The Wagner Group is investing heavily in Africa. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenaries are now turning their attention to relatively stable African countries such as Niger and Ivory Coast. The Wagner group is already active in several African countries.
According to The Times, the Wagner Group is expanding its operations in Africa in an attempt to increase Russia’s influence. It is a new strategy that they are directing their attention to relatively stable countries.
In a video from January, filmed in an unknown location in Ukraine, we could see Prigozhin together with a former bus driver from West Africa who was taken out of a Russian prison and sent to the front as a mercenary.
This former jailbird and bus driver, referred to only as Aboya, Prigozhin has big plans for, which he wrote on social media:
I think he will make a great president of the Ivory Coast. . . I will discuss these plans with him later.
With the thinly veiled threat to the authorities of an African nation, one of Russia’s most powerful men is hinting at a new ambition.
The Times suggests that this is a sign of desperation, as the Wagner group has suffered heavy losses in Ukraine and the Moscow establishment is trying to clip the wings of Prigozhin.
Now the Wagner group is running campaigns on social media, where France in particular, a former colonial power in the area, is portrayed in the worst possible way.
The French are portrayed as zombies and snakes, and a fat rat named Emmanuel is crushed with a sledgehammer by a man marked with a W. The Wagner group thus portrays that they will crush French President Emmanuel Macron.
The group has engaged in several African countries since 2017, without any particular military success. They had to humiliatingly pull out of Mozambique in 2019 after a failed attempt to put down an Islamist insurgency.
They have also been linked to atrocities and abuses against civilians, most recently in Mali. In total, the group is believed to have 3,000 mercenaries on the continent, while they are said to have around 30,000 men in Ukraine.
Both the Ivory Coast and Niger are relatively stable countries, and the authorities in these countries have insisted that they will never use Russian mercenaries.
Source: The Times/Le Monde
According to the magazine Jeune Afrique, the security forces in these countries are still concerned about the Wagner group’s activity, which has also been raised with Macron. The two countries the Wagner group is targeting are France’s most loyal allies in West Africa, but France is becoming less and less popular among the population in this area, and various rumours abound.
One post circulating on social media in Niger accuses France of arming jihadists who killed 17 Nigerian soldiers in Intagamey on February 10. Another spread rumours of a coup against Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s president, while he was visiting France on February 16.
Burkina Faso is sandwiched between the Ivory Coast and Niger, and has already welcomed the Wagner group.
A diplomat claims that Prigozhin’s involvement in this area is motivated by a desire to brag to Putin about opening a front against France. The restless, young and poor population can contribute to Prigozhin’s success.
Both Ivory Coast and Niger have some of the ingredients perfect for coups. They have youthful, poverty-stricken populations and somewhat authoritarian governments run by ageing men. Prigozhin may do what he can to make them more likely.
This is yet another example of what is described as “Fifth generation warfare”.