Burkina Faso summoned the Ghanaian ambassador on Friday morning for “explanations” after Ghana’s president alleged that Burkina Faso had hired the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Burkina Faso’s foreign ministry said.
Speaking to reporters alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo alleged 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, adding that it was a distressing development for Ghana.
Akufo-Addo also alleged that Burkina Faso had offered Wagner a mine as payment.
In a statement issued after the meeting with the ambassador, Burkina Faso’s foreign ministry 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, the 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.
Burkinabe authorities have not commented publicly on whether or not they are working with Wagner, a mercenary group that was hired in neighbouring Mali to help fight Islamist militants.
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 armed United Nations missions 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 United States, 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.
A communications officer at Ghana’s foreign affairs ministry said no one was immediately available for comment.
Burkina Faso is facing an Islamist insurgency by some of the same groups that are present in Mali, and like its neighbour is ruled by a military junta that came to power on promises to improve security.
Mali’s decision to employ Wagner forces last year alienated it from regional and Western allies and was one of the reasons why French counter-terrorism forces pulled out.
Wagner’s forces have also fought in Libya, Central African Republic and Mozambique.