Russia’s “Africa Corps” Set To Replace Wagner in Niger

Russian mercenaries provide security for convoy with president of the Central African Republic

“The future Russian Army “Africa corps” is presented by certain Telegram channels as intended to replace Wagner.”

Russia’s Wagner Group became heavily involved in Africa in the years before the death of its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin in an airplane crash in August 2023. The mercenary fighter company deployed its troops primarily to West African countries where France was the security guarantor but had become ostracized by military juntas and authoritarian regimes, such as in Mali, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, and Sudan.[i] Wagner, in turn, became a key means for Russia to exert influence on the leadership of those countries, which often resulted in Russia being granted special concessions, such as access to resources. However, the Wagner brand name has fallen out of favor with the Kremlin for African operations following Prigozhin’s rebellion against Russian leadership. Yet, the benefit for Russia of having mercenary military formations in Africa still exists. As a result, Russia may replace Wagner with a new, but similarly purposed, “Africa Corps.”

The excerpted French-language article on the website of Radio France Internationale highlighted the visit in December 2023 of Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Evkourov (often spelled Yevkurov) to Niger, where the two countries agreed to strengthen military cooperation.[ii] The was significant because it was the first time a Russian delegation visited Niger since the 2023 coup and demonstrated Russia’s endorsement of Niger’s new military junta, whereas Western countries criticized the coup. Additionally, only one month after the coup, the new junta in Niger requested from Russia Wagner’s protection of the junta from internal and external threats, including a potential military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (See Jason Warner, “West African States Split On Potential Intervention In Niger,” OE Watch, Issue # 08, 2023,  Evkourov’s visit solidifies the new partnership between Russia and Niger, with Wagner—or the new “Africa Corps”— as the vehicle for Russian influence. The article noted that, based on an analysis of Telegram social media channels, “Africa Corps,” like Wagner, would welcome mercenaries. Indeed, the offer of a relatively high salary, health insurance with free medical care, and life insurance, all under the supervision of Evkourov, would motivate mercenaries to join. Such inducements attract, in particular, Russian Army veterans whose professional skill set and sense of adventure is otherwise not compatible with civilian life. Further, the article indicates Russian military intelligence and businessmen close to Vladimir Putin support “Africa Corps.” The similarities between Wagner and “Africa Corps” strongly suggest the latter is a continuation of the former under different branding.


“Russie: Moscou prépare un «corps militaire africain» pour prendre la suite de Wagner (Russia: Moscow is preparing an “African military corps” to replace Wagner),” Radio France Internationale, (French state-owned radio news website reporting on international affairs), 5 December 2023.épare-un-corps-militaire-africain-pour-prendre-la-suite-de-wagner

A Russian delegation led by the Deputy Minister of Defense is in Niamey. This is the first official visit by a member of the Russian government to this country since the July 26 coup which broke diplomatic relations between Niger and its international partners. The delegation led by the Russian Deputy Minister of Defense, Colonel-General Younous-bek Bamatguireevich Evkourov, was received by the head of the Nigerien military regime, General Abdourahamane Tiani. At the end of the meeting, the parties continued “to sign documents to strengthen military cooperation between the Republic of Niger and the Russian FederationThe future Russian Army “African corps” is presented by certain Telegram channels as intended to replace Wagner. Former mercenaries would be welcome. The conditions include a high salary of nearly 3,000 euros, free medical care, and life and health insurance, all under the supervision of Deputy Defense Minister Yunous-bek Bamatguireevich Evkourov. Other sources suggest that the unit receives direct patronage from Russian military intelligence, under the leadership of a businessman close to the president… This last scenario would be very similar to that applied to Wagner


[i] In the final week of December 2023, the last remaining 1,500 French troops withdrew from Niger. In addition, Niger previously vowed to stop selling minerals to France and removed diplomatic immunity from the French Ambassador to Niger, who departed the country in August. With the closure of the French Embassy in Niamey on 31 December 2023, the 127 years of a French diplomatic presence in Niger came to an end. This followed a similar French withdrawal from Burkina Faso earlier in 2023 and from Mali in 2022. For additional details, see Morgane Le Cam, “France completes troop withdrawal from Niger, closes embassy,”, 22 December 2023.

[ii] Evkourov is an interesting choice to lead Africa Corps because he was close to Yevgeny Prigozhin but remained loyal to the Russian Defense Ministry during Prigozhin’s mutiny. Evkourov played a mediating role during the mutiny. When Prigozhin’s Wagner forces entered Rostov and seized the city center, Evkourov received Prigozhin hospitably and defused tensions. However, after Prigozhin’s death, Evkourov led a delegation to Syria, Libya, Central African Republic, and other countries where Wagner operated and told Wagner forces that the Defense Ministry would take over the leadership of Wagner.

Image Information:

Image: Russian mercenaries provide security for convoy with president of the Central African Republic
Source: Clément Di Roma/VOA,
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Former Wagner Troops Integrated Into Chechen Unit Fighting in Ukraine

State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

“A platoon dubbed Kamerton (Tuning Fork) consisting of fighters from the now-defunct Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), who had been incorporated into the ranks of the Akhmat special forces group, has carried out a successful assault on a Ukrainian-occupied elevated point.”

On 12 December 2023, a platoon of former fighters from the disbanded Wagner Group carried out an operation in Ukraine-controlled Bakhmut. The operation, a successful assault on the town, marked one of the few times that the official Russian news agency, TASS, has mentioned the Wagner Group after its failed mutiny in 2023 and the death of its mercurial leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

While the article does not provide significant detail about the operation itself, it confirms that remnants of Wagner are still actively fighting in Ukraine. The platoon, called Kamerton (or “Tuning Fork”), is under the command of the Akhmat Special Forces, a 12,000-strong Chechen special forces unit that is part of the Russian National Guard.[i] Roughly 1,200 Akhmat fighters are estimated to be fighting in Ukraine, though their poor discipline has drawn criticisms (they have been dubbed the “TikTok Army” for their social media posts).[ii]

The second excerpted article from TASS, published on 1 December 2023, provides more detail about Kamerton’s operational capability. It describes the platoon as having both an assault and artillery capability, which supports previous reporting that Akhmat forces not only engaged in trench clearing operations but also provided artillery support to assist Russia’s 4th Brigade and other forces in the disputed Donets region. Adding a platoon with artillery capability to Akhmat would fill a void in the unit structure as the Chechens are traditionally equipped and trained as light infantry or paramilitary combatants. Still, even if Kamerton includes an artillery component, it would be relatively small given the unit is described as a platoon.   Assuming the TASS stories are accurate, they provide preliminary evidence on the whereabouts of a small handful of Wagner fighters, how they are being used in Ukraine, and their current capabilities. The Akhmat battalion is a logical unit for former Wagner fighters as they were close and shared the same battlespace during the battle for Bakhmut in early 2023. Incorporating Wagner remnants into Akhmat units may also plug a capability gap and be easier than trying to integrate the former Wagner fighters into a standard Russian Army infantry or artillery unit.[iii] However, it remains unclear how the remnants of Wagner, or another private military company, will fill the void Wagner left in other parts of the world.[iv]


“Собранный из бойцов ‘Вагнера’ отряд ‘Камертон’ провел первый штурм к западу от Артемовска, (Platoon formed from ex-Wagner PMC fighters carries out first assault near Artyomovsk),” TASS (official news agency of Russian government), 12 December 2023.

