The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization, has been using the Central African Republic (CAR) as a testing ground for its state capture tactics, according to a report by investigative and policy organization The Sentry.
Over the past five years, Wagner has infiltrated and taken control of CAR’s military, political, and economic systems, causing devastating consequences for the country and its people.
CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra invited the Russian mercenaries in late 2017 to bolster his personal security and counter a rebel offensive threatening the capital, Bangui. Since then, Wagner has expanded its influence, installing an agent as Touadéra’s top advisor for national security and establishing a network of proxies and shell companies across Cameroon, Madagascar, and Sudan, all connected to Moscow.
At the heart of Wagner’s actions in CAR is the exploitation of the country’s abundant natural resources, particularly gold and diamonds, as Russia seeks to mitigate the impact of international sanctions resulting from its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The consequences for CAR have been dire, with the population suffering atrocities and human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by Wagner fighters, including killing and torturing civilians.
A Columbia University report directly linked the scale of death in CAR to Wagner’s presence, with the country experiencing the highest death rate globally over the past year. Multiple military sources indicated that Wagner’s training included ruthless tactics such as “cleansing” and “sweeping,” which involved killing entire communities, including women and children.
In the wake of Wagner Group’s recent rebellion in Russia against the Russian military, as many as 600 mercenaries reportedly left CAR, raising speculation about their next moves. The CAR government spokesperson stated that this was part of a rotation rather than a withdrawal, leaving uncertainty about the number of remaining mercenaries.
Despite the upheaval, Russia has assured CAR officials that its operations will continue “without interruption.” However, the Wagner Group rebellion in Russia has raised concerns among African leaders who have employed the mercenary group. Observers warn that the instability Wagner seeks to export may eventually backfire on its own regime and cost nations their sovereignty.
The situation in CAR remains precarious, with the country grappling with the repercussions of being turned into a “laboratory of terror” by Wagner’s state capture strategies. As the international community observes developments in the region, concerns mount over the urgent need for coordinated global action to counter Wagner Group’s predatory influence and prevent further devastation.
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