In exchange for their work, the group was granted direct access to the natural resources of the Central African Republic, according to Sorcha MacLeod, a member of the UN task force on the use of mercenaries.
“We received information in the Central African Republic that the Wagner group was being paid in mining concessions,” he said.
Trading in natural resources gives Wagner and Russia a way to evade sanctions imposed since the start of the war in Ukraine last February.
And now, despite Wagner sending tens of thousands of fighters to the war in Ukraine, many of them former prisoners, there has been no exodus of the group from Africa. Instead, there has been a «doubling down of Wagner’s presence» and expansion into other countries, MacLeod said.
The mercenary group is operating in a volatile environment. The Central African Republic has suffered a series of coups and failed governments since it gained independence from France in 1960. The latest coup in 2013, in which Christian and Muslim militias clashed with each other, was organized by Séléka, a coalition of rebel groups.
A UN peacekeeping mission has not ended the violence and in fact that hundreds of your soldiers have been sent home after allegations of sexual abuse.
mines and mercenaries
Wherever Wagner has gone, accusations of widespread and unchecked human rights abuses, including executions, rape and torture, have followed.
Although Touadéra never used the word Wagner, the Sewa Security Services and the Union of Officials for International Security operate in the Central African Republic on behalf of the mercenary group. according to the US Treasurythat has sanctioned them.
Before the interview with Touadéra, an NBC News crew saw two of Wagner’s top representatives in the country, Vitaly Perfilev and Dmitry Sytii, escorting a Russian television crew into the president’s offices. Profilev He has been sanctioned by the European Union for being «responsible for serious human rights abuses» while working for Wagner in the country.
NBC News, in collaboration with a US-based investigative and advocacy group. the sentinelinvestigated Wagner’s role in seizing control of the Ndassima gold mine in the center of the nation and turning the site into a large-scale operation with the potential to net the group hundreds of millions of dollars in profit.
Officially, the Russian “instructors” were tasked with driving the rebels out of the area by 2021. However, witnesses and official reports accuse the group of targeting civilians, some of whom had been involved in small-scale or “artisanal” mining. » In the area. area.
According to The Sentry, Wagner violently seized control of Ndassima.
A 25-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld for her protection, told NBC News that her husband had been working in the mine when Russian fighters ordered him out in the fall of 2021.
“When they came, they presented documents saying that it was the government of our country that gave them permission and that this territory now belongs to them,” he said. «They didn’t say with their own mouth that they were Russian, but we knew they were Russian.»
After her husband refused to leave and quit his job at the mine, she said, he was shot dead along with seven colleagues.
“They came for our wealth, for our gold,” he said. “They already started killing our husbands because of the wealth of our own country.”
NBC News was unable to independently verify the specific account, and travel to the areas around the mines can be dangerous. In 2018, three Russian journalists were killed in the Central African Republic while investigating Wagner, the team’s editor at the Center for Investigative Control said. (The newsgroup, backed by prominent anti-Putin activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky, shut down after the journalists’ deaths.)