While the international community, including many African states, have condemned the coup in Niger, Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has his own take.
In a long message posted to social media, Prigozhin blamed the situation in Niger on the legacy of colonialism and alleged, without evidence, that Western nations were sponsoring terrorist groups in the country. Niger was once a French colony and, before this week’s putsch, it had been one of the few democracies in the region.
Prigozhin still appears to be at large despite leading an armed rebellion against the Kremlin in June.
The short-lived uprising ended when Prigozhin and his troops agreed to head to Belarus but the militia leader was seen in St. Petersburg on Thursday meeting with an African dignitary on the sidelines of a summit between African nations and Russia.
Prigozhin’s missive was also something of a business proposition. He said that his private military company, Wagner, was capable of dealing with situations like that playing out in Niamey, the Nigerien capital. Hundreds of Wagner contractors are in neighboring Mali, at the invitation of the country’s military junta, to confront an Islamist insurgency that is strongest in the area where the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet.
“What happened in Niger has been brewing for years,” Prigozhin said. “The former colonizers are trying to keep the people of African countries in check. In order to keep them in check, the former colonizers are filling these countries with terrorists and various bandit formations. Thus creating a colossal security crisis.”
Prigozhin then continued with his typical sales pitch.
“The population suffers. And this is the (the reason for) love for PMC (private military company) Wagner, this is the high efficiency of PMC Wagner. Because a thousand soldiers of PMC Wagner are able to establish order and destroy terrorists, preventing them from harming the peaceful population of states,” he said.
A number of CNN investigations, and others by human rights groups, have established Wagner’s involvement in and complicity with atrocities against civilian populations in Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic, where they have been employed to assist local defense forces against rebellions and insurgencies, and suppress opposition.
Prigozhin’s comments on Friday were at odds with the view of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which called for the “prompt release” of President Mohamed Bazoum by the military.