Admiral Denis Hounsou Gbessemehlan
Maritime security is currently one of the biggest challenges facing the Benin Republic. When a transnational, organized criminal threat occurs at sea—an international domain—regional and international strategic approaches are needed to address maritime security. To do so, the Benin naval forces rely on information and resource sharing. The political will for this exists both in Benin and at the subregional level. Benin developed a national strategy for maritime protection and acquired three new patrol vessels. At the subregional level, the Economic Community Of West African States has created several maritime-security zones in the Gulf of Guinea. Benin hosts the headquarters of the Maritime Coordination Centre (MCC) for multinational pilot area E, which will soon be operational in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin. This achievement is a great advantage for information sharing in the subregion.
A number of developments will impact the posture of our naval forces in the future. First, the discovery of oil in Beninese territorial waters will further infest the coastline with pirate attacks. Additionally, any failure of a state will result in its citizens spilling by sea over our border in search of easy money. Lastly, border disputes over territorial waters have an economic corollary that will weigh on our navy.
To address these changes, a multilateral partnership with countries interested in Gulf of Guinea security challenges and with international institutions (such as with the International Maritime Organization or the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) is essential. For maximum security in our maritime space, the naval forces in charge of security require common regional mobilization and a convergence of strategy. Moreover, this policy approach should be extended to a judiciary court so that criminals can be prosecuted by a body of law separate from that of their home country.
Consequently, the Benin naval forces recommend a regional, comprehensive partnership agreement to develop a strong maritime community—managed by the MCC—to maintain an effective and sustainable governance in maritime public domain, harmonize laws and international regulations governing the maritime field, and encourage a good education and training program for partners in the subregion.
Meanwhile, each country must make the effort to improve its means and ensure its own internal security. In this context, the Benin naval force’s short-term goal is to build a naval base in Seme, in addition to Cotonou and Grand Popo, to control its national and territorial coastline.