The Wagner mercenary group will continue operations in Mali and the Central African Republic despite its leader’s aborted insurrection over the weekend, Russia’s foreign minister said on Monday.
Wagner members “are working there as instructors. This work, of course, will continue,” Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the RT outlet.
Lavrov said Europe and France in particular had “abandoned” the two African countries, which had, in turn, asked Russia and Wagner to provide military instructors and “to ensure the security of their leaders.”
Western powers believe the Wagner group is used to promote Russia’s influence abroad and have accused the group of torturing and exploiting natural resources.
The Wagner Group has been actively involved in various African countries, offering military and security support while expanding Russia’s influence across the continent. Their operations primarily focus on security issues, providing security services, paramilitary assistance, and even launching disinformation campaigns to support troubled regimes in exchange for resource concessions and diplomatic support. The Wagner Group has been most active in countries such as the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali, and Sudan, where they have established a presence due to the countries’ historical ties with Russia and their strained relationships with the West.
For instance, in the Central African Republic, the Wagner Group operates a military base in the Bossangoa region and trains, assists, and guards CAR’s gold and diamond mines. They have played a crucial role in defending the government and President Faustin-Archange Touadera against armed rebel groups and maintaining stability in the region. When a coalition of rebels advanced on the capital Bangui in 2020, threatening to overthrow the government, President Touadera sought Moscow’s assistance. As a result, additional Wagner Group troops were deployed, leading to the withdrawal of French troops and ultimately impacting the security dynamics in the country.
In December last year, the last 47 French soldiers of the logistical mission (MISLOG-B) took off from Bangui airport at around 12.15 pm (11.15 am GMT), aboard a C-130 Hercules cargo plane, becoming the last of a 130-person French contingent to leave the troubled country.
In the RT interview, Lavrov also said the rebellion by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin would not change anything in Russia’s ties with its allies.
“There have been many calls (from foreign partners) to President (Vladimir) Putin… to express their support,” he said.
Asked if there could be any changes to Russia’s international relations as a result, Lavrov said: “With partners and friends, no. As for the others, frankly, I don’t care. Relations between the collective West and us have been destroyed.”
Wagner Group has intervened in other African countries like Sudan, where they have trained Sudanese troops, guarded mineral resources, and suppressed dissent against the government of President Omar al-Bashir. The group’s involvement in Sudan’s ongoing conflict took a concerning turn when the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) revealed that the Wagner Group had supplied surface-to-air missiles to Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to combat the Sudanese army. This revelation raises significant questions about the impact of the Wagner Group’s actions on the overall stability and security of the region.
Furthermore, in Mali, the ruling junta led by Colonel Assimi Goita has sought assistance from the Wagner Group, leading to increased tension with international allies, including France. The presence of the Russian Wagner Group private military contractor has strained relations with traditional Western allies, with concerns arising regarding the influence and intentions of the Wagner Group in the region. France, which had been fighting Islamist militants in Burkina Faso, was recently ordered to withdraw its troops from the country, dealing a blow to Europe’s presence in the region. Burkina Faso has been grappling with a deadly jihadist insurgency, and the government’s decision to abandon its military alliance with France and turn to Russia for support highlights the growing influence of Russia in the region. France had 400 special forces soldiers stationed in junta-ruled Burkina to battle an Islamist insurgency, but relations have deteriorated in recent months.
Wagner’s withdrawal from Africa changes the geopolitical dynamics
These developments underscore the intricate web of geopolitical interests at play in Africa and the complex relationships between African nations, Russia, and Western powers. The involvement of the Wagner Group in military coups against the Russian government adds a new layer of complexity and raises questions about the motivations and allegiances of the Wagner Group’s personnel. It remains unclear how the reported defections will affect ongoing operations in Africa and Syria and what the long-term consequences might be for both Russia’s internal stability and Africa’s security landscape.
The presence of the Wagner Group and its actions in Africa have already sparked concerns among Western governments, particularly the United States and France. Their involvement in sensitive security matters, potential weapon transfers, and the displacement of traditional Western allies have highlighted the need for increased vigilance and cooperation among African nations, as well as international efforts to address the security challenges posed by non-state actors like the Wagner Group.
Africa’s security landscape is complex and fragile, with numerous conflicts, insurgencies, and regional tensions that require careful management. The intervention of the Wagner Group adds another layer of complexity to an already intricate situation. While the group has provided military support to certain governments and helped contain armed rebel groups, their involvement raises questions about the long-term implications for Africa’s security.
One of the key concerns is the potential destabilization caused by the departure of Wagner Group soldiers from ongoing missions. These soldiers possess specialized training and experience that could significantly impact the military capabilities of the countries they were supporting. In the case of the Central African Republic, the withdrawal of Wagner Group forces could leave a security vacuum, allowing armed rebel groups to gain ground and destabilize the country further. The same scenario applies to other countries where the Wagner Group has been active, such as Sudan and Mali.