Just two days before his assumed demise in a plane crash of unknown cause, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin had addressed his fighters in a video message, announcing a focus away from Ukraine and towards Africa - a place where the mercenary group has already left a considerable footprint.
As Statista's Katharina Buchholz reports, the address was one of the few since Prigozhin staged a mutiny in late June against Moscow in a feud around Wagner's involvement in Ukraine and its absorption by the Russian military, which ended with a brokered deal, Wagner's move to Belarus and an option for fighters to join either side.
While the future of Wagner's leadership is now unclear, a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime shows what varied types of engagement the group has already carried out on the African continent.
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Known hot spots of operation are the Central African Republic and Sudan, where Wagner has yielded military, political and economic control. According to the report, this includes fighting rebel groups and popular insurgencies for weakened governments, giving political strategy advice to state actors and running influence and disinformation campaigns on social media - as well as securing illicit or grey market economic opportunities, for example in mining, which are considered payment for services. In a larger context, the group is expanding Russian influence on the continent in a time when European governments are mainly retreating.
Wagner has more recently taken up military and political activities in Libya and Mali. In May, the group has been accused of killing 500 civilians in the latter country alongside a few al-Qaeda militants it was seeking out in the town of Moura. Data by conflict monitor ACLED also shows that Wagner Group engagement in the country focused on civilians. The group was also militarily active in Mozambique during the 2019 militant uprising, but was defeated there. It has been reported to be in contact with the military leadership of Niger, which came to power in a coup earlier this year.
According to The Guardian, analysts have detected spikes in violence in places where Wagner has been active in Africa. Yet, many atrocities against civilians the group has been accused of couldn't been linked to them definitively, the Moura massacre being the exception. Furthermore, the group's violent tactics have not proven effective in suppressing insurgencies long-term, The New York Times reports.