Saturday, May 25, 2024

Niger coup: Wagner taking advantage of instability – Antony Blinken

Russia’s Wagner mercenary group is “taking advantage” of instability in Niger, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told the BBC.

The country has been ruled by a junta following the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum nearly two weeks ago.

Mr Blinken said he did not think Russia or Wagner instigated Niger’s coup.

However, the US was worried about the group “possibly manifesting itself” in parts of the Sahel region, he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme

“I think what happened, and what continues to happen in Niger was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, but… they tried to take advantage of it.

“Every single place that this Wagner group has gone, death, destruction and exploitation have followed,” said Mr Blinken.

“Insecurity has gone up, not down”.

He added that there was a “repeat of what’s happened in other countries, where they brought nothing but bad things in their wake”.

Both the US and France operate military bases in Niger as part of operations to disrupt jihadist groups operating in the wider region. Niger became the main base for French troops after they were told to leave Mali following a coup there.

Wagner is believed to have thousands of fighters in countries including the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, where it has lucrative business interests but also bolsters Russia’s diplomatic and economic relations.

The group’s fighters have been accused of widespread human rights abuses in several African countries.

Despite this, there has been speculation Niger’s army has asked Wagner for assistance as the country faces the possibility of military intervention.

Mr Bazoum, who is currently being detained, has also spoken of his concerns about Wagner’s influence in Africa.

It is currently unclear if Wagner fighters have entered the country but the prominent Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel Grey Zone said on Monday that some 1,500 of its fighters had recently been sent to Africa.

It did not specify where on the continent they had allegedly been deployed.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin has urged the junta to “give us a call” in a voice message uploaded to Telegram on Tuesday.

“We are always on the side of the good, on the side of justice, and on the side of those who fight for their sovereignty and for the rights of their people,” he said.

Mana Balagbogbo
Mana Balagbogbo
Broadcast Journalist with LN247 (Everything Politics).

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