Abstract: Focusing on Wagner Group (WG) forces, liberal interveners too readily dismiss the scope of WG’s Africa engagements, including economic and political “flows” that, in combination, challenge liberal interveners’ taken-for-granted access in several states on the African continent. Operationalising the notion of “flows,” we present an analysis that foregrounds both the scope of WG’s Africa engagements and the challenges. We portray WG as a broad enterprise by attending to military, economic, and political flows. This broadening is relevant to how WG is understood to challenge liberal interveners. Besides country-specific challenges to liberal interveners’ access (notably in states where they have been asked to depart or co-exist with WG), a broader reading of WG’s Africa presence also foregrounds challenges at a different level, namely to liberal interveners’ assumptions about the inevitable attractiveness of the liberal international order. A liberal order that Russia has utilised WG’s Africa presence to contest. As such, challenges at the level of liberal order go beyond WG’s Africa presence and must, therefore, be viewed alongside other challenges to liberal intervention and order, from the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If liberal interveners’ missteps and historicity, as well as the scope of WG’s Africa engagements, remain underappreciated, then various challenges specific to the WG, but also broader challenges to liberal interveners’ assumptions about liberal order as self-evidently attractive, are too readily dismissed. Liberal actors’ dismissiveness may invite misguided responses and unintentionally become an enabling factor for WG’s influence in Africa.
Keywords: Africa; flows; liberal intervention; liberal order; Wagner Group