Battle for Influence Rages in Heart of Wagner’s Operations in Africa – by Elian Peltier (New York Times – November 26, 2023)

The death of the mercenary group’s leader has created a window of opportunity in the Central African Republic for Western powers to offer an alternative.

In palmier times, the leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, appeared at a Russian cultural center in the capital of the Central African Republic, sitting with schoolchildren and promising them free laptops.

But Mr. Prigozhin’s death in August has rattled the mercenary group’s once-cozy relations with the Central African Republic, which is now weighing offers from Russia and Western countries, including the United States, to replace Wagner as its primary security guarantor.

The outcome of this struggle could be a bellwether for the group’s future on the continent, where the Central African Republic is perhaps the most deeply enmeshed among the handful of African nations partnering with Wagner.

The Russian Defense Ministry has sought to absorb some of Wagner’s activities, while preserving its influence and maintaining its wealth of knowledge about the continent. But a senior Western diplomat said that the uncertainty around Wagner in the Central African Republic provided a “window of opportunity” for the United States and France to counter Russian influence.

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