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Mali and CAR: Wagner, simple “subcontractor” of the Kremlin?

After the Wagner rebellion in Russia, Moscow made it clear that this would not change anything in its relations with Mali and the Central African Republic.

The agreement signed was “a defense agreement with Russia and not with Wagner”. In the aftermath of the rebellion of Wagner's paramilitaries in Russia, several African countries insisted on clarifying their links with the Russian group. On the side of the Central African Republic (CAR), Fidèle Gouandjika, Minister Special Advisor to the Head of State, thus reiterated his support for Moscow, while affirming that Wagner was only a service provider. “Moscow subcontracted with Wagner. If Russia no longer agrees then it will send us a new contingent”, assures Gouandjika.

For several hours, this was the question that arose: Was Wagner going to be able to continue his activities in Africa, and if so, under what conditions? If some African presidents have called the Kremlin to assure President Putin of their support, in front, they prefer to kick in touch. The rebellion of Wagner's boss, Prigojine, is an "internal affair" and "does not concern the Central African Republic", assured Fidèle Gouandjika. The latter, however, remains suspended from Moscow's decision concerning Prigojine: Wagner's soldiers "may change leaders", but they "will continue to operate on behalf of Russia", said Faustin-Archange's adviser. Touadera.

Since the threat of an invasion of Moscow by paramilitaries led by Prigojine, several Russian ministers have taken turns on television to take stock. Starting with the Minister of Defense, who would see himself regaining control of Wagner. But it is above all Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who spoke on the merits of the case. The head of Russian diplomacy claims to have "received several calls for solidarity, including from (his) African colleagues".

Agreements with Russia, not with Wagner

According to Sergueï Lavrov, the collaboration between Wagner and several African countries - CAR and Mali mainly - should continue. “I did not see any particular panic, I did not see any change in the attitude of African countries towards the Russian Federation. On the contrary”, indicated the minister who insisted on recalling that the paramilitaries of Wagner were present in Mali and in the Central African Republic “as instructors”. And, he continued, “that work will of course continue.”

The opportunity for Moscow to recall the reasons for this interest of African countries for the Russian paramilitary group: "When these countries found themselves face to face with the terrorist threat, the CAR and Mali asked the Wagner company to ensure the safety of their leaders,” Lavrov explains. But who says Wagner says above all Russia. “In addition to these relations with the Wagner organization, the governments of the Central African Republic and Mali have official contacts with our government. At their request, several hundred soldiers are working, for example in the CAR, as instructors”, explained the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

An exit that sounds like an operation aimed at reassuring. But this will require changes at the head of Wagner, and quickly. Because on the side of the populations, and especially of the opposition, it is estimated that what Prigojine tried to do in Moscow, he can also do it in Africa. Problem: for several months, the attitude of Prigojine has irritated in certain countries, where the boss of Wagner approached the presidents in his own name. The Russian Federation should therefore remove the boss of the group from the African continent, to regain control of its activities. The Russia-Africa Forum which is taking place at the end of July should make it possible to dispel the last doubts of African presidents.

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