A platoon dubbed Kamerton (Tuning Fork) consisting of fighters from the now-defunct Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), who had been incorporated into the ranks of the Akhmat special forces group, has carried out a successful assault on a Ukrainian-occupied elevated point near the western outskirts of Artyomovsk, the platoon commander, who goes by the call sign “Press,” told TASS.

“Prior to this, it was everyday routine [frontline activities] – reconnaissance and fire strikes. Yet, this was precisely an assault on a key elevated point in this sector directly by the Kamerton platoon with support from the 4th brigade. In six minutes, Kamerton’s assault groups entered the elevated point and engaged in combat in a trench. They wiped out the enemy and opened up space for the operations of their neighboring platoons,” the commander said.

According to him, the positions taken will help develop further progress in this sector of the line of contact. “The 4th brigade and other Russian forces in this area are being covered by Kamerton’s artillery,” he clarified…

“Командир собранного из бойцов “Вагнера” отряда рассказал о выполнении задач в ходе СВО (The commander of the detachment assembled from Wagner fighters spoke about the implementation of tasks during the Northern Military District),” TASS (Russian state media), 1 December 2023.

According to the head of “Kamerton”, which is part of “Akhmat”, its fighters are engaged in “the whole range of tasks.”

The Kamerton detachment, which consists of former fighters of the Wagner PMC and is part of the Akhmat special forces, performs a full range of tasks in the area of the special military operation. The detachment commander with the call sign Press reported this to TASS.

“Tuning Fork” includes both assault groups and armored and artillery formations.

“Taking into account experience and past operations, we are faced with the whole range of tasks, as well as other Akhmat special forces units. From training personnel, combat coordination to carrying out combat missions on the line of combat contact,” Press said.

He clarified that Akhmat is a self-sufficient division with its own approaches and methods. According to the Press, Akhmat’s management has allowed Kamerton to fully exploit its strengths.“Tuning fork” inherited and brought with it in full all the best qualities inherent in “musicians” (fighters of the Wagner PMC – TASS note), both in matters of corporate ethics and in direct approaches to solving combat missions. PMC fighters in the Akhmat special forces are a unique alloy,” added the unit commander.


[i] Akhmat Special Forces operating in Ukraine, led by Chechen commander, Apti Alaudinov, operated closely with Wagner Group prior to Prigozhin’s mutiny and siege of Russian military HQ in Rostov. Although the relationship changed, it would not be far-fetched for Wagner personnel to be incorporated the Chechen ranks as the units and personnel worked together. Also of importance, the Akhmat Special Forces was initially a predominantly Chechen unit. Over time the unit has become home to many ethnicities from the Russian Federation and prides itself as multicultural, multi-religious, comprised of Jews, Muslims and Christians—according to mulitiple statements from its commander Apti Alaudinov posted to his Telegram channel.

[ii] Borzou Daragahi, “Putin’s lapdog wears Prada: Chechen leader Kadyrov poses on TikTok while his men kill civilians in Ukraine,” The Independent, 7 April 2022.

 [iii] To see more on Wagner Group activities around the world, see FMSO’s archives here:

[iv] A recent report by the Center for New American Security suggests that the Wagner Group has created a new “model that other Russian opportunistic actors will seek to replicate,” especially given the lack of financial resources for Russia’s military and civilian elite. See: Kimberly Marten, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche, “Potential Russian Uses of Paramilitaries in Eurasia,” CNAS, 17 January 2024.

Image Information:

Image: Southwestern part of Bakhmut (Donetsk region of Ukraine) during the battle for the city in Spring 2023.
Source: State Border Guard Service of Ukraine,_frame_16531.jpg
Attribution: CCA 4.0 Int

Ukraine Launches Counteroffensive in Sudan and Across Africa To Minimize Russian Influence

Following its invasion by Russia, Ukraine is now launching a counteroffensive against Russian influence in Africa.

“Ukraine’s involvement in attacking Wagner forces in Africa signifies a limited yet noteworthy expansion of the Ukrainian conflict.”

While the diplomatic implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been felt in Africa,[i] the security implications have been less so. That appears to be changing. As the first accompanying article from the Nigeria-based Military Africa monitoring site suggests, members of the Ukrainian special forces appear to have targeted members of the Russian Wagner Group operating in Sudan supporting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In April 2023, fighting erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary RSF, two groups that had previously worked together to oust Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in 2019, and then led a subsequent military coup in 2021. As tensions between the two groups rose post-2021 coup, fighting broke out in the spring of 2023. Reporting has suggested that Wagner Group forces—which have been in Sudan since 2017 to support deposed President Al-Bashir—are now aiding the RSF, providing the faction surface-to-air missiles and other support. Notable is that Ukrainian special forces have taken their fight against Russia to Sudan, allegedly working with members of the SAF to attack the rival RSF/Wagner contingents in the country. As the article notes, other reporting has suggested that Ukrainian mercenaries not officially associated with the government may also be participating in fighting in Sudan on the side of the SAF. Indeed, this news from Sudan falls in line with Ukraine’s August 2023 pledge to radically revive Ukraine’s relations with African countries to lessen what one Ukrainian diplomat called Moscow’s “grip” on the continent based on “coercion, corruption, and fear.”[ii] Showing that the African continent is emerging as part of the broader landscape of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the second article from the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times describes how, even during its war, Ukraine plans to invest $25 million to create ten new embassies in Africa over the coming years, adding to the current eleven. Sudan is among the ten countries in which Ukraine plans to open a new embassy. Commenting on the opening of new Ukrainian embassies in Africa to counter Moscow, President Zelensky has noted: “We are not afraid of Russia’s presence in any African country.”


