The twenty-first century has seen significant changes in the global geopolitical and geopolitical situation, as well as in the type and dynamics of warfare. The most common type of war so far has been the inter-state war, that is, the war between one or more sovereign states and one or more sovereign states. But the most common type of warfare today is ‘interstate’ warfare or ‘civil war’. And these civil wars are becoming increasingly complex. Every civil war involves the internal parties of a state as well as foreign armed forces, international military alliances, militias created by foreigners or various international militant groups.
Mercenaries simply refer to mercenaries who fight for a state or an institution or an individual in exchange for money. This system has been around since ancient times. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, especially in the context of the Iraq war, the US mercenary group ‘Blackwater’ (now called ‘Academy’) gained special notoriety.
Under Russian law, the creation and operation of such mercenary groups in Russia is a criminal offense. That’s why Russian mercenary groups usually register somewhere outside of Russia. According to the Russian government, they have no connection with the Wagner group. But the idea is that the Wagner group coordinates its activities closely with the Russian Ministry of Defense. These facilities include providing opportunities for Russian companies to extract natural resources from the region.
African states include Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Mozambique. Wagner’s group has faced both success and failure on these battlefields. Similarly, the Turkish invasion of Libya in 2020 forced them to retreat from Tripoli. But in both Syria and Libya as a whole, they have so far successfully implemented the Russian government’s goals. The battlefield is the southeastern African state of Mozambique.
Rebellion has been raging in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province since 2016, which is now in full swing. Mozambique is predominantly a Christian state, but about 16% of the state’s population is Muslim. 62,625 sq. Km. The majority of Muslims are in the province of Cabo Delgado, which has a population of about 2.3 million. Muslims make up 52.5% of the province’s population. The province is located in the north of Mozambique, and has huge reserves of ruby and natural gas. The main partners in the project are the US company ExxonMobil and the French company Total.
In 2016, the local militant group Ansar al-Sunnah rebelled against the government in the province. The revolt has had a religious character from the beginning, but according to analysts, religion is not playing a major role in the revolt.
Historically, Mozambique’s armed forces are weak, poorly trained, and lightly armed. Therefore, it was not possible for them to bring this rebellion under control. Initially, the militants carried out attacks on local civilians and installations, but avoided clashes with the Mozambican armed forces. Gradually the militants gained strength and at some point they started attacking the armed forces as well. Gradually the situation spiraled out of the control of the Mozambican government and the Mozambican military failed miserably to suppress the militants. In this situation, Mozambique is trying to get help from outside.
They decided to hire foreign mercenaries to train Mozambican troops and assist in the conduct of the war. Initially they were thinking of selecting experienced American and African mercenary groups for the job. The US mercenary group ‘Academy’ supplied Mozambique with two helicopters and helicopter crew and they took part in the ongoing battle in Cabo Delgado. But in the end, the Mozambican government selected Wagner’s group for the job.
Russia has historical ties with Mozambique. After Mozambique became independent, it became a proto-communist state and became embroiled in a complex cycle of the Cold War. Soon after independence, civil war broke out between the Mozambican government and Western-backed rebels, and the Mozambican government received support from the Soviet Union. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian-Mozambican relations became increasingly limited.
But in recent years Russia has sought to exert influence in Africa, and as part of this effort they have also strengthened their ties with Mozambique.
The Wagner Group had no prior experience conducting operations in southern Africa. On the other hand, US and African mercenary groups have extensive experience in this field. But despite the inexperience of the Wagner group, the Mozambican government chose them. The main reason was, of course, financial. But in the case of the Wagner Group, the per capita expenditure of the Mozambican government was ৮ 1,600 to ৭ 4,800. Naturally, the Mozambican government was willing to work cheaply with the Wagner group.
In September 2019, a group of 180 to 200 Wagner members flew the Russian Air Force’s Antonov An-124 to the northern Mozambican port of Nakala. They were accompanied by 2 ‘Mill Mi-17’ transport helicopters, 1 ‘Mill Mi-24’ attack helicopter, truck and other military equipment. Shortly after arriving in Mozambique, Wagner’s group members launched an operation against the Cabo delgador militants.
But Wagner’s group members had several weaknesses. They had no experience of campaigning in this part of Africa. They had no idea about the local culture and traditions and they did not master the local language. In this situation they took part in the war against a militant group whose power was growing.
After all, Wagner’s group members could not properly coordinate their activities with the Mozambican Armed Forces. Not knowing the local language was a big reason, but there were other reasons as well. They did not trust the Mozambican soldiers and accused them of lack of discipline. Mozambican soldiers, on the other hand, were furious with Wagner’s group members for their “hegemonic” behavior. As a result, in several cases Mozambican troops refused to participate in operations conducted by Wagner group members.
On the other hand, at this time Wagner’s group was ready for a new war. They changed their tactics and tried to understand the local military and political situation. In addition, they collect unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and state-of-the-art military data analyzer equipment to monitor militants. At the same time they began cooperating with South African mercenaries in conducting operations against militants. So far, Wagner’s group members have been based in the town of Mosiambo da Praia in the province of Cabo Delgado, and in the surrounding Nakala and Namialo areas.
The war in Cabo Delgado continues in 2021. So far, fighting has been raging between the Mozambican Armed Forces and IS militants for control of the city of Palma. IS in Mozambique is becoming increasingly powerful. The United States recently deployed members of the U.S. Army Special Forces to Mozambique to train Mozambican troops.
Currently the situation in Mozambique is no less complicated than in Syria, Libya or Yemen. In other words, the situation in Mozambique is now literally ‘ha-ya-ba-ra-l’. Of course, other mercenary groups, including the Wagner group, will benefit. Because the longer this war lasts, the wider and more profitable the presence of mercenaries in Mozambique will become.