“Wagner representatives and possibly Prigozhin himself arrived in Mali on August 19 possibly to discuss the regional security situation or cooperation with Niger,” ISW reported citing Wagner-affiliated sources.
It added that there is footage in which Prigozhin claims to be in Africa and claims that Wagner is increasing its presence in Africa.
The think tank also reported citing insider sources that “Prigozhin began a media campaign to portray Nigeriens as begging for Wagner’s intervention in order to help Wagner secure a contract with Niger and thereby save Wagner.”
“Wagner likely has thousands of personnel to dedicate to operations in Africa if Wagner is able to both secure a contract and deploy personnel from Russia and Belarus, actions that Prigozhin may see as Wagner’s final option to maintain its independence from the Russian MoD,” ISW contended.
Furthermore, the think tank said there is likely a Russian “information operation to exaggerate the degree to which Wagner is struggling to survive, possibly in support of the Russian ministry of defense’s effort to destroy Prigozhin’s reputation and the whole Wagner Group.”
ISW stressed that it has “observed indicators that the Wagner Group is struggling to maintain coherence, including recent reports of conflict within the Wagner high-level representatives.” However, it pointed that the Russians “may be exaggerating the degree to which Wagner is struggling… especially if reports of Prigozhin’s travel to Africa are accurate and his reported efforts to secure contracts for Wagner are successful.”
The think tank posited that “if Wagner is able to secure contracts in Africa and deploy its personnel before the Russian ministry of defense can deploy personnel, then Prigozhin and Wagner may retain at least some ability to operate independently in Africa contrary to the MoD’s efforts to eliminate Wagner.”
Prior to the short-lived mutiny led by Prigozhin, Wagner Group has seen its presence significantly grow across Africa in the past decade. It has been involved in multiple African countries, including Libya, Sudan, CAR, and Mozambique, among others. Its activities typically range from providing security and military advice to local governments, training local forces, to direct involvement in combat situations.
In the Central African Republic, Wagner Group has been instrumental in providing security to the embattled government and helping it combat the rebellion. Similarly, in Libya, the group has been implicated in fighting on behalf of General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army, illustrating its willingness to engage in combat roles.