“Africa emerges as the new battleground between Russia and Ukraine,” Military Africa (Nigeria-based military news aggregator), 9 November 2023.

Recent reports suggest that Ukrainian special services may have played a role in a series of attacks against forces affiliated with Russia’s Wagner Group and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan, thousands of miles from the main theater of war.

But, since the outbreak of war in Sudan earlier this year, there have also been reported suspicions of Ukrainian mercenaries fighting on the side of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in their battle against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). This April, CNN reported that Wagner had supplied RSF paramilitaries with missiles.

Notably, the action didn’t occur within Ukraine’s borders, but rather against forces associated with Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) and the RSF….

The videos depict a special unit sniper of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) conducting precision strikes on Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) forces in Sudan. This expands the theater of the Ukraine-Russia conflict into Africa, with Ukraine’s intelligence agency vowing to hunt down Wagner forces anywhere in the world…

Ukraine’s involvement in attacking Wagner forces in Africa signifies a limited yet noteworthy expansion of the Ukrainian conflict.

Chiamaka Okafor, “Ukraine to invest $25 million in establishing embassies in Africa,” Premium Times (Nigeria), (Lagos, Niger-based daily), 15 November 2023.

The Government of Ukraine on Wednesday said it is set to invest $25 million in establishing nine embassies in African countries. This was revealed by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv while meeting with African journalists. He said the establishment of these embassies was a part of Ukraine’s African renaissance and rekindling its relationship with its African counterparts…

Ukraine, according to the prime minister, already has 11 embassies in Africa and is ready to open 10 more. Clarifying, he said plans to open an embassy in Ghana have already been finalised and not included in the $25 million budgeted for the other nine. The other nine countries include Sudan, Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Tanzania.

According to the prime minister’s office, the plan to establish these embassies in Africa and other parts of the world had been developed in 2019 by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy until the war derailed the plans. Asked if he was concerned by the growing presence of Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa, he said, “We are not afraid of Russia’s presence in any African country…”He added that the presence of Wagner in any part of the world is a bad signal although “no third party will stop us from moving forward.”


[i] For more reading on the ways that Africa has responded to the Ukraine-Russia war, see: Jason Warner, “Morrocco Sending Military Equipment to Ukraine,” OE Watch, 02-2023.; Jason Warner, “African Stances on the Russia-Ukraine War Demonstrate Reliance on, Antipathy Toward West,” OE Watch, 09-2022.

[ii] For more on the August 2023 Ukrainian declaration of a revival of its relations with Africa to lessen Russia’s grip, see: “Ukraine announces a long fight against the “Russian hold in Africa,”, 17 August 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Following its invasion by Russia, Ukraine is now launching a counteroffensive against Russian influence in Africa.
Attribution: BY-SA 4.0

Malian Coup Leader Faces Challenges Reconquering Kidal

MINUSMA Goundam 2015

“I am sending planes to bomb their positions and the army will return to Kidal….”

Over the past half-decade, Malian insurgents, and especially the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), have expanded their influence across northern Mali and have begun to control key towns in that region, such as the primarily Tuareg-inhabited Kidal. However, according to the excerpted article from the French-language publication, interim president of Mali, Assimi Goïta, has vowed to reconquer Kidal. While the Malian Army may be more powerful than JNIM, the reconquest and government rule of Kidal raises questions about heavy-handed tactics the Malian Army will employ and whether the Army will cooperate with Russia’s Wagner Group,[i] which has aided it in counterterrorism for the past year.[ii]

At the same time, Goïta is rejecting any negotiations with the Coalition of the Movement of Azawad (CMA), [iii] which seeks autonomy for Tuareg regions of northern Mali. Unlike JNIM, which is explicitly jihadist and unwilling to compromise with the state, the CMA accepts Mali’s legitimacy as a nation-state. In his speech, Goïta stated he would send the Army to liberate any area of the country that disassociates from being “Malian,” which hinted at little room for accommodation of the “Tuareg” CMA. Goïta’s threats to send warplanes to bomb Kidal alongside his partnership with Wagner suggest that an excessively harsh military operation may be underway and that it could alienate civilians in northern Mali from government rule and ultimately favor recruitment into JNIM or the CMA.

Less than two weeks after Goïta’s speech, discussed in the excerpted article in French-language media, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) withdrew from its base in Aguelhok, Kidal region following demands from Goïta and other Malian coup leaders.[iv] However, Goïta condemned MINUSMA for its accelerated exit from Aguelhok due to intensified combat with JNIM and not transferring the base or weapons to the Malian Army. Rather, MINUSMA destroyed them so they would not fall into the hands of JNIM, which ultimately took over the Aguelhok base for a short period of time.[v] The rapid MINUSMA withdrawal and JNIM advances in its aftermath will make Goïta’s realization of his promise to reconquer and hold Kidal more difficult, even as his political credibility rests on it. On top of this, cooperation with Wagner could result in the alienation of northern Malian civilians from the government. Further, the chasm between Goïta and the CMA make any political resolution in northern Mali less likely as well.


“Ce message important d’Assimi Goïta au CMA, le JNIM et leurs llies (This important message from Assimi Goïta to the CMA, JNIM and their allies),” (French-language publication edited in Togo that provides commentary on current affairs in Francophone African countries), 10 October 2023.

The reconquering of Malian territory will not be a subject to discussion. Regarding this point, the latest transitional president Assimi Goïta is categorical. There is no question of him accepting a compromise with anyone. He refused the elders of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, who were sent by the CMA, JNIM, and their allies to negotiate. 

“We must dissolve any entity from one state or another and dissociate ourselves from any movement. You have to accept being Malian…. I am sending planes to bomb their positions and the army will return to Kidal before the 30th and if MINUSMA gets involved, the Malian people will decide their fate.”

“Bamako accuse la Minusma d’avoir précipité son retrait du camp d’Aguelhok sans le rétrocéder (Bamako accuses MINUSMA of expediting its withdrawal from the Aguelhok camp without handing it over),” (French-language publication based in Geneva, Switzerland and Yaounde, Cameroon that focuses on African economic affairs), 26 October 2023.

The Malian army condemned in a press release released on Tuesday afternoon, October 24, the withdrawal of MINUSMA from the Aguelhok camp without handing it over. According to the FAMA, this rapid departure aided the introduction of “terrorists to destroy several installations,” the message added. The areas abandoned by MINUSMA have, for several months, been at the center of violent clashes between the FAMA and armed rebel groups in the north of the country…. But faced with intensifying fighting, the UN mission decided to accelerate its exit from the area, and condemned in the process the destruction of some of its equipment in attacks.


