Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan stated that he will soon announce how many soldiers the government plans to send on a peacekeeping mission in Africa.
At the tail-end of his tour in Africa, Sajjan told reporters on Monday that though the location has not been decided, soldiers will be sent in for a “long duration” in Africa.
“One thing is for certain, that when we commit our troops, we’re going to have a meaningful impact,” said Sajjan in a press conference Monday.
Sajjan concluded a week-long fact-finding mission in Africa today. The minister visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Though nothing is concrete yet, one thing is for sure, says Sajjan, that the mission will go beyond traditional peacekeeping and will include capacity building.
“The nature of conflict has changed, it’s not peacekeeping anymore.
“We need to understand the nexus between radical groups, organized crime and conflicts and the political situation as well because we have to be very, let’s put it this way, blunt in some areas. The political situation is not supporting. We need to make sure that the people are actually being looked after, that conflict is not being used as a method to maintain power in certain areas,” stated Sajjan.
Sajjan also reiterated that a peacekeeping mission in Africa is vital to the stability of not only the region but the entire world.
“I think it’s very important for Canadians to, and the rest of the world to know that the challenges and the absolute atrocities that are being committed in Africa.
“We need to deal with these challenges in Africa, otherwise, the situation is going to get much worse in other parts of the world. So, Africa cannot be ignored. We need to raise the profile and Canada’s going to be a responsible partner to the world,” noted Sajjan.
Sajjan started off his tour on Aug. 10 in Ethiopia and met with government officials, NGOs, think tanks and UN representatives in each of the five countries he visited.
Sajjan also visited with UNICEF and the World Food Programme to discuss the protection of vulnerable children in armed conflict in Uganda and representatives from Aga Khan Development Network in Tanzania that are building a university and hospital in the country.
“My meetings with African partners were an important opportunity to learn the ground truth about security issues affecting the continent. The information gathered during these meetings has helped us get a better understanding of the situation on the ground, and will inform future partnerships as Canada looks to re-engage in a full spectrum of multilateral peace operations,” said Sajjan.
Sajjan was accompanied on the tour by Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard, retired LGen. Romeo Dallaire and former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour.
After his visit to Africa, Sajjan plans to discuss what he’s learned with the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, and other cabinet members to finalize a plan of action.