In the aftermath of World War II, countless corners of the globe fell into a pit of proxy war vipers. On both sides, the United States and the former Soviet Union have sponsored propaganda, coups and outright violence.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, proxy conflicts have continued at a rapid pace. Take northern Nigeria, where Saudi religious authorities are funding Sunni movements in order to limit the spread and influence of Shiite minority movements. Or the rupture last summer between France and the United Kingdom inspired by the fishing rights around the island of Jersey. According to political experts, another cold war is already underway between the United States and China, as the superpowers vie for influence in smaller nations.
And guess what? Behind every proxy war hides an armed contractor or an army of mercenaries ready to profit from it. Because like startups, conflicts need external actors to survive. Today’s Daily Dose explores some of the proxy wars you’ve never heard of and the behind-the-scenes actors who fuel them.
– From the report of Eromo Egbejule
Long-running proxy wars
1 – Balochistan
A conflict that broke out since the 40s takes place in Balochistan, a mineral-rich region comprising parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. It occupies a strategic location on the Arabian Sea and has a high concentration of natural resources, such as oil, coal, gold, copper and gas reserves. This fueled sectarian struggles between the majority of Sunni Muslims and smaller groups of Shia Muslims and Hindus. Unsurprisingly, a layer of religious extremism has woven into the conflict between the Balochistan Liberation Army and Islamabad. During this time, New Delhi has been accused of financing secessionists in order to “”destabilize PakistanÂ»And coordinated a network of Baloch assets in India. The US decision to declare the BLA a terrorist group in 2019 has been seen as an attempt to coax help of Pakistan to deal with the situation in neighboring Afghanistan.
2 – Congolese
Since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, a massive refugee crisis afflicted the north and east of the Congo. Rwanda and Uganda have both been accused of supporting the rebel groups that fueled the crisis and of exploiting local reserves of gold and diamonds. As head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in the 1990s, current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who belongs to the Tutsi minority, led campaigns to rout a Hutu militia who were hiding in parts of the Congo. More recently, Kagame criticized Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni, his former friend and mentor, but even decades ago their armies were already in conflict.
3 – Angola
Of all the proxy conflicts that arose during the Cold War, perhaps the most significant was the Angolan Civil War, which spanned three decades before ending in 2002. While Cuba and the Union Soviet supported a Marxist coalition, the Angolan Liberation Movement, which was elected at independence in 1975, the US and Chinese governments have turned to other independence movements. Ethnic and ideological tensions were continually fueled by all sides as the struggle for political power and control over the country’s natural resources led to a resumption of hostilities in the 1970s. By the end of the war decades later, at least 1 , 5 million people are said to have perished.
Hidden proxy wars
1 – Iran v Saudi Arabia in Nigeria
The quarrel between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance is fueled in part by the religious differences of countries. Iran is largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world. This rift unfolded thousands of kilometers in northern Nigeria, an area that is home to more than 80-85 million Muslims, less than 5% of whom are Shia. Corn boosted by Iranian proselytes and Tehran’s funding of social projects in Nigeria since the 1979 revolution, Shiism has made converts. In 2015, prominent Shiite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was arrested when the Nigerian army massacred more than 300 of his followers. Three years later, the military slaughtered Shiite protesters again in Abuja, using a statement made by former US President Donald Trump to justify the killings. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a Sunni Muslim, has been accused of pursuing Saudi motives.
2 – France vs Russia in the Central African Republic
The history of the conflicts in the Central African Republic merges with the maneuvers of its former colonizer, France. Paris continues to influence trade, tax policy and electoral processes across Francophone Africa. In the Central African Republic, France has a long history of promoting its economic interests by operator ethno-religious conflicts. But now there is a new actor on the scene who is challenging his monopoly. In 2017, Russia gave a batch of weapons to the Central African Republic, a deal it used to sign a defense agreement with the country. This allowed Russia to bring in its own troops and even more ammunition, a move that led to a proxy war between Moscow’s private armies and the French government, which has a small standby force in the country.
