The Global South media on the war in Ukraine (26.06 – 01.07)
This issue is entirely devoted to the media perception of the Russian political and military presence African
- Perception of the Russian presence by African media
El Moudjahid, an Algerian French-language newspaper, published on June 26 the article “Space technologies: Algeria draws up its plans with Russia” (“Technologies spatiales : L’Algérie trace sa voie avec la Russie”), stressing the significance of cooperation with Russia for the development of the Algerian space program.
“Algeria and Russia expressed their mutual desire to strengthen their cooperation in the space field during a yesterday’s meeting in Algiers between the Director General of the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), Azzedine Oussedik, and his counterpart from the ‘Russian Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS), Yuri Borisov. The meeting, which was held at the Space Telecommunications Systems Operations Center, was an opportunity for the two parties to present their respective space programs and to exchange their points of view on the methods and axes of the bilateral cooperation.”.
“In his statement to the press, Mr. Oussedik indicated that “the event we are celebrating today reflects our desire to strengthen our cooperation in the fields of space technologies. The aspirations of our two countries resulted in the signing of the intergovernmental agreement on Algerian-Russian cooperation in the field of the exploration and use of space for peaceful purposes. This document was signed on the occasion of the recent state visit made by the President of the Republic, Mr. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in Russia”.
“Mr. Oussedik paid the tribute to the memory of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and added that this commemoration “symbolizes the Algerian ambition for fruitful and lasting cooperation in space with a friendly country, the Russian Federation”. For his part, Mr. Borisov indicated that he had “very fruitful” discussions with his Algerian counterpart which, as he said, were “in continuity with President Tebboune’s recent state visit to Moscow”. He also considered that the Algerian space program for 2040, presented today, “allows us to open a new page of practical cooperation between Russia and Algeria in the field of space”.”. https://www.elmoudjahid.com/fr/actualite/technologies-spatiales-l-algerie-trace-sa-voie-avec-la-russie-201725
(Translated from French by IISWU)
Capital FM, Kenya’s most popular news radio station, published on its website on June 25 the article “Ipsos’ Africa Poll: Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Against Principles Of International Law”, devoted to the interpretation of results of a multinational opinion research company Ipsos’ poll on public’s attitude toward Russia in several African countries.
“A recent study has revealed that most Africans feel that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is against the principles of international law. According to the survey by IPSOS South Africa, the Russian forces should withdraw from Ukraine following their invasion in February last year. Those polled believed that Russia was guilty of committing war crimes in Ukraine. “These were the most important findings in a random study among individuals 18 years old and older, who expressed an interest in news and politics in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia,” the study stated. The study shows that 76% of Kenyans agree that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is against the principles of international law”.
“On the Russian aggression, 76% of Kenyans polled agree that both the Ukrainians and the Russians are victims in this war. Overall, 66% of Kenyans agree that All African countries should not take sides in this war. Ipsos polled African citizens on their attitudes towards Russia, Ukraine and the controversial position on the war taken by some African governments. Africans expressed strong feelings that the continent should stay nonaligned or neutral in this conflict and Kenyans, especially, felt that Africa should not take sides in the war.”
“A smaller proportion of Nigerians, however, thought quite strongly that Africa could not afford to remain neutral in the war and should support Ukraine. Most Africans took a neutral stance when asked about whether their own government should support Russia or Ukraine. “Majorities maintained that the ideal outcome would be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. It is important to observe that larger proportions in all seven countries thought support for Ukraine rather than for Russia was in the best interest of their countries.” https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2023/06/ipsos-africa-poll-russian-invasion-of-ukraine-against-principles-of-international-law/
News24, is an English-language South African news website created in October 1998 by the multinational media company, Naspers headquartered in Cape Town, published on June 29 the article “Wagner Group in Africa: Resource plunder, human rights abuses, and state capture”, in which the Wagner Group was blamed for promoting corruption and authoritarian rule.
