(New York, N.Y.) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) released a new report today, The Wagner Group In Central Sahel: Decolonization or Destabilization? The report analyzes the implications of the Kremlin-based Wagner Group’s involvement in countering insurgencies in Africa’s central Sahel region. The report finds that the Wagner Group, a private military company (PMC), has not only shifted regional counterterrorism efforts towards Russia and away from the West, but has also created long-term challenges in the fight against the global networks of ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Please click here to read the full report.
The report examines three countries – Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger—that each initially enlisted support from France to contain the spread of violent extremism that began in 2012. But following successive political coups France quickly fell out of favor throughout the region, resulting in the total evacuation of French forces by the end of 2023. The Wagner Group set out to fill the remaining security gap, but the PMC’s activities have been marked with controversies and significant allegations of crimes against humanity.
CEP’s report finds that by aligning with the Wagner Group, the nations involved are limiting themselves to heavy-handed counterterrorism responses that compromise infrastructural and long-term development initiatives. Wagner’s tactics have resulted in indiscriminate aggression towards civilians, while national troops have also been accused of torturing, raping, and looting from villages and internally displaced people (IDP) camps, making it clear that Wagner has introduced a sever level of insecurity to every facet of society.
Violent extremists have significantly increased their number of attacks since the Wagner Group became active in the region. They have also seen an increase of recruitment opportunities, as indiscriminate state-sponsored violence and inadequate security persuades civilians to shift their support away from the state and towards the insurgencies.
For host governments, the Wagner Group’s true value lies in its ability to keep coup governments in power. The countries facing insurgencies require “security” that Wagner says it provides – despite significant evidence to the contrary. In return, the coup governments offer the funding that Moscow needs through lucrative mining and security contracts.
The report concludes that the Wagner Group’s interventions are ineffective, and that long-term regional stability will instead require a reliable security sector accountable to standards of international human rights law. CEP recommends implementing accountability mechanisms to ensure that troops are complying with established military and human rights standards. International governing bodies should also continue to monitor and sanction individuals and entities that are enabling, supporting, or profiting from the Wagner Group’s presence in their countries.