Wagner – Russia’s militia arm – grows stronger in Africa: The Russian militia group Wagner is establishing a permanent presence in Africa. Present in more than 25 countries, it reinforces the Russian presence on the continent and raises the fears of the United States.
New report examines Russia’s Wagner Group’s expansion into Africa
“The Grey Zone” is the name of a Telegram channel affiliated with Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries. It is also a name that reflects the lawless zone in which Wagner is active, and it is the title of a new analysis of Wagner’s activities by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
The report, subtitled “Russia’s Military, Mercenary and Criminal Activity in Africa,” describes the group’s operations in several African countries and its illicit and illegal enterprises.
Julia Stanyard, Thierry Vircoulon and Julian Rademeyer, authors of the report, write: “The Wagner Group is unique as an organization in the scope, scale and audacity of its activities. The Wagner group as it stands today can be compared to the characteristics of Russian organized crime and its activities abroad.”
Wagner is spreading from its hubs such as the Central African Republic, to newly take root elsewhere on the continent. Since arriving in Sudan in 2017 at the behest of former dictator Omar el-Beshir, Wagner has rapidly expanded its presence on the continent through a mix of military, economic and political activities. Where Wagner goes, its subsidiaries such as Meroe Gold, Kraoma Mining and Lobaye Invest soon follow to extract mineral resources and ship them to Russia.
In addition to the Central African Republic and Sudan, Wagner is now active in Libya and Mali. He has financed political campaigns in Madagascar. Wagner’s political activities have also affected South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe. Wagner retreated to Mozambique after suffering losses in fighting extremists in Cabo Delgado province.
Global Initiative research suggests that Wagner is looking to several other African countries. The group has approached the ruling junta in Burkina Faso, Africa’s fourth largest gold producer, to provide military assistance against Islamist extremists active in the country. A similar offer in Mali has so far failed to eliminate the extremists and led to a massacre of civilians in the community of Moura last year.
Mysterious Wagner group to ‘refocus’ from ukraine to Africa
Wagner – Russia’s militia arm – grows stronger in Africa: The mysterious Wagner Group is reportedly set to refocus efforts away from Ukraine amid an ongoing dispute with Vladimir Putin. Yevgeny Prigozhin – who some have tipped to be Putin’s likely replacement should he be removed from the Kremlin – will be focusing his mercenary group’s attention on Africa instead.
Prigozhin has repeatedly accused Moscow of withholding the supply of ammunition and manpower he says is necessary to carry out its objectives in Ukraine.
Some Western analysts argue this may be due to Russia’s defence minister attempting to limit Prigozhin’s political influence, as critics of Putin become increasingly difficult for the tyrant to ignore. Even those who approve of his invasion of Ukraine are reportedly reconsidering their support for the despot as he fails to gain any serious ground.
Reports of Russia slowing its supply of equipment to the mercenary group has been corroborated by Western officials.
Russia’s inability to gain any notable footholds in Ukraine without losing a massive amount of resources and men in the process is also true for the Wagner Group, which has been spearheading the siege of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
How Wagner is strengthening Russia’s presence in Africa and upsetting the Americans
A war of influence is unfolding on the continent, considered the second front in Russia‘s war with the West. The Wagner Group, the armed wing of the Kremlin, which maintained strong relations with Africa during decolonization and the Cold War, is “eating the carcass of Françafrique“.
By providing a diplomatic veneer to the alliances forged on the ground by Wagner’s mercenaries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s trips to Bamako and Khartoum [on February 7 and 9] have raised tensions in what is now considered the second front in Russia’s war with the West.
Wagner is eating the carcass of Françafrique, the declining French neo-colonial empire, in the words of the renowned French historian Gérard Prunier. [In late January], French troops were ordered to leave another former stronghold, Burkina Faso.
U.S. nervousness is growing that Wagner could turn into a geopolitical threat, with a whole swath of anti-Western military regimes cutting Africa in half, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. On January 27, the U.S. Treasury Department labeled Wagner a “transnational criminal organization” that heads a “network systematically carrying out summary executions, rape, torture, and other physical violence” in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR).
The U.S. is trying to get Wagner out of Libya, where the group has fought alongside rebel general Khalifa Haftar, as well as Sudan, where it has allied with the junta’s number two, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemetti,” in mining operations and cross-border warfare.
Washington officials are becoming aware that Wagner is more than just a bunch of barbarians fighting jihadists and engaging in mineral exploitation. In reality, it’s Russia.