President Nana Akufo-Addo has made his first visit to Burkina Faso on Wednesday after a storm triggered by remarks about Russian mercenaries, the Burkinabe presidency confirmed Thursday.
The visit was closed to the press, but according to the presidency, Akufo-Addo met with military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore to discuss “major issues in the region regarding the security challenge.”
The visit comes nearly six months after a diplomatic flareup sparked when Akufo-Addo, during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Burkina had “concluded arrangements… like Mali” to employ Wagner paramilitaries.
“I believe a (mineral) mine in southern Burkina has been allocated to them as a form of payment,” Akufo-Addo had said, adding the mercenaries “are at the border” with Ghana.
The Burkina government condemned the remarks, pulled its ambassador from Accra and called in the Ghanaian ambassador in Ouagadougou for a dressing-down.
Traore came to power in a September coup triggered by frustrations in the army over failures to roll back a bloody jihadist insurgency.
Burkina Faso has also pushed French forces to exit the country but has repeatedly denied that it has turned to Wagner.
However, ties with Moscow are warmer and on May 4, Traore said Russia had become “a strategic ally.”
“We will continue to acquire major means with the country (and) will cooperate with those who wish to help us in this war” against jihadists, he said.
Burkina Faso has been battling a jihadist insurgency that has seen more than 10,000 killed – both civilians and military – according to NGOs, and displaced some two million people.