The Central African Republic has become the latest battleground for Russian Wagner Group fighters. The group, which has been active in war-torn regions around the world, has been involved in clashes with government forces and rebels in the African nation over control of valuable commodities such as gold and diamonds. According to The Guardian, the group’s involvement is a way for Russia to dodge the economic impact of sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Wagner Group was initially promised mining concessions in place of cash payments, and has sustained heavy casualties in the renewed violence. Although it is unlikely that the group’s operations in the Central African Republic will have a profound impact on their involvement in Ukraine, the group has certainly suffered combat losses. This has sparked what appears to be a renewed recruitment drive. However, researchers at King’s College London’s War Studies department believe that Wagner will have no difficulty filling its ranks, just as it has done in the past.
The presence of the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic and the Russian influence have long been documented. In May 2022, Human Rights Watch reported that Russian-identified forces have committed grave abuses against civilians with complete impunity. The U.K.’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations has criticized the group’s destabilizing role in the Sahel region of north Africa, close to the Central African Republic. Despite this criticism, Wagner founder, Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, has stated that it is “absolutely necessary” for Wagner to maintain a presence in Africa, as he has given his word to defend certain presidents.
In conclusion, the Central African Republic has become yet another front in the ongoing operations of the Wagner Group. Despite criticism and casualties, the group shows no signs of slowing down its pursuit of commodities and its mission to maintain a presence in Africa. The impact of these actions on the larger geopolitical stage remains to be seen.