Mark Collins – Canadian Forces into Africa with UN for Three Years: Where? (hint Mali plus…)

Further to this post (note Senegal as logistics hub in “Comments”),

RCAF Chinook Helos for UN Peacekeeping Mali? Canadian Army?

the national defence minister gives a timeline and some details of types of mission but not yet where–and sensibly makes clear that new “peace operations” will not be like “traditional peacekeeping”:

Canada committed to three-year deployment in Africa
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada has committed to a three-year deployment in Africa that will be reassessed each year to ensure it has an “enduring” impact.

Canadian troops headed to Africa will operate in dangerous territory where peacekeepers have been killed, says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

In an exclusive interview with the Star from Vancouver Sajjan said Canada has committed to a three-year deployment that will be reassessed each year to ensure it has an “enduring” impact.

It will be spread among a number of unspecified African countries, have a major focus on training and increasing “capacity” of the host nation as well as other countries’ troops, and build on existing social, economic and deradicalization programs on the ground.

“These missions, all of them, have the level of risk where peacekeepers have been hurt, they have been killed. And we’ve been looking at the risk factor in a very serious way,” said Sajjan.

Asked about his approach to deploying Canadian forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations — something the previous Conservative government was keen to avoid in Africa when it turned down requests to deploy soldiers to Congo and Mali — Sajjan said “some of it is going to be the reduction of radicalization in certain areas, in other parts it will be developing the capacity of the host nation [i.e. Mali].”

Just back from Mali, which hosts the deadliest United Nations mission in the world right now, Sajjan says it’s clear there are risks there. He said the same risks exist in the other African missions under consideration by the Liberal government.

But, he added, there are also risks to Canada of doing nothing to counter insurgent groups that are terrorizing populations and radicalizing new recruits, and suggested he and the Liberal government have made this clear to Canadians from “day one.”

“This is not the peacekeeping of the past — we need to look at what the challenges are of today and develop the peace operations for today’s challenges.”

After having travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia in late summer, and Senegal and Mali in the past week — Sajjan said he believes the UN mandate for and rules of engagement with hostile forces are “robust” enough to address the risks, particularly in Mali. The UN mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, has seen 106 casualties since it was established in 2013, including 69 from “malicious acts.”

“One thing I did learn, the mandate for the mission is robust so there no concern that our troops would be limited in any way,” said Sajjan. “I had a very direct conversation with the political leadership of the UN and the force commander about that, and the safety of our troops is always paramount.”..

Sajjan stressed that a big part of the federal analysis underway — as he, two other federal ministers, and military and civilian fact-finders have travelled to Africa — is examining how Canada’s contribution of some 600 soldiers and up to 150 police can have a maximum impact, whether it’s through military training, building on economic development programs and opportunities like on the “agriculture side” in Mali, or combating sexual violence, including by UN peacekeeping troops…

Sajjan said Canada is looking at spreading its various contributions — military, police and civilian — among a number of UN missions [see list here], not African Union-led missions, in Africa. But it will support African Union efforts at the same time…

Right now, he said, much of the public attention is on exactly where soldiers will be sent.

But he said Canadians should expect a broader mission that could see troops sent to one end of Africa while other elements of Canada’s contribution will be sent to a different part. He said there are troop and police training centres across Africa, and “a small number of troops or even RCMP can have significant impact in other areas, to make a training centre far more effective.”..

Sajjan said the government has “narrowed” the ultimate destinations for its Canadian mission, but did not tip his hand on his preference.

He said there is nothing to be read into the countries he’s travelled to, nor the fact that he recently went to Mali, saying he couldn’t fit it into the earlier trip to central and East Africa. Although he has not travelled to the Central African Republic, Darfur, or South Sudan, Sajjan said he has addressed the same questions around those missions at meetings in Ethiopia late summer.

He said the decision on where to dispatch Canada’s peace support mission is expected to be finalized by the federal cabinet before end of year [emphasis added]…

So a Schwerpunkt in Mali with several penny-packets elsewhere it seems.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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6 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Canadian Forces into Africa with UN for Three Years: Where? (hint Mali plus…)”

  1. MND Sajjan rather got ahead of himself on three-year commitment to African peace operations mission:

    Meanwhile South Sudan, where there is the very small Canadian OpSOPRANO as part of UNMISS,
    http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/operations-abroad-current/op-soprano.page

    is getting worser and worser:

    Mark Collins

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