Wagner Group mercenaries “couldn’t take part and didn’t take part in any killings or lootings” in the Central African Republic, declared Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “This is yet another lie,” he added.
The issue came up in a UN Security Council meeting. France, Great Britain, and the United States accused Wagner Group mercenaries of committing atrocities in the Bangassou region of the Central African Republic in January and February 2021. Internal violence has plagued this country almost ever since it obtained independence in the 1960s. Although the warring factions signed a peace agreement in 2019, this violence continues. Incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadera won a second term, largely due to the Kremlin’s support, in a controversial December 2020 election. Most of the rebel groups are connected with former President Francois Bozize.
Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is allegedly the head of the mysterious Wagner Group, faces criminal charges in the United States for tampering with the 2016 elections. His companies have recently secured mining and other rights in the CAR.
What is at Stake in the CAR?
For much of the continent’s history, large empires have dominated Africa. Now, partially depending on what happens next in the Central African Republic, the next imperial era could be dawning.
Ancient Carthage, a city-state in modern-day Libya, rivaled the Roman Empire for several generations. Over the next thousand years or so, a number of African empires rose and fell. Most of these empires had their power centers in mineral-rich Central Africa. In the late 1800s, various European countries toppled these empires. These colonies dominated the continent until the 1960s, when an independence movement swept over Africa.
Now, there are signs of a new imperial era. Fundamentalist religious groups are very active in the mostly-Muslim north. ISIS, Boko Haram, and their ilk have not yet tried to form a political entity. But it has happened before, most notably in Iran in the late 1970s, and it could happen again.
In the mostly-Christian south, South Africa has always been prone to sneak across the neighbor’s borders, now and again for a little fun. Government-affiliated mercenaries are now fighting as far north as Mozambique. In British Colonial times, the Union of South Africa was about twice as big as it is today. Could those days be returning?
Apropos of nothing, the above link goes to an anti-apartheid song by the Ghanan/British singer Eddy Grant. The white minority South African government banned this song when it hit the airwaves in 1988. But it became a hit there anyway, and reached number 7 on the UK pop charts.
As for Central Africa, Russia is staking a claim there. This region has abundant goald, diamonds, oil, timber, and other natural resources. But the countries in this area, including the Central African Republic, consistently rank as some of the poorest nations on earth, mostly because of excessive corruption. That environment encourages revolution, and Russia is all too happy to answer the call.
There is not a single Russian soldier in Africa. Instead, the shadowy Wagner Group, a mercenary organization with strong Kremlin ties, does all the work. More on that below.
Right now, in the Central African Republic, government forces control most of the western part of the country. The Wagner Group makes this occupation possible. Various militias, many of them violently anti-Muslim, control most of the eastern half of the CAR. According to a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, fewer than twenty of the country’s 475-plus mosques are still standing.
What is the Difference Between Mercenaries and Private Military Contractors?
Neither the United States nor Russia have signed international protocols regulating mercenaries. That is because mercenaries are already illegal in the United States, and the Russians do not want to limit one of their most prized foreign policy blunt instruments.
The 1893 Anti-Pinkerton Act states that “An individual employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, or similar organization, may not be employed by the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia.” In the years immediately preceding this Act, many government agencies routinely hired Pinkerton Men, as well as other paramilitary groups, and used them as violent strike busters. Until 1978, the General Accounting Office interpreted this provision as a blanket ban on all paramilitary organizations.
Then, the GAO changed the rules and allowed the government to employ private contractors. These contractors are subject to U.S. law and their operational capacity is strictly limited.
Mercenaries like the Wagner Group have no such limits. They are not subject to Russian law and, since they are not technically state fighters, probably are not subject to international law either. Furthermore, the Wagner Group exists to expand Russian influence, not retain what it already has.
What PMC Injury Compensation is Available?
Wage replacement might be the most important Defense Base Act benefit. When contractors are injured overseas, their families usually lose their primary, or only, source of income. The resulting financial stress, along with unrelenting pressure from insurance adjusters, often forces these victims to settle their injury claims for pennies on the dollar.
Depending on the extent of the trauma injury or occupational disease, there are several types of wage replacement available, as follows:
- Temporary Total Disability: Generally, these injury victims cannot work as they recover. So, the DBA pays two-thirds of the victim’s Average Weekly Wage for the duration of a temporary disability, in most cases. The AWW includes regular cash and irregular non-cash compensation.
- Temporary Partial Disability: Many TTD victims “graduate” to the TPD category. As physical therapy progresses, these victims are often able to accept light duty assignments, liek file clerk or parking lot attendant. The DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the new and old incomes in these situations.
- Permanent Total Disability: Some victims are unable to work because of their disabilities. The D-word is not just a medical term. Some injuries are disabling for some people, largely depending on their educational and vocational backgrounds. These victims are usually entitled to compensation for lost future wages.
- Permanent Partial Disability: PPD victims are entitled to this same compensation. The amount of lost wages usually depends on the nature and extent of the injury or illness. For example, if Steve has a bad shoulder and is limited to 30 hours a week, he deserves compensation for those additional 10 hours a week.
Briefly, a fall is the most common kind of trauma injury. These wounds happen suddenly and without warning. In contrast, an occupational disease, like hearing loss, develops slowly over time.
For more information about other DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.