Security, peacekeeping hot topic at PM’s first summit of la Francophonie
By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau has returned from his first visit to Africa as prime minister, but the issue of security on the continent will continue to dominate as he prepares to reveal the location for the promised UN peacekeeping mission.
By The Canadian Press
“It is a question that needs to be taken seriously, based on facts and engagement with our allies and our partners,” Trudeau said Sunday in Antananarivo, Madagascar, where he led the Canadian delegation to the summit of la Francophonie.
Trudeau has tasked Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who recently travelled through Africa on a fact-finding mission, with preparing a recommendation on where Canada should deploy up to 600 troops and about 150 police officers it has promised to contribute _ at a cost of $450 million _ to a UN peacekeeping mission.
“We need to make sure that Canada is having the best possible impact and that’s what Canadians expect a government to take seriously,” said Trudeau, who said to expect a decision within the coming days or weeks.
That was his way of telling everyone to wait and see, but it did not stop those at the summit from raising the issue.
Michaelle Jean, the secretary-general of la Francophonie, said it was essential for the members of the organization, which includes 31 countries in Africa, to discuss how to make peacekeeping operations more effective through greater co-operation between countries and better co-ordination of their actions.
“We could not discuss growth, discuss development, without evoking the necessity of also working towards more security and better stability,” Jean, the former governor general, said at the closing news conference.
The Antananarivo Declaration that was reached by consensus at the summit includes a resolution reaffirming the desire of la Francophonie to encourage the participation of French-speaking personnel in peacekeeping operations deployed in French-speaking countries.
Roch Marc Christian Kabore, the president of Burkina Faso, raised his own experience with UN peacekeeping missions in Darfur and Mali, the latter being one of the countries seen as a strong contender for a Canadian mission.
Kabore said his country had negotiated with the UN to bring home some of its own troops from a mission in Darfur to deal with domestic security issues that came to a head in January with terrorist attacks on a luxury hotel and cafe in the capital of Ouagadougou.
Six Canadians were among the 30 killed in the attack, for which the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility.
Kabore also said his government asked the UN to move some of their troops taking part in the dangerous mission in Mali _ where more than 100 blue helmets have been killed since the mission began in April 2013 _ to areas near the border with Burkina Faso.
“The challenge for African peacekeeping teams is always the issue of training and the issue of adequate equipment,” said Kabore.
Earlier this month, Abu Khare, a top UN official in charge of peacekeeping logistics around the world, said Canadian combat troops and helicopters are urgently needed in Mali to protect and transport peacekeepers as they make perilous journeys to the north of the West African nation.
While the Trudeau government did not reveal the destination for the Canadian contribution, it did announce $112.8 million for international assistance projects on climate change, skills development, economic growth and the empowerment of women and security in Africa and Haiti.
That included two smaller projects dealing directly with counter-terrorism and the prevention of radicalization leading to violence, including $300,000 for greater police presence and capacity along the borders in northern Niger in order to help mitigate the spread of terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa.
Another $200,000 was allocated for a research initiative that would help develop programming to combat violent extremism in Diffa, a region in southeastern Niger that has been rocked by attacks from the terror group Boko Haram.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016