Mutiny and Secret Deal: Unraveling the Wagner Group’s Role in Africa


Two momentous events on Saturday June 24, 2023, garnered global attention, shaping the political landscape and raising questions about security arrangements. A mutiny threatened to reach Moscow, causing widespread concern, but was ultimately brought to a halt through a covert agreement brokered behind closed doors.

The details of the undisclosed deal remain shrouded in secrecy, with the Kremlin and Minsk withholding information from the public. Speculation suggests that any concrete revelations may emerge from the outspoken Prigozhin, a key figure involved in the negotiations. As the dust settles, the international community and Africa watches closely to discern the far-reaching consequences of these significant events.

Illustration by The Africa Report. June 2023
What implications do these events hold for Africa?

Yesterday, Moscow made an announcement that the Wagner Group, a private military company (PMC), would continue its services to African countries that have enlisted their assistance over the past decade. These contracts typically involve trading security services for valuable resources.

Curiously, nations seeking Wagner’s support often turn to Moscow to secure their partnership. For instance, the late Omar Al Bashir journeyed to Moscow to secure Wagner forces for Sudan before his subsequent deposition.

This relationship suggests that the Kremlin has effectively employed Wagner as a foreign policy tool, enabling Russia to maintain a military presence in Africa without deploying its own forces overtly. In a recent interview, Prigozhin acknowledged that Wagner aligns its actions with Russia’s national interests when operating in African states.

Given Africa’s substantial wealth, it is inconceivable that negotiations following the mutiny would overlook this aspect. Prigozhin is expected to emphasize this issue, recognizing the potential impact on Russia’s influence and interests across the continent.

Yesterday’s statement from Moscow indicates its intent to avert panic in Africa that could result in power vacuums in countries where Wagner operates. Having achieved significant progress in Africa over the past two decades, Russia is determined to safeguard its gains, irrespective of the events surrounding Saturday’s mutiny.

In the current geopolitical landscape, characterized by competing great and emerging powers seeking influence in Africa, rash decisions leading to power vacuums would offer opportunities for other actors to fill the void. The Kremlin is resolute in its determination to prevent such a scenario from unfolding.

Reports suggesting that the Russian Defense Ministry is reclaiming heavy weaponry from Wagner forces indicate the potential for other, more compliant PMCs to assume control. However, this outcome hinges on the ongoing negotiations and the parties’ commitment to abide by the terms of the agreement. Analysts say should Putin deem it strategically beneficial, Prigozhin’s influence and presence in Africa could gradually wane.

African states reliant on Wagner’s services must take heed of the misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the recent mutiny. While trading security services for natural resources, Prigozhin and his associates have amassed considerable wealth in Africa.

Regrettably, this has come at a cost for host states, with numerous reports highlighting human rights abuses, massacres, and the group’s support for military regimes. The shortage of arms experienced by Wagner during operations in Ukraine has also had repercussions, ultimately leading to the mutiny witnessed on Saturday.

African states that have engaged Wagner’s services should view this event as a wake-up call. They should explore alternatives and prioritize internal security capabilities while maintaining strategic alliances with external partners. The United Nations’ reports on war crimes committed by Wagner in Mali and the Central African Republic should compel African states to reassess their reliance on the PMC.


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