Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 August 2023:
Many poor Africans up and down the continent may sleep soundly tonight, if report of the last few hours that Prigozhin – the Russian mercenary leader of the deadly Wagner group, has died in a plane crash near Russia. This breaking news comes from Russian State media.
Prigozhin has been reported to be the man behind the recent wave of military coup d’états and unrest in West Africa, including Niger where the military leaders with support from the Russian Wagner mercenary group took power few weeks ago, placing the elected President in house arrest.
Ironically, Prigozhin attended the Russia-Africa summit held in Moscow last month, that was hosted by Putin and attended by several African Presidents including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
Before his death today, many Africans have been bracing themselves for what has been described as the making of a third world war over the continent’s vast mineral resurces, between the West and Russia, fuelled by the Wagner group.
Just few days ago, heavily armed Prigozhin was seen on various media news report on the ground somewhere in Africa – possibly Niger, brandishing his weapon and talking about his mission to free Africa.
But today, many Africans may be breathing a sigh of relief that Africa can once again return to its trajectory of finding its own solutions to the growing democratic deficit and resource curse that are threatening to bring widespread chaos and instability across the continent.
Exactly two months ago today, Prigozhin and his heavily armed troops stopped short of waging a coup against Russian President Putin and was later banished from Russia by Putin to Belarus where he was made to feel unwelcomed.
Since then, Prigozhin has been trying to establish a huge mercenary base in Africa where he could fight a proxy war for his Russian native land to take control of Africa’s resources and assert Russian authority over poor and badly governed African nations.
According to Russian news report, ten people including Yevgeny Prigozhin were killed in the private jet crash north of Moscow. Eight bodies have so far been found at the site of the plane crash by the Russian emergency services.
Seven passengers and three crew were on board the Embraer aircraft, TASS news agency reported, which was en route from Moscow to St Petersburg.
Prigozhin is the mastermind behind much of the conflict and destruction seen in Syria, Libya, Central Africa Republic, Mali, and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, military leaders in Niger have told ECOWAS leaders that they will not be leaving power for another three years, a demand ECOWAS has turned down.
Niger’s coup leaders’ hands have been strengthened recently by support from Prigozhin and his band of Russian mercenaries, but questions are being asked now as to whether the death of Prigozhin can bring sobering reflection in the country.