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Social Network Analysis

Burkina Faso: Increased local support for Russia.

Burkina Faso

Pro-Russian support increased in the Sahel, with residents of Burkina Faso holding Russian flags while celebrating recent coup.

Pro-Russian content spread on West African social media in the months ahead of the January 2022 military coup overthrowing the government of Burkina Faso. Online support for Moscow has steadily increased since then, including Facebook pages administered from the Sahel region dedicated to Russian Wagner Group mercenaries. In September 2021, mentions of the Wagner Group by Facebook pages administered in Burkina Faso increased 19-fold, following claims the Russian private military contractor was headed to neighboring Mali. Although there did not appear to be any significant coordination among the Burkina Faso pages, as uncovered in our investigation of pages in Mali, the pages actively amplified false claims that Wagner soldiers were present in West Africa and promoted anti-French, pro-Russian narratives. Support for Russia and demands for its intervention in the Sahel are not new. Protesters celebrating the coup told The New York Times they were inspired by Russia’s intervention in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali. However, traditional media in Burkina Faso were more skeptical of Russia’s involvement in the region, despite also showing a massive uptick in mentions of Wagner over the last few months.

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