May 26, 2024

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The arrival of the Afrika Korps in Niger marks the military regime's rapprochement with Russia

The arrival of the Afrika Korps in Niger marks the military regime's rapprochement with Russia

A white wide-body aircraft decorated with the Russian flag landed at Niamey airport on Wednesday, April 10, captured by Russian state media cameras. In the darkness of the Nigerian night, under the deafening noise of the plane's engines, a reporter from the Russian press agency RIA Novosti comments on the arrival of the first soldiers of the Africa Corps, about a hundred of whom have officially signed up. Conciliation between Moscow and the military junta led by Abdurahamane Diani.

read more: The article is reserved for our subscribers Africa Corps, the new label for the Russian presence in the Sahel

“This Means Russia Returns to Africa”, he says, even though Moscow is already from Libya to Sudan and from the Sahel to the Central African Republic. After Mali and Burkina Faso, the third Sahelian country led by putschist militias is accepting more of its members in the pro-Russian camp in West Africa.

The arrival of the Ilyushin Il-76 was revealed twenty-four hours later by Nigerian state television, which noted that it was on board. “Latest Generation Military Equipment and Instructors of Ministry of Defence” Specifically responsible for an installation “Anti-Aircraft Defense System”. State media, which broadcast images of the head of the military junta, said the visit followed a phone interview. “History” Between Abdurahmane Diyani and Vladimir Putin, March 26. The latest signal of a serious rapprochement between the two countries.

Colin's call

Dreaded by Westerners, this change dates back to the end of 2023. In December, Niamey welcomed a Russian official for the first time in the person of the powerful Deputy Defense Minister, Colonel General Yunus-Pek Evgoro. Later both countries signed “Ethical” Security secret “Strengthening Cooperation” safe. A month and a half later, the head of the Nigerian interim government, Ali Mahamane Lamin Jean, led a large ministerial delegation and visited Russia before traveling to Turkey, Iran and Serbia.

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In March, his warmest greetings to Vladimir Putin, head of the Nigerian junta. “Smart Reelection” And his “Intelligent Success” In the presidential election – without a strong opponent, the Russian leader offered himself a fifth term with 87% of the vote – sounded like a call to vote. “Niger, which is waging a historic struggle for its sovereignty and development, can count on your personal commitment and success in the struggle against the Russian Federation”The Nigerian press release continued.

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“The arrival of the Africa Corps in Niger represents Russia's continued expansion in the region, supported by the institutionalization of the Alliance of Sahel Countries. [AES, une nouvelle entité qui regroupe le Mali, le Burkina Faso et le Niger]Moscow exerts significant influence, Analyzes researcher Maxim Audinet, an expert on Russian influence at the Strategic Research Institute of the Military Academy (Irsem).. We see the incarnation of the Russian presence in the Sahel post-Yevgeny Prigozhin, orchestrated by the Russian military intelligence (GRU) and Ministry of Defense, trying to regain control of Wagner's heritage in Africa. »

Died in the crash of his plane in August 2023, the boss of a Russian paramilitary company that was the architect of Wagner's expansion in Africa was welcomed to power in Niger in July. In an audio clip that went viral on social media, we heard him praising the President's downfall “Pro-French” Mohammad Basoom, not according to him “Nigerian people have nothing but struggle against settlers who try to impose their rules of life on them”. In Niamey, demonstrators cheering the ouster of Mohamed Basoum – still held by the military junta eight and a half months later – displayed flags in Russian colors.

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“Foolish Bargain”

AES is now one of Moscow's areas of influence in Africa. Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, three countries that fell prey to jihadist groups and are now in the hands of rulers, have announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Russia should be allowed to fight terrorism better. A promise they can't keep this time: In every country, the number of attacks and victims has increased in recent months.

According to Maxime Audinet, “At this point Niger seems to be going down the Burkinabe path, marked by a Praetorian Guard model constitution supported by military training and an information influence system responsible for protecting and legitimizing the Junta”, Instead of landing troops to fight terrorist attacks, as in Mali.

Also Read | In Niger, 23 soldiers were killed in an ambush by “terrorists”.

Before welcoming the Russian soldiers, Niger severed ties with its main Western partners. First with France, its military regime demanded the departure of 1,500 soldiers and ambassadors upon seizing power. The US, despite its more conciliatory tone, was asked to leave the country.

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On March 16, Niamey assessed the American presence “illegal” and condemned “with immediate effect” A military cooperation agreement was signed with Washington in 2012. “Foolish Bargain”, Added the Butchists on Sunday, April 7. Washington must now close the Agadez base, where the drones and 1,100 soldiers are mainly responsible for intelligence and surveillance missions.

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Germany still has about a hundred soldiers in Niger, engaged in special forces training. Around 300 Italian soldiers are also in the country as part of the bilateral cooperation. In November, Niamey ended key cooperation with the European Union (EU) by repealing a 2015 law on migrant smuggling. The increase in migration to Europe via Niger immediately began to rise again. One more reason for the EU to worry and one more means of pressuring Niamey on its anti-Western stance.

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