Rift Emerges within Junta as Russian Military Deployment Looms in Niger

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The prospect of a deployment of Russian military personnel to Niger is causing a division within the junta. The announcement of a new “African Corps” replacing the Wagner Group declared on Telegram on January 24th signaled the deployment of a hundred men to Burkina Faso.

Simultaneously, the Russian newspaper Vedomosti published an article on the same day, suggesting that this “African Corps” would be reinforced by 200 more personnel and could operate in five countries by summer: the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. This perspective, however, does not seem to garner consensus in Niamey.

The meeting took place in Moscow on January 16th during the visit of Niger’s Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine. The Defense Ministers, Salifou Modi representing Niger, and the Russian Deputy Ministers of Defense, Alexandre Fomine and Iounous Evkourov, engaged in discussions concerning the acquisition of military equipment and the training of Nigerien soldiers. Yet, it remains unclear whether the arrival of a contingent comprising Russian military and former Wagner mercenaries was part of the agenda.

In Niamey, this is an exceedingly sensitive issue, as demonstrated by the meeting at the military headquarters on January 3rd. The junta’s key figures convened to discuss the potential arrival of Russian military personnel, leading to heated exchanges, according to well-placed observers.

The pro-Russian faction included General Tiani, the junta’s leader, and Salifou Modi, the Defense Minister. On the opposing side was Moussa Barmou, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, who, reportedly, vehemently opposed the Russian option. While these divisions were previously confined to the junta’s backstage, they have now become public knowledge.

Soukaina Sghir

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