Russia Steps Up the Competition in Africa – by Raphael Parens (Foreign Policy Research Institute – January 11, 2024)

Amidst the smoldering wreckage of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane, it appeared that Wagner Group would suffer without its senior leadership, putting its African projects in jeopardy. Yet, Russia is stepping up in Africa after the demise of Prigozhin. What will it mean for West Africa, a region plagued by ethnic violence and a recent rash of juntas, remains to be seen.

Russia’s behavior increasingly looks like competition with the West, whether it may be clashing with Ukrainian special forces in Sudan, engaging in diplomatic and intelligence operations in Burkina Faso, and alleged US strikes on Russian aircraft in Libya. Russia is even picking up where the West left off in Mali, becoming the new target of jihadist forces there.

Maintaining this level of competition is easier said than done. It may become difficult for Russia to sustain such operations while simultaneously conducting offensive operations in Ukraine, particularly as a ready-made replacement for Wagner Group has yet to fill the group’s shoes. Further, Moscow will have to contend with Islamist militant groups in the Sahel, who have recently begun turning their anti-Western rhetoric on Russia.

A New Presence in Burkina Faso

Many expected Burkina Faso to be the next base for Wagner operations in Africa after the country’s 2022 military coup and amidst its ongoing fight with jihadists. The arrival of twenty Russian military personnel late last year, alongside Burkina Faso’s involvement in a junta alliance alongside Mali and Niger, suggests that this development may finally be coming to fruition.

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