“Mercenaries: the influencers of war”: from Bob Denard to Evgueni Prigozhin, an investigation into private military companies

Their stock in trade is chaos: mercenaries

“Mercenaries: the influencers of war”: from Bob Denard to Evgueni Prigozhin, an investigation into private military companies

Their stock in trade is chaos: mercenaries. Some are lawless, like the Wagners. Others, private military companies, have rules to respect (such as not being in a combat situation). The teams of Martin Weill, reporter for “Quotidien” (TMC), went to one of their intervention sites, near Goma in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to investigate.

An ethnic conflict there has opposed the Congolese army and the rebels, supported by neighboring Rwanda, for three decades, explains the voiceover. For two weeks, these teams followed and filmed two French veterans and two Romanians under contract with the Congolese army. They report an exceptional report, firstly on the motivations of these men ready to risk their lives – two Romanians died during filming.

Then on the operations carried out, in particular the spectacular drone flight over a rebel camp, and the interview with Romanian colonel Horatiu Potra. “Governments should be very happy that a European company is there, which is not Wagner,” he said in very good French.

“Acts of torture”

The report in North Kivu serves as a common thread for the documentary, which looks back at the history of mercenaries since their appearance, nearly four thousand years ago, through the "legend" Bob Denard, at the origin of the anti-mercenarism law of 2003. Using archive images and testimonies from particularly competent speakers, the killing of September 6, 2007 in Baghdad is also deciphered, during which Erik Prince's Blackwater killed seventeen civilians.

Without rules to respect, the Wagner Group can deploy, in Central Africa, in the Sahel and, since 2018, in the Central African Republic, by seducing local populations and massacring. “There are acts of torture, bodies charred in anthills,” relates Daphné Benoit, AFP defense correspondent. Then the film details the journey of Wagner's boss, Evgueni Prigojine.

His death marks the start of a war of influence, based on lies. “Wagner has a very clear enemy, it’s the West,” says Ksenia Bolchakova, Franco-Russian journalist and 2022 Albert-Londres Prize winner. Videos of Wagner flood social networks with anti-French content: in a cartoon, heads of death articulate “We are Macron’s demons” with a Darth Vader voice; a Frenchman is represented as a rat, before ending up on the barbecue. Result: French flags burned.

“An obsolete model”

A new level was reached in Gossi, Mali, in April 2022, with the discovery of an alleged mass grave after the withdrawal of the French army. “The massacre is attributed by Wagner to French forces,” explains Ksenia Bolchakova. Until the French army published a video showing Russians crudely burying corpses.

After the Central African Republic, it is Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger which pass into the Russian sphere, recalls Martin Weill. “Our French model has become obsolete,” says Peer de Jong, former colonel and author. Let's face it... "Nothing personal, we do this for the money", we can read on the Wagner crest. In the current geopolitical and electoral context, this documentary provides essential keys to understanding.