Niger Crisis: Concerns As Wagner Boss, Prigozhin, Dies In Plane Crash

According to LEADERSHIP newspaper, the reported demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, due to a recent plane crash, has sparked widespread speculation and heightened tensions globally. Of particular concern is the alleged connection between Wagner and a plan to support the military junta in Niger Republic.

Led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the junta seized power in Niger, toppling President Mohamed Bazoum in July. Reports have emerged suggesting that the junta engaged in discussions with the Wagner group to potentially counter a looming threat posed by the ECOWAS standby force. This regional coalition had issued a warning about the possibility of military intervention to reinstate Bazoum.

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Although unverified, there are accounts that Prigozhin was seen in Niger, negotiating with the junta in an attempt to counter the ECOWAS threat.

The passing of Prigozhin has the potential to significantly alter the circumstances in Niger, potentially exacerbating an already delicate situation. However, experts are approaching the situation with caution, given Russia’s reputation for intricate maneuvers that often complicate such scenarios.

Prigozhin was reportedly listed as a passenger on the ill-fated aircraft that crashed in the Tver Region. According to the Russian Emergencies Ministry, the crash resulted in the loss of all passengers on board.

This aircraft had been en route from Moscow to St Petersburg, carrying a total of 10 individuals, including three crew members. It remains unclear whether Prigozhin was among those on board.

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Commenting on the situation, Professor Femi Badejo from Chrisland University noted that Prigozhin’s passing might not necessarily reshape the landscape, especially if Wagner’s intention was to safeguard the regime in Niger. He posited that the ECOWAS coalition might struggle to gather the required forces for an intervention.

In a similar vein, Charles Onunaiju, an authority in international affairs and the director of the Centre for China Studies, concurred that Prigozhin’s passing might not substantially impact the situation in Niger. Onunaiju emphasized that Tchiani had acknowledged Wagner’s lack of involvement in Niger. He underscored Russia’s steadfast strategic interests in Africa and Niger, suggesting that these motives would persist despite this development.

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