“Preying on fragile states, corrupt leaders and fighting insurgent wars for payment in the form of access to mineral resources, as well as pushing Russia’s soft power in Africa, are all in the Wagner Group’s playbook on the continent, according to analysts and reports on the paramilitary contractor. While the Wagner Group has drawn global attention, particularly for its exploits in Ukraine and Africa, they are an upgrade from the likes of the Moran Security Group and the Slavonic Corps that arrived in Africa in the 1990s to provide protection to Russian businessmen.”.
“According to the Washington Post, the Wagner Group is active, or in negotiations, in at least 13 African countries.”.
“Its operations range from military, political, information, logistics and economics -mostly in the mineral extraction industry and securing contracts for the Russian government. “Everywhere that Wagner goes, death and destruction follow in their wake. He [Prigozhin] has been a destabilising agent,” said Matthew Miller, the US state department spokesperson addressing the media in Washington in response to further sanctions placed on the Wagner Group on Tuesday.
In southern Africa, the Wagner Group was active in Mozambique until 2019. At the time, President Filipe Nyusi was struggling to contain a sudden Islamic State-linked insurgency in the oil gas-rich Cabo Delgado province.
With no regional support at the time, private military mercenaries, among them South African firm Dyck Advisory Group, battled insurgents. The Wagner Group’s most strategic partner in Africa is the regime in the Central African Republic (CAR).”
“Through Midas Resources, a CAR mining firm, the Wagner Group controls “concessions and licences for prospecting and extracting minerals, precious and semi-precious metals, and gems”, according to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). They also have a huge stake in the Ndassima gold mine, which OFAC says has gold deposits worth more than R18.3 billion ($1 billion). Key individuals in charge of Wagner’s access to mineral resources in CAR are also involved in Madagascar, an investigation by the OFAC established.”
“While exploiting CAR for its mineral resources, and also as a conduit for illicit trade, it has maintained its hold on the state through acts of violence.”
“The end of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali presents another opportunity for the Wagner Group to assert its influence further. Early this year, Wagner executive Andrey Nikolayevich Ivanov, working closely with Prigozhin’s entity Africa Politology and the Malian authorities, dabbled in the arms trade, OFAC claimed.”
“Mali is one of Africa’s coup capitals. Its current leader, Colonel Assimi Goïta, is holding back a civilian transition and his relationship with the Wagner Group is pulling the country back to insecurity in the face of Islamic Extremists, creating a chaotic environment for plunder and conflict to co-exist. In Libya, the Wagner Group has been present in the country since 2019, initially providing support to Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), reported al-Monitor in February.”
“In war-torn Sudan, reports emerged that the Wagner Group was supplying the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo with missiles in the ongoing conflict. Dagalo denied this in an interview with News24. He however, confirmed that they, along with the national army, received training from the Wagner Group during the presidency of Omar al-Bashir. With Haftar in Libya and Dagalo in Sudan, the Wagner Group is in control of critical resources, namely oil and gold. In other parts of Africa – such as Zimbabwe, Algeria, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea – there are ongoing negotiations with the Wagner Group.” https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/wagner-group-in-africa-resource-plunder-human-rights-abuses-and-state-capture-20230629
- African media on the effects of Russian political and economic influence
Afrik.com, a Pan-African online daily newspaper on news, published on June 26, the article “Wagner will continue its action in Mali and the Central African Republic” (“Wagner continuera son action au Mali et en Centrafrique”), suggesting that these countries will not be able to ensure their security without the assistance of the Wagner Group.
“Wagner’s rebellion will not hamper relations between Russia and African countries. The paramilitary group will normally continue its operations in Mali and the Central African Republic, according to the Russian Foreign Minister. “Lavrov did not fail to recall that these two countries only turned to Russia and Wagner when they saw themselves abandoned”.
