Home LATEST NEWS Mixed record of Russian mercenaries in Africa

Mixed record of Russian mercenaries in Africa


For several months, Westerners have been strangled by the arrival of Russian mercenaries in Bamako. But the Malian junta denies it, while claiming to have to compensate for the drop in the numbers of the French anti-jihadist force Barkhane.

A few hundred of these private soldiers are currently in Mali, according to various sources. They were also identified between 2016 and 2021 by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Central African Republic, Madagascar and Mozambique.

But also in other African countries: Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Zimbabwe. Possibly non-exhaustive list: other sources speak of about twenty countries.

No official existence

Officially, Wagner does not exist. No registration, no taxes, no organization chart. The European Union had sanctioned in 2020 the Russian oligarch Evgueni Prigojine, close to Putin and alleged financier of Wagner. And in December, she took new sanctions against the group when her arrival in Mali was confirmed. Moscow in turn accused Westerners of hysteria.

Alexei Mukhine, director of the Center for Political Information in Moscow, agrees with an African prism: the interests of many states, including China, converge there. And every state has the right to defend its commercial property!, he says to theFrance Media Agency.

Western experts emphasize the intertwining between Russian forces – external secret services, military secret services, army – and private military companies. Without Moscow ever feeling obliged to answer for their actions.

The idea for them, believes Catrina Doxsee, of Center for Strategic and International Studies, is of allow Russia to expand its geopolitical influence and restore its agreements reached before the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Africa-Russia summit in 2019 was a turning point in this respect. Since then, the presence of private military companies only accelerated. There is an African policy of Russia, especially in the traditional French zone of influence, confirms Djallil Lounnas, researcher at the Moroccan University of Al Akhawayn.

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The private military companies contribute to signing Russian arms sales and will sometimes receive them themselves, notes Catrina Doxsee. They protect the leaders in place and above all ensure the security of mining sites, which generate much more comfortable income than weapons.

Watch for weakened countries

Customers are overwhelmingly countries with large reserves of natural, mineral and energy resources, notes the researcher. And as in Syria where they made themselves known, the private military companies lie in wait for countries weakened in terms of security.

All the more so in Africa, which is not very resistant to mercenaries. Mercenaries in Africa are a norm, even assures Jason Blazakis, adviser for the Soufan Group, a New York-based think tank, citing the rich history of South African private companies.

SMP russes] seems to work”,”text”:”Given the number of countries they work in, the business approach [des SMP russes] seems to work”}}”>Considering the number of countries where they work, the business approach [des sociétés militaires privées russes] seems to work, he summarizes. But no reliable information is available on their workforce and financial results.

There are contracts signed in shambles with Mali, notes for his part Djallil Lounnas, and this without conditions imposed on governance. Russia does not ask questions about democracy and human rights.

Their approach to security, however, is questionable. Violent abuses are attributed to them. L’United Nations thus investigating an alleged massacre in the Central African Republic (CAR) during a joint operation in January of the armed forces and Wagner. A military source told theFrance Media Agencysummary executions for a balance sheetdead”,”text”:”more than 50dead”}}’>more than 50 dead.

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Mixed results

Beyond that, the results for the client State do not always live up to expectations.

In Libya, Russian mercenaries allied themselves with Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who tried for a year to take Tripoli by arms. In vain: they suffered heavy losses against the Turkish auxiliaries supporting Haftar’s rival, the Government of National Unity (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj.

And in Mozambique, they retreated against the armed group Islamic State (IS) before being replaced by South Africans. They had no experience of the terrain encountered in Cabo Delgado (north), they could not even communicate with the local troops for questions of language and mutual distrust, summarizes Catrina Doxsee.

They were chosen because they were the cheapest, but lacked the ability to succeed, she adds. On the continent, they have experienced a considerable number of failures.

Worse still, the disorder, the insecurity, the crisis serve their interests, argues the American analyst. RCA employs them to train its troops, it is in their fundamental interest to perform their task just enough to continue to be employed”,”text”:”If a country like the CAR employs them to train its troops, it is their fundamental interest to perform their duties just enough to continue to be employed”}}”>If a country like Central African Republic employs them to train its troops, it is in their best interests to perform their task just enough to continue to be employed.

Because if they were to manage to resolve the conflict, they would no longer be needed.

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