[i] For additional details on Russia’s deepening engagement with Mali and neighboring Sahelian states, see Jason Warner, “Russia-Supported Military Rulers in Mali, Burkina, and Guinea Continue To Deepen Ties,” OE Watch, 04-2023.

[ii] Human Rights Watch, for example, found that “Malian armed forces and foreign fighters apparently from the Russia-linked Wagner Group have summarily executed and forcibly disappeared several dozen civilians in Mali’s central region since December 2022…. They also destroyed and looted civilian property and allegedly tortured detainees in an army camp. See Human Rights Watch, “Mali: New Atrocities by Malian Army, Apparent Wagner Fighters,” July 24, 2023,

[iii] The CMA is signed the Algiers Peace Accords in June 2015, which sought “to restore peace in Mali principally through a process of decentralisation or regionalisation, reconstituting a national army from the members of the former armed groups that were signatories, and boosting the economy (particularly in the north), based on dialogue, justice and national reconciliation.” The coalition is composed of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), and part of the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA-CMA), which were all formerly pro-independence movements in northern Mali. However, the CMA has remained an umbrella organization for northern Mali Tuareg militias. See International Crisis Group, “Mali’s Algiers Peace Agreement, Five Years On: An Uneasy Calm,” June 24, 2020.

[iv] The latest era of pervasive instability in Mali began in 2012, when the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) led an attack on Aguelhok and subsequently other northern Malian towns. Several weeks later, in March 2012, one of the future JNIM coalition components, Ansar al-Din, released a video of its fighters massacring dozens of Malian soldiers at the Aguelhok base. After this, Ansar al-Din and other al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) allies took control over most of northern Mali. This led to the military overthrow of the civilian government in Bamako and later, in early 2013, the French-led military intervention in northern Mali. The intervention expelled Ansar al-Din, AQIM, and their allies – at least temporarily – from the territories they held in northern Mali, including Aguelhok. See: Alexander Thurston and Andrew Lebovich, “A Handbook on Mali’s 2012-2013 Crisis,” Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA), Working Paper No. 13-001, 2 September 2013.

[v] France24 journalist Wassim Nasr posted on X (formerly Twitter) the claim by JNIM of an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a MINUSMA convoy as it was departing the Aguelhok base. According to JNIM “all of the occupants” of one vehicle were killed. This claim reflected how JNIM was prepared to immediately frustrate and take advantage of the MINUSMA withdrawal to seize the base and pilfer items from it before the Malian armed forces could arrive. Wassim Nasr, “#Mali #JNIM #AQMI revendique un IED contre un convoi @UN_MINUSMA à #Aguelhok « le 23.10 un véhicule détruit […] tous les occupants tués » // « le 24.10 un IED contre un blindé FAMa & #Wagner entre #Hombori et #Gossi […] tous les passagers tués »,” X (formerly Twitter), 25 October 2023.

Image Information:

Image: MINUSMA Goundam 2015
Source: Attribution: MINUSMA
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Côte d’Ivoire’s Stance On Military Interventions Prioritize Democratic Principles

Members of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center honor guard stand in formation during a welcoming ceremony for Ivory Coast Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko.

“If ECOWAS chooses a particular option to resolve the regional crisis, Côte d’Ivoire will follow this option in solidarity with other member states.”

On 29 September, the Turkish website of Anadolu News Agency published the excerpted French-language article on Côte d’Ivoire’s intention to comply with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) if the organization military intervenes in Niger. The article notes that ECOWAS has threatened to intervene militarily in Niger to reinstall deposed president Mohamed Bazoum to power. A spokesperson for Côte d’Ivoire’s government confirmed that the country will not make any decision regarding Niger unilaterally but will respect the outcomes of ECOWAS member states’ debates.

The decision to follow ECOWAS into battle in Niger differs from Côte d’Ivoire’s announcement in November 2022 that it would withdraw its forces from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), despite MINUSMA’s continued counterinsurgency efforts against al-Qaeda and Islamic State-loyal militants. According to the excerpted French-language article in, Côte d’Ivoire’s withdrawal from MINUSMA came after Mali’s coup leaders alleged that Ivorian troops who entered Mali to operate with a German contingent were “mercenaries.”[i] Côte d’Ivoire’s commitment to ECOWAS and reduction in military support to MINUSMA can be interpreted as a reflection of how opposition parties have been permitted to participate in Ivorian politics and how other reforms have improved electoral competition since 2020.[ii] Côte d’Ivoire is willing to support military efforts to restore democratically elected civilian rulers, such as Bazoum, to power. However, the country is refraining from offering its troops for regional military efforts to support governments, such as in Mali, that refuse to return power to democratically elected leaders and that express allegiance towards Russia, including its proxy, Wagner Group.


“L’option d’une intervention militaire de la Cédéao au Niger reste possible (The option of ECOWAS military intervention in Niger remains possible),” Anadolu News Agency (Turkish state-run news agency aligned with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)), 29 September 2023.

The option of military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Niger remains on the table and Côte d’Ivoire will comply with the decisions adopted collectively by the community “if ECOWAS decides on this option,” said Ivorian government spokesperson Amadou Coulibaly. The government spokesperson affirmed that Côte d’Ivoire is a member that respects its commitments in ECOWAS.

In Niger, members of the presidential guard took power on July 26, pushing aside President Mohamed Bazoum and announcing the suspension of the Constitution and the formation of a National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland. ECOWAS threatened to intervene militarily to enable Bazoum to regain power and considered this an option ready to be implemented alongside strict punitive measures.

“La Côte d’Ivoire va retirer progressivement ses soldats du Mali (Ivory Coast will withdraw its soldiers from Mali gradually),” (French public television broadcaster’s website focusing on worldwide affairs affecting France), 16 November 2022.

Côte d’Ivoire indicates that the soldiers and other elements active within MINUSMA will not be relieved in August 2023.Relations between Côte d’Ivoire have become significantly strained in recent months, particularly after the arrest last July of 49 Ivorian soldiers in Bamako.


