The Wagner Group and State Capture in the Central African Republic

Frank Vogl (Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, co-founder of Transparency International, Chairman of the Partnership for Transparency Fund) highlights the importance of a new report from The Sentry, a human rights NGO, on the role played by the Wagner Group in state capture. You can read his further reflections on state capture in this review of the seminal article on the subject by Prof Liz David-Barrett.

Photo credit: Pexels/NothingAhead

Many of us engaged in issues related to corruption have long been concerned about state capture. I would encourage everyone who is interested in the subject to read the new report by The Sentry, Architects of Terror: The Wagner Group’s Blueprint for State Capture in the Central African Republic.

We have seen elsewhere how military forces have captured key institutions of government and secured major business interests at the same time – from Myanmar to Egypt, from Pakistan to Iran. We have seen how highly corrupt influential groups of businessmen have bribed top government officials on a scale that has enabled them to massively steal from the state – for example, Zuma and his associates in South Africa. In so many countries, we have also seen how men like Orban in Hungary and Erdoğan in Turkey, and many more, have methodically replaced government workers with sycophants, illicitly secured national media control, undermined institutional checks and balances in government and so, in effect, captured the machinery of the state. 

Few anti-corruption specialists have, however, adequately looked at the monstrous form of state capture pursued by Russia’s Wagner Group in a number of countries in Africa. Under the explicit authority of the Kremlin, Russian commanders have forged blunt deals with several national leaders under which they will secure these leaders in power in return for rights to vast natural resources. The methods that the Wagner Group deploys include massacres, routine rape, destruction of homes, and the terrorising of national military troops so that they perpetrate extensive horrendous crimes under the direction of Wagner’s commanders. 

The Sentry’s important report contains a number of recommendations, including the designation of Wagner Group as a terrorist organisation by concerned governments, and the creation of “a coalition similar to the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS – critically including African states – to counter the Wagner Group’s malign influence on the African continent and elsewhere”.

We should all consider the humanitarian, governance and security implications of what the Wagner Group is now doing in Africa. It is not too late to counter the atrocities that are unfolding and the state capture that the Kremlin is orchestrating. 

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