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Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Ouagadougou — Burkina Faso summoned the Ghanaian ambassador on Friday after Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo alleged that Burkina Faso had hired the Russian mercenary group Wagner, its foreign ministry said.

Speaking to reporters alongside US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Wednesday, Akufo-Addo alleged that Burkina Faso had hired the mercenaries.

“Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there,” Akufo-Addo said, adding that it was a distressing development for Ghana.

Akufo-Addo also alleged that Burkina Faso had offered Wagner a mine as payment.

In a statement issued after the meeting with the ambassador, Burkina Faso’s foreign ministry said it had “expressed disapproval” about the statements made by the Ghanaian president.

“Ghana could have undertaken exchanges with the Burkinabe authorities on the security issue to have the right information,” it said.

However, it did not confirm or deny the allegations. In a separate message to Reuters, the foreign ministry spokesperson said, without elaborating: “In any case, Burkina has not called on Wagner.”

Burkina Faso also recalled its ambassador from Ghana for a meeting, the spokesperson said.

Burkinabe authorities have not commented publicly on whether they are working with Wagner, a mercenary group that was hired in neighbouring Mali to help fight Islamist militants.

In a response on Thursday to Akufo-Addo’s remarks, Wagner did not directly address Ghana’s concerns. But the response, attributed to Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused Western governments and armed UN missions of carrying out some of the offences Wagner has been accused of in Africa.

The prospect of Wagner expanding its presence in Africa has troubled Western powers such as France and the US, who say the group exploits mineral resources and commits human rights abuses in countries where it operates.

Burkina Faso’s government spokesperson did not answer calls and did not reply to a message requesting comment.

A communications officer at Ghana’s foreign affairs ministry said no-one was immediately available for comment.

Burkina Faso is facing an Islamist insurgency by some of the same groups that are present in Mali, and like its neighbour is ruled by a military junta that came to power on promises to improve security.

Mali’s decision to employ Wagner forces last year alienated it from regional and Western allies and was one of the reasons why French counter-terrorism forces pulled out.

Wagner forces have also fought in Libya, Central African Republic (CAR) and Mozambique.

Meanwhile, Prigozhin accused France of attempting to assassinate the head of a Russian representative office in the CAR.

The victim, Dmitry Syty, was taken to hospital in Bangui on Friday after opening a mail bomb. He had suffered serious injuries when the package, from an anonymous sender, exploded.

Prigozhin did not provide evidence for his accusation against France.

The French foreign ministry did not immediately respond to the allegations.

France is the former colonial ruler in CAR, a gold- and diamond-rich country of 4.7-million people whose government is fighting several rebel insurgencies.

“Before losing consciousness, Dmitry Syty managed to say: 'I saw a note: this is for you from all the French, the Russians will get out of Africa',” Prigozhin, who styles himself as a strong supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a statement posted on Telegram.

He did not say how he knew what Syty had said.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Wagner, accusing it of carrying out clandestine operations on the Russian government’s behalf.

Last year, a UN report said Russian military instructors and local troops in the CAR had targeted civilians with excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and large-scale looting. Russia denies this.

French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Russia of feeding anti-French propaganda in Africa to serve “predatory” ambitions in troubled African nations, where France has suffered military setbacks and a wider loss of influence over recent years.

Wagner Group has deployed in several countries in the region, including in CAR and in Mali.

Relations between Russia and Western nations are at rock-bottom over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February.


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