"The Congo" will we or won't we?

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With the Afghan mission supposedly winding down for Canada, will the next major mission be the Congo. 50 Years ago Canadian signallers and logistics went their on behalf of the UN. Fifty years later there are still a few Canadians serving there, and a huge portion of UN Troops. If Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie is selected to lead the current US mission are our troops far behind? Our Governor General is on a tour of African nations at the moment and gave a rousing speech concerning the Rights of women.She will or has visited Algeria before going on to Morocco, Mali, Ghana and South Africa, Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/11/19/gg-africa.html#ixzz0lZtP37fu

She visits Senegal, and Rwanda as well on this tour.

Gov. Gen. promotes women's rights in Congo Last Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010 | 12:55 PM ET The Canadian Press

Gov. Gen. Michalle Jean walks with Prime Minister of the Democratic of the Congo Adolphe Muzito as she arrives in Kinshasa, Africa, on Sunday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Gov. Gen. Michalle Jean drew a boisterous reaction Monday when she addressed the issue of women's rights in Congo - a country known as the rape capital of the world.

Jean spoke to an audience of more than 1,000 in the Great Hall of the People.

There were delirious cheers from the women in the chamber, while most of the men remained silent. The country is the epicentre of a regional conflict and women's bodies are, in the words of international observers, the front line. Armed rebels consistently rape women, even resorting at times to genital mutilation, to scare off civilians and take over villages.

National army soldiers are also thought to be partly responsible for the epidemic. Jean applauded the country for including in its constitution the promise to punish sexual violence. The crowd, which included national leaders and foreign diplomats, applauded her back and the loudest cheers came from women sitting high up in the public balcony.

Give women the means to live in security and dignity, Jean told the audience.

Give women the means to act. And, as I like to say, you will see less violence, corruption, poverty, sickness, injustice, illiteracy. So far, only a few low-level soldiers have been punished for rape; the country's institutions are completely overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.

Canada has 12 soldiers in the country, several of them working to help build a military justice system.

There is a strong possibility that Canada will send more, as it considers an offer to take on leadership of the 20,000 UN peacekeepers already in the country. 'Anything is possible' in Canada: Jean

In her speech, Jean described Canada as a place where anything is possible and which wants to believe in Congo's hope of peace and justice. And, she added in the next breath, one of Canada's most cherished values is the equality of men and women.

Congo's minister of gender, family and children sat in the crowd, beaming among her more stone-faced male colleagues.

Marie-Ange Luciane Mufwankolo said the Congolese have heard such talk before. [But] not with so much heart. It's like she came to lance the boil, Mufwankolo said. This is a big problem that is killing the country's governance. It shocks us, it hurts us.

Several Congolese journalists said they were surprised to hear a foreign dignitary come to their country and speak almost exclusively about one single issue. One said the speech could have an impact because Jean herself is powerful, black, a foreigner and a woman.

As Jean noted herself, the country already has a so-called zero tolerance policy for military rape and has inscribed that principle in its constitution. But prosecution is another matter.

With no roads in vast swaths of the country, scarce police resources, few hospitals and an overburdened legal system, international observers say many of these crimes are carried out with impunity. Women have a hard time travelling from a village to seek treatment and report the crime, while there are almost no police vehicles available to seek out and transport suspects.

One UN official described a Canadian-funded clinic which has treated thousands of women in eastern Congo as a welcome grain of sand on a beach full of violence.

In 1960 the following ,countries contributed personnel to ONUC included Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Ceylon, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Liberia, Malaya, Federation of Mali, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, United Arab Republic and Yugoslavia.

Contingents had begun to arrive in the Congo within 48 hours of a Security Council resolution on 14 July 1960 authorizing military assistance.

Having had the privilege myself of visiting Senegal. Algeria, as well as the Congo. The difference is so vast, like night and day. Senegal is modern progressive and influential in the Francophone world and indeed in Africa. There are but few progressive countries in Africa, sadly many are run by dictators and opposing tribes. This does not allow room for progress within the world of Democracy.

In 50 years life has gone on in the Congo much the same as ever, the only changes have been the weapons, vehicles and the UN Observers. Torture rape and oppression still flourish. I doubt that General Leslie will have the means to change this to a democratic society. If indeed he is selected by the UN and takes command.

1960 Facts: Will History once again Repeat it's self ! ! Canadian Military Involvement

57 Signal Squadron (later redesignated 57 Signal Unit, and assembled at Kingston from members of various Royal Canadian Corps of Signals units)

436 (RCAF) Squadron (two C-119 Flying Boxcars)

Royal 22e Regiment (officers and men)

Canadian Provost Corps


After Canada invented the concept of peacekeeping, the Government found their hands tied by public opinion when UN headquarters requested Canadian forces to intervene in the Congo. The request asked specifically for 280 French-speaking and bilingual signallers, not a common commodity in the Canadian Army who in 1960 felt its true purpose was training to fight the Red Army in central Europe. According to Dr. Jack Granatstein, the Prime Minister felt that public perception would be How could Canada, the creator of peacekeeping, decline a UN request?

The duty turned out to be hazardous. Unruly Congolese soldiers roughed up Canadian soldiers, scattered in penny packets across the vast Congo, because they automatically assumed that any French-speaking white was a Belgian. At Stanleyville, Congolese troops beat and jailed the signals detachment. Released, Captain J.B. Pariseau, the detachment commander, invited the local Congolese commander to dinner, told him that bygones would be bygones, and agreed that it was all a mistake. If there was a repetition, he added, then his men would fight, and the Congolese would be answerable to the Canadian Army.

The Congo crisis gradually turned into an area of Cold War confrontation and developed into a war over the resources in Katanga province. It was the first peacekeeping war, and the Pearson government eagerly pulled its last fifty-six servicemen from this commitment in June 1964.2

The total force amounted to about 500 soldiers, including 200 signallers. They...served in Leopoldville and in many small detachments spread over the length and breadth of the Congo in support of UN forces attempting to reestablish order. Some of the Canadian officers also filled key positions (Chief Signals Officer and Chief Operations Officer, to give two examples) at ONUC headquarters, and one of these, Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Berthiaume, became the first Canadian since the Korean War to become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He was congratulated for his impressive organizational skills, but also for his bravery and for his initiative, linguistic ability, and special aptitude for negotiating.

CANADA indeed has a proud history in UN Peacekeeping.

Meanwhile our troops continue their mission in Afghanistan, may they all return safe to the arms and bosoms of their loved ones.

Nil Sine Labore


Nil Sine Labore


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Recent comments

  • Blog Reader
    June 29, 2010 - 09:51

    While I agree that we were a great nation for peacekeeping I think that the CF should stay away from the UN.Yes send a couple of people to work with them(officers).Lord knows we have plenty of them.Look at it this way.Ten years in afgan fighting and killing and being killed.Then shift to getting shot at before returning fire.This will not sit well with the troops.You thinks there is problems now with the troops.Wait till they go back under the UN.Then I think that there would be know upport the troops.There will be to many legal things to take care of!