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Wagner Mercenaries And Insecurity In Africa

Africa is facing very threatening insecurity problems but the efforts to seek solutions to these problems may be compounded with the engagement of the Russian-backed Wagner Group in some countries in the continent.

Some African countries have engaged the services of the Russian militant group in contracts to provide security assistance and training to their forces in the face of mounting threats of terrorism and internal rebellion.

But the recent attempt by the group to overthrow the government of President Vladimir Putin has perhaps opened a dangerous vista in the activities of the group as it concerns African countries with which it has signed contracts.

Recently, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov declared that the future of contracts signed between various African countries and the Wagner mercenary group was a matter for those governments who had concluded such agreements.

It is curious that this Wagner group has been involved in nefarious activities in some African Countries and helping some of those unstable regimes to sustain themselves in power and quash rebellion.

According to Lavrov, Wagner had worked in the Central African Republic (CAR) and other countries on the basis of contracts drawn up directly with the governments concerned.  But it is instructive to note that Russia’s defence ministry had long had “several hundred” military advisers working in the CAR.

The Wagner group has been active in the war in Ukraine but recently and, to the consternation of the world, the group staged what some described as an ‘attempted coup’ to topple the government of Russian President, Vladimir Putin last Saturday.

Led by  its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin,  the group  staged a brief mutiny  reportedly taking control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and marching on Moscow  before they  abruptly halted their ‘’Moscow March’.

This development has raised some disturbing concerns about the status of Wagner operatives in CAR and elsewhere in Africa and spurred suspicion about Moscow’s level of involvement with the group’s activity on the continent.

President Putin was reported to have  said  that Wagner was “fully financed” by the state. He also disclosed that about 86 billion rubles (approximately $940 million) was paid to the group between May 2022 and May 2023.

The involvement of this group in Mali, ostensibly, to support the Mali government with training and equipment against the threat posed by terrorist groups has, indeed, exposed some of the complicities and subversive nature of the group, which might pose a bigger threat to the countries concerned.

For instance Mali is reeling under a military junta that seized power in coups in 2020 and 2021, and is struggling to contain a lingering   insurrection from armed groups affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. It is suspected that Russian forces posing as trainers may actually be Wagner mercenaries.

The government of Mali, which brought in the Wagner forces, watched as the group were said to have been involved in an incident in March 2022 in Moura in central Mali, where local troops and suspected Russian fighters allegedly killed hundreds of civilians. This unfortunate massacre of local people bears direct consequences of the recklessness of the Malian state to have engaged the mercenaries because they were desperate for regime protection.

We are concerned about these terrible situations and we join the French President Emmanuel Macron, who in February, described the deployment of Wagner troops in Africa as the “life insurance of failing regimes in Africa ” that will only sow misery.

This newspaper has warned about the dangers of foreign mercenaries in African soil especially, those affiliated to vicious governments like that of Putin and the consequences.  The groups are agents of debilitation and will escalate the   instability of these countries. They might easily plot a regime change in the continent and disorganise the internal workings of these African countries.

There is the belief that the Sudanese government is trying to grant access to the Red Sea to the Russian Naval base.  It, therefore, means that the country is open to Wagner manipulators as the Russians  will try to maximise that opportunity using the group amid fierce opposition from the US.

We want the African Union to wake up from its slumber and begin to take the security and stability of African nations seriously because the on-going armed conflict in Sudan presents another opportunity for these agents of destabilisation to look for another place to wreak havoc.

We are concerned that unstable countries in Africa will be pawns on the chess board of vicious groups and with the threat posed by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, even the regimes that collaborate with these mercenaries are not immune to the subversive tactics when the chips are down.

We warn that Nigeria, the most populous country in the continent, is also in danger of being invaded by groups that might have links with Wagner and with refugees coming from the crisis in Sudan, Mali and CAR, Nigeria, which is already burdened by the Boko Haram and allied violent groups such as the Islamic State In West African Province (ISWAP), may not survive another wave of crisis.

Source: Leadership