The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has conveyed its unequivocal message that Russia will be held accountable should the Wagner Group, a private military contractor associated with the Eastern European nation, transgress human rights norms about the Niger coup incident.
Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, articulated this stance during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday. He underlined that a distinct West African nation had forged a separate arrangement with the security entity.
Currently operational in Mali, the Wagner Group’s presence and activities have been affirmed by the Malian government as a bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation. Ambassador Musah expressed the intent to take the parties at their word, implying that any actions that impinge upon human rights or result in devastation within the region by these private military contractors would lead to the responsibility being shared by other nations within the region.
“The Wagner Group, apparently, is in Mali today. The Malian government says this is an agreement between them and the Russian Federation,” Musah said.
“We want to take them by their word, which means any sort of action that infringes on human rights or yeah, or devastation in our region by these private military contractors, we are going to hold the other countries of our region responsible for that.”
Pressed on whether Russia would bear this responsibility, the ECOWAS representative emphasized, “Yes, it is Russia that we will hold accountable through diplomatic channels. The West African region is distinct from Russia.”
Ambassador Musah acknowledged that private military companies have been a recurrent factor in African conflicts. He noted, “Private military companies were involved in conflicts like Sierra Leone and Liberia during historical civil wars. Even in recent global conflicts, the utilization of private military companies has been evident.”
He said, “Private military companies were involved in Sierra Leone. They were involved in Liberia during those civil wars long ago. And even recently, in the global conflict, there has been the use of private military companies.”
“The Americans are using them in Iraq; in Afghanistan, they use them, and others. What we are seeing is that these groups are not acceptable in Africa, even though they are there, and we are going to hold their countries of origin responsible for any violations.”
He cited examples such as the American employment of such groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. ECOWAS, however, stands firm on its stance that the presence of these entities is unwelcome in Africa. Consequently, the nations of origin of these private military contractors will be held responsible for any transgressions committed.
Addressing the broader context, the ECOWAS commissioner highlighted the ongoing participation of Western powers in Niger, including France and the European Union (EU). He further pointed out an influx of involvement from Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, echoing the presence of Russia and China.
Ambassador Musah affirmed, “Our principle is clear: we will not permit West Africa to become a battleground for proxy conflicts once more. This is the position we take regarding the Wagner Group; it is not an option we entertain.”
“What we are saying is that we are not going to allow West Africa to be an arena of proxy wars again. And that is our attitude to Wagner. It is not our option,” he said.
He concluded, “Our unwavering objective is to prevent private military companies from interfering in the region’s conflict environment due to the well-understood consequences of their actions.”
“We do not want private military companies interfering in the conflict environment in the region because we know the consequences of their action.”