As Wagner fighters, a Russian mercenary group, play a central role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, the group is quietly expanding its alliances in Africa, penetrating new mineral-rich areas, exploiting the exit of Western powers and creating alliances with local fighters. Wagner fighters and instructors are working with the government of the Central African Republic in a bid to seize areas rich with precious minerals that could be exported through Sudan, say Western security officials. Wagner is also looking to expand its influence in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, while consolidating its relationship with the military junta in Mali…
With an estimated 5,000 men stationed across Africa, Wagner’s footprint is now almost as large as the U.S.’s 6,000 troops and support personnel on the continent. ..The push aims to create a corridor from Wagner-controlled mines in the Central African Republic through Sudan, where the group works closely with a local strongman, and onto the mineral trading hub of Dubai.
In January 2023, Mr. Prigozhin, head of Wagner, stressed that sending fighters to Africa was “absolutely necessary.” “There are presidents to whom I gave my word that I would defend them,” he said on his Telegram channel. “If I now withdraw one hundred, two hundred or five hundred fighters from there, then this country will simply cease to exist.”
Excerpts from Benoit Faucon & Joe Parkinson, Wagner Group Aims to Bolster Putin’s Influence in Africa, WSJ, Feb. 14, 2023