Burkina Faso denied any relationship with the Russian “Wagner” group, after reports that the African country contracted with the Russian special group as an alternative to the French forces, which gave it one month to withdraw from its territory, following a unilateral decision to terminate a military cooperation agreement signed between the two countries a year ago. 2018.
The denial came in the words of Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Olivia Ruamba, during a meeting yesterday (Monday) with Tomas Olekny, the Czech Republic’s special envoy to the Sahel region, who visited Burkina Faso “carrying a message of friendship and support for Burkina Faso in its struggle against terrorism.”
However, the Czech diplomat expressed, at the same time, his country’s fears of possible cooperation between Burkina Faso and the Russian “Wagner” group, which was mentioned in many reports during the past months, especially in light of the growing rapprochement between Burkina Faso and Russia since the September 30 coup. 2022, who brought Captain Ibrahim Traore to power.
During the talks, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister welcomed the Czech Republic’s initiative, adding that “in difficult moments we can recognize our true friends.” In the context of her response to the Czech envoy’s concerns, the foreign minister categorically denied the existence of any contacts with the “Wagner” group, according to a telegram issued by the Burkinabe Foreign Ministry.
According to the same source, Ruamba, in her conversation with the Czech diplomat, said: “We believe in local solutions to confront insecurity. The group of volunteers to defend the homeland that we formed is (Wagner) Burkina Faso.” The minister refers to local armed groups, numbering 50,000 armed men, formed by the authorities in Burkina Faso from volunteers who received rapid training, and were armed to defend their villages and cities, under the supervision of the army and security forces, similar to the experience of the “Awakening Movements” in Iraq years ago.
The Foreign Minister’s statements come as the first official denial of the existence of a relationship linking her country to the Russian “Wagner” group, although many reports have recently spoken of the presence of elements of the special Russian group in the country in order to support the putschists in consolidating the pillars of their rule, and assisting them in confronting the terrorist groups that are believed to be in control. covering more than 40 percent of the country.
Indeed, during the last September coup, Russian flags were raised, and voices were raised to expel the French and replace them with the Russians, while the new rulers of Burkina Faso spoke of their desire to diversify their military partnerships, and the head and founder of the “Wagner” group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, welcomed the military coup, and said in a tweet on Social networking sites, that Captain Ibrahim Traoré is “a brave son and loyal to his country.”--
Meanwhile, Burkinabe Prime Minister Kelem de Tambila made a “secret” visit to Moscow in early December, which was announced after its end, and it was said that it would contribute to strengthening relations between the two countries, without revealing more details about the prime minister’s meetings with officials. Russians.-
Faced with these developments, Ghanaian President Nana Akfo-Addo said, during the US-African summit held in Washington last December, that he had information confirming that Burkina Faso had concluded an agreement with the Russian “Wagner” group, and added that the leaders of Burkina Faso had granted “Wagner” a license to exploit a mine. for gold in the southern region of the country, in exchange for its military services.
Recently, the strong presence of Russian companies in Burkina Faso has become clear, especially those operating in gold mines. The Russian company Nord Gold is the largest foreign investor in Burkina Faso’s gold mines, as it exploits 3 mines. Last December, the authorities granted it a new license to exploit a fourth mine, with a validity period of four years, according to reports published by local newspapers.
And if the Burkina Faso authorities deny the agreement with “Wagner”, they do not hide their admiration for the experience of neighboring Mali, which last year ended the military cooperation agreement with France and expelled 1,500 French soldiers who were on its soil, and replaced them with fighters from the Russian “Wagner” group, and concluded deals. The purchase of Russian weapons, including helicopters and fighter jets, the last batch of which was received last week.
The same scenario was repeated in Burkina Faso, albeit with different details. Diplomatic relations between Ouagadougou and Paris have been strained since the coup of last September, to the point that the Burkina Faso authorities asked France to replace its ambassador in Ouagadougou, and recently deported French citizens on charges of “espionage.” They also stopped broadcasting Radio France. The international community in the country after accusing it of “charging and stirring up sedition”, and sent a warning two days ago to the “France 24” channel; Because of its coverage of Burkina Faso’s demand for the withdrawal of French forces.
For its part, France has been warning of a propaganda campaign hostile to it in the African Sahel region, especially in Burkina Faso, saying that behind it is Russia and the media and groups loyal to it, but a state of outrage is sweeping the streets in Burkina Faso towards France. It is accused of not being serious about eliminating terrorism that has struck the country since 2015.