In the Central African Republic, an advantage for Moscow and the Wagner Group in the confrontation with the European Union

In the Central African Republic, an advantage for Moscow and the Wagner Group in the confrontation with the European Union

As revealed by EUobserver published on Monday, Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group took command of a battalion set up by the European Union in the Central African Republic. Another example of the effectiveness of the struggle for influence that Russia has been waging for several years in this country. This strategy could serve as a model in other places, such as Mali.

Formed by the European Union, but led by Russian mercenaries paid by the Kremlin. The 7th Regional Infantry Battalion (BIT 7) of the Central African Armed Forces, trained by European trainers, is now responding to mercenary orders From the Wagner CollectionAnd EUobserver says in a survey published on Monday, November 29.

This post in Brussels was able to refer to a European External Action Service report (EEAS) – which is equivalent to the EU’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – noting that ILO7 is “currently under the control of the Wagner Group employees” who will use it as they see fit “in violation of agreements with the European Union Mission in the Central African Republic (EUTM). RCA) regarding the transparency of the “Recruitment of Forces.

Russian nose feet

This Russian “recall” of CAR soldiers is embarrassing in more ways than one for Brussels. First, the 7th Regional Infantry Battalion was the first to be trained by European trainers since hostilities began in December 2020 between government forces and armed groups of the Patriots Alliance for Change (CPC), according to the European External Action Service.

L’EUTM RCA Still insist at the beginning of October Soldiers of the 7th Regional Infantry Battalion are “proud” to wear the EUTM insignia on their uniform to mark the end of their European training ceremony. But after a few days they passed under the leadership of the Wagner Group …

It is also Moscow’s contempt for European efforts to limit the actions of its mercenaries on the African continent. speckled Rumors about the arrival of the Wagner Group to MaliEuropean countries – and France in the foreground – doubled down on their statements about possible future sanctions against these soldiers at Moscow’s expense.

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Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, confirmed on Tuesday that announcements will be made in this direction at the next meeting of foreign ministers of member states scheduled for December 13.

At the moment, these threats do not appear to prevent the Wagner Group from gaining land and influence in the Central African Republic and from obtaining, in exchange for its participation, licenses that allow Russian companies to operate mines, gold and diamonds on hand. No wonder: these mercenaries had time to establish themselves in the country. The Central African Republic was already the first region in Africa – along with Madagascar – Moscow set itself to test its military-diplomatic strategy.

Wagner steam car

At the end of 2017, the international embargo on arms sales to the Central African Republic was partially lifted at the request of Russia in order to be able to better equip government forces. A few months later, Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadera invited “the first soldiers from the Wagner Group to come and help him against armed rebel groups,” recalls Daniel Munday, a specialist in the politics of Chinese and Russian influence in Africa. University of Birmingham and Author of a study on the presence of the Wagner Group in the Central African RepublicInterview with France 24.

Since then, the number of these mercenaries has increased, especially thanks to the ongoing clashes since the end of last year between government forces and the Patriots for Change coalition. In the aftermath of the December 2020 presidential elections, contested by rebel groups, Russia announced “the dispatch of a third shipment of weapons and 600 additional “trainers”, which officially increases the number of the Russian battalion to about 2,600 “trainers”, although The possibility of its existence in reality. More ”, emphasizes the European External Action Service in its report. A much higher number than the Europeans in EUTM RCA who number only 365, Remember Le Monde.

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“The Central African Republic has become a model for Russia’s multifaceted efforts to gain influence in Africa,” says Daniel Munday. There is, first of all, the diplomatic side with Moscow – which got relief from the embargo on arms sales – then logistical and military support, and finally “disinformation campaigns to discredit the presence of other powers such as France. The European Union or the United Nations through the international peacekeeping forces MINUSCA , explains the British researcher.

Above all, the example of the Central African Republic illustrates the difficulty that other powers have in opposing the steam power of the Wagner Group. Daniel Munday explains that “the advantage of bringing these mercenaries to African leaders is that they are not formally associated with the Russian state, allowing these states to use them while ensuring that there is no interference from a foreign state.”

In addition, this expert adds, “they are less keen than European forces to respect human rights, which could be an advantage in the eyes of some authoritarian leaders in Africa, who seek above all to defeat rebel groups, at all costs.” The Wagner Group has been accused on multiple occasions, In particular by the European Parliament at the end of November 2021, to be guilty of numerous extortions against the civilian population of Africa.

Finally, these Russian mercenaries seemed to better understand the expectations of local soldiers. “The numerous testimonies collected at once show that the training provided by the Russians is viewed better than the training of the EUTM RCA, particularly because they provide equipment, enter the field with Central African forces and also provide food, which the Europeans do not,” he notes. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute In a study to assess the impact of the European Training Mission in the Central African Republic It was published last February.

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Penalties backfire?

There are many reasons why experts like Daniel Munday are not surprised that the Wagner Group can now take command of the forces formed by the European Union, with complete impunity. The British researcher summarizes: “The European report simply illustrates the extent to which Russian mercenaries have become central to the country’s security system and to what extent they are linked to the official army.”

Hence a warning to the European authorities who are seeking the correct response to Russia’s actions in Africa. While Brussels promises “restrictive measures” against the Wagner Group, Daniel Munday asserts that if Europe now succeeds in driving these mercenaries out of the CAR, “the danger will be to further destabilize the government and make the situation even more dangerous.”

It concludes that sanctions “without a parallel commitment to increasing the international presence there could be counterproductive.” However, at the moment, there is no indication that Europe will be ready for more investment. On the contrary, the EEAS findings disclosed by EUobserver prompted the EU to conduct a “review of the current strategy”, stressed Nabila Masrali, spokeswoman for Josep Borrell, Interview with Agence France-Presse. She admitted that the examination could lead to a “potential termination of the job”.

Daniel Munday draws a lesson from the situation in the Central African Republic: The best way to oppose Russian ambitions in Africa is to prevent the Wagner Group from starting to establish itself somewhere, or it is almost too late. Hence, according to him, the importance of swift action by France and other international actors in Mali. “They should really listen to what the financial authorities are asking and find satisfactory answers while respecting our values” in order to cut the grass under the shoes of Russian mercenaries.

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