Burkina Faso has summoned Ghana’s ambassador to protest allegations that the embattled Sahel nation has hired Russian mercenaries, the foreign ministry says.
The summons on Friday was issued after Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo alleged on Wednesday that Burkina Faso had hired the mercenaries.
“Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there,” Akufo-Addo said at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
Speaking alongside United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Akufo-Addo also alleged that Burkina Faso had offered Wagner a mine as payment.
In a statement issued after its meeting with Ghana’s ambassador, Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had “expressed disapproval” about the statements made by the Ghanaian president.
“Ghana could have undertaken exchanges with the Burkinabe authorities on the security issue in order to have the right information,” it said.
However, it did not confirm or deny the allegations. In a separate message to Reuters, a foreign ministry spokesperson said, without elaborating: “In any case, Burkina has not called on Wagner.”
Burkina Faso also recalled its ambassador from Ghana for a meeting, the spokesperson said.
Authorities in Ouagadougou have not commented publicly on speculations of working with Wagner, a mercenary group that was hired in neighbouring Mali to help fight armed groups.
In a response on Thursday to Akufo-Addo’s remarks, Wagner did not directly address Ghana’s concerns. But the response, attributed to Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused Western governments and United Nations forces of carrying out some of the offences Wagner has been accused of in Africa.
The prospect of Wagner expanding its presence in Africa has troubled Western powers such as France and the US, who say the group exploits mineral resources and commits human rights abuses in countries where it operates.
Burkina Faso’s government spokesman did not answer calls and did not reply to a message requesting comment.
An official at Ghana’s foreign ministry said no one was immediately available for comment.
Burkina Faso is struggling to contain some of the same armed groups present in Mali and, like its neighbour, is ruled by a military government that came to power on promises to improve security.
Mali’s decision to employ Wagner forces last year alienated it from its regional and Western allies and was one of the reasons why French forces pulled out of the country.
Wagner forces have also fought in Libya, the Central African Republic and Mozambique.