“When these countries found themselves face to face with the terrorist threat, the CAR and Mali asked the Wagner company to ensure the safety of their leaders”, stressed the minister, hammering the Western approach. Sergey Lavrov also clarified that apart from the links that unite them to the Wagner group, the two countries also have agreements with the Russian government. In the name of these agreements and at the request of these countries, “several hundred soldiers are working, for example in the CAR, as instructors”, observed the diplomat. It should be noted that the presence of Wagner has remained, for several months, a point of disagreement between the Central African Republic, Mali and France. In the countries where he is present, Wagner is the subject of numerous accusations of abuses and looting of resources.” https://www.afrik.com/wagner-continuera-action-mali-centrafrique
(Translated from French by IISWU)
Independent Online, one of South Africa’s leading news and information websites, published on June 29 the article “Zuma’s daughter supports Putin’s visit to SA for the BRICS Summit”, concerning the desire of some influential South African politicians to establish close ties with Russia.
“The daughter of former president Jacob Zuma, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, has been advocating for the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to come to South Africa amid vast criticism.”
“South Africa has been doing some political juggling with regards to the Russia-Ukraine issue. But Zuma-Sambudla said there were no two ways about it, calling for Putin to come to South Africa freely. “President Putin must come to SA and save us from those CIA agents in Richards Bay!,” Zuma-Sambudla tweeted”.
“Not only has Zuma-Sambudla called for Putin to come to South Africa, but she has also stated that she stands with Russia. Zuma-Sambudla has become a well-known activist in her own right and has become known for her political commentary on social media. South Africa had taken a neutral position in the war between Russia and Ukraine. But this stance had left the West feeling unsettled about the stance Pretoria had taken. Russia has been a long-standing ally of South Africa, with some links dating back to the Struggle against apartheid”.
“Meanwhile, the National Freedom Party condemned the recent suggestions of imposing sanctions against South Africa due to the decision not to arrest Putin upon his arrival in the country”.
“We firmly believe that such calls undermine the principles of sovereignty and stability, which are crucial for our nation’s economy and progress,” the party said. According to the NFP, it was essential to address the duplicity of the International Criminal Court in this matter. “While the ICC claims to promote justice and accountability, its actions often seem to be biased and influenced by external agendas,” the party said.”. https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/news/zumas-daughter-supports-putins-visit-to-sa-for-the-brics-summit-b265395f-352e-4209-a658-d296b50094f5
- International media targeting African audience on the prospects of Russian presence
Al Jazeera, a Qatari state-owned international news network, published on June 24 at its website the article “Wagner revolt in Russia dims outlook for its operations in Africa”, in which it is suggested that the Wagner Group might be compelled to diminish its activity in Russia if it loses the support of the Russian government.
”A revolt by the Wagner force in Russia poses a diplomatic quandary for Mali and Central African Republic (CAR), where forces from the mercenary group have played an increasingly central role in long-running internal conflicts.
As the Wagner fighters barrelled towards Moscow on Saturday after seizing a southern city overnight, spokespeople for the governments of Mali and CAR declined to comment on the turmoil and how it might affect their security strategies against armed groups.”
“Both countries have sought closer ties with Russia and military support to battle the armed fighters, saying in the past that their military cooperation agreements are with Russia rather than with Wagner. “[Wagner’s] presence in Mali is sponsored by the Kremlin and if Wagner is at odds with the Kremlin … naturally Mali will suffer the consequences on the security front,” said Malian political analyst Bassirou Doumbia. Mali, where military authorities seized power in coups in 2020 and 2021, is battling a years-long operation against armed groups affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. It has said Russian forces there are not Wagner mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment bought from Russia.”
“Wagner’s continued presence in Mali amid the continuing insurrection in Russia could prove problematic for Bamako’s relations with Moscow, which last year committed to send Mali shipments of fuel, fertiliser and food worth about $100m.
“[The] exact consequences for Mali really depend on factors largely unknown such as the organisational autonomy of Wagner and their chain of command, and, of course, whether things escalate or not between [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Wagner,” said Yvan Guichaoua, senior lecturer at the Brussels School of International Studies.”
“The power struggle in Russia could also have significant ramifications for CAR, where hundreds of Russian operatives, including many from Wagner, have been helping the government fight several rebel insurgencies since 2018.”
“Both CAR and Mali have been drawn increasingly into Russia’s orbit in recent years as the Kremlin sought greater influence in Francophone Africa to the dismay of former colonial power France, which has faced anti-French protests in the region and worsening relations with several West African governments.”
