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Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West?

Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West? Once again, the Sahel-Saharan zone is on the brink of conflagration. If these West African countries (ECOWAS) decide to intervene militarily to dislodge the Niamey putschists and restore constitutional order, it will be one of the worst crises in African history.

Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West?

The deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, was a great ally of the West, but the military junta that took power is waging a war of words with the Western powers, who are fighting to maintain their dominance not only in Niger, but in several African countries.

All this is happening at a time when Russia’s presence on the continent is growing – with increasing investment and military support from Moscow, as well as the increasingly frequent involvement of mercenaries from the Wagner group in local conflicts.

The West, particularly the United States, accuses Vladimir Putin’s government of interfering to derail democracy in some African nations, while seeking allies for its position in the Ukraine war.

“Our respect for the sovereignty of African states, their traditions and values, their desire to independently determine their own destiny and freely build relations with their partners remains unchanged,” wrote Mr. Putin in a statement issued in July this year on the occasion of the Russia-Africa summit, which brought together several leaders in St. Petersburg.

For Nigerian researcher Ebenezer Obadare, of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think tank, the power struggle between Russia and the West in Africa is a new chapter in the rivalry between these two poles of power, which intensified especially last year following the invasion of Ukraine.

“What Russia wants in Africa is what Western countries want too: diplomatic influence, influence over the economy and politics, projection of their power and influence,” he explains.

“There are no altruistic intentions, only political ones.”

The West, Russia and the Africans!

What is currently at play is far from being a simple ethnic or religious conflict. The West, which has vigorously rejected the coup d’état, suspects Moscow of pulling the strings.

According to Western theories, Vladimir Putin is seeking to open a new front in his all-out war against NATO through the Wagner militias, already well established in these countries. The master of the Kremlin would also seek to deprive his enemies, led by France, of their influence and vital natural resources, such as uranium.

According to experts, the actions of the two sides mainly take the form of aid, military presence and economic investment, as well as propaganda and cultural influence.

According to documents obtained by The Intercept, in 2019, the United States had 29 bases located in 15 countries or territories on the African continent.Another force with a strong presence is France. The European country, which once colonized the territories where Algeria, Senegal, Chad, Mali, Benin, Sudan, Gabon, Tunisia, Niger, Congo, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire are located today, maintains bases in Djibouti, Gabon, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.

British troops are also present in countries such as Djibouti, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Kenya. In the latter country, the British government maintains a permanent training center where military exercises are organized every year.

Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West

Tatiana Smirnova, a Russian researcher at the Université du Québec à Montréal and a specialist in Sahel politics, explains that the paramilitary organization’s presence is one of the main ways in which the Kremlin is expanding its presence not only in Mali, but also in several other countries on the continent.”

Russia is one of the main suppliers of arms to Africa, in particular to Egypt and Algeria. But in addition to this official security cooperation, there is the work of the Wagner Group and other private military companies”, explains Ms Smirnova.

In addition to Mali, Wagner is also very active in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique, Chad and Sudan. More recently, the US government accused the paramilitary group of “profiting” from the instability in Niger following the military coup.

The links between the mercenaries, the Kremlin and local political forces are hard to pin down. However, according to analysts, since the organization’s leader, Evgeniy Prigozhin, called for an uprising against the Russian army, it has become increasingly difficult to deny these links.”

We can now state with certainty that the Wagner group is supported and financed by Moscow.”

The power most affected by the coup in Niger? Nigeria, not France?

All too often, the foreign media overestimate the Western perspective. Indeed, apart from the African countries hit, the state perceived to be most affected by these military coups is France. However, all analyses emphasizing the decline of the French Republic’s strategic position on the African continent overlook the importance of geography.

Rather, it is Nigeria, which shares a border of over 1,500 kilometers with Niger, and not France, that is the power most affected by these anti-democratic developments in West Africa.

There is a long list of complex challenges facing the Nigerian state, including corruption in the oil industry and difficulties with development and security.

That said, Nigeria is a country of the rule of law and a young democracy that has survived a long history of military coups. Let’s be clear: despite its shortcomings, Nigeria is a regional power with demographic, economic and military clout unmatched by its West African neighbors, which is why Abuja is the cornerstone of ECOWAS.

Mauritania and Chad next targets for Algeria and Wagner

Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West

Algeria‘s decision to authorize Wagner’s growing presence in the Sahel is sparking intense debate as to the motivations and consequences of the Algerian strategy, especially as Mauritania and Chad could be the Russian paramilitary group’s next targets, after Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, according to Western experts.

At a time when the Sahel remains a zone of great turbulence, with its share of conflicts and terrorist threats, this strategic opening towards Wagner raises questions about Algeria‘s underlying interests and the potential repercussions of the Russian group’s presence on the regional balance.

One of the arguments put forward by the Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army (ANP), General Saïd Chengriha, in favor of Wagner’s involvement, is the need to reinforce capacities to combat independence groups and movements in southern Algeria and northern Mali.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is also keen to consolidate Wagner’s presence to strengthen economic and energy relations with Russia. Russian companies could potentially invest in infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects, creating long-term economic opportunities.

By allowing Wagner to establish itself in the Sahel, Algeria is also seeking to diversify its geopolitical alliances. For Algerian leaders, this move will serve as a counterweight to Western influences or other regional players.

The post Why is the Sahel/Africa becoming a battleground between Russia and the West? appeared first on Future Leaders Academy of Africa.



This post first appeared on Future Leaders Academy Of Africa, please read the originial post: here

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