This video grab taken from a video posted on Telegram channel @concordgroup_official on 3 March 2023, shows Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner speaking to the camera from a rooftop at an undisclosed location.
PHOTO: @CONCORDGROUP_OFFICIAL, AFP
- Russian foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov said the Wagner Group’s engagements in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR) were government-to-government agreements.
- A geopolitical expert says Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin gives Russia a strategic advantage in geopolitical and geo-economic pursuits in Africa.
- The Wagner Group has a confirmed footprint in 14 African countries.
The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary army outfit, will continue its operations with “partners and friends”, including in African countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), despite the weekend’s attempted rebellion.
On Saturday, the mercenaries mutinied against the state and marched toward Moscow after taking over military bases in Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh.
However, President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement with the Wagner Group’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin to withdraw their march to Moscow and redirect efforts to Ukraine, where Russia is waging a year-and-a-half-long war.
The weekend shakeup presented numerous cases for Russia and its foreign policy, part of which the Wagner Group is in control of, mainly in Africa and the war effort in Ukraine.
In an interview with the state broadcaster Russia Today (RT) Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign affairs minister, said the Wagner Group’s engagements in Mali and CAR were agreed upon at government-to-government level, and, as such, they remain in place.
“This proposal (Wagner Group’s operations) came at a governmental level when the French and other Europeans were simply abandoning both the CAR and Mali, removing their counter-terrorist contingents, shutting down their military bases that were supposed to augment the counter-terrorism operations, and simply leaving them face-to-face with bandits,” he said.
“Under their (Malians) request, several hundred servicemen work – in the CAR, for example – as instructors (from the Wagner Group), and this work will, of course, continue,” he added.
On Saturday, news started trickling in that Putin might have been faced with his own “Czar Nicholas II moment” that could change the course of history through a coup.
Lavrov said the matter was overplayed by hostile Western media.
He said in the RT interview:
I insistently recommend taking into consideration whom these news sites work for, and how unimportant it is for them to carry facts compared to their desire to please their management, those who define the ideology and practical actions of the collective West.
Lavrov added that during the insurgency, Putin received calls from allies voicing their support and solidarity.
According to Velina Tchakarova, a geopolitical strategist, the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa make Prigozhin an important player in Putin’s plans that can’t be displaced easily.
“The Wagner network of approximately 20 000 to 25 000 troops operating in Africa’s challenging terrains gives Russia a strategic advantage in geopolitical and geo-economic pursuits on the resource-rich continent. “In the absence of a suitable alternative, Prigozhin’s position seems secure, provided his usefulness to Putin remains intact,” she wrote on Twitter.
Wagner in Africa
The Wagner Group has traceable operations in 14 African countries. These operations span the military, political, information control, logistics and economic spheres.
In Mozambique, they have since moved out after a tour of duty in the oil gas-rich Cabo Delgado province in 2019 to help fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
In Eritrea, they are providing military training and equipment as well as using the country as a logistics hub because of its proximity to the sea.
The Wagner Group’s biggest footprint on the continent is in CAR, where they conduct offensive military operations, provide military equipment and train the government forces. They are also in charge of the president and the government’s security.
The Wagner Group also provides political advisory services to the CAR regime. They are also into gold and diamond mining through affiliate Lobaye which has an estimated turnover of R18.3 billion.
In Mali, the Wagner Group’s operations are similar to those in CAR.
In Burkina Faso, negotiations are under way for the Wagner Group to provide military assistance to add to their control of the information narrative there.
According to Human Rights Watch, information from Libyan agencies and demining organisations linked the Wagner Group to the use of prohibited landmines and booby traps in the country.
In Zimbabwe, they are suspected to be involved in mining activities.
In Madagascar, they previously solicited mining rights.
In war-torn Sudan, despite links to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), they are also engaged in mining activities, political interference and information operations.
During an interview with News24 earlier this month the RSF leader Mohamad Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo said the Wagner Group was brought into the country by the fallen government of Omar al-Bashir.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.