Wagner’s “metastases” in Africa – or how Putin is expanding his influence

It is well known that the mercenaries of the Wagner group fought in the Ukraine war. But their colleagues in Africa are also holding the fort hundreds of kilometers away.

Because Russia wants to massively expand its presence on the continent, especially in West Africa, reports “Bild” and “Deutsche Welle” (DW). The troops of the notorious mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin are involved wherever influence and power are suspected.

How “PictureReportedly, Russia is planning to train security forces for the regime in Eswatini and is establishing ties with countries such as Eritrea, which in March 2022 was one of the few countries in the UN Security Council to vote against sanctions against Russia.

But Russian influence is also growing in Burkina Faso. The military ruler Ibrahim Traoré, who came to power in a coup, wants to expel the French troops who have been taking action against militant Islamists out of the country as quickly as possible and replace them with mercenaries from the Wagner Group. According to employees of the French Institute for International Relations, Russia is also specifically using fake news that is being spread on social media.

Russian “instructors” are said to support anti-Western military officials

The “German wavereports that thousands of Wagner Group mercenaries are active in many African countries, including the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali. They take part in battles, provide security services, and are involved in various economic activities.

In the Central African Republic alone, around 1,900 Russian “instructors” from the Wagner Group are said to be supporting the government troops in the civil war. In Mali, the mercenaries supported the pro-Russian and anti-Western military junta that emerged after a coup. There they are accused of serious human rights violations.

“Wagner has evolved over time beyond private military services – to a relationship and corporate network with companies in various African countries,” said analyst Julian Rademeyer from the civil society network “Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime” (GIATOC) im Conversation with DW.

Sudan became Russia’s ‘Key to Africa’

The presence of the Wagner Group in Sudan is particularly strong. Even under the regime of the dictator Omar al-Bashir, the Wagner Group secured rights for the mining of raw materials through the Russian company “M-Invest”. The mercenaries are supposed to help secure these mines.

Dictator Omar al-Bashir and Vladimir Putin met in Sochi in 2017 to seal the beginning of their cooperation. Al-Bashir assured Putin that Sudan could serve as Russia’s “key to Africa” ​​- as long as Prigozhin’s mercenaries offered their military support, the report said.

Even if the group could not prevent Wagner al-Bashir’s fall in 2019, they continued to expand their influence in the Sudanese military. According to observers, Russia aims to secure access to the country’s valuable raw materials, including gold, manganese and silicon, as well as uranium deposits that could contribute to energy supplies, according to DW.

GIATOC sees the Wagner Group primarily as a military instrument of the Kremlin to expand Russia’s economic and military influence in Africa. In a recently published study of Wagner in Africa, Rademeyer told DW that the group was the most influential Russian actor in Africa.

“In all areas that bring in money, the Russians are the masters”

The Wagner Group is now active in almost all business areas that the continent has to offer. These include the extraction of tropical timber, the cultivation of sugar or the operation of gold mines.

A Canadian company that initially operated the Ndassima gold mine in Central Africa suddenly had to give way to a Madagascar company. GIATOC determined that the Malagasy company is a subsidiary of the Wagner group.

“In all areas that bring in money, including customs and taxes, the Russians are the masters,” Joseph Bendounga, head of the Central African opposition party MDREC, told DW.

Despite the involvement of Wagner mercenaries in the war in Ukraine, the activities of the Wagner network in Africa continue. According to DW, there are no signs that the Ukraine war will lead to a withdrawal of mercenaries from Africa.

With the group’s increasing activities in Africa, Julian Rademeyer calls on Europe and its partners to work more closely with Africa to counteract these influences. He believes that “Wagner will form and grow further metastases in Africa as long as there are no interventions against these influences”.

Hank Peter

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