Why Isn’t There Any Effective Opposition To Kick Them Out

The mercenary group's mutiny in Russia makes its future in Africa uncertain

Wagner has helped abusive regimes maintain power in Africa.

It is easy to understand what the African rulers saw in the Wagner group of mercenaries. Its fighters can be deployed quickly. It carries sophisticated weapons and can use force quickly and mercilessly.

Alternative sources of military power have flaws: UN missions lack robust mandates; African Union (AU) forces lack weapons and motivation; The European Union’s intercessors suffered a legacy of colonial repression. The United States has little interest in Africa other than supporting the fight against Salafi terrorists.

Wagner Corporation was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin in 2014 as a private military company to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that year.

For more than a decade, Prigozhin could not function without the permission of Russian President Vladimir Putin. During this period, Russia and Wagner’s interests may differ – but they do not compete and overlap.

Of course, Wagner’s rebellion began on June 23, 2023 – after this article was first drafted – leaving Wagner’s future in Africa extremely precarious.

Assuming that Putin successfully suppresses the uprising, Wagner mercenaries will likely be under the command of the Russian regular army. In the unlikely event that Putin is overthrown, Russia will still maintain its interest in African minerals and the support of African countries at the United Nations.

Since completing my thesis on the Soviet-American rivalry in Africa in 1992, I have followed the great power rivalry in the continent. This has included the gradually escalating Sino-American rivalry in Africa over the past 20 years. I was warned again about Russia’s “return” to Africa when preparing a textbook, International Relations of Africa, to be published in 2018.

Based on this experience, my view is that Wagner is likely to continue to bring misery to the African continent in many forms. No outsider has the ability to stop it. Its presence will also continue as individual African actors, state and non-state, benefit from its presence. Its utility to some regimes helps to explain the African Union’s conspicuous silence on the threat it poses. Wagner’s passivity also reflects a deeper contradiction about Russia and Russian imperialism.

Overall, Wagner has done little to make Africans’ lives better: its activities have helped strengthen dictators and undermine democracies; prolong and deepen civil conflicts; killing innocent civilians; exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of Russia; and to vilify the only alternative that Africans have is China to invest.

This means, of course, that the AU and responsible African governments will likely resent Wagner’s presence and regret not having opposed it.

misbehavior of the fisherman

Wagner helped abusive regimes maintain power on the continent.

  • It assisted Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir in military training, resource protection and suppression of dissent from 2017 until his ouster in April 2019.
  • It has helped fledgling dictatorships consolidate power. This has included its role in Mali, where elections are stalled and the military regime has invited Wagner forces in.
  • Wagner joined the civil war in Libya in October 2018, eventually sending more than 1,000 troops to support the Libyan Arab Armed Forces of rebel leader Khalifa Hiftar. This is Russia’s most obvious violation of international law in the deployment of Wagner. Wagner’s use of landmines and traps, which killed many civilians, also violated the laws of war.
  • In the Central African Republic (CAR), Wagner engaged a coalition of rebels directly. According to a leading research center, 40% of engagements between December 2020 and July 2022 involved Wagner.
  • In Mozambique, the government hired Wagner to fight a group linked to al-Shabaab.
  • Russia and Wagner were involved in a civil war that broke out in Sudan in April this year.

Wherever it went, Wagner was indifferent to human life, indiscriminately killing civilians as well as Muslim fighters and other insurgents. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project research team found that between 52% and 71% of Wagner’s use of force in CAR and Mali targeted civilians.

There are several reasons for this involvement.

First, the Russian government has been looking for military bases in Africa. Even before Wagner first entered Africa in 2017, Russia had military cooperation agreements with 18 African countries. They range from democracies like Ghana and Nigeria to unmanaged Eastern Libya, which has become a logistics hub for Russia as well as Wagner.

Second, Russia is using a credible propaganda machine to spread misinformation about US and European support in Africa for the Ukraine war.

Third, the motive is profit. In addition to the government payments they received, Wagner negotiated agreements for exclusive access to the gold, diamond, and uranium resources in some of the places in which it operated. These include CAR, Mali and Sudan.

The void of opposites

It seems unlikely that any major force from within or outside Africa would seriously oppose its activities.

Individual African actors, state and non-state, benefit from its presence. This small number of beneficiaries would impede action against Wagner’s mercenaryism, which is prohibited under international law.

Nor is there likely to be collective pressure under the auspices of the AU. It can only organize collective action – as it did against the apartheid regime – when there is broad consensus on an issue.

The same analysis applies to many of Africa’s regional economic communities. These have recently played a larger role in security, but none have taken an anti-Wagner stance.

On top of that is the contradiction of some African countries towards Russia. Twenty-four African countries abstained or abstained from a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexation of regions in eastern Ukraine.

Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia all voted in favor.

What about Africa’s leading regional powers? Ethiopia and Nigeria are influential enough. But each is too preoccupied with internal affairs to solve problems.

Only South Africa can resist Wagner. But it won’t. The African National Congress, which governs South Africa, has a deep nostalgia for Soviet aid in the apartheid days. South African elites also see both Russia and China as counterweights to Western dominance they still loathe. And the country appreciates the prestige that comes with membership in the BRICS group.

Nor is there likely to be any effective international lobbying against Wagner. This is because the condemnation of the West will not be heard or even counterproductive. As Joseph Sany, a respected peace-building expert at the American Institute of Peace, recently remarked, “Western condemnation of Russia’s immoral violence and corruption” is an understatement. deaf because it is “tainted with hypocrisy by the history of the West on this continent.

In any case, the United States has few options to stop Wagner because American leaders are rarely focused on the continent. And France is increasingly withdrawing from Africa.

The only external power relevant to Africa is China. However, in my view, China will play no role in limiting Wagner. For now, at least, the Ukraine War has made Russia and China allies. In addition, China has many business interests, especially in sourcing minerals from French-speaking African countries and Lusophone.

Finally, China has deployed its own private security firms on the continent, primarily to secure access to minerals. These organizations are not yet directly involved in politics, like Wagner, but their presence further legitimizes the use of private security firms.

John F. Clark, Professor of Politics and International Relations, Florida International University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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