The activities in Africa of Russia’s Wagner Group, the private paramilitary group which deploys mercenaries to support the Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives, are coming under increased American scrutiny as the United States, Russia and China compete for strategic advantage on the continent.
The intensified focus on Wagner in Africa has been reflected recently in the expansion of U.S. sanctions on the group, and in a presentation to the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Senate by the head of the military command which oversees U.S. relations with Africa’s defence forces.
Previous coverage of new sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department on January 26 has been dominated by Wagner’s involvement in the Ukraine war, which heightened the profile of the group controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman alleged to have close ties with President Vladimir Putin.
But a substantial part of the sanctions announcement identified Wagner companies and personnel operating in the Central African Republic (CAR), including Valery Zakharov, a Russian national named as having served as national security advisor to CAR’s President Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
Declaring Wagner “a significant transnational criminal organization”, the Treasury Department accused Wagner personnel of engaging in “an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic and Mali”.
” Moreover,” it added, “the Wagner Group controls numerous gold and diamond mines in CAR, while raiding and plundering others.”
When General Michael E. Langley, commander of the United States Africa Command, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 16, he was at pains to emphasise – as does the U.S. State Department, which oversees diplomatic relations with foreign countries – that the U.S. government does not expect African nations to choose between the U.S., Russia and China in conducting their foreign relations.
From The Shadows Emerges Knowledge