“In February, French President Emmanuel Macron described the deployment of Wagner troops in Africa as the “life insurance of failing regimes in Africa” that will only sow misery. A suspension of Wagner operations in Africa could impact the group’s finances. The United States last October accused the mercenaries of exploiting natural resource s in CAR, Mali and elsewhere to fund fighting in Ukraine – a charge Russia rejected at the time.” https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/6/24/wagner-revolt-in-russia-clouds-outlook-for-its-operations-in-afri
Africanews, a pan-African multilingual news network located in Lyon, France, published on June 28 the article “CAR: “Russia will continue to operate with or without Wagner”, says government official”, concerning the prospects of Russian military activity in the Central African Republic.
“Russia will continue to operate in the Central African Republic, either with the Wagner group currently fighting the rebellion alongside the army, or with another contingent, stated a senior official in the presidency of the central African state. This announcement comes shortly after the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, asserted that the paramilitary group who briefly rebelled against the Kremlin on Saturday will “continue” to operate in Mali and the Central African Republic, as instructors, according to Moscow”.
“Wednesday, first Vice-President of the Central African National Assembly, Evariste Ngamana, stated during an interview that “The situation in Russia in no way affects relations between the two countries”. The government official added that they are not opposed to the USA’s and France’s help in keeping order in the country.”
“Wagner’s operations in the Central African Republic can be traced back to 2018, when hundreds of Wagner fighters arrived in the country to train the local army, according to Moscow. Late 2020, President Touadéra, threatened by a rebel offensive on Bangui, called on Moscow to come to the rescue. More Wagner fighters landed, quickly driving the armed groups from most of the territory they controlled. Since then, the UN, international NGOs and Paris have accused the Russians, as well as the rebels and Central African soldiers, of abuses and crimes against civilians.” https://www.africanews.com/2023/06/28/car-russia-will-continue-to-operate-with-or-without-wagner-says-government-official/
The Conversation Africa, an international news website founded in Australia, published on June 28 the article “Wagner debacle in Russia raises red flags for African states and how they manage their security”, urging African governments to take the provision of national security in their own hands.
“The brief rebellion led against the Kremlin by the head of the Wagner mercenary forces in Russia last week sent shock waves across the world. This was no less true in Africa, where some countries have, over the last decade, turned to the Wagner group for security support. Many states in Africa are contending with multidimensional insecurity. This includes violent extremism, terrorism, insurgency, banditry, communal clashes, sea piracy, separatist violence, kidnapping and oil theft. Non-state actors have entered the scene as security providers.”
“African countries have come to depend on non-state actors like Wagner for security in three ways:
- co-option of militia groups by the state:
- the voluntary incursion of vigilante groups into the security space as service providers:
- state partnership with private military mercenaries.”
“Wagner’s involvement fits into the third category.
Wagner has been operating in over a dozen countries in Africa. In Mali, the state opted to partner with it for security provision.
This was prompted by heightened insecurity, diplomatic rows with the peace-keeping mission and the ejection of foreign counter-insurgency forces. In the Central African Republic (CAR), the mercenaries reportedly started operating in 2018. This was after the government and Moscow agreed to exchange Russian military support and weapons for mining concessions. In late 2020, CAR’s security situation deteriorated ahead of general elections. Wagner’s role switched from support and training to combat. In 2019 Wagner fighters were deployed to Mozambique to help contain Islamist militants operating in the northern Cabo Delgado province.”.
“In most, the country’s army is subordinate to the mercenary group. The rebellion by Wagner against the Kremlin shows the group can support discordant elements in weaker African states to subvert democracy. In addition, non-state armed groups could draw their cue from the Wagner group and become unaccountable to the military”.
“African countries that have invited the mercenary troops in should review their security architecture. This must begin with a decoupling of their security policies and operations from mercenaries and non-state security service providers”. https://theconversation.com/wagner-debacle-in-russia-raises-red-flags-for-african-states-and-how-they-manage-their-security-208605