#Economy #Military #Russia #Africa
Agence Ecofin
17 July 2023 Last update on Monday, July 17, 2023 At 9:00 AM

In five years of presence, the private military company has succeeded in infiltrating and controlling the military chain of command of the Central African Republic as well as its political and economic systems. A report details its modus operandi, which is based on extremely violent military campaigns aimed at terrorizing the population.

With the support of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the Russian paramilitary group Wagner has penetrated the heart of power in the Central African Republic and installed its economic grip by intentionally spreading terror and fear, according to a report published on June 27 by the organization of anti-corruption investigation The Sentry, supported by actor George Clooney.

To analyze the modus operandi of this private military company, the report “Architects of Terror The Wagner Group’s Blueprint for State Capture in the Central African Republic” is based on photos, satellite images, videos and documents as well as on interviews conducted with over 45 people, including 11 members of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and armed groups deployed in government military operations, victims and sources knowledgeable about security and defence.

It all started with a secret meeting that took place in October 2017 in Sochi, Russia, between a Central African delegation and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. On this occasion, Moscow and Bangui discussed three main components of Russia’s engagement in the Central African Republic: political support, security assistance and mining operations.

At the end of the meeting, the decision was taken to send Russian instructors, known at that time as “armed specialists of foreign origin”, to the Central African Republic. Sewa Security Services, a company registered in the Central African Republic affiliated with the Wagner group, was thus created in November 2017.

In January 2018, Russia delivered, using a Russian military aircraft, the first arms shipment in addition to five military instructors and 170 Russian civilians, who turned out to be Wagner mercenaries. The country was then ravaged by 20 years of politico-military crises and cycles of bloody armed conflicts for which the UN and Western countries were unable to provide adequate solutions.

The coup attempt led on January 13, 2021 by the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), a coalition of armed groups led by former president and coup leader François Bozizé, marked a turning point in the group’s military strategy. Wagner in the country.

The Russian authorities have announced the deployment of 900 additional members of the Wagner group, before bringing the total number of mercenaries to around 2,600 by the end of 2021. A parallel army of around 5,000 men has also been formed, trained and deployed against the militias of the CPC and their alleged sympathizers. Certain communities such as the Gbaya and the Fulani were particularly targeted by the FACA and the mercenaries of the Wagner group.

Terror as a weapon of war

The Sentry’s investigation, backed by UN reports, also revealed that Russia had delivered weapons of war that had not previously appeared in the Central African conflict, including helicopter gunships, planes, ground vehicles, reconnaissance drones and heavy weapons, including 14.5mm guns.

Informed sources also revealed that the Wagner group, whose men “actively participated in combat operations on the ground” used landmines in the country. Military operations by the FACA and Wagner’s mercenaries resulted in indiscriminate attacks on civilians perceived as enemies of Mr. Touadéra and Russia.

A group of UN experts reported “mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence, torture during interrogation, enforced disappearances, forced displacement of the civilian population, indiscriminate targeting of civilian settlements, violations of the right to health and increasing attacks on humanitarian actors”.

The evolution of the CPC’s modus operandi towards guerrilla warfare and the drop in Wagner’s workforce following the outbreak of war in Ukraine prompted those close to Faustin-Archange Touadéra and the Russian mercenaries to train thousands of militiamen.

Wagner Group instructors conducted military training lasting between one and six months that included firearms training, hand-to-hand combat, and techniques of espionage, interrogation, and torture.

A member of the presidential guard who received this training told The Sentry: “Commando training, interrogation training, aggressive technique, torture, violence. It was a Russian instructor who was giving the training.” To obtain sensitive information from their enemies, several trained soldiers and militiamen explained that they were taught to cut off their hands, fingers and legs; pull out fingernails; using knives to cut flesh; strangle; dumping fuel and burning people alive; organize targeted kidnappings; and more.

A keen interest in mining sites

While Wagner’s commanders and President Touadéra justified the presence of the Wagner Group as a way to hunt down armed rebel groups and protect the current regime, the report reveals that the Russian private military company had taken command and control of the government armed forces, ordering them to kill women and children, deploy torture techniques and carry out “cleansing” campaigns to slaughter entire communities likely to hamper gold and diamond mining operations in industrial scale by the Wagner Group.

In interviews with The Sentry, soldiers involved in these activities testified that Wagner’s intention is to create terror and instill fear, not only among the rebels, but among the general population and among the soldiers and militiamen under his control.

Consequence: 5.6% of the Central African population died in 2022, which is “more than double the estimates for any other country in the world”, according to a recent report by Columbia University, which directly linked the magnitude of this mortality to the presence of the Wagner group.

Along with brutal military campaigns, the Wagner Group has shown a keen interest in Central African minerals, targeting mining sites and carrying out violent attacks to drive out civilians and take control of them. “Mine sites are priority targets. We only clean, no need to talk, we only kill,” a member of the presidential guard deployed on military operations told The Sentry.

Mining companies affiliated with the Wagner group, mainly Lobaye Invest, Midas Resources and Diamville, have obtained mining licenses and export authorizations. The military company has also used its transnational networks in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Cameroon, Madagascar and Russia to build an industrial production site in the gold sector that escapes national and international surveillance.

To counter Wagner’s “malicious” actions in the Central African Republic and beyond, the report states that the international community, including African states, has various tools at its disposal, including the establishment of a coalition similar to the Global Coalition against Daesh. , focusing particularly on the group’s funding flows, the movement of foreign fighters and propaganda as well as the designation of the Russian private military company as a terrorist organization.

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