Wagner works, for example, with training local forces and protecting important people. That is the basis for a possible contract with Mali. Pictured - the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali. Photo: MINUSMA. Source: Flickr.

Analysis

Russian military company approaches Mali - has been accused of war crimes

In recent years, Russian military companies have gained more power on the African continent. One of these companies is The Wagners Group - which in connection with previous involvement in the Central African Republic has been accused of war crimes. At the same time, the military company's progress raises questions about how future security policy will be shaped.

The global security policy arena is changing and Russian privately owned military companies are currently advancing around the world. Private Military Companies, so-called PMCs, can provide front-line service, provide strategic advice and training, or provide services such as logistics, maintenance and intelligence services to the armed forces. 

The expansion of the Russian PMCs, especially in Africa, has recently worried the West and raised questions about Moscow's long-term plans for the continent. The development has gone from a military presence in the form of Russian companies in four countries in 2015 - Ukraine, Libya, Syria and Sri Lanka - to 27 countries around the world today.

The Russian group Wagner has been particularly relevant in connection with Reuters reporting on a possible agreement between Mali and the Wagner Group. Wagner is valued as the largest and most influential company by the Russian PMCs. The group was identified only in 2014 and has since devoted itself, among other things, to training local forces and providing protection to key leaders.

Russian mercenaries fly to Mali

The agreement between Wagner and Mali could mean that thousands of mercenaries from Russia will be flown down to Mali in order to train Malian security forces and to defend important political leaders, this to a sum of 10.8 million dollars per month. Another point in the agreement shows that the group would have the opportunity to extract from three mines in the country as a thank you for his service, which shows that Russia as a country can have a great national interest in the agreement. 

- Control over natural resources always interests the Russian leadership. Wagner is a relatively inexpensive tool for the Kremlin to expand its power in Africa. However, the Russian government has not yet confirmed Wagner's existence, says former military interpreter Konstantin von Eggert, in an analysis for Deutsche Welle.

Several experts in the field warn of a similar course of events in Mali with what has been witnessed in the Central African Republic. There Wagner provided himself with weapons, ammunition and 175 military instructors as a way to increase its influence on the continent. 

Crime against human rights

The events with the Wagner group in Mali can be seen as a reflection of what is happening in other parts of Africa. For example, Russian PMCs have been taking over since 2018, and are now controlling several mineral resources in the Central African Republic in parallel with commits human rights violations. The UN has also accused Wagner of war crimes in both the Central African Republic and Syria.

In response to the potential deal, French and US officials have officially worked to try to prevent Malian leaders from concluding a deal with Wagner. Since 2013 France has been militarily involved in Mali. The result of the presence of the French military, which is tasked with fighting terrorism in the country, has to some extent yielded good results - but despite this, the violence in the country has continued to spread.

- Wagner is a private company that is not difficult to link to Russian state interests and that has Russian mercenaries. Private companies with links to authoritarian regimes do not contribute to anything positive, says Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist (S) to Dagens Nyheter. Photo: The Social Democrats. Source: Flickr.

The civilian population is already living in vulnerability in Mali and in the event of a potential agreement between the group and the country, their situation is not expected to improve, rather worsen even more as a result of Wagner's entry into the country, according to Alexandra Lamarche in The National Interest. Today it is 5.9 million people in Mali in need of regular humanitarian assistance and en knapp million located is currently on the run due to the difficult situation in the country.

There have also been many reactions from the Swedish side to the possible agreement. The government went out in mid-October with the news that Sweden will leave Mali in 2024, after having been militarily active there since 2015 

- We have been extremely clear to Malian representatives that it would be a serious mistake, says the Foreign Ministry's Cabinet Secretary Robert Rydberg that Mali may enter into an agreement with Wagner, to Dagens Nyheter.

The establishment of the Wagner Group in Africa can also be seen from a broader perspective, with some critics arguing that the long-term privatization of security may erode the state monopoly on violence. Problems that we may face are that the transparency of the PMC's activities is substandard, the possibility of demanding responsibility is diminished and also negative humanitarian consequences for residents in countries where the PMCs operate. 

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