According to French news outlet France 24, American journalist Jackson Hinkle reports that Wagner, a well-known mercenary outfit known for its fighting in Africa, Syria, Ukraine, and most recently the bungled Russian coup, has sought out to Niger, which deposed the elected president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
He tweeted on Friday afternoon, August 4; “The new government of Niger has reportedly signed a contract with the Wagner Group – France 24.”
The report comes after reports emerged on Friday that president Tinubu had given the go ahead to Nigeria’s military to lead ECOWAS on an invasion of Niger.
After Bazoum was overthrown and detained by members of his own guard. General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the former commander of Bazoum’s guard, announced two days later on state-run TV that he had assumed power.
Media outlets have reported that thousands of protesters who favored the coup took to the streets of Niger’s capital city, Niamey, over the weekend. Many carried Russian flags and chanted messages of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Moscow has distanced itself from the coup. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week that the Kremlin hoped for the “rapid release” of Bazoum. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov furthered that sentiment by calling for “restraint on all sides.”
However, the Wagner Group, which has contracts in countries such as the Central African Republic and Mali, could look to capitalize on the turmoil in Niger and increase their presence in Africa.
Last week Saturday, Reuters reported that a message posted on Telegram, believed to be from Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, praised the coup. Reuters could not confirm it was Prigozhin but said the “speaker had the same distinctive intonation and turn of phrase in Russian” as the mercenary group’s leader.
The speaker congratulated Niger’s military for getting “rid of the colonizers” and offered to send Wagner fighters to help restore order.