AFRICA Mercenaries of the paramilitary company Wagner are being deployed in Black Africa

From the international pages of the Tribune des Travailleurs (France)

« At a time when a man’s life was worth nothing, his death was worth a lot.” Thus arose the profession bounty hunters and mercenaries, considered the second oldest profession in the world. All the major powers have their « shadow armies », tasked with doing their dirty work in various parts of the world. 

In recent years, parties to armed conflicts have increasingly hired private military and security companies to carry out missions traditionally reserved for national armed forces. This often leads to human rights problems when abuses are committed by armed men who are not under any officially recognised authority. 

The privatisation of war 

Since the end of the Cold War, the privatisation of war has become one of the businesses of capitalism in our time. The major powers – led by the United States -as well as countries that have no other means of making themselves heard than through the voice of arms, resort to this. 

Wagner is one of the private military companies (PMCs) that are currently in the news because of the geopolitical turmoil in French-speaking Africa, an area usually controlled by France and its companies of legionnaires. We remember « La Légion saute sur Kolwezi » (in English “Operation Leopard”) (1) and Bob Denard (2) for the execution of coups d’état and the installation of African heads of state « chosen » by the Élysée. 

Wagner is a paramilitary company owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, aka “Putin’s chef”. This says a lot about the links that may exist between Russian power and the activities of this company around the world. 

The Central African Republic and Wagner 

A failed state since its independence in 1960, the Central African Republic, constantly shaken by coups d’état (3), has neither control over its territorial integrity nor control over the levers of power. It is compelled to deal with international forces that intervene between the various rival militias that hold the country hostage. 

In 2013, the Seleka, a group of Muslim rebels, seized power and plunged the country into chaos. France, unable to restore the balance, withdrew, ending its military operation « Sangaris ». Desperate, President FaustinArchange Touadéra turned to Russia. Today, Wagner’s men are omnipresent and « do the job », increasing the number of clashes between mercenaries and rebels… in exchange for control of the gold and diamond mines. 

Is the Central African Republic in the process of « selling the thief to buy the sorcerer » (an African proverb) ?

Tensions between Macron and Mali 

In Mali, two coups have taken place in the space of a year. This is unheard of. Why was this? Was it a patriotic upsurge of a ragged army, propped up by the French army (4) and the armies of neighbouring countries in never-ending counter-terrorism operations? 

Faced with the lack of convincing results from the French army on the security front, did some senior Malian officers feel compelled, under popular pressure, to introduce a new policy? 

At the United Nations, Mali’s Prime Minister Maïga did not hesitate to speak of being « abandoned in mid-flight » by France, which threatened to withdraw its troops. The reason for Mali’s rapprochement with the Wagner group, which was incompatible with the presence of French troops, was said to be the reason for the withdrawal. 

Tensions have risen several notches between France and Mali, with Macron provocatively describing the Malian government as « not even a government » because it is the result of a coup. 

As if French governments had not inspired dozens of military coups on the African continent over the past sixty years! 

Is this the beginning of a new era where the oppressed dare to rise up against the oppressor? Or are there other predators behind the mercenaries? The future will tell.

Gérard Kabako 

(1) Title of a film about the intervention of the Foreign Legion in the secessionist province of Katanga in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1978. The intervention resulted in a massacre and allowed the mineral-rich region to be returned to the Mobutu regime, which was protected by the French government. 

(2) French mercenary, anti-communist and linked to the French secret service. He participated in many coups in Africa, serving the policy of the Fifth Republic. 

(3) Dacko, twice president of the Republic; Bokassa, who had himself crowned ’emperor’ with the support of Giscard d’Estaing; Bozizé, placed in power by a coup d’état in 2003, etc. 

(4) The French army has been present in Mali since 2012, in the framework of the « anti-terrorist operations » Serval, then Barkhane.