The Republic of Benin is a nation of about 11 million people. Whilst the capital city is Porto-Novo, the seat of government is in Cotonou. Benin, formerly called Dahomey, gained independence from the French in August 1960. The country’s post colonial experience was characterised by a succession of military governments through coup d’états which ended in 1972 when Mathieu Kerekou took over power. The country transitioned to democratic rule in 1991 and has subsequently held several free and fair elections.
Benin has a small military focused largely on internal operations. The Armed Forces consists of an Army strength of 6,800, Navy with 500 personnel and Air Force with 400 including the National Gendarmerie of Benin. The country is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie, Community of Sahel-Saharan States, Niger Basin Authority and many others.
The Belgian Armed Forces work closely with Benin providing training, coaching and logistical support and organizing military exercises. The biggest present threat to the Republic of Benin is maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. In 2011 alone, there were about 45 hijackings and robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. With little procurement muscle, Benin relies on support from its partners to maintain security at sea as it constitutes a significant source of economic well being of the country.
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