[i] The bilateral dispute between Côte d’Ivoire and Mali reached a culmination in January 2023 when Côte d’Ivoire honored 49 soldiers after they were released from detention in Mali, where there were held for half a year, and returned home. Only weeks before their release from detention, a Bamako court had sentenced most of the Ivorian soldiers to 20 years in prison and others to death for being “mercenaries”. Although Ivorian soldiers had been invited to Mali by the German contingent of MINUSMA, the Malian coup leaders alleged the “Sahel Aviation Service (SAS),” which is a private company, transported the Ivorian soldiers. In contrast, the Wagner Group, which is affiliated to the Russian government, was welcomed into Mali by the Malian coup leaders. It is possible that the Ivorian and German governments’ criticism of the coup in Mali and lack of transition back to democracy underscored the Malian coup leaders’ initial actions to detains the Ivorian soldiers. See; “Mali detains Ivorian soldiers, accuses them of being mercenaries,”, 12 July 2022.

[ii] The U.S. State Department notes that since the Ivorian president’s election to a third term in 2020, the country’s democratic processes have been “generally considered free.” Similarly, the election monitoring group, New Dawn, assessed that the latest Ivorian local and regional elections in September 2023 “had gone smoothly.” Consistent with these democratic trends, Ivorian foreign policy has become increasingly aligned with ECOWAS and its member-states’ oppositions to military coups in West Africa. See; “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cote d’Ivoire,” U.S. Department of State, 2023. See also; “Sweeping win for ruling party in Ivory Coast local and regional elections,”, 5 September 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Members of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center honor guard stand in formation during a welcoming ceremony for Ivory Coast Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko.
Source: MSG Montigo White
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Poland And The Baltic States Express Concern About Regional Stability

Members of the Wagner group training Belarusian troops in summer 2023.

It can be expected that the Wagner troops will be used for border provocations against Polish uniformed services… It also cannot be ruled out that some of the mercenaries will try to infiltrate Poland and other countries mainly on the Eastern Flank.”

Since the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company known for its brutality and criminal activities, began training in Belarus in July, concerns amongst the neighboring states have steadily risen regarding regional border security. Belarussian President Lukashenko offered the Wagner Group employment in Belarus — with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of the Belarusian military — following its attempted run on the Russian capital in June of 2023.[i]

As the excerpted publication from the Polish Institute of International Affairs (Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych) indicates, despite interacting under the auspices of improving Belarusian military readiness and effectiveness, Belarus’s neighbors fear that Belarus is readying additional means of offense against its neighbors. Poland’s concern is that as Belarus’ offensive forces become better trained, they may create instability in the delicate border peace that the two countries have reached. Furthermore, the article suggests that the Wagner Group’s location in Belarus suggests the possibility of a larger-scale engagement within Poland and other border countries like Lithuania. In essence, Belarussian “Wagner-trained fighters” could enter the open border zones with a Belarussian passport with the intent to identify viable targets in Poland, specifically within the critical infrastructure.[ii]  Additionally, the statement requests the Wagner Group be declared a terrorist organization. Such a designation would significantly broaden the legal bounds of recourse and response available to both Poland and NATO, both as a preventative measure to increase border security but also as a guarantee of support from NATO should Belarus pursue further provocative actions. As expressed in the second excerpted piece, a joint statement from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia released on Poland’s Ministry of Internal Affairs X (formerly Twitter) feed, Belarus, by collaborating with Wagner and, more broadly, with Russia, is taking deliberate steps to destabilize the region. The joint statement declares that the four nations would take decisive and swift action should further provocation occur, noting that any border infractions would result in the immediate shutdown of all Belarussian border crossings. In addition, the governments called for the immediate removal of all Wagner Group members and holdings from Belarussian borders. Their statement asserts that the Wagner Group poses a threat not only to each country’s respective national security but to the security of the free world as well.


Anna Maria Dyner, “Grupa Wagnera na Białorusi – potencjalne zagrożenia dla Polski (Wagner Group Arrives in Belarus – Potential Threats to Poland),” Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych (official website of Polish Institute of International Affairs), 27 July 2023.

The mercenaries in Belarus give the Belarusian and Russian authorities additional tools for hybrid action against NATO countries, in particular Poland and Lithuania. It can be expected that the Wagner troops will be used for border provocations against Polish uniformed services, including the possible use of arms or attempts to destroy barriers. They may also be used to coordinate and command operations at the border. It also cannot be ruled out that some of the mercenaries will try to infiltrate Poland and other countries mainly on the Eastern Flank (both illegally and, for example, with the use of Belarusian passports) with the task of identifying critical infrastructure facilities. Some of them may also be prepared to carry out acts of sabotage on Polish soil. … These activities will increase tensions and have a psychological impact on Polish society in the context of, among other things, the Belarusian-Russian military exercise Union Shield, scheduled for the end of September, or the October parliamentary elections in Poland.

It may also be necessary to recognize the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. This would allow the use of the Anti-Terrorist Activities Act, which, among other things, broadens the spectrum of activities that can be undertaken by the relevant security services and authorities against persons suspected of seeking to carry out terrorist activities. In addition, Poland may hold consultations within NATO and propose a common approach by Alliance members to the Wagner Group, chiefly by pointing out that they are being used by Belarus and Russia as a tool of hybrid action that requires a coordinated response from the Alliance, for example, in the form of an increased Allied presence at the border.

At the same time, Poland and NATO should announce that they will use all available instruments to fight the Wagner Group mercenaries if they pose a threat, with Belarus and Russia fully responsible for their actions on the border.

Mariusz Kamiński, Angé Bilotaité, Māris Kučinskis, Lauri Läänemets, “Oświadczenie Ministrów Spraw Wewnętrznych Polski,  Litwy, Łotwy i Estonii po spotkaniu konsultacyjnym w Warszawie (Statement by the Ministers of the Interiors of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia after the consultation meeting in Warsaw),” Twitter@MSWiA_GOV_PL, 28 August 2023.

We emphasize that the actions taken by Russia and Belarus cooperating as an attempt to deliberately destabilize the situation in the region. We declare we are determined to oppose this together. Our answer will be joint, decisive and appropriate to the current situation- up to the possibility of further isolating both regimes by closing border crossings. We are determined to defend the borders of the democratic world, leaving access to our territories for the…Belarussian oppositionists.In this regard we call on the Belarussian regime to remove the “Wagner” group from the territories of Belarus…


[i] For a Belarussian perspective on the Wagner Group’s presence, as well as their views regarding Polish and neighboring states reactions, see: “Тенденции военно-политической обстановки и обновленную Концепцию нацбезопасности обсудили в Витебске (Trends in the military-political situation and the updated National Security Concept were discussed in Vitebsk)” Белта (A news service of Belarus), 13 September 2023.

