Foreign AffairsOpinion

Prigozhin’s Death: What Does It Portends For Africa?

By Dapo Okubanjo

Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner were literally unknown in much of Africa until few months ago even though the mercenary group had been operating behind the scene for about two years in some parts of the country.

But it was after the group’s daring 36-hour march on Moscow in June 2023, that the name Wagner became one of the most searched on Google and that was how many on the continent even knew that it had been operating in Africa with the tacit support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The mutiny may have caused a dent in the armour of the global reputation of the Russian leader but what was baffling was the manner, he appeared to have let the Wagner off the hook through something like a negotiated settlement that was to see the mutiny leader in Belarus.

But after technically falling out with the man who made him who he is, Prigozhin began to speak more about Africa especially against the backdrop of Wagner’s operations in Burkina Faso and Mali where the group is believed to have a working relationship with the military leaders, as well as in the Central African Republic (CAR).

It was within this period that a coup took place in Niger and while Putin had been publicly restrained in his views about the situation there, his protege, Prigozhin was more brash.

In what many described as a pitch for a business relationship with the Niger coupists, he released a voice message on Telegram app channels associated with Wagner, in which he described it as a moment of long-overdue liberation from Western colonisers.

Prigozhin said: “What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago”.

It was a romance with that did not eventually come to fruition even though the mercenary chieftain was filmed in Mali, few days before his death making what sounded like a statement of intent on Wagner’s expansionist plan for Africa.

And although he did not make a direct reference to Niger Republic, there were actually rumours that he was in Mali preparatory for an incursion into Niamey through the working relationship he had with the Mali military junta.

Prigozhin was believed to have 1000 men in Mali on a monthly security contract of $10.8m which had been running since September 2021.

A similar deal is in place in CAR where Wagner operatives are playing the role of Presidential guards while its presence in Sudan since 2017 revolves round providing security services and overseeing gold mining concessions.

So Wagner has a big presence in Africa and was seen as pushing Russia’s unofficial bid to recreate a cold war-era like incursion into the continent..

But now that Prigozhin and his command staff are out of the way, it is not likely that Wagner will suddenly disappear from Africa.Chances are that the world is about to witness a different phase of that relationship with the possibility of Putin having a more hands-on control of the mercenary group.

But it remains to be seen what this will mean for a continent that is now seeing the need to reinvigorate its regional standby force with ECOWAS taking the lead.


Tunde Alade

Tunde is a political Enthusiast who loves using technology to impact his immediate community by providing accurate data and news items for the good of the country.

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