Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said neighboring Burkina Faso had reached an “arrangement” with the Russian paramilitary Wagner group, a controversial statement that the Burkina Faso government declined to address.
“Burkina Faso has now reached an agreement to use Wagner’s forces as Mali. I believe a mine in southern Burkina Faso has been set aside for them as payment for their services,” he said at a Ghana-US meeting.
According to the Ghanaian head of state, “Russian mercenaries are on the northern border” of Ghana, which is “particularly worrying”.
Burkina Faso government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouedraogo told AFP: “We have no response. I hold him responsible for what he said.”
In many French-speaking African countries, Moscow runs an active lobbying campaign, particularly on social media, and enjoys growing popular support when former colonial power France is denigrated.
Several countries have accused Mali’s ruling military council of using the services of Wagner, who is known to be close to the Moscow regime, which Bamako denies.
The question of a possible rapprochement with Russia has also been raised in Burkina since the Sept. 30 coup d’état, the second in eight months, that brought Captain Brahim Traoré to power, while the country has grappled with repeated deadly jihadist attacks since 2015.
Burkina Faso Prime Minister Apollinaire Kelem de Tembela met with Russian Vice Chancellor Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow on Monday to discuss “priority issues to strengthen ties” between the two countries, according to a ministry statement to Russia’s Foreign Affairs.
When asked about the trip, a Burkina Faso government spokesman declined to comment.
Kelem von Tempel said in late October that he would not rule out re-examining his country’s “ties” with Russia.
“We will do our best to diversify our partnership relations until we find the right formula for Burkina Faso’s interests. But there will be no way to let one partner dominate us,” he said. On Thursday evening, the head of US diplomacy reiterated his concerns about the Russian group.
“Once Wagner spreads, nations will become weaker, less secure, and less independent,” Anthony Blinken warned at a news conference concluding the three-day US-Africa summit in Washington.
“Our African partners tell us they don’t want their resources to be exploited, they don’t want their human rights to be violated, they don’t want their government to be undermined, so at the end of the day they don’t want to do ‘us’ don’t want Wagner’.”