Russia is trying to increase its influence in the poorer countries of Africa to actually open a “second front” there to confront the West. Moscow believes it can create a “coup belt” that will ensure Russian influence and force the West out of Africa. Russia seeks to control strategic mineral deposits, which would prevent African countries from developing high-tech economies. Through its PMCs, the Russian Federation appropriates Africa’s economic resources, Dispatches, IFBG.
Russia’s Wagner mercenaries have already shown its ability to resort to such strategic solutions as disinformation campaigns, resource concessions, arms sales and security contracting.
For a long time, Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner PMC, pretended to have nothing to do with the PMC, which is supposedly an autonomous organization. However, during the mutiny of the “Wagnerians”, he admitted that he acted in Africa, following the instructions of the Russian leadership.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially confirmed the Russian state’s funding of the Wagner PMC mercenaries, who intervene in the internal affairs of countries on the continent and carry out operations to overthrow legitimate governments (e.g. Mali and Burkina Faso). Wherever the Wagner group appears, reports of war crimes grow. Last year, the UN accused the Wagner mercenaries of unlawful arrests, torture and mass execution of locals. This shows that Moscow has subscribed to a colonial genocide policy against the people of Africa.
The Russian authorities, who for years denied any connection with PMCs, stepped up their diplomatic efforts on the day of the Wagner PMC riot to assure their partners in Africa that the “operations” previously carried out by the mercenary forces would continue, but under a different leadership. Despite the continuation of the war in Ukraine, the Russian government will have the incentive to increase the use of mercenaries in Africa in an attempt to destabilise the West’s strategic position and simultaneously strengthen the Kremlin’s position.
Pursuant to a significant influx of war veterans in Ukraine, Russian PMCs can expand the scale of their activities. An increase in the number of mercenaries will reinforce a new trend of political instability in Africa, as they fuel separatism, religious extremism, undermine trust in state governance and contribute to regional conflict.
Russian mercenaries are prolonging, and may also provoke new rebellions in African countries. This is done in order to continue to profit from lucrative contracts for dubious military services. At the same time, Russian PMCs will continue to threaten the legitimacy of local authorities by attacking and killing civilians, especially ethnic minorities, as has happened in Mali and CAR. In January 2022, Russian mercenaries killed at least 65 civilians in the villages of Aigbado and Yanga.
After the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, Wagner recruited Central Asian citizens to take part. Today, there are documented cases of African students in Russia being urged to join PMCs or the regular army to take part in the war against Ukraine.
Amid significant military losses, Russia plans to recruit thousands of African mercenaries to send them to the war zone in Ukraine. There are already documented deaths of mercenary troops from Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania in Ukraine who were members of the Wagner PMC. They were recruited in Russian prisons, where they were allegedly imprisoned for distributing drugs. Thus, on 24 October 2022, Nemesa Tarimo, 32, from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, a mercenary of the Wagner PMC, died in Odradivka, near Bakhmut, Donetsk Region. Last November, Lemekani Nyirenda, a 19-year-old citizen of Côte d’Ivoire, also died.
Russia must answer not only for the atrocities of the Wagner PMC in Africa, but also for the recruitment of African citizens to fight in the Russian war against Ukraine. African countries will never be safe as long as Russian mercenaries are on their territories.
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