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The myth of Wagner in Africa

By Nic Cheeseman

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Posted on August 24, 2023 12:06

Yevgeny Prigozhin, 25 May 2023. (AFP/Concord Group)
Yevgeny Prigozhin, 25 May 2023. (AFP/Concord Group)

Following the Wagner mutiny that shook President Vladimir Putin in June, and the recent coup in Niger, speculation about the activities of the private military group in Africa reached fever pitch.

The more Wagner has been in the news, the more the claims made about its role in Africa have departed from reality.

At the peak of the hype, maps were shared on social media that implied a majority of African states were somehow under the group’s influence. Some maps depicted a channel of Wagner activity running from north to south, including Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and more.

Others depicted what was fancifully called a ‘Wagner Pact’ across the Sahel and parts of West Africa, including – depending the version – some combination of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone.

What was striking about these maps was the lack of the most basic forms of evidence, and the fact that even reputable news agencies shared questionable images. A map put together by the BBC, for example,

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