[ii] For more information on the operational tactics of Wagner Group from their previous engagements in Ukraine, see: Charles Bartles, “The Composition And Tactics Of Wagner Assault Detachments,” OE Watch, 03-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Members of the Wagner group training Belarusian troops in summer 2023.
Source:, File%3APMC_wagner_in_belarus_2.png&psig=AOvVaw3nFw9Wep8soItuzbytxYTa&ust=1695536938589000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=2ahUKEwi799i4jcCBAxUeW_EDHdRvBoQQjRx6BAgAEAw
Attribution: CC By 3.0 Deed

“Axis” of Military Regimes Strengthens in West Africa With Support From Russia

“Niger junta leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani announced that his country will allow the military governments of Mali and Burkina Faso to send their soldiers into Niger to defend against an attack.”

A new pro-Russia geopolitical bloc is gaining steam in West Africa. Composed of francophone military regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, the new bloc is showing itself to be a cohesive and problematic new alliance in regional military, security, and political affairs with assistance from Russia and the Wagner Group. The first excerpted article, from the French state-sponsored RFI reposted on the pan-African news aggregator,includes the first known reference to a so-called “Mali-Russia-Niger Axis.”. To that “Axis,” one should also add Burkina Faso, a close ally of Mali, the Nigerien junta, and Russia. Mali and Russia formed the basis of this “Axis” after its two coups in 2020 and 2021, and Burkina Faso’s own 2022 coup led it to quickly fall in with the other two states.[i] Niger’s own military-led overthrow led its new government to  the newest member of the “Axis.” The four countries increasingly support one another. According to the RFI article, Russia recently vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have kept UN observers in Mali. This veto was both a boon for Mali, which had demanded the end of the UN’s peacekeeping mission, and for Russia, which the UN had, in veiled language, accused of widespread human rights abuses in Mali. The second article from states that the Nigerien junta recently signed a pact with Mali and Burkina Faso to allow their troops to enter Niger to defend it against an external attack. This pact was made in reference to discussions of a potential Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) military intervention into Niger to oust that country’s leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani.[ii] Regarding Russian involvement, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger all have varying degrees of engagement with the Wagner Group.[iii] Moreover, in all three countries, Russian misinformation and disinformation campaigns, particularly decrying French presence, have been rampant. In return, Mali has been a supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Increasingly, West Africa is being split into two camps. On one side is the described pro-Russia axis, while on the other side are the France-friendly countries like Senegal,[iv] Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, and Nigeria, the latter of which chairs ECOWAS.


Melissa Chemam, “West Africa: Niger’s Junta Finds Support in Mali and Russia, But France Stands Firm,” (pan-African news aggregator), 11 September 2023.

The leaders of Russia and Mali have agreed the political crisis in Niger should be resolved using diplomacy and not force. Meanwhile, France has rejected accusations by Niger’s coup leaders that it’s planning a military intervention.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and interim Malian leader Assimi Goita had talked by telephone at Bamako’s request.

The comment came a day after Niger’s military rulers accused former colonial power France of assembling troops, war materials and equipment in several neighboring West African countries with a view to “military intervention” in the Sahel state.

A Mali-Russia-Niger axis

During his telephone exchange with Putin, Goita thanked Russia for vetoing an attempt by the UN Security Council to keep a team of UN experts in Mali.

The experts had accused “foreign forces”, a veiled reference to the Russian mercenary group Wagner, of involvement in widespread abuses in Mali.

Mali shares a long border with Niger, and, immediately after the coup, its junta voiced support for Niger’s new military rulers.

It has on several occasions stated its opposition to a military intervention there.

Mali has shifted sharply to Russia since back-to-back coups in 2020 and 2021, becoming one of the few nations to back Moscow at the United Nations over its invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin added that Putin and Goita also discussed cooperation between Russia and Mail on economic and commercial issues, and on “anti-terror” operations.

Ecowas leaders have threatened to intervene militarily in Niger, the fourth West African nation since 2020 to suffer a coup after Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

“Niger: Junta Leader Signs Order to Allow Help from Burkina Faso, Mali Military,” (pan-African news aggregator), 25 August 2023.

Niger junta leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani announced that his country will allow the military governments of Mali and Burkina Faso to send their soldiers into Niger to defend against an attack.

Tchiani had been in a meeting with the foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Olivia Rouamba, and Mali, Abdoulaye Diop, visited Gen Tchiani in Niamey before signing the order.West African regional bloc Ecowas was threatening to use force if President Mohamed Bassoum is not reinstated, but the regional West African bloc is focusing on diplomacy for now.


[i] For more reading on the relationships between these four countries, see: Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Claims Disguised Jihadists, Not Military, Responsible for Civilian Killings,” OE Watch 06-2023.; Jason Warner, “Vast Majority of Malians Express Confidence in Russia’s Ability To Address Jihadist Violence,” OE Watch, 06-2023.; Jason Warner, “Russia-Supported Military Rulers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Continue To Deepen Ties,” OE Watch, 04-2023.; Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.; Jason Warner, “West African States Ruled by Military Leaders Seek To Circumvent Future Sanctions” OE Watch, 03-2023.

[ii] For more on the perspectives of the potential ECOWAS intervention, see: Jason Warner, “West African States Split on Potential ECOWAS Intervention in Niger,” OE Watch 08-2023.

[iii] Mali has a substantial Wagner presence in the country. In Burkina Faso, the government has denied the official presence of Wagner, though many observers, including Ghana’s president, have claimed that the private military company does indeed operate there. In the case of Niger, reports have emerged that the Tichani has requested Wagner’s presence, though it is yet unconfirmed if this call has been answered. For more on Burkina Faso’s relationship with Wagner and Russia, see: Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism With Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

[iv] Even within Senegal, members of the political commentariat have decried Senegal’s potential participation in a theoretical ECOWAS intervention into Niger. For instance, an op-ed signed by more than one hundred Senegalese in the news outlet Sud Quotidien called participation in such an intervention “a neocolonial military adventure.”  See: “Afrique de l’Ouest: L’aventure militarie neocoloniale du President Macky Sall (West Africa: The neocolonial military adventure of President Macky Sall),” Sud Quotidien (Senegal-based news outlet), 6 September 2023.

Anti-French Sentiment Undergirds Overthrow of Nigerien Government

Anti-French sentiment has been spreading in francophone Africa and was a prominent discourse in the recent Nigerian military takeover.

