Burkina Faso recalls ambassador in Ghana over Akufo-Addo’s Wagner claims
Burkina Faso has recalled its ambassador in Ghana after President Nana Akufo-Addo alleged on Wednesday that his francophone neighbour has hired Russian mercenaries to help fight an insurgency and is using a mine to pay them.
Militants have made increasing inroads into Burkina Faso, triggering two coups d’état this year, one in January and one in September, as the armed forces try to re-establish control of the country.
Speaking on Wednesday (14 December) in Washington during the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, President Akufo-Addo expressed concern about the suspected development.
“Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border,” Akufo-Addo said. “Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there and I believe a mine in the southern part of Burkina has been allocated to them as a form of payment for their service.
“To have them operating on our northern border is particularly distressing for us in Ghana.”
On Friday, following that reservation, Ouagadougou summoned Ghana’s ambassador to Burkina Faso for questioning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the state agency media reported.
Ghana’s Foreign Ministry also confirmed the news to Asaaseradio.com.
Experts believe Burkina Faso’s current leader, the army captain Ibrahim Traoré, is using Russian mercenaries from the shadowy Wagner group to fight the jihadists.
An official involved in Burkina Faso’s border security, speaking on condition of anonymity, commented on Akufo-Addo’s remarks in a text message to Voice of America.
He did not deny the presence of mercenaries, saying instead: “Burkina does not need foreign fighters, but equipment. We have men capable” of fighting terrorism.
Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar, executive director of the West Africa Centre for Counter-Extremism (WACCE), said the recent withdrawal of European, mainly French, peacekeeping troops from the Sahel is a loss in the fight against jihadists.
He said it will enable Russia’s push to establish a strong foothold in Africa.
“Now … we are seeing the withdrawal of the French forces, which is followed by the other European partners, is a big blow to the region and to all of us here along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea,” Muqthar said.
“The Russian mercenaries are in there and they seem to be building some significant sense of goodwill from the local population as against traditional European partners and that should worry all of us.”
The possibility of Burkina Faso using the Wagner group to fight jihadists in the country has been the subject of debate for several months and prompted warnings from Western powers. But there has not yet been an official confirmation about an agreement between the group and Burkina Faso, even though Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyelem recently visited Russia, the BBC reported.
Muqthar said focusing solely on using combat to fight terrorism in West Africa is not the best way to go, saying it failed in the Sahel regions.
“Combat measures are very important to hold territories and to stop these extremists,” he said. “But it’s not enough to sustain any gains relating to combating terrorism.
“We need to match it with significant non-combat measures, which is the people. It’s important that military measures must be development-linked and must be linked to the realities of the problem because people don’t just wake up to fight.”
Recently, West African leaders met in Accra to discuss terrorism and worsening security in the region. They resolved at the Accra Initiative to establish an anti-jihadist force within a month to protect coastal countries, such as Ghana.