The Wagner Group, the private security firm with ties to the Russian state, cannot seem to stay out of the headlines. Amid the allegations of its involvement in killing prisoners of war in Ukraine, smuggling gold in Sudan and abusing civilians in Mali and the Central African Republic, the mercenary group gives the impression of having a hand in nearly every global hotspot.
Because Wagner has such an established reputation, many took claims made earlier this year that the group would deploy to Burkina Faso at face value. However, rumors about Wagner rarely square with reality. The actual evidence that the group will imminently deploy to Burkina Faso is far from conclusive, and there are practical reasons both for Wagner to avoid a large-scale deployment in the near term and for Burkina Faso to avoid the controversy of hiring it.
Initial reporting claimed that Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who led a military coup in the country in January 2022 and is now its interim president, had previously lobbied then-President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to request Wagner’s assistance in fighting Islamist insurgents in Burkina Faso’s East and near its capital, Ouagadougou. Subsequent media reports then pointed to a public statement by a Wagner front organization in CAR the day after the coup, in which it offered its security assistance to Burkina Faso. Most recently, Foreign Policy cited two U.S. intelligence officials who raised the possibility that Burkina Faso might reach out to Wagner in the near future.