“Events of an extreme gravity are unfolding in Niger as a result of the behavior of the French forces and their accomplices.”

France, and the West more generally, appear to have lost one of their last, and most consistent, West African counterterrorism allies with the ouster of Nigerien President Mohammad Bazoum on 26 July by Abdourahamane Tiani, the former leader of Niger’s presidential guard. Like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, all of which have been taken over by military juntas over the past several years,[i] Niger’s new military government has thus far painted France, and its lackluster counterterrorism and development efforts, as to blame for Niger’s woes.

As per the accompanying article from the pan-African news aggregator, the military junta spokesman, COL Amadou Abdramane, has claimed France was orchestrating a concerted effort to undermine the new leadership by releasing 16 terrorists and violating Nigerien airspace. According to junta statements, “Events of an extreme gravity are unfolding in Niger as a result of the behavior of the French forces and their accomplices,” and “we are witnessing a real plan of destabilization of our country, orchestrated by French forces.” France has denied the claims. These sentiments echo previous assertions by senior officials in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad, all claiming that France was funding or supporting terrorists.[ii] [iii]

These more specific claims are in line with a broader ethos of anti-French sentiment that marked the overthrow in Niger. In the immediate aftermath of the takeover, thousands of protestors attacked the French Embassy in Niamey. As in Mali and Burkina Faso, protestors displayed signs depicting anti-French (“France kills in Niger”) and pro-Russian (“Down with France, vive Russia!”) sentiments. Translating this French antipathy into policy, on 4 August, the junta declared that it had formally annulled its security cooperation activities with France that were foundational to fighting Islamist insurgencies tied to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Simultaneously, it ceased the dissemination of French-funded broadcasters France 24 and RFI, following similar moves by Burkina Faso and Mali. Unless former president Bazoum is reinstalled, the takeover in Niger portends a loss of not only French but U.S. influence, especially in the counterterrorism space. If Mali and Burkina Faso provide any guide, it is reasonable to expect Niger’s new government to pursue a similarly populist, anti-French, pro-Russian—and likely pro-Wagner[iv]—path in coordination with other African military regimes.


“Niger: la junte accuse la France d’avoir “libéré des terroristes (Niger: junta accuses France of having liberated terrorists),” (pan-African news aggregator), 8 August 2023.

Niger’s new military rulers on Wednesday accused France, the country’s traditional ally, of having “unilaterally freed captured terrorists,” a term used for jihadists, and of breaching a ban on the country’s air space.

They claimed that France released a number of jihadists, who then gathered to plan an attack on “military positions in the tri-border area,” a hotspot region where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali converge.

“Events of an extreme gravity are unfolding in Niger as a result of the behaviour of the French forces and their accomplices,” according to the statement issued by the new regime, called the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).

The statement reported that a unit of the armed forces had come under attack on Wednesday, although it did not directly link this with France’s alleged release of the jihadists.

A position held by the National Guard in a locality called Bourkou Bourkou, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from a gold mine at Samira in western Niger, came under attack at 6:30 am (0530 GMT), it said.

“At present, the toll is not yet known.”

The statement called on the security forces to “raise their alert level across the country” and on the public “to remain mobilised and vigilant.”

The regime also accused France of having allowed a “military plane” to take off Wednesday from neighbouring Chad, which then crossed into Niger, defying a ban imposed on Sunday.

The aircraft “deliberately cut off all contact with air traffic control on entering our air space,” from 6:39-11:15 am (0539-1015 GMT), it said in a statement read on national TV.

France has around 1,500 troops in Niger, supporting the country in its fight against jihadists who swept in from Mali in 2015.

But relations broke down after French ally President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled by members of his guard on July 26.

The regime’s accusations come on the eve of a summit by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS on how to tackle the Niger crisis.ECOWAS — the Economic Community of West African States — had given the coup leaders until Sunday to reinstate Bazoum or face the risk of military intervention.


[i] For more on the relationship between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, see: Jason Warner, “Russia-Supported Military Rulers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Continue To Deepen Ties,” OE Watch, 04-2023.; Jason Warner, “West African States Ruled By Military Leaders Seek To Circumvent Future Sanctions” OE Watch, 03-2023.

[ii] For more information on claims that France is funding African terrorists, see: Jason Warner, “Mali Claims France Funded Terrorists; France Denies,” OE Watch, 10-2022.; Jason Warner, “CAR Joins Mali in Accusing France of Funding Terrorists,” OE Watch, 04-2023.

[iii] For more information on the anti-French sentiments in the security sphere in Africa, see: Jason Warner, “French Researchers Respond to Wave of Anti-French Sentiment in Africa,” OE Watch,07-2023.; Jason Warner, Lassane Ouedraogo, and Matthew Kirwin, “The Fake News Phenomenon in the Sahel: ‘Afrancaux News’ and the Postcolonial Logics of Polemical Information,” African Studies Review, 65 (4): December 2022, 911 – 938.

[iv] For more on how post-coup African states have begun to cooperate with the Wagner Group, see: Jason Warner, “Vast Majority of Malians Express Confidence in Russian Ability To Address Jihadist Violence,” OE Watch,06-2023.; Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.; Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism With Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Anti-French sentiment has been spreading in francophone Africa and was a prominent discourse in the recent Nigerian military takeover.
Attribution: CC By 2.0

Malian Special Forces Sustain Collaboration With Russia’s Wagner Group

Russian security IN Bangui

“The BAFS was the gateway for Wagner’s mercenaries into the center of the country.”

On 29 May, Le Monde, the French-language publication covering international affairs in France and Francophone countries, reported on the Malian Autonomous Special Forces Battalion (BAFS), which is the conduit for Russian Wagner mercenaries to support the Malian army. BAFS became widely known among Mali observers when one of its members, Colonel Assimi Goita, launched a coup in 2020 that brought himself into power. According to the article, BAFS’ importance increased after it participated in the military coup in 2020 and then helped topple the transitional government in 2021.[i] After this second coup, relations with France and other Western countries soured and the new coup leaders welcomed Wagner Group to support BAFS. Wagner now has 1,600 troops in Mali and its current objective is ostensibly to fight alongside the BAFS in counterterrorism operations in central Mali, according to the Le Monde article. However, the article claims summary executions have occurred when BAFS and Wagner Group operate together. Malian leaders claim “only terrorists” are killed in these operations and have vociferously rejected any criticisms of BAFS’ cooperation with Wagner Group, indicating that Wagner will remain in Mali.[ii]


“Massacre de Moura au Mali: ce que l’on sait des deux militaires sanctionnés par les Etats-Unis (Massacre of Moura in Mali: what we know about the two soldiers sanctioned by the United States)” (French daily with a focus on analysis and opinion and with socialist leanings), 29 May 2023.

