By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) — The Wagner Group, a Kremlin-affiliated private military contractor, is playing a central role in the rising levels of violence against civilians across Africa, especially in the Central African Republic and Mali, according to records newly seen by The New York Times.
The Wagner Group, which has been accused of committing human rights atrocities, is said to also have operations in Libya, Mozambique, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela, according to the Jerusalem Post.
An employer of mercenaries, the Wagner Group is “shrouded in secrecy,” says Timothy Lay, an analyst at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
“Put it simply, Wagner has been bad news for civilians,” said Héni Nsaibia, a researcher with ACLED focusing on Mali, and one of the authors of the new report on the group’s activities in the two countries. “They have played a central role in this escalation and increase of fatalities.”
The new data complements a growing body of evidence gathered by the United Nations, research institutes and news organizations documenting widespread looting, torture and indiscriminate killings in Africa by the group.
According to ACLED, Wagner mercenaries have been involved in the deaths of more than 500 civilians in Mali this year, driving casualties that in the first six months of 2022 have already outnumbered last year’s civilian deaths. Earlier this year, Malian soldiers and Russian operatives looted houses and executed hundreds of men in the village of Moura, before forcing locals to burn bodies in mass graves, according to a New York Times investigation.
“Private military companies can operate as legal enablers of legitimate activity or in the shadows, blurring the lines between legal and illegal activities,” said Tom Tugendhat, chair of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee. “Despite the threat their use can pose to peace and democracy worldwide, international law in this area is ambiguous and policing powers are limited.”
Multiple UN bodies have opened investigations into alleged abuses perpetrated by Wagner mercenaries. In June 2021, the UN Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic (CAR) introduced reports of “indiscriminate killings” and violence against civilians at the hands of “Russian instructors”.
The UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA) and Rwandan special forces have also expressed concerns about joint operations with Wagner over alleged human rights violations. The European Union imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group and Wagner Group-linked individuals in December 2021.
Meanwhile, Malian authorities have repeatedly dismissed allegations of human rights abuses as part of a disinformation campaign and have denied the presence of Wagner in the country, even as Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed it earlier this year. [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 September 2022]
Photo: Mali soldiers being trained by the Wagener Group. Source: Middle East Online.
IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.
This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. You are free to share, remix, tweak and build upon it non-commercially. Please give due credit.