Canada attempts to regain peace image

Making amends for the Somalia mess is not the only motive for sending soldiers to Africa again, writes Hugh Winsor

Ottawa -The Canadian government, anxious to regain the initiative in United Nations peace-keeping operations and to take advantage of its experience in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, has offered to take the lead role in organising a small military force to act as a disaster- assistance response team in eastern Zaire.

The Canadian forces are prepared to send a lightly armed mobile unit of French-speaking officers with previous experience of UN peace-keeping operations in Rwanda immediately as a vanguard unit for a larger UN force.

The Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, contacted 15 world leaders over the weekend, urging support for such a force. "Prime Minister Chretien decided that the urgency of the situation required some action," a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department said yesterday.

The Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, called off a visit to Cairo for a Middle East economic conference in order to work full-time on the force.

The Canadian motivation is a mixture of altruism and a desire to refurbish a reputation for UN peace-keeping that was stained by several incidents in Somalia. In one case, a group of Canadian soldiers tortured and beat to death a 16-year-old Somali youth caught attempting to steal from the Canadian compound. There were also two questionable shooting incidents in which Somalis were killed.

Canada's record on UN peace-keeping goes back to the aftermath of the Suez Crisis in 1956. Lester Pearson, then Secretary of State for External Affairs and later Prime Minister, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for initiating the UN peace-force concept.

That Canadian forces operate in both French and English is seen as an advantage in this part of Africa. Also, Canadian generals commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (Unamir) force during the upheaval in 1994. The current initiative is also related to frustrations left from that period when Canadian commanders wanted to increase the Unamir force and intervene to stop the killings. Instead, the Security Council reduced the Unamir force and UN headquarters ordered the peace- keepers not to intervene.

Apart from political motivations, the Canadian government has also come under pressure from several of the Canadian-based humanitarian agencies which played key roles in the Zairean refugee camps before they were forced to flee by the current fighting.

Canadian missionary organisations, especially the Roman Catholic White Fathers, have been active in the area, founding a university in Rwanda, for instance. They have links with both the refugees and the current leadership in Rwanda and Burundi.

There is also a desire to back up the work of Raymond Chretien, the Prime Minister's nephew, who has been designated the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and who is now in Kinshasa.

One of the leaders of the Canadian initiative is Robert Fowler, the Canadian representative at the United Nations, who was Deputy Minister of National Defence when the Canadians headed the Unamir and who was a teacher in Rwanda before he joined the foreign service.

Canada believes that by taking the initiative it can overcome obstacles that have brought Franco-Spanish proposals to a standstill. In particular, there is resistance to French participation, because the Rwandan government, led by the Rwandese Patriotic Front, resents the French alliance with the former Hutu government. It was the creation of Zone Turquoise in the south-west sector of Rwanda two years ago, protected by French forces, which permitted leaders of the Interahamwe militia responsible for the massacre of Tutus to escape to Zaire.

Canada's initial group would be an advance team of 180 to 200 men specialising in communications, a mobile field hospital and a water-purification system. Unconfirmed reports said that Canada was prepared to commit up to 1,500 troops but was counting on help from other Western countries, especially the United States which has the airlift capacity to get the Canadians with their equipment and their Grizzlies - lightly armoured wheeled scout cars - to Goma quickly. The Canadian contingent to Unamir created an extensive micro- wave communications network in Rwanda which could be reactivated and extended into Zaire.

Suggested Topics
News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Higher Level Teaching Assistants in Bradford and West Leeds

£65 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are currently seeking Higher L...

EYP

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Job opportunity for an Early years ...

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories