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Why do some African governments want to work with Russia's Wagner Group?
#42: With Paul Nantulya, Nina Wilén, Niklas Masuhr
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“African governments that work with Wagner do so for personal, political, financial, and short-term security interests. In Sudan, Libya, Mali, Central African Republic, and Mozambique, this group has been contracted to run a gamut of questionable operations from putting down protests, to fighting anti-government rebels, training state-sponsored militias and presidential guards, and regime protection. Their clients have paid them by granting them concessions in the extractives industry, such as gold and uranium mining, and access to oilfields. Far from providing security, this Group is creating more instability by undermining human rights, constitutionalism, rule of law, and democracy.”
“The Wagner group has become an alternative to Western assistance for mostly semi-authoritarian African governments who are at risk of being toppled by internal armed opposition or facing threats from external armed groups. The group can be used as a private protection force for a threatened leader - like in CAR - which entails less of a coup risk than using the Presidential guard, given the commercial link and lack of local anchorage for the group. Wagner can also be used to fight violent extremist organizations without the conditions that Western assistance often implies, including respect for human rights and accountability.”
“One way to conceptualize Russia’s presence in Africa is to view its activities as less of a part of a global chess game and more as an outgrowth of opportunistic oligarchic networks. Used to patronage networks at home, they are suited to operate in local conditions structured by informal links. Wagner paramilitary elements have experience in training pro-regime militia and do not ask for a minimum Freedom House score. While they can provide a conduit to the Kremlin, primarily they deal with local actors (in and out of government) more on the basis of mutual interests, less government policy.”
If you want to learn more about this topic, here’s a list of further reading:
How Russia’s Wagner Group Is Expanding in Africa. The New York Times, Declan Walsh
Putin’s Proxies: Examining Russia’s Use of Private Military Companies. Center for Strategic & International Studies, Catrina Doxsee
Wagner is being used in Africa as a proxy to target civilians. Institute for Security Studies, Peter Fabricius
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