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Russia growing presence across Africa; Arms and Mercenaries Deals

by Felix Omondi
russia mercernaries

Russia has in the past few years been actively seeking out to create and maintain trade deals with countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Moscow has been going after trade deals, most of which deal with security, arms, defense, and mineral resources.

Russia’s hand in Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) has particularly come under intense speculations. That is because the two countries are currently embroiled in political turmoil with the ruling government facing stiff competition and threat of being run over by the opposition.

Russian Mercenaries in Sudan and CAR

In Sudan, there have been widespread anti-government protests that often turn out to be violent. The citizens are accusing the government of the day of mismanaging resources and in the midst of this intense atmosphere. There are accusations being leveled that Russian private military contractors have been advising and helping the Sudanese government forces in dealing with the protests and opposition.

In CAR, Russia has been establishing trade deals with the UN-backed government. However, the trade deals mainly entail arms, security forces advisory, and mercenaries. The lid on Russia’s clandestine activities in CAR was blown in July 2018 when three journalists from Russia were killed while on duty investigating mercenary activities in the country.

Russia is now trying to play down the large-scale mercenary activities it has in CAR. However, analysts say Russia’s private military forces often play an important role for the country, wherever Moscow wants to establish its influence.

At one press conference held in December 2018, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin was asked to comment about the large mercenary groups’ operation and he said such private military contractors had the right “to push their business interest in any corner of the planet.”

Russia is nothing like the former Soviet Union

Russia used to have a lot of influence and presence in Africa during the prime years of the Soviet Union. However, with the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union with the end of the Cold War, the country simply withdrew from the continent.

It now appears Russia wants to rekindle relations with Africa, but analysts say it simply does not have the resources it once did as the Soviet Union. Especially when it is going up against the likes of China, India, and Indonesia. China, for one, has a lot of resources and can easily establish trade relations in Africa since they have the funds to give African countries seeking to build infrastructure.

Russia is therefore left to cut out a niche within the opportunities available in Africa. That mostly entails arms deals and military aid. Russia has a lot of military weapons, vehicles, and skills. African countries can affordably acquire some of these military weapons and vehicles and contract private militaries for training and even help.

Most of the weapons Russia is selling to Africa are second-hand but refurbished. They are of good quality and effective in combat. Though Russia has come under criticism of selling arms and giving military aid without the moral responsibility of ensuring the government they are supporting is following international best practice like respect to human rights and justice

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