Mali remains plagued by both security and political instability: the military retook power from civilians after two coups in August 2020 and May 2021.

The BAFS was the gateway for Wagner’s mercenaries into the center of the country. Deployed in Mali to help Bamako fight terrorism, the Russian private security group, which now has nearly 1,600 men on the ground, gained a foothold in the center of the country in early 2022.

It is from this locality that Wagner and the FAMA conduct a large part of their anti-terrorist operations in the center and during which several instances of abuses against civilians have been noted by humanitarian and human rights organizations.

The Malian government maintains that only “terrorist fighters” were killed by the army in Moura and it persists, moreover, in denying the presence of Wagner in the country, despite confirmations of the deployment of the group in Mali emanating from the Russian authorities.


[i] Mali’s first military coup occurred in 2020 when a group of soldiers from the Malian army mutinied and arrested President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita and forced him to resign and dissolve the government and National Assembly. Although the mutinying soldiers promised to hold elections and reinstate the constitutional system, no clear path for transition emerged. Subsequently, nine months later, in 2021, Mali’s military arrested the interim civilian president and prime minister whose appointments the previous military coup leaders had overseen, but now the coup leaders claimed that the cabinet formed by the civilian leaders violated the terms of Mali’s transition charter. Although that charter called for new democratic elections to be held in February 2022 to fully restore Mali to civilian rule, the coup leaders have not held those elections and remain in power. This has led to deteriorating relations with the West and has coincided with closer relations with Russia. See Ena Dion, “After Two Coups, Mali Needs Regional Support to Bolster Democracy,” United States Institute of Peace, 9 December 2021.

[ii] The mutiny by Wagner Group CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin in June 2023 seems to have little effect on Wagner’s presence in Africa, including in Central African Republic (CAR), where its force is larger than in any other African country. The Russian Ambassador to CAR has claimed there are 1,890 “Russian instructors” in the country, who are reportedly “running” the country alongside the CAR government and have “displaced” the former colonial and post-colonial power, France. See Al-Jazeera, “Russian envoy says 1,890 Russian ‘instructors’ are in CAR,” 3 February 2023.

Image Information:

Image: RussiansecurityBangui
Source: Corbeau News Centrafrique,
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Vast Majority of Malians Express Confidence in Russia’s Ability To Address Jihadist Violence

Map of Mali

Map of Mali.

“More than nine of out of ten Malians have confidence in Russia to help their country in the face of jihadist insecurity.”

In its annual report gauging public interest on various topics in Mali, the German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) has revealed deep—and sometimes counterintuitive—insights about how Malians think about the security situation in their country.[i] According to the accompanying news article from pan-African news aggregator,which summarized the FES report, one of the key takeaways of the poll is the deep trust that a vast majority of Malians appear to place in Russia’s ability to help the country address violence caused by its various jihadist insurgencies. As the article relays, More than nine out of ten Malians have confidence in Russia to help their country in the face of jihadist insecurity,” with 69 percent of respondents “very confident” and 22 percent “rather confident.” Also, four out of five Malians viewed there to be no negative impact from the withdrawal of the French Operation Barkhane, while 48 percent of respondents instead noted that the security situation had improved with the French counterterrorism force’s departure.[ii] Another notable finding relates to Malian perspectives about their own defense and security forces: the most common sentiment expressed (by 58 percent of respondents) was the Malian defense and security forces represented a source of pride for the respondent. The next most common perception was that “I see them as my protectors,” a view offered by 36 percent of respondents. Only 1 percent said that “I have no confidence in defense and security forces,” and no respondent agreed with the sentiment that “I am afraid of the defense and security forces.” Given that Mali and its neighbor Burkina Faso are now the new epicenters of global jihadist terrorism-linked deaths,[iii] and both have engaged the Wagner Group,[iv] the findings of the FES report are perhaps counterintuitive for outside observers. Malians see security improving, their lots in life getting better, and they are generally satisfied with the military regime of Assimi Goïta and the way he is managing military and security affairs. The Wagner Group’s presence appears to be welcomed, and France is not missed. Such perspectives should be taken seriously as the United States and its allies seek to engage Mali and the broader region.


“Les Maliens majoritairement confiants dans la Russie, selon un sondage, (A majority of Malians are confident in Russia, according to a poll),” AfricaNews (pan-African news aggregator), 4 May 2023.

More than nine out of ten Malians have confidence in Russia to help their country in the face of insecurity and jihadism, indicates an opinion poll carried out by the German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and published on Wednesday.

Malians are also satisfied in the same proportions with the leader of the junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, who took power by force in August 2020, this survey shows.

The junta severed a longstanding alliance with France and turned militarily and politically to Russia from 2021.

The Malian army has received several deliveries of Russian military equipment as well as the reinforcement of hundreds of men, Russian army instructors according to it, mercenaries from the private company Wagner, whose actions are decried, according to France and its western partners.

The survey indicates that 69% of respondents are very confident and 22% rather confident in Russian aid in the fight against insecurity.

The general situation of the country has improved for more than four out of five Malians (82%), a result in clear increase compared to previous years, says the survey.

Nine out of ten Malians say they are satisfied with the management of the so-called transition period pending a return of civilians to power scheduled for March 2024.

Three out of five believe that keeping to the schedule [of the transition of power] is not important, the study notes. The first stage of this calendar, a constitutional referendum scheduled for March 19, has been postponed to an unspecified date.


 [i] For a full copy of the FES report, in French, see: “Mali-Mètre 2023 – Enquête d’opinion, Fevrier 2023,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, May 2023.

[ii] For an example of the often-contentious relationship between Mali and France, especially regarding counterterrorism, see: Jason Warner, “Mali Claims France Funded Terrorists; France Denies,” OE Watch, 10-2022.

[iii] For more on the Sahel as a new epicenter for jihadist terrorism-linked deaths, see: Jason Warner, “Global Terrorism Declined Slightly in 2022, ith the Sahel as the New Epicenter,” OE Watch,05-2023.; Jason Warner, “African Leaders, UN See Terrorism in the Sahel as Dire,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[iv] For more on how Mali and Burkina Faso have each approached their relationships with the Wagner Group, see: Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.; Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism With Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Map of Mali
Attribution: Creative Commons 4.0