France has delivered a first batch of VAB armoured vehicles to the Beninese Armed Forces, which will use them for counter-terrorism and other security tasks.
The eight ex-French vehicles were handed over in Cotonou on 20 January by Marc Vizy, the Ambassador of France to Benin. He said violent extremism on the northern borders of Benin has hit the country hard, and the vehicles would help contain this threat.
The eight vehicles will be followed by another seven. They are equipped with machineguns in overhead turrets and night vision systems and will provide secure transport for troops, and protect them against weapons used by terrorists and improvised explosive devices.
Beninese soldiers have been trained in the maintenance and use of the vehicles, the Beninese government said in a statement. “France, by this gesture which follows a donation of pick-up vehicles a few weeks earlier, comes to testify once again the quality of its relations with Benin today at war against terrorist groups.”
Brigadier General Fructueux Gbaguidi, Chief of General Staff of the Beninese Army, said “Benin remains appreciative of your efforts to us since the beginning of this crisis”, adding that “police forces will appreciate the operational boost they receive from a long-time partner like France.”
France has also provided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), protective equipment, armoured vehicles and other equipment to help Benin fight terrorism in the region.
Attacks by the Islamic State of the Greater Sahel and al-Qaida linked Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin have ramped up attacks in the last couple of years, with the country seeing an increase of more than 10 times the number of attacks — from 2 to 25 — between July and December 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project (ACLED).
Attacks were previously limited to Benin’s northern border with Burkina Faso as well as vast tracts of national parks where terrorists are able to hide, organize and stage attacks. Since June 2022, however, militants increasingly have attacked populated areas around the parks.
In a December 8 state of the nation speech, Beninese President Patrice Talon said the military response in 2022 included more than $130 million to recruit nearly 4 000 security personnel, modernize equipment and begin fortifying bases, while building 10 operating bases and “several dozen” fortified positions.
It is believed that France will supply older vehicles like the VAB to the militaries of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal and others. It has also provided VABs to Ukraine.
The VAB (Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé) was manufactured thirty different versions for the French military and over a dozen export customers – some 5 000 were manufactured. In French service it is being replaced by the VBMR Griffon and VBMR-L Serval. The base model VAB VTT (Véhicule Transport de Troupe) armoured personnel carrier carries an infantry squad of 8-10 fully-equipped troops in an armoured hull that protects the crew and dismounts from 7.62 mm rounds, artillery shell splinters and anti-personnel mines.