The arrival of Russian mercenary group, Wagner, in Mali with soldiers, arms and ammunition, has introduced a new twist into the crisis over the military coup in Niger Republic.
The Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, a few days after appearing in a video at a time he was believed to be in Congo, showed up in Mali, dressed in military fatigue.
He claimed that the arrival of its team in Mali is to assist the Mali military government to dislodge terrorists and “any other interest”, according to a report monitor on Al-Jazeera.
Mali and Burkina Faso, also ruled by military junta, have both declared their backing for the Niger coupists.
They have faulted the sanctions slammed on Niger by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) following the military take-over.
They pledged to join Niger in resisting any form of force that might be used against the Niger junta.
To give vent to their pledge, they have reportedly moved troops to Niamey as a backup to the Niger military.
The Wagner presence in Mali, which shares a long border with Niger is believed to be part of giving support in Niger.
The coup leaders had requested support from Wagner, and Prigozhin said his men were ready to provide it.
A former Russian official claimed Wagner and the Russian state conspired to facilitate the military coup in Niger.
“The recent coup in Niger was carried out in close cooperation with Russian special services and Private Military Company (PMC) consultants,” claimed Russian military blogger Mikhail Zvinchuk, a former press officer for Russia’s defence ministry, who uses the alias “Rybar”.
Leaders of the AU, the 55-nation bloc, froze Niger’s membership as President Bazoum and his family remained under house arrest in the capital Niamey.
It reads in part: “The AU decides, in line with the relevant AU instruments, in particular the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, to immediately suspend the participation of the Republic of Niger from all activities of the AU and its organs and institutions until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country.
“The AU in this regard calls upon all member states and the international community including bilateral and multilateral partners at large to reject this unconstitutional change of government and to refrain from any action likely to grant legitimacy to the illegal regime in Niger.”
AU also backed ECOWAS in its efforts to ensure a return to democratic rule in Niger.
The Northern Senators Forum (NSF) had also urged President Tinubu to exhaust all diplomatic options first.
The forum warned that deploying troops to Niger would hurt seven northern states — Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno — who share borders with the landlocked West African nation.Follow us on social media