April 2023

Quick Bite

“Regardless of the outcome of the Sudan conflict in the coming weeks/months, the military and logistical support offered by the Wagner group will not be lost on state and non-state actors”

The Sudan Conflict: Dissecting Wagner’s increasing influence

The Meat

The Sudan Conflict: Dissecting Wagner’s increasing influence

The Nigerian president assented to a series of constitutional amendments as part of his administration’s final act. Among the bills signed into law include amendments that empower states to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity as well as operate railways. A longstanding request, the recent amendments are likely to create new opportunities (and challenges) for the Nigerian economy and interested investors. This article sheds light on the electricity sector.

The State of Play

Sudan has been plunged into a series of civil conflicts following the end of Al Bashir’s 30-year rule. The coup, which had toppled Bashir, was faced with weekly protests by civilians who demanded a democratic transition. These protests threatened the country’s stability, drew international condemnation, and provided an excuse for a military coup in 2021 aimed at ensuring stability. Among the ruling council’s promises were a rapid return to democracy, and integration of the country’s paramilitary, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), into the regular army.

Less than two years after the coup, tensions rose between the leading figures of the ruling council; army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF’s commander General Hamdan Dagalo. Among the immediate causes of the tension include attempts at subordinating the leadership of the RSF vis-a-vis the regular army. Thus, following weeks of tensions, the army openly ordered the dissolution of the RSF. The latter, in turn, rebelled. In a little more than one week of fighting, both sides have captured strategic infrastructure, with casualty figures estimated at 500 and millions displaced. While the aforementioned description of events paints the picture of a local conflict, there is a worrisome international state and non-state dimension.

The (not so) local conflict: states vs Wagner Group

The RSF had been created and armed by Al Bashir as part of the strongman’s coup-proofing strategy against potential threats from the regular army. The RSF is an offshoot of the Janjaweed militia that fought in the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. However, following Bashir’s ouster, the RSF took on a life of its own. Of particular import is its close ties with Russia’s infamous mercenary organization; the Wagner Group.

Recent intelligence dispatches from the US and regional agencies show repeated arms inflow from the Wagner Group to the RSF, by air and land through the country’s southern border area. Among these are sophisticated air defence systems aimed at blunting the regular military’s air advantage. While Wagner’s presence in Africa is no longer news, its previous activities (Mozambique, CAR, Mali, etc) had been in support of the government, not against it. Sudan breaks the record, and that’s worrisome. Foremost, an elongated war in Sudan with well-armed combatants on both sides could trigger another Libya-style weapons proliferation drive across the Sahel; a region already crisscrossed by a network of violent non-state actors. This puts governments in the region, already in a tenuous position, under increased pressure, with consequences for regional stability. But this is nothing new.

Source: DW

Of particular concern is the Wagner Group’s increased foothold across the continent. While the group had previously acted “on the invitation” of host governments, its willingness to openly back a group against the sitting head of state in Sudan raises questions. The majority of African countries exhibit salient faultlines across ethnicity, religion, and other forms of identities. More so, numerous separatist groups, in addition to other non-state actors are increasingly active across the continent, including in resource-rich states and seemingly stable regional powers. Wagner’s willingness to back groups against host governments (with tacit approval from Russia, of course) could upstage the semblance of stability currently enjoyed in many parts of the continent. With the US already signaling its willingness to get “back in the game” and China facing increasing pressure on its investments and loans across the continent, the stage might be set for a deadlier re-enactment of cold war proxy politics among the world’s three leading powers. Wagner’s Sudan play might be the playbook for further engagements across the continent.  

Should Investors be worried?

Short answer, yes. Regardless of the outcome of the Sudan conflict in the coming weeks/months, the military and logistical support offered by the Wagner group will not be lost on state and non-state actors. And the group’s willingness to be on either side of national conflicts on the continent means that various separatist groups and other nonstate actors would likely seek the group’s support in their fight against central governments. The likely increase in the intensity of conflicts across the continent should be incorporated into the analysis of natural resource investments in key states, especially those with very active non-state actors.


The prognosis of Sudan’s conflict remains rather dim, especially with continued military support for both sides. However, beyond the high death tolls and displacement it is likely to wreak, the visible role of the Wagner group on the side of the opposition is likely to have far-reaching impacts across the continent, especially in resource-rich states. However, while the risks are likely to increase, the opportunities remain. Our team is well-placed to help existing and incoming investors navigate these uncertainties. Contact Us Today.

Crystal Ball

The BRICS group of nations is due to meet in August. While media reports have focused on the potential arrest of Putin, of greater importance is the increased interest in the group by key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Algeria. And its potential impact on the geopolitical equilibrium. We’re closely watching this.

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