Members of the Russian private military company Wagner Group have been implicated in numerous criminal activities throughout both North and sub-Saharan Africa. Over the course of the past year, a bevy of allegations suggests that Wagner Group mercenaries were involved in attacks on mines along the border of the Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan. Approximately 1200 Wagner Group members are currently believed to be stationed in CAR, where Wagner has maintained a presence for the past four years. Many analysts are confident that its services were rendered in exchange for access to artisanal gold and diamond mines. Access to gold has become even more important to Russia since the onset of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The Kremlin is attempting to weather aggressive sanctions and access to large quantities of gold and other precious metals would help soften the negative impacts.
Some simply see the rapaciousness that comes with mercenary activity in fragile states and ungoverned – or differently governed – spaces. Wagner mercenaries have been implicated in at least half a dozen attacks throughout CAR this year, including marauding-style attacks targeting migrant miner camps. During these attacks, miners have been beaten and murdered, while Russian mercenaries and CAR soldiers pillage and plunder the mines and surrounding area, with the goal of gaining complete control over the mines. These raids have included heavily armed mercenaries in armored vehicles and helicopters. At least one mass grave with more than twenty dead bodies was discovered, although estimates of the death toll vary. Wagner forces have been operating with impunity throughout CAR and there is no other entity on the ground capable of holding its mercenaries accountable.