3 – France vs United Kingdom Around the island of Jersey
No blood spilled here, but there is tension from the cargo. During the Brexit negotiations, fishing rights involving the UK and EU member states became a major sticking point. Disputes raged over the total allowable catches and how they should be allocated. In May, France accused the UK of failing to abide by Brexit agreements that defined the fishing rights of EU boats off the island of Jersey in the English Channel. In the same month, the United Kingdom intensified hostilities in deployment of two warships in Jersey. In response, France sent a maritime vessel and a military operations vessel. He then threatened to block the port and cut the electricity to the inhabitants of the island. Relations between the countries have since deteriorated following a botched submarine deal also involving Australia and the United States
4 – United States vs. China in Djibouti
from Djibouti geostrategic position Its proximity to the Middle East makes it an attractive transportation hub, especially given the conflicts plaguing neighboring Somalia and Eritrea. At least five countries including France, Italy and China have established military bases there. Djibouti’s openness to host bases belonging to a multitude of competing superpowers has placed it at the center of regional affairs and made it particularly important for two of these countries: the United States and China. Beijing’s economic ties in the form of infrastructure loans and other support across Africa have worried Washington for years. In 2016, China accepted a 10-year lease for its base; shortly thereafter, the United States signed one for two decades.
1 – Rapid Support Forces, Sudan
Created in 2013, the RSF is a Sudanese paramilitary force resulting from militias deployed by Khartoum during the war in Darfur. But that’s not where its activities stop. The group is mostly made up of the controversial Janjaweed militias who exported their capacities to insurgencies throughout the Sahel region. On 1,000 RSF soldiers involved in the second libyan civil war, supporting the rebel group called the Libyan National Army, which fought against the internationally recognized government of national accord. It has long been known that RSF was, and could still be, actively participate in the ongoing Yemeni civil war.
2 – Blackwater, United States
Perhaps the most famous and influential of all mercenary armies in recent times, Blackwater (aka Academi) received his first US government contract after the USS Cole bombing in 2000. Founded in 1997 by former Navy SEALs Al Clark and Erik Prince, it began as a private security company providing training support to law enforcement and military organizations. In 2004, it was one of three private military companies that received a Personal protection services around the world US State Department contract to provide protection to US and foreign officials in Iraq, for which he received hundreds of millions of dollars. Offer services to a number of Gulf States including United Arab Emirates, Blackwater was also involved in provide anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, one of the most dangerous sea routes in the world.
3 – Wagner Group, Russia
The Wagner Group is a local paramilitary organization reportedly used by the Russian government in conflicts where plausible deniability is required. Close ally of President Vladimir Putin appointed Yevgeny Prigojine is suspected of being one of the main backers of the Wagner Group and companies linked to it have been sanctioned by US authorities for funding the Internet Research Agency – famous for its role as a troll factory – which campaigned for meddling in the 2016 and 2018 US elections. The Wagner group’s first major battlefield appearance took place in Ukraine in 2014, where it assisted the Russian military in the annexation of Crimea. The group was also reportedly hired to supply mercenaries to Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and Sudan. In Mali, which signed a defense agreement with Russia two years ago, the transitional government about to collaborate with the Wagner group in the framework of a contract of 10.5 million dollars, to the chagrin of France.
4 – Executive results, South Africa
This private military enterprise has a dark history. Founder Eeben Barlow, a former lieutenant colonel of the South African Defense Force, earned his stripes by pursuing anti-apartheid fighters stationed across southern Africa. Executive Outcomes first gained notoriety in 1993 when he was engaged by the Angolan government to push back the rebel forces of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola and to train the troops of the Angolan army. In exchange for mining concessions, the group entered controversially the conflict in Sierra Leone in 1995 alongside the government. It also provided operational training and advice to Indonesian special forces in a hostage rescue operation held in the country’s West Papua province. Barlow also directed military operations against Boko Haram after the attack on the Islamist group removal of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014.
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