The Commander of the United Sates Africa Command, Army General Stephen Townsend, has said that mercenaries from Russia, Wagner, have been brought into the coup-ravaged country of Mali by the military leaders.
The US commander expressed worries that the Russian mercenaries would leave the country’s situation worse, adding that the same scenario played out in Sudan, Central African Republic and Mozambique.
Townsend stated this during a briefing on Wednesday at the US Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub, the transcripts of which were obtained by SaharaReporters on Friday.
The US commander when asked why military coups were on the rise in Africa, said he was not aware that any world power was behind the coups, except he was not clear about Russia.
The commander said, “I cannot tell you why there are so many coups. I’m not sure anyone really knows the answer to that. I think we’ve enjoyed nearly 20 years or so of very low numbers of coups or irregular or unconstitutional changes of government, but here in the last year we have seen a number of them and to include a number of attempted coups.
“So I don’t know why all that is, but I would – I would – my guess is that it has to do with insufficient governance, a lack of good governance, and corruption. You asked about the involvement of the Russians and the Chinese in these coups generally. We have not seen that – have not seen any involvement by the Chinese in any of these coups. I don’t think they’re doing that, furthering that or promoting those. With Russia, I think it’s a little less clear. I think I have received reports of Russian involvement at least in Sudan in the not too distant past.
“So I don’t know. I think the jury is out on that. I don’t think China is behind any of these coups and I don’t really think that Russia is the main animating force behind most of them, but the hand of Russia may be visible in one or two of these.
“With Mali, we have seen world condemnation of this coup, and that starts with African partners, international partners, and the U.S. Government. And the impact of the coup is a suspension of U.S. security assistance – this is required by U.S. law. When a military junta overthrows a civilian government, it’s required – and the U.S. determines that that action was a coup, then we’re required to stop all military-to-military security assistance, and we have done so. And I think this is going to have broader impacts on Mali as well.
“On the second part of your question: Wagner. We have observer the Malian junta bring Russian mercenaries into their country. They’ve invited them. They continue to deny this in public. But my information is pretty clear that they have brought in Wagner. We think they are on the ground in several hundred and expanding to some unknown number, and I have watched this Wagner – this is not the Russian military we’re talking about.
“These are mercenaries that happen to be from Russia. And I have watched this group of actors in Syria. I’ve watched them in Libya. I’ve watched them in Sudan. I’ve watched them in Central African Republic. And I’ve watched them in Mozambique. And they never leave the situation better than they found it. My experience is they will leave it much worse and they will also exploit the country at expense.
“The international partners there are providing support to Mali at no expense to the Government of Mali, but that’s not the case with Wagner. So I don’t have a lot of time for Wagner. I think they are a bad presence and they are not going to contribute to stability and security in Mali in the long run.
“And then on your third part of your question on Burkina Faso, I think we’re still – the U.S. Government is still evaluating what has recently happened in Burkina Faso. I believe that the ECOWAS and the African Union are also evaluating that. We will want to probably judge what African neighbours say about it before the U.S. makes its determinations.”