Russia is Involved in Shady Military Campaigns in Africa

The recent announcement that thirty additional Russian Troops will be deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR) to support the UN peacekeeping mission instead of training government forces is bound to raise questions regarding the motivations of Russia in Africa. This move is the latest evidence of the apparent interest of Russia in the mineral-rich landlocked country. And, as with most of Russia’s foreign policies in Africa, controversy has followed their presence in the CAR close at hand. In this case, though, two things are of special interest. The first concerns the military.

CAR president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, called on Russia for help in controlling the country, which has an arms embargo on it and 14 militia groups fighting for control of the territory.

For more than a year now, Russia has had elements on the ground training the CAR military as the country seeks to rebuild after a rebellion that overthrew the previous government. Even though there is a training facility on the ground currently training the CAR army, upgrading the facility to a military base is under consideration by the authorities in Bangui.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Russia has found itself competing with both the United States and China for access to economic assets in Africa. But most of its inroads on the continent are in suspicious circumstances in chaotic countries.[/perfectpullquote]

This shows the extent of Russia’s involvement on the ground. But there is also a European Union mission currently training the CAR military as well. How these two differently trained forces will interact in one standing military force will be an interesting situation to observe.

The other problem is in the secrecy with which Russia operates with the CAR military. Kremlin’s intentions have been shady.

Last July, three journalists investigating a private military company with ties to President Vladimir Putin were murdered in the CAR. That same company, Wagner Group, has garnered contracts on behalf of Russian interests in two other conflict zones in Africa. The first crisis spot in question here is Libya. There are now questions about the true purpose of Wagner Group in Libya–that it might be involved in military operations in the war-torn country.

But prior to the April 2019 Western Libya offensive, Russia was providing key logistical support to General Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the eastern port city of Benghazi. Since the LNA launched its recent drive on Tripoli, there are reports that Russia is scaling back the support it is providing Haftar, although, it is hard to believe that Russia will be willing to walk away from this relationship.

The other location of interest is Sudan.

The country is in the midst of a political transition at this point after the ouster of the former president, Omar Al-Bashir. Several Russian Companies with ties to President Putin were given access to the country in exchange for protection against US aggressive policies. But before the ouster of Bashir, there were reports that several Russian private military companies were actively supporting government efforts to curb the protests, which led to civilian deaths. The one thing that should be of concern here is that despite the ouster of Bashir, there has not been any sign of Russia pulling out of Sudan.

These three nations are just the tip of the iceberg of how Russia seeks to reassert its presence in Africa.

Russia has found itself competing with both the United States and China for access to economic assets in Africa. But most of its inroads on the continent are in suspicious circumstances in chaotic countries.

Scott Morgan is the President of Red Eagle Enterprises. He is a former US Marines and specializes in US Policy towards Africa focusing on Security and Asymmetrical Operations and Business Development South of the Sahara.