Wagner Group in Mali?

Reports that the Wagner Group[1] is closing on a deal to start operations in Mali is sure to raise alarms not just in Paris but also in Washington. By Scott Morgan exclusively for Vanguard Global Ltd. & Defence Unlimited International Corp.

It should be remembered that Yevgeny Prighozan, the alleged owner of the company, is a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will not be the first time that the company has set foot in Africa either. In the past the group has had a presence in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique however two other operations have garnered controversy for the group.

The group has supported[2] the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its leader Khalifa Haftar in opposing the UN backed GNA (Government of National Accord) during the current phase of the Libyan Civil War. This support has drawn some ire in some circles however the real controversy is in another country.

The operations currently in the Central African Republic is the issue some have. The backstory of their presence is worthy of being a script in a Hollywood Epic. First of all the country is under a UN Arms Embargo, secondly Russia received a waiver from the UN Security Council back in December 2017 with the goal of training two Battalions of the CAR Army. However during their presence in the country reports[3] of Human Rights Violations have increased.

This information is a snapshot of some of the major activities in Africa that have been undertaken by the Wagner Group. Now what exactly would compel Mali to take such a course of action? The first answer which is obvious has to be the deterioration in relations with France. The popularity of France in Mali has been in decline since intervening after the 2012 coup.

French President Macron has also stated that Operation Barkhane will be wrapping up in 2022. Coming on the heels of the reduction in Military Cooperation since the coup in 2020[4] and the insistence of a return to civilian leadership has rankled some feathers in Bamako recently. It is known that the Military Leadership has sought to improve relations with Russia as well.

The United States is not immune from row either. The Malian Government has been lobbying the Biden Administration hard about the Sanctions that were imposed. One of the reasons for the effort is that it delays the delivery[5] of a C-295 Military Transport that it has ordered in December 2020 from the manufacturer Airbus. It is apparent that these sanctions are in place due to the findings of Mali violating the CSPA (Child Soldiers Prevention Act) according to reports. Bamako is keen on having good relations with Washington as well.

It appears that Mali fears that it, like Afghanistan, could find itself being abandoned by Western Powers or having its pride being insulted. Nevertheless the Sahel is being overrun by insurgents right now and Mali needs competent assistance.


[1] https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/exclusive-deal-allowing-russian-mercenaries-into-mali-is-close-sources-2021-09-13/ [2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-58009514 [3] https://www.dw.com/en/russian-mercenaries-accused-of-rights-violations-in-central-african-republic/a-57201150 [4] https://www.voanews.com/africa/france-halts-joint-military-operations-mali-over-coup [5] https://airspace-africa.com/2021/09/10/mali-government-lobbies-removal-of-us-sanction-on-ordered-airbus-c295-tactical-transport-aircraft/?amp

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