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Russian Influence in Burkina Faso: Mining and Meddling

Russian Influence in Burkina Faso

Summary

The recent military coup in Burkina Faso was the result of the elected government’s inability to suppress insurgent violence. Due to Russia’s strategy to bolster its military, economic and political influence in Africa, it is almost certain that they will conduct influence operations to prompt the contracting of Wagner Group mercenaries to support counter-insurgency efforts. If Russian mercenaries effectively demonstrate their effectiveness in Mali, it is highly likely that the Wagner Group will be contracted. In return, it is almost certain that Russia will ask for mining concessions in the territory currently controlled by militants, due to a close Putin ally owning the second largest gold mining operation in the country.

Key Judgement 1

It is almost certain that Russia will conduct influence operations to prompt the new military junta in Burkina Faso to request Wagner Group counter-insurgency support over the next 12 months

  • Russia has demonstrated a new strategic focus on developing its political, economic, and military influence in Africa since the 2014 Annexation of Crimea.

  • One of the primary ways it has sought to develop its influence is through providing private military assistance to regimes throughout the continent, to support counter-insurgency efforts.

  • The primary motivation for the recent coup in Burkina Faso was the inability of the elected government to suppress militant violence. Within a day of the coup, countless Russian flags had inexplicably been provided to a pro-military demonstration in the capital.

Key Judgement 2

It is highly likely that the perceived success of Wagner Group mercenaries in Mali will lead to their hiring in Burkina Faso over the next 12 months

  • Pro-Russian popular sentiment in Burkina Faso has been growing due to the Wagner Group assisting counter-insurgency efforts in Mali and Central African Republic, filling the vacuum of withdrawn French forces.

  • It has been reported that the new leader of Burkina Faso, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, had unsuccessfully lobbied the deposed President to hire Russian private military contractors.

  • If Wagner Group mercenaries demonstrate any successes in countering extremist militants in neighbouring Mali, it can be extensively used for promoting Wagner Group assistance by Russian operatives in Burkina Faso.

Key Judgement 3

It is almost certain that Russia will request mining concessions in return for Wagner Group assistance

  • Russian private military support in Africa consistently comes at the price of mining concessions within resource rich countries.

  • Russia has a shortage of the mineral Manganese, of which Burkina Faso is estimated to have 19 million metric tonnes.

  • Currently, the second largest mining gold mining operation in Burkina Faso, BISSA Gold SA, is majority owned by Russian billionaire and staunch Putin ally Alexei Mordashov, who is known to personally fund Putin’s unofficial projects.

  • There is a significant number of artisanal gold mines in Solhan, north-eastern Burkina Faso, which is estimated to produce 10-30 tonnes of gold per annum. However, it is currently an ungovernable region due to the dominance of extremist militants.

  • If Wagner Group contractors are able to push back militants in Solhan, official mining operations will be able to operate, allowing for the potential expansion of Mordashov’s mining operation.

Author

Ethan Lierens

Ethan is a graduate in History and Politics from the University of Exeter. Following his bachelor’s degree he completed a master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security at King’s College London. His research focuses are disinformation campaigns, post-soviet politics and conflict in the Middle East.

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