Have gun, will travel? Russia wants you in Africa
Moscow has reportedly begun recruiting 20,000 soldiers to be deployed to at least five Russia-aligned African countries to replace Wagner Group mercenaries previously stationed there as Russia deepens its influence on the continent.
Just how many recruits “Africa Corps” can drum up is not clear (nor is why they named themselves after a Nazi unit, Afrika Korps, that got its arse kicked up and down Libya before surrendering en masse). Many Wagner fighters took contracts with the Ministry of Defense after an aborted revolt by former leader Yevgeny Prigozhin resulted in his death and the company’s disbandment, and those with experience in Africa may be rolled into the new unit. Then again, with Moscow trying to find 250,000 more men to throw into Ukraine, some recruits may figure that sweating it out in the Sahel beats getting shelled in a rat-infested trench.
The troops will provide security for coup leaders in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, as well as the House of Representatives government in Libya (not recognized by the United Nations) and the Central African Republic, which has drifted toward Moscow since 2016. In exchange, Russia will help themselves to Wagner’s former commercial fiefdom on the continent, including potentially lucrative mining operations producing gold, diamonds, and valuable industrial minerals.But it’s a gamble: Wagner’s force in Africa was only ever a fraction of the size of this putative Africa Corps, and as a nominally private company, Moscow could shrug its shoulders when Wagner fighters committed atrocities. Now, the Russian flag would be undeniably flying over the murder, torture, and rape of civilians – but color us skeptical that the potential international opprobrium will hold them back one bit.