows that violent extremist groups collaborate with criminals to gain footholds and obtain various resources. Benin must prevent extremists from forming alliances with kidnapping networks or bandits, particularly in its border areas.
Herders need to be made aware of how to conduct their livestock businesses safely, and the police must work to gain the trust of communities. Police and intelligence agencies should also use technology to trace communications between perpetrators, families and associates of kidnapping victims.
Inclusive development solutions are also needed. It is also vital to ensure that security measures taken against kidnappers adhere to human rights principles, to avoid a breakdown of trust between civilians and the state.