In a tragicomic twist that even Shakespeare himself would not have dared to imagine, Wagner, an obscure Russian mercenary group, has emerged on the African stage with the finesse of an elephant in a china store. With one foot in Libya and the other in the Central African Republic, these mercenaries seem to be playing a distorted version of the game of Risk, apparently determined to turn the geopolitical balance upside down. 

Why should we care, you might ask? Well, in addition to the apparent threat to regional stability, Wagner’s presence in Africa raises numerous troubling questions.- Color Click

In recent years, the African continent has been invaded by an avalanche of diverse external influences. One of them is the Russian paramilitary group, Wagner. Their presence and operations have raised more than one eyebrow and sparked debates about their intentions and the implications for the countries in which they operate.

The Wagner-Kremlin Connection: A Rising Enigma

Key Points:

  • Wagner’s significant rise in Africa dates back approximately six years. A period that, in light of our retrospective perspective, seems both brief and eternal.
  • Its operations have been closely linked to Russian government interests. Coincidence? Allow me to smile wryly at such an assumption.

Wagner Group’s African Operations

The group’s operations in Africa are diverse and range from providing security to economic ventures.

  1. Central African Republic (CAR): Wagner made his appearance in Bangui at the end of 2017, with the purpose of providing security for the newly elected president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Their presence was intended to help him recover areas of the nation controlled by armed groups. But what is behind this noble purpose?
  2. Mali: With the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, scheduled to leave Mali at the end of 2023, the military junta ruling Bamako has turned to Wagner for help against the jihadists. Is this a sign of desperation or a well-planned strategy?
  3. Libya: Wagner’s presence in Libya began around 2017, with mercenaries still fighting in the southern parts of the country. But at what cost?
  4. 4. Sudan: Upon his arrival in 2017, Wagner’s initial military cooperation evolved into a variety of economic activities, excelling mostly in natural resource exploitation. Isn’t it fascinating how a mercenary can become a mineral tycoon?
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Wagner’s Future in Africa 

Despite recent disagreements between Wagner’s leader, Prigozhin, and Putin, Wagner’s connections to African politicians and businessmen suggest his persistence on the African continent. However, we could be witnessing changes in leadership and greater Kremlin control. Could it be a subtle chess maneuver in African geopolitics? Apparently, Wagner’s future in Africa is as changeable and mysterious as the winds of the Sahara.

If you find yourself swimming in a sea of confusion after reading this, here are the crucial points to internalize, without fail

  • Where is the Wagner Group located?
    This intriguing conglomerate of mercenaries has infiltrated various corners of the African continent, making its mark in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali, Libya and Sudan.

  • Who is in charge of the Wagner Group?
    The leader of this plot is none other than Prigozhin, a character with such close ties to the Kremlin that he seems to be its shadow.

  • How many are in the Wagner Group?
    The number is staggering, with approximately 1,400 individuals deployed in the Central African Republic and another 1,500 in Mali. Doesn’t this seem like an inordinate force for just a group of ‘contractors’?
  • How much does a Wagner mercenary pocket?
    According to Putin’s clarifications, between May 2022 and May 2023, the state allocated a whopping 86,000 billion rubles (approximately one billion euros) for the maintenance of the Wagner Group. Yes, you read that right, one billion euros!
  • What is the Wagner Army?
    The Wagner Group is a private army, often associated with the Russian government. This is not just a band of mercenaries, but an organization with links so deep that they could shake the power structures.
  • How many employees does the Wagner Group have?
    The Wagner Group has about 3,000 mercenaries in Africa, based on figures from the Central African Republic and Mali. A growing private army, whose presence on the African continent is increasingly palpable and worrying.
Grupo Wagner presencia porcentualmente grande en Africa - Wagner Group: A New Colonialism in Africa's Hard Times

Therefore, one might ask, what role do we play in this global theater? Do we limit ourselves to being passive spectators or do we become actors capable of redefining the plot? 

Mercenaries are like flies that are always the first to land on a festering wound.

– Che Guevara

Perhaps most alarming is the apparent acceptance with which the world welcomes this new player. Is this acceptance the result of resignation? Have we forgotten the importance of maintaining security as a public good, rather than turning it into an interchangeable commodity? Isn’t it worrying that private entities are acquiring unprecedented military power? 

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the Wagner Group’s presence in Africa is a reminder that we live in an increasingly interconnected and complex world. However, it should also serve as a call to reflection on the limits of privatization and commodification of what was once considered the exclusive domain of states: military force. 

So, we cannot help but ask ourselves once again, is this the direction we want for our world? Perhaps, the real challenge is not to answer this question, but to face the fact that we are ultimately the authors of our own history.