A top US military official has drawn parallels between the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda and the Russian Wagner Group operating in Africa.
In an online press conference with African journalists, Rear Admiral Jamie Sands who serves as the commander of Special Operations Command Africa said the Russian mercenaries always leave a trail of death, insecurity, and poverty wherever they go.
“I look at Wagner in Russia, this paramilitary organization owned and bought and paid for thereby Prigozhin, I have begun to categorize them or think about them, in the same way, I think about an organization like al-Qaida,” Sands said.
“They move across – they kind of move into an area or areas in Africa and they spread insecurity, they spread violence, and they disadvantage the countries with which they engage,” he said.
He said Wagner was of particular concern to the African continent, noting that in Mali where the group has been very much present, “what we are seeing is … a correlation between Wagner’s arrival in Mali and the increase in reported atrocities in Mali. I would offer that Wagner leaves countries less secure, less safe, and poorer just every time.”
The top military official said there was evidence that Wagner was also specialized in stealing the natural resources of the countries in which they operate.
“And so, they’re raising money by taking resources from the portions of the countries that they occupy. We see Wagner doing very similar activities where countries will bring them in, in some cases, and offer them portions of their natural resources as payment. And so, Wagner is benefiting by stealing the natural resources or exploiting the natural resources of the countries in Africa where they’re present.”
Rear Admiral Sands also took a dig at Chinese policy in Africa, accusing the Chinese of also stealing natural resources without regard to the wellbeing of the people.
He particularly pointed to Chinese mining activities in the DRC “where they have large mines and don’t necessarily treat the workers well or compensate the workers well and really extract the resources for the benefit of their own population more than the benefit of the African nations that they are in.”
The military official also revealed that Boko Haram’s reach was dwindling, or that it was being absolved by ISIS. Either way, terrorism is on the rise on the continent.
“We see al-Shabaab in East Africa continuing to attack the people of Somalia. Al-Qaida, the al-Qaida affiliate JNIM is expanding in the Sahel and moving down into coastal West Africa. Islamic State in West Africa province is consolidating after displacing Boko Haram near the Lake Chad Basin. And other violent extremists and criminal groups threaten stability across the continent,” Sands explained.
He concluded that the way out of the crisis is to create partnerships, tackle poverty, foster good governance, and fight against unemployment.
Despite this eloquent indictment of the Russian group Wagner, actors in Mali, the Central African Republic, and elsewhere say France’s exploitative neo-colonial policy, marked by the promotion of autocratic dictatorships and genocide, makes Russia and China better, sparing partners.