What will happen to the businesses of the Wagner group in Africa?

What will happen to the businesses of the Wagner group in Africa?

June 28, 2023, 10:20 PM

June 28, 2023, 10:20 PM

Uncertainty is palpable in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Three years ago, a coup marked a move away from Western countries and a move closer to Russia. Many welcomed the Wagner troops with jubilation. But after the uprising of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s men and his break with Putin, questions arise.

“Not even the Russian government controls them,” says a passerby. “What do we do now? This shows that this army is uncontrollable, that is very dangerous for us.”

Moscow strives to show continuity. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RT on Monday that the Wagner group is doing a good job in Mali and the Central African Republic, and that it will continue its work. Two days later, the tone was a little different: a spokeswoman for the same ministry indicated that the African countries themselves must decide if they continue to cooperate with the Wagner group. And a spokesman for the presidency said that the Russian trainers will remain active in the Central African Republic, but have no relationship with Wagner.

African gold

In Africa, the Wagner group operates where there are raw materials; and controls the business. Former Central African Republic parliamentarian Jean-Pierre Mara deduces that it is clear to the Putin government that things must move forward. “He needs Central African gold, Mali gold, to finance the war, so nothing will change,” he tells DW. “But it’s not clear if it will be the same players.”

In the span of a few years, the Wagner group has established itself in various African countries in crisisincluding Mali. It is said that the military government would have been willing to pay 10 million dollars a month to these mercenaries. The annual sum would double that assigned to the Ministry of Justice for 2023.

But the regime is currently affected by international sanctions; money is tight and Mali incurred debts to the Wager group. Various sources, however, give indications that the group has gained access to various gold mines in the country.

Central African Republic: total dependency

In the Central African Republic, where after decades of civil war a peace agreement was reached only in February 2019, the strings that the Wagner group pulls go even further. According to various observers, they reach many lucrative areas of the State, including oil exploitation. Since 2018, President Faustin Archange Touadéra himself has been under the protection of Wagner’s mercenaries. Among his advisers has long been a man with close contacts with Prigozhin.

Paul Crescent Beninga, a representative of Central African civil society, views the situation with concern. “The Central African Republic does not benefit from this. The winners are rather the Russians,” he tells DW. He is especially concerned about the influence of the Wagner group in the country’s political affairs.

Former minister Adrien Poussou, author of a book entitled “Africa doesn’t need Putin,” says: “President Touadéra is a hostage to Wagner, and he knows it.” In an interview with DW he stated that “consequently, despite the abortive rebellion of the Wagner group, the situation will remain bogged down until an even greater power gets into the dance.”

A spokesman for the Central African government rejected the criticism, calling it “nonsense”.

What will happen now with the activities of the Wagner group in Africa? Everything seems to indicate that the deals are too lucrative and also too important for Moscow to give up. Historian Irina Filatova, who has dealt extensively with Russia-Africa relations, notes that the Wagner company encompasses a network of sub-companies. “They can change names or operate under the same brand; they can act independently,” she says. However, she notes that how each of these groups will position itself in the future will depend entirely on how lucky they are. run Prigozhin.

With the collaboration of Bob Barry, Sandrine Blanchard, Jean-Michel Bos, and Mahamadou Kane (Bamako).

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