OTTAWA – Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne acknowledges that the federal government is reassessing its relations with Mali, in light of the recent coup. He insists, however, that Canada does not want, and simply cannot, leave the African country.
Canada condemned the coup in no uncertain terms.
“Canada strongly condemns the coup d’état in Mali, which forced the resignation of the democratically elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta,” Minister Champagne reacted in a press release dated August 19.
Mr. Champagne then added that Canada “would work closely with the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations to help ensure the return to constitutional order.”
Like much of the international community, Canada wishes to maintain peace and stability in a region where war and uncertainty could have serious ramifications for Africa and the West.
But make no mistake: despite Canada’s participation in the UN peacekeeping mission in the country and economic aid, Canada has largely withdrawn from the region due to a lack of political will and interest.
“It’s a kind of symbolic implication,” formulates Bruno Charbonneau, an expert from the Royal Military College Saint-Jean. We throw money away and we hope it will have an impact. The federal government’s interest and political will doesn’t really exist. ”
Mali has been on the brink of instability since a first military coup in 2012, when rebels from the north, backed by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda, rose up against the country’s government.
Civilian rule was restored after a peace deal between the rebels and the government, but the country continued to be torn apart by inter-communal divisions, violence and rampant corruption.
A long story
Canada has a long history in Mali. Not only has the West African nation been a major recipient of Canadian foreign aid for most of the past 50 years, it has also been home to many Canadian mining companies that mine for gold and mineral deposits there. precious metals.
Canada has 10 army officers working at the United Nations Mission Headquarters in Bamako. Five police officers – and not the 20 promised in 2018 – are helping to train local security forces.
While the European Union chose Wednesday to suspend its own military and police training missions due to the coup, it is not known whether Canada will follow suit.
“Canadian officials are constantly monitoring the situation, but no changes in police deployments in Mali are being considered at this time,” RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said in an email.
Mali remains one of the main recipients of aid in Canada. It has received more than $ 1.6 billion since 2000, according to the federal government, including nearly $ 140 million in 2018-2019.
Another expert on Malian issues, Jonathan Spears of the University of Winnipeg, acknowledges that this money can make a difference in parts of the country, but is concerned that Canada is not doing enough to tackle the issues facing them. more fundamental that plague Mali.
“It kind of allowed individuals in the communities to deal with larger structural issues,” says Sears. These small successes actually magnified bigger problems. ”
Even before the coup d’état, some, like former Canadian diplomat Louise Ouimet, questioned whether Canada was really helping Mali overcome its long-standing problems and chart a lasting course.
“My country, Canada seems absent from the discussions in Bamako, at least the media do not report it, while Mali has been an important country of international cooperation for more than 40 years”, wrote Ms. Ouimet, who was ambassador to Mali from 2001 to 2005, in an article published last month on the maliweb.net site.
Bruno Charbonneau believes that it would be unfair to blame the recent coup d’état on Canada’s lack of involvement or interest.
“Having said that, I argued that Canada should have played a much more important leadership role in Mali, which it clearly did not do,” he said. There needs to be a debate on the approach that is adopted and adopted in Mali. ”
For his part, Mr. Sears hopes that Canada will step up its presence and be among those who preach patience as the international community presses for a return to civilian rule.
“I would like Canada to be a voice so as not to rush the transition,” he says. My concern is that we’re going to reproduce most of the flaws from the previous transition and not really take into account some of the issues that have worsened since 2013. ”
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press