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Wagner Group rebrands itself in Africa

Publish date: 12 February 2024
Issue Number: 1063
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: General

The sinister Russian Wagner Group of mercenaries has for years plundered African mineral resources in exchange for ruthless protection of autocratic governments against their military, commercial and political foes. Wagner has also clearly been a proxy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, pursuing his foreign policy in Africa – mainly by countering Western influence. The Daily Maverick reports that last year’s death of founder Yevgeny Prigozhin – very likely an assassination by Putin in retaliation for a failed mutiny from Ukraine – has changed the dynamics but not the basic game plan. Wagner, the mercenary outfit at the core of the Wagner Group, which comprised several companies mainly in the mining field, has been brought under tighter Russian military intelligence control and is now called Africa Corps. Some mining operations continue, apparently under Prigozhin’s old Concord holding company.

The heart of Wagner Group’s African operations has been the CAR, where it props up the shaky government of Faustin-Archange Touadéra, providing him with the military muscle to fight off armed rebel groups trying to topple him. In exchange for this protection, Wagner has been given access to considerable mineral resources, mainly gold and diamonds, as well as hardwoods. In a comprehensive report last year (The Grey Zone; Russia’s military, mercenary and criminal engagement in Africa), the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime said Wagner had ‘developed a huge footprint in the CAR economy’ which was tantamount to ‘state capture’. DM notes that Wagner’s second-largest mining interests have been in Sudan where it has maintained a military presence since 2017, mainly in support of General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo, the commander of the ruthless Rapid Support Forces. In exchange for military and political support, Wagner Group companies M Invest and Meroe Gold received several gold concessions, mainly in River Nile state, he report said. Western intelligence agencies are closely monitoring Russia’s new frontier, the Sahel. Wagner and Africa Corps are filling the power vacuum left by a retreating France – and other Western powers – after military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Full Daily Maverick report

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