On July 27th, 2023, military officers in Niger announced a coup on national TV. They said the democratically elected cabinet of Mohamed Bazoum had been dissolved, just as they announced the suspension of all democratic institutions. Since the announcement, the president has been held hostage by the presidential guard.
Shortly after the military took over, Bola Tinubu, the president of Nigeria and the chairman of ECOWAS, summoned an extraordinary meeting of all ECOWAS leaders. At the end of the meeting, the resolution was to give a week ultimatum to Abdourahmane Tchiani – also known as Omar Tchiani and the chief of Niger’s presidential guard.
In a communique read by the ECOWAS Commission chairperson, Omar Touray, at the Extraordinary Summit held in Abuja, the ECOWAS leaders concluded that if constitutional order was not restored in Niger, the commission may resort to the use of force.
Thereafter, Defence chiefs from ECOWAS member states finalised an intervention plan– urging their military to prepare resources to dislodge the coup plotters in Niger. This became necessary after a mediation team sent to Niger was not allowed to enter or meet with military government leader, Abdourahmane Tchiani.
It is against this ECOWAS proposed kinetic intervention that the Niger military leader is seeking help from WAGNER, a Russia-based private military group. It was reported that one of the coup leaders, Salifou Mody met with Wagner’s representative in neighbouring Mali.
The Wagner group officially known as “PMC Wagner” is a private military company controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. Since it was founded in 2014, Wagner forces have been active in Africa and the Middle East– having grown from about 5,000 to 25,000 troops.
Did the Wagner group confirm the presence of its armed/combat division in the Niger Republic?
The CDD War Room traced the origin of the circulated image to a TikTok account that has now deleted the content. However, the message is still widely being circulated across WhatsApp.
We found a news report that Wagner group instructors landed in Niamey, the capital of Niger. However, the reason for the Wagner instructors’ arrival in Niamey is yet to be confirmed, with no credible report disclosing whether this presence involves any military support or weaponry.
Similarly, no credible media has referenced the press statement allegedly issued by Wagner or confirmed the presence of the Wagner group’s combat division in the Niger Republic. Although, there is a news report that there exists a voice message linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group. In the voice message, the founder appeared to endorse the coup and offered the services of his fighters to the Niger junta.
In addition, we can not confirm the hierarchy of the Wagner group or whether the instructors’ group is the same as the armed/combat division.
Verdict: NO EVIDENCE
We found no evidence to confirm the existence of the press statement or the claim that the combat/armed division of the Russian Wagner Group is in the Niger Republic.