Top US General warns Russia using mercenaries to access Africa's natural resources

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Washington (CNN)Russia is using mercenaries and arms sales to gain access to Africa's natural resources, the top general overseeing US military operations in Africa said Thursday.

"By employing oligarch-funded, quasi-mercenary military advisors, particularly in countries where leaders seek unchallenged autocratic rule, Russian interests gain access to natural resources on favorable terms," Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of US Africa Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee in prepared written testimony.
"Some African leaders readily embrace this type of support and use it to consolidate their power and authority. This is occurring in the Central African Republic where elected leaders mortgage mineral rights -- for a fraction of their worth -- to secure Russian weapons," he wrote.
    "They want to have influence on the continent," Waldhauser told the committee Thursday when asked about Russia's activities in Africa.
    "I would just point to the Central African Republic right now where the Wagner group has about 175 trainers, where some of the individuals are actually in the President's cabinet and they're influencing the training as well as the same time having access to minerals in that part of the country," Waldhauser said, referring to the Russian military contracting firm that has been linked to operations in Syria.
    Russia's role in the Central African Republic came to the forefront after three Russian journalists were shot and killed there last year.
    The journalists had traveled to the African nation in July 2018 to investigate the activities of Russian private military contractors and to find out how the contractors were involved in exploiting the Central African Republic's mineral wealth.
    "With minimal investment, Russia leverages private military contractors, such as the Wagner Group, and in return receive political and economic influence beneficial to them," Waldauser wrote.
    "Recently, the President of the Central African Republic installed a Russian civilian as his National Security Advisor. The President also promised the armed forces would be deployed nationwide to return peace to the count