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The USA and France have a chance to take over the influence of the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic

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The United States and France have a chance to take over the influence of the Russian mercenary formation, the Wagner Group, after the death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Central African Republic – predicts the American newspaper “New York Times”. There are still over a thousand Wagnerians left in this country.

The death of Yevgeny Prigozhin has shaken relations between the Wagnerites and the Central African Republic (CAR), which invited Russian “military instructors” to the country for the first time in 2017. The poorly trained and underfinanced army of this African country had difficulty in controlling the rebel groups that have been waging a rebellion since 2012 – reminds the New York Times.

Russia saw in this step an opportunity to regain influence on the African continent, lost after the collapse of the USSR, and the RŚA could enjoy support from a serious player, without having to comply with human rights and the principles of transparency required by the West – writes the American daily.

Currently, there are over a thousand Wagnerians left in RŚA. Mercenaries still control the largest gold mine and escort the president. Russian-trained RŚA soldiers wear the Wagner Group’s skull logo on their uniforms and protect government buildings. In the capital Bangui, Wagnerites eat in the same restaurants as Western diplomats. They were even seen at private parties organized by humanitarian organizations.

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Wagner Group mercenaries in Damara, Central African Republic. Photo from 2022Sven Torfinn / Panos Pictures / Forum

The Wagnerians are also responsible for training local clergy who join the Russian Orthodox Church and financed a radio station. Through one of the sanctioned companies USA mercenaries also produce beer, vodka and other alcoholic beverages.

A window of opportunity for the US and France

The Russian Ministry of Defense tried to take over some of the Wagnerites’ activities in Africa, but the lack of certainty as to the future fate of Russian mercenaries in CAR opened a window of opportunity for the United States and Franceto counter Moscow’s influence, one high-ranking Western diplomat tells the New York Times.

After the August plane crash in which Prigozhin diedthe RŚA receives proposals from Russia, the USA and France to take over the position of the guarantor of its security from the Wagnerians.

The result of this fight may be a foreshadowing of what the future of the Wagnerites will look like on the African continent. The New York Times emphasizes that the CAR – among several African countries – is most closely associated with this mercenary formation.

The Wagnerians visit the grave of their boss Yevgeny Prigozhin at the cemetery in St. Petersburg Reuters Archive

In exchange for pushing out the Wagnerites, the administration of the US president Joe Biden offered the CAR support in the field of security – said three representatives of the authorities of this African country. According to the New York Times, recently representatives of the American private security company Bancroft met with representatives of the RŚA.

Fidele Gouandjika, adviser to CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera, said his country has a month to consider the offer.

A spokesman for the US State Department said, in turn, that Washington encourages the CAR authorities to “gain independence from the Wagner Group.”

Talks with Macron

The President of the CAR also held talks on cooperation with Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, the former colonial empire ruling the territory of the current CAR, whose influence in Bangui has recently weakened. France – as the American daily reminds – announced that its support would not include sending soldiers.

“It is unclear whether Western countries can offer the same level of protection as the Russian mercenary group and whether the hard-pressed representatives of the CAR authorities will have the courage to face rebel groups and other security threats without the Wagner Group,” writes “NYT.”

The Wagnerians had been supporting the RŚA leaders for years by providing protection, weapons, and propaganda campaigns. In return, the mercenaries received lucrative concessions, including: for gold and diamond mining. They participated in fighting against rebel groups and violated human rights against civilians. The brutal tactics used by the Wagnerites include, among others: rape and torture.

"Wagnerites.  Putin's mercenaries"

“Wagnerites. Putin’s mercenaries”Player Original press materials

The New York Times writes that the training of soldiers carried out by Wagnerians in the RŚA includes the “science of torture”. This was confirmed by three RŚA soldiers. One of them reported that the mercenaries taught people how to pull out nails, deprive them of sleep, and electrocute their genitals. The exercises were carried out on prisoners.

Difficult partner

There are voices that the Wagner Group has become a difficult partner that many government representatives would like to get rid of.

– The West wants us to get rid of the Wagner Group, but without them we will have problems within forty-eight hours. Whether we like it or not, they are responsible for the security of the province, says Robert Ngoki, head of the RŚA Chamber of Commerce.

Recently, in order to soften the image of a mercenary formation, the Russian cultural center in Bangui, run by a high-ranking representative of the Wagner Group, has been offering knitting classes, language learning, and free snacks. There is even an inflatable swimming pool for children.

The New York Times reminds that Yevgeny Prigozhin once sat at the Russian cultural center in Bangui, talked to students and offered them free laptops.

“Moving with a Cane”

When asked about the development of the situation, Russian experts express doubts whether the president of the Central African Republic will dare to give up the security system provided by the mercenary formation.

– Faustin Touadera (president of the CAR – ed.) is like a disabled person walking with a cane, and this cane is the Wagner Group – said Sergei Yeledinov, a retired Russian officer and an independent security analyst in Africa.

Main photo source: Sven Torfinn / Panos Pictures / Forum

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