Yevgeny Prigozhin will be remembered in various countries, and for different reasons. In Kiev, for leading his fighters into some of the fiercest battles against Ukraine, in Russia, as a patriot and as a traitor for his short-lived uprising in June.
Prigozhin will also be remembered in countries far away from Russia, like the Central African Republic and Mali, where governments are relying on the services of his Wagner group to counter security threats.
Increasingly, public opinion in these countries views Wagner and the Russian government as indispensable partners helping their countries regain their sovereignty from France.
The presence of Wagner contractors in Africa was first confimed in 2018 in the Central African Republic after President Faustin Archange Touadera sought their services to beat back a rebel uprising.
The Russians have since helped to rebuild the country’s military and secured the capital Bangui.
In Mali, the ruling military ran to Moscow for solutions to stop a militant insurgency but also to get rid of French forces. In response, Russia gave Wagner the greenlight to deploy.
It didn’t take long before neighboring Burkina Faso, itself wracked by Islamist militancy and instability caused by an army takeover looked east for respite.
In Africa, Wagner advances Moscow’s military, political and economic goals, much to the chagrin of Western leaders who bemoan the loss of spheres of influence.
In Niger, the latest Sahel country to succumb to a coup d’etat, pro-junta rallies have called for Russia’s intervention, and expectedly, the departure of French forces.
Questions about the future of Wagner’s operations in Africa have been abound since Prigozhin’s mutiny in June. Then, Russia’s foreign affairs ministry said the events would have no bearing on the group’s work.
While Prigozhin’s death is undoubtedly a bigger tragedy, Wagner has become too important a foreign policy tool for Moscow to let go.
Source: Africa News