Things in the palace go slowly but they end up happening. Sixteen months after the coup d’état that placed Captain Ibrahim Traoré as leader of Burkina Faso, four weeks after reopening the russian embassy in Ouagadougou after being closed for 37 years, The first Russian troops have landed in the African country to collaborate with Traoré in the fight against terrorism. The Burkinabe celebrate it.
Russian sources confirmed this Thursday that a first contingent made up of 100 troops is already in the country to “guarantee the security” of the head of state and “the people of Burkina Faso against terrorist attacks.” It is thought that another 200 will join this first contingent in the coming weeks. The protection of African leaders by Russian fighters could already be seen in the Central African Republic and Mali, while Wagner’s actions in Mali have proven decisive since last summer in the ongoing war between the Malian state and the Azawad secessionists. Burkina Faso thus becomes the fourth country on the shores of the Sahara, after Mali, the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan, to have Russian soldiers in its national territory.
Ibrahim Traoré declared “total war” against jihadism in his country at the beginning of 2023 and changed state policies when it came to confronting the threat. Where previous governments sought to balance military actions with social policies, Traoré discards peaceful alternatives to focus on the military. A strategy that has brought him considerable victories, such as the liberation of the city of Djibo and the rest of the region from the siege at the end of last year, as well as a notable improvement in Burkinabe military capabilities, but which has also led to an increase in massacres and violations of rights human rights by the Burkinabe Army. The presence of Russian troops, whose violent practices have been repeatedly denounced in Mali by civil organizations, will provide important support to strengthen this concept of “total war” where mercy is not considered.
It should be noted that the Russians mentioned are no longer part of a private military company, Wagner, but are integrated into the Russian Armed Forces due to the restructuring of Wagner designed by Vladimir Putin after the eventful death of Yevgeny Prigozhin. Although Russian mercenaries can still be found in use in countries like Cameroon or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, collaborations between the nations of the Sahel and Vladimir Putin have freed themselves from “intermediaries” such as Prigozhin or private companies, to place themselves at a level of State-State relationship that further strengthens Russia’s position in the region, which Europe has already disappeared from the field of security in the Sahel. France, but also the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European advisory and training mission (EUTM Mali) give way to the new Africa Corps designed by the Kremlin.
Yes a year ago it was said that Wagner had a presence in Mali, the concept is evolving, and now it can be said that Russia has planted its boot in Burkina Faso. He accompanies the Russian soldiers with the promise that the Rosatom company will soon begin the construction of a nuclear power plant in Burkina Faso, so that the country can address the energy shortage that means 79% of the population does not have access to electricity. Military cooperation, added to the energy partnership, seems an attractive equation for the rulers of the Sahel. This was recently expressed by Ali Zeine, Nigerien Prime Minister, who indicated during his visit to Russia last week that “we [Mali, Níger y Burkina Faso] We hope that our partner, Russia, will strengthen our capabilities, provide us with the advice we need and, above all, mobilize the equipment necessary to protect our countries.”
Few doubt that Niger will be the next place where Russian troops land to combat jihadism, after the expulsion in September of the French troops that were in the country. It will be when Niger confirms the suspicions that it will be official: Europe will have been definitively replaced by Russia in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel, a jihadism that, ironically, threatens the doors of Europe and not Russia.