Hundreds of Canadian peacekeepers will once again be deployed to conflict-stricken countries, but the federal government has yet to say publicly where its considering sending them.
On the heels of Friday’s commitment of up to 600 soldiers to various United Nations peacekeeping missions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would first consult with the world body and its allies before determining where they are needed.
But there is speculation Canada will likely direct its resources to support missions in Africa, including countries like Mali, South Sudan, Central African Republic, or the Democratic Republic of Congo — where Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited earlier this month to gather information for a possible future peacekeeping mission.
Each of those countries already have established peacekeeping missions, but ones that face multiple challenges and have been the subject of controversies.
The UN has more than 15,000 peacekeepers from 48 countries in Mali on a mandate to support a ceasefire and maintain security in the west African country.
The mission, referred to by the acronym MINUSMA, followed a French military intervention in 2013 when Tuareg fighters, backed at the time by al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups, seized territory in the country’s north in a bid for autonomy.
But in the aftermath, the Islamist factions began to take control of major cities from the Tuareg rebels, including Timbuktu where militants forced residents to abide by strict Sharia rule and destroyed ancients sites and texts.
After the French intervention and the signing of a peace accord between the government and the Tuarag fighters, the UN tasked peacekeepers to both protect Malian civilians and support peace and reconciliation.
But the country has been repeatedly hit by terror attacks and it has become a base for groups like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to stage attacks in other countries.
For peacekeepers, it’s a risky place to be.
Reuters reported more than 100 peacekeepers have been killed in Mali since 2013, making it one of the deadliest places to serve as a peacekeeper.
Central African Republic
The landlocked country of Central African Republic has been a state of political and humanitarian turmoil since early 2013, when Muslim Selaka rebels toppled the government and targeted Christian civilians. In the months that followed, a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka took out retribution on innocent Muslims, sparking fears a mass atrocity was unfolding.
Although there was an international response in late 2013, it wasn’t until September 2014 that the UN-mandated peacekeeping mission was put into place. As of July 26, the UN has maintained a contingent of more than 12,000 peace keepers in the country to protect civilians, deliver humanitarian aid and give support to the peace process.
But the mission itself has been mired in scandal, with several peacekeepers being accused of sexually abusing dozens of children and allegations some peacekeepers may have been responsible for the killing of several innocent people.
Democratic Republic of Congo
With more than 22,000 soldiers and police involved, the UN’s peacekeeping mission on the Democratic Republic of Congo is its largest peacekeeping effort.
The mission, according to the Economist, is also the UN’s “longest and most expensive peacekeeping operation” in its history. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has been in place since 1999.
The effort to protect civilians and stabilize the violence in the eastern part of the country also involves military action against armed groups, such as the notorious Rwandan-backed M23 rebels.
According to the UN mandate, the mission also includes the Force Intervention Brigade responsible for “neutralizing armed groups and the objective of contributing to reducing the threat posed by armed groups to state authority and civilian security.”
The force was successful in pushing M23 out of towns and cities near DRC’s border with Rwanda, but it hasn’t been able to repeat that success.
MONUCO was slammed by human rights groups in 2014 after peacekeepers didn’t respond to an attack on a nearby community that left more than 30 people dead.
The mission has had a tumultuous relationship with the DRC government and its military, and the missions peacekeepers have been the victims of attacks carried out by rebels and Congolese troops.
Just two weeks ago, the United Nations committed to upping its peacekeeping presence in South Sudan in response to the clashes, adding a further 4,000 peacekeepers to its forces to its existing contingent of 12,000 troops.
The world’s youngest country has been in a state of turmoil for most of its five-year existence. Renewed violence following a fragile peace deal one year ago has in recent weeks led to more than 200 deaths, dozens of instances of sexual violence and gang rape against civilians and aid workers, and fears the country is once again on the brink of civil war.
The current violence, as well as the conflict that tore the country apart between December 2013 and the peace agreement reached in August 2015, is rooted in political and ethnic rivalry, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing former vice president-turned-opposition leader Riek Machar.
The UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) was established at the outset of the country, which gained its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011.
UNMISS has come under criticism and claims peacekeepers did not act quickly enough to protect civilians, despite its mandate to do so. UN peacekeepers in South Sudan have also been targeted by violence, including two Chinese peacekeepers killed last month.