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FILE PHOTO: Russian officers from the Wagner Group are seen around Central African president Faustin-Archange Touadera, as they are part of the presidential security system during the referendum campaign to change the constitution and remove term limits, in Bangui, Central African Republic July 16, 2023.

REUTERS/Leger Kokpakpa

Have gun, will travel? Russia wants you in Africa

Moscow has reportedly begun recruiting 20,000 soldiers to be deployed to at least five Russia-aligned African countries to replace Wagner Group mercenaries previously stationed there as Russia deepens its influence on the continent.

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Supporters of Burkina Faso's junta attend a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the coup that brought Captain Ibrahim Traore to power in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on Sept. 29, 2023.

REUTERS/ Yempabou Ouoba

ECOWAS “officially” loses three junta-run states

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger say they have withdrawn from West Africa’s largest political bloc – but the Economic Community of West African States says it hasn’t received the paperwork. It won’t matter much in the short term because all three were already suspended by ECOWAS following military coups in their countries. Big picture? The move underlines an emerging cleavage in international alignment between the Sahel, trending toward Russia, and the coastal states with stronger ties to the US and Western Europe.
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Colonel Sidi Mohamed delivers a message as he stands with other Nigerien junta leaders.

Reuters

New African alliance bolsters military junta in Niger

In what could prove to be a major stumbling block to restoring democratic rule in Niger, on Saturday its ruling junta signed a mutual defense pact with the governments of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.

The three countries have all seen their governments toppled by military coups since 2020. Niger’s fell most recently in June with the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum, who remains under arrest on charges of “high treason.”

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The last French convoy from Operation Barkhane, prepares to leave Gossi, Mali.

Reuters

The UN’s dangerous withdrawal from Mali

The UN this week laid out a timeline for withdrawing peacekeeping troops from the West African state of Mali – a mission that UN chief António Guterres has called “unprecedented” because of the vast logistical and security challenges.

Roughly 13,000 UN peacekeepers and police – and 1,786 civilian staff – will be out of the country by Dec. 31, with their infrastructure handed over to Mali’s military government. The withdrawal of UN forces, who’ve been in the country for a decade, is a huge development in a state long plagued by ethnic strife, poverty, and Islamic insurgents.

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Candles are placed at a makeshift memorial near the former PMC Wagner Center, associated with the founder of the Wagner Group and Yevgeny Prigozhin, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

REUTERS/Anastasia Barashkova

Wagner and Russia’s next moves

Russia has confirmed the identities of the 10 people who died in a plane crash last Wednesday northwest of Moscow. They included Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group, as well key associates Dmitry Utkin and Valery Chekalov.

The question now turns to what happens to Wagner forces and the group’s clients, particularly African nations that are of strategic importance to Russia. Can President Vladimir Putin pick up where Prigozhin left off?

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picture of Planet Earth.

Annie Gugliotta

Ukraine’s war and the non-Western world

A new poll provides more evidence that Western and non-Western countries just don’t agree on how best to respond to the war in Ukraine.

Most Americans and Europeans say their governments should help Ukraine repel Russian invaders. Many say Russia’s threat extends beyond Ukraine. People and leaders in non-Western countries mainly want the war to end as quickly as possible, even if Ukraine must surrender some of its land to Russia to bring peace.

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US Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a Jan. 6 committee hearing.

USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: The outgoing Liz Cheney, trouble in Kosovo, France out of Mali

Liz Cheney’s next move

Liz Cheney, a three-term Republican US congresswoman from Wyoming, suffered a stinging defeat Tuesday night at the hands of well-funded primary opponent Harriet Hageman, enthusiastically backed by former president Donald Trump. Sarah Palin — the former vice presidential candidate and governor, also supported by Trump — won the Alaska primary to run for Congress. Cheney’s defeat marks a remarkable political fall for a nationally known conservative politician who is the daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, the previous generation of Republicans’ best-known Washington powerbroker. Her political future and her potential impact on American politics will be defined by her central role on the congressional committee investigating the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Trump’s role in it. Trump, according to Cheney, is “guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty of any president in our nation’s history.” Cheney raised some $13 million for her now-failed House campaign. She can still spend that money on a future race. Next up: speculation that Cheney will run for president in 2024 in a campaign defined by opposition to Trump, who is still the Republican presidential frontrunner.

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Gabriella Turrisi

Hard Numbers: Chinese data hack, July 4 massacre, US Navy wants Iran tips, Uzbek unrest, Mali sanctions lifted

1 billion: An anonymous hacker claims to have stolen the police records of about one billion Chinese citizens, almost three-quarters of the population. If true, it could be one of the biggest data hacks of all time — and very embarrassing for Beijing.

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