Friday, January 23, 2009

 

BOOTS ON THE GROUND...

I am increasingly