Canada commits to deploy forces in peacekeeping mission in Mali

An U.N. peacekeeper for MINUSMA patrolling the village of Bara in North-Eastern Mali. An U.N. peacekeeper for MINUSMA patrolling the village of Bara in North-Eastern Mali. UN/Harandane Dicko

28 March, 2018

The Canadian government has finally confirmed its intentions to contribute to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

On 19 March 2018, Canadian officials released an official statement regarding its intentions to contribute to MINUSMA, with aerial and terrestrial support starting August 2018. This news has been long awaited, ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared in 2016 the Canadian government’s intentions to send 600 troops and 150 police officers to support peace operations around the world. Despite this declaration, Canada’s involvement in peacekeeping operations is at its lowest point since it first became involved in peace missions in 1956. In fact, the National Defence reports that only 22 Canadian soldiers were deployed in four U.N. missions in February 2018.

The interventions promised by Canada last week are significantly less than initially expected. The support will be aerial and terrestrial, consisting of six helicopters – two Chinook CH-147-F transport and four CH-146 Griffon attack helicopters – and 250 support troops, to support  the French, Dutch and German troops already operating on the ground in Mali. This operation will marka new chapter for Canada’s intervention in Africa, which was terminated in the 1990s following the tragic experiences of the Rwandan genocide and the mission in Somalia. The operation will also mark a renewed commitment by Canada to act on the 2015 Security Council Resolution to increase the number of women deployed in peacekeeping operations. Meanwhile, the Conservative opposition in Canada has accused Trudeau of risking the lives of Canadian soldiers  to improve Canada’s chances of winning a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

There has been conflict in Mali for several decades, with clashes between extremist Islamic groups and separatist groups, mainly Toureg, who are fighting for the independence of the Northern region of Azawad. The violence peaked between 2012 and 2014, when a peace agreement was finally signed between the major warring parties.  MINUSMA has recently been described as the deadliest peacekeeping operation in history, with 162 peacekeepers killed since 2013. The mission was established by Security Council Resolutions 2100 and 2164 in 2013 and 2014, the latter with a broader mandate for the protection of civilians.. In 2017, the mandate was extended until the end of June 2018.

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