Central African Republic
Following the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs quickly moved to reassure African client states that business as usual would continue—meaning that Moscow's unofficial boots on the ground would keep operating in these countries. Now reports indicate a transformation, with Wagner's estimated force of 5,000 troops—deployed from the Sahel to Libya to Sudan—to be brought under Defense Ministry command as a new Africa Corps. (The Conversation)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denied arming the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fighting Sudan's army, despite a leaked UN document alleging "credible" evidence. The UN report said arms and ammunition shipments are unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. The UAE has also been accused of funnelling weapons through Uganda and the Central African Republic, part of a regional supply network that has allowed the RSF to "punch above its weight" in the nine-month conflict. But the Gulf State—with business and political interests across Africa—said it has taken no side in the war.
Gold-mining operations in Africa under the control of the paramilitary Wagner Group are funneling money to the Kremlin for the Russian war effort in Ukraine, according to a new report by watchdog organizations. "The Blood Gold Report," prepared by the Consumer Choice Center and Democracy 21, finds that Wagner has laundered some $2.5 billion in proceeds from its African operations since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, helping Moscow to ride out international sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged free grain to six African nations. The announcement comes one week after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal, triggering a spike in global prices. Opening the Africa-Russian summit in St. Petersburg on July 27, Putin promised to send 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea. The countries are among Moscow's closest allies on the continent, but they are not all the most food-import dependent. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that a "handful of donations" would not correct the market impact of Russia's termination of the year-long deal, which had cut cereal prices by more than one third. The African Union echoed Guterres' criticism.
In the wake of a damning UN report linking Russian mercenaries to a Malian massacre, the US State Department has said the Wagner Group paramilitary force may be using Mali as a secret arms depot to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine. The Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian nationalist firebrand and longtime associate of President Vladimir Putin, has gained global notoriety in recent months for its vicious fighting in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In the years preceding the invasion, Wagner developed as an amoral militia that would support authoritarian regimes for profit, unconstrained by regard for human rights or international humanitarian law.
The number of judicial executions recorded globally in 2022 reached the highest figure in five years, according to Amnesty International's annual review of the death penalty, released May 16. Excluding the thousands believed to have taken place in China, a total of 883 executions were recorded across 20 countries, marking a 53% increase from the previous year. The Middle East and North Africa region saw a significant rise in executions, with Saudi Arabia executing 81 people in a single day in March 2022 out of a year total of 196, while Iran executed a record-high 576 individuals. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt accounted for 90% of known executions outside of China. The true global figure is likely much higher due to secrecy surrounding the use of the death penalty in certain countries. China is believed to have remained the world's most prolific executioner.
The Washington Post reports April 24 that among the classified documents leaked to Discord chat platform by Massachusetts Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira are February findings from an unnamed US intelligence agency that Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group is seeking to recruit rebels to destabilize the government of Chad. One document states that Wagner is working to establish a training camp for hundreds of fighters across the border in the Central African Republic as part of an "evolving plot to topple the Chadian government."
Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi appointed former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba as defense minister and deputy prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle on March 24. Bemba, who served as vice president from 2003 to 2006, was convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2016 of crimes against humanity over atrocities allegedly committed by rebels under his command when they intervened in the conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic in 2002. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, but the court overturned his sentence on appeal in 2018. However, five defendants were convicted on charges related to obstruction of justice in the Bemba case. (AfricaNews, France24)