Ghana police service have taken swift action, apprehending five individuals reportedly associated with a clandestine online network, suspected to be influenced by Russian interests, following their involvement in organizing a protest in the country.
The saga began when reports surfaced on August 14, 2023, highlighting the arrest of several protesters by the Ghana Police Service. The individuals were taken into custody for wearing shirts bearing inscriptions associated with the Wagner group, a private military company. This incident quickly attracted attention and raised questions about the nature of the protest and the individuals involved.
GhanaFact, an online platform, initiated further investigations into the matter, unearthing a series of protest videos that took place on August 13, 2023, at Diabene Park in Takoradi, the capital of Ghana’s Western Region. The footage revealed a gathering of young individuals, some brandishing placards with slogans such as “Biden is a warmonger” and “Long live Russia,” alongside flags representing Ghana, Russia, Niger, Mali, and Algeria.
Online platforms were buzzing with posts related to the protest, many of them bearing captions like “Ghana today” and “The young people in Ghana know precisely what is going on. Their African elders could continue to drink the Kool-Aid, but they will not obey. #Ghana,” among others.
Further digging by GhanaFact exposed videos shared by certain users on the X platform, which bore watermarks linking them to two Telegram channels. These videos were also reposted by a prominent Ghanaian journalist, who raised questions about the identities of individuals affiliated with Ghana’s political parties mentioned on the protest flyer.
The investigations revealed the existence of a shadowy online network with a global reach, disseminating and promoting pro-Russian and pro-Wagner ideologies across various countries, including Ghana. This network engaged in activities such as advancing pro-Russian political narratives, funding and organizing pro-Russian events, and amplifying these activities through an extensive network of social media handles. It spanned multiple platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and at least six websites, including RiaNovosti, a state-owned news agency of the Russian Federation.
The political backdrop to these developments lies in the West African region, which has witnessed an unsettling trend of coup d’états over the last three years. Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger have all experienced coups, leading to concerns of a coup contagion across the region. The involvement of private military companies like Wagner in various conflict zones in Africa has added complexity to the situation.
GhanaFact’s investigation has identified key figures behind the pro-Russian/pro-Wagner network in Ghana and has unveiled details of their operations. The network strategically used Telegram pages as a primary source for disseminating information, which was subsequently shared across other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
The local point person for the Ghana project was identified as Michael Asiedu, the administrator of “Mikado News,” a Facebook blog known for publishing pro-Russian content. As part of the preparation for the pro-Russian/pro-Wagner protest, a series of online events, including podcasts and Twitter Space conversations, were organized in August 2023.
Intriguingly, the investigations revealed a significant funding aspect, with approximately $6,000 being utilized for the organization of the protest. Donations were collected through crowdfunding, with AUD 2471.5 directly sent to the organizers in Ghana. Additionally, AUD 691.5 was used to purchase and ship 200 Russian flags to the Russian embassy in Ghana.
This report delves into the operational tactics of the pro-Russian/pro-Wagner network in Ghana and its extensive online dissemination of event-related information. It also sheds light on the arrests of key figures associated with the network by Ghanaian authorities, who have been charged with “planning to overthrow the government and destabilizing the peace.”