**The Wagner Group: A Mercenary Force in Africa**
Wagner Group: A Powerful Mercenary Force in Africa
Wagner: The Choice of African Rulers
Flaws in Alternative Military Sources
The Origins of the Wagner Group
Russia’s Return to Africa
Wagner’s Effects on African Continent
Wagner’s Support for Abusive Regimes
Wagner’s Violations of International Law
Wagner’s Indifference to Human Life
Reasons for Wagner’s Involvement in Africa
Challenges in Opposing Wagner’s Activities
Africa’s Ambivalence towards Russia
Potential Powers to Oppose Wagner
Lack of International Mobilization against Wagner
China’s Unlikely Role in Confronting Wagner
**Wagner Group: A Powerful Mercenary Force in Africa**
The presence of the Wagner Group in Africa has led to both admiration and concern among African rulers. Known for their quick deployment, sophisticated weaponry, and ruthless force, the Wagner Group offers advantages that other military sources lack. However, questions remain about their future on the continent, especially in light of recent events.
**Wagner: The Choice of African Rulers**
African rulers see the Wagner Group as an attractive option due to its rapid deployment capabilities and formidable military strength. Traditional sources of military assistance such as United Nations missions and African Union forces have their own limitations. UN missions often lack robust mandates, while AU forces lack the necessary arms and motivation. Additionally, European Union interveners are perceived to carry the legacy of colonial repression. Furthermore, the United States has limited interest in Africa beyond supporting fights against Salafi terrorists.
**Flaws in Alternative Military Sources**
United Nations missions and African Union forces have their own shortcomings when it comes to providing military muscle. UN missions are often constrained by weak mandates, unable to effectively address security challenges on the ground. On the other hand, African Union forces are often ill-equipped and lacking the necessary motivation to tackle complex conflicts. This has created a void that the Wagner Group has been able to fill with its rapid deployment and superior firepower.
**The Origins of the Wagner Group**
The Wagner Group was established in 2014 by Yevgeny Prigozhin as a private military company to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine that same year. Prigozhin operated with the permission of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and although their interests may have differed at times, they heavily overlapped. However, the recent Wagner rebellion in 2023 has cast doubt on their future in Africa.
**Russia’s Return to Africa**
Russia’s renewed presence in Africa has been ongoing, with the Wagner Group being a part of this expansion. This development prompted further research on the topic of Russia’s involvement in Africa, revealing the potential for continued misery brought by the Wagner Group to the continent. The African Union’s silence on the issue reflects both the benefits certain African actors gain from Wagner’s presence and a deeper ambivalence towards Russia and Russian imperialism.
**Wagner’s Effects on African Continent**
Regrettably, the presence of the Wagner Group has done little to improve the lives of Africans. Instead, it has served to entrench dictators, undermine democracies, prolong civil conflicts, and exploit natural resources for Russia’s gain. Wagner’s activities have also vilified the only alternative Africans have to China for investment.
**Wagner’s Support for Abusive Regimes**
The Wagner Group has played a significant role in helping abusive regimes maintain power in Africa. They have assisted Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir in training troops, guarding resources, and suppressing dissent. In Mali, Wagner has aided nascent dictatorships in consolidating power, causing disruptions in the electoral process. Their involvement in the civil war in Libya, assisting rebel leader Khalifa Hiftar’s forces, is clear evidence of Russia’s violation of international law.
**Wagner’s Violations of International Law**
The Wagner Group’s use of mines and booby traps in conflicts has resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians, in violation of international laws of war. In the Central African Republic, almost half of the combat engagements involving Wagner between 2020 and 2022 targeted civilians. Their activities in Mozambique, fighting against an al-Shabaab-linked group, and their involvement in the Sudanese civil war further showcase their disregard for human life.
**Reasons for Wagner’s Involvement in Africa**
Russia’s interest in establishing military bases in Africa has contributed to Wagner’s presence on the continent. Prior to their involvement in 2017, Russia already had military cooperation agreements with 18 African countries. The motive behind Wagner’s involvement is not only political but also economic. Apart from government payments, Wagner has secured exclusive access to valuable resources such as gold, diamonds, and uranium.
**Challenges in Opposing Wagner’s Activities**
Significant obstacles stand in the way of opposing the activities of the Wagner Group in Africa. Individual African actors, both state and non-state, benefit from their presence, hampering efforts to take action against their mercenaryism. The African Union, which could potentially organize collective action, has remained silent on the matter, reflecting a lack of consensus and a deeper ambivalence towards Russia. Regional economic communities in Africa have also failed to take an anti-Wagner stance.
**Africa’s Ambivalence towards Russia**
Many African countries have displayed ambivalence towards Russia. During a UN General Assembly Resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine, 24 African states either abstained or were absent from the vote. However, countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zambia supported the resolution. South Africa, which has the potential to take a stand against Wagner, remains unlikely to do so due to historical ties and a desire to maintain a balance of power between Russia, China, and the West.
**Potential Powers to Oppose Wagner**
Ethiopia and Nigeria are influential regional powers in Africa, but internal issues prevent them from taking a strong stance against the Wagner Group. Only South Africa has the potential to oppose Wagner, but its historical ties to Russia and China, as well as its membership in the BRICS group, prevent it from doing so.
**Lack of International Mobilization against Wagner**
The lack of effective international mobilization against the Wagner Group is due to several factors. Western condemnation of Wagner’s actions may be perceived as hypocritical, given the history of western interference in Africa. Additionally, the United States has limited options to deter Wagner due to its lack of focus on the continent. France has also scaled back its presence in Africa, leaving China as the only relevant external great power. However, China is unlikely to take any action against Wagner as it aligns with Russia and also has extensive business interests in Africa.
**China’s Unlikely Role in Confronting Wagner**
Despite being the only relevant external great power in Africa, China is unlikely to confront Wagner. The Ukraine War has brought Russia and China together as allies, and China has its own interests in Africa, particularly in mineral sourcing. While China has deployed private security companies on the continent, their involvement is mainly focused on securing access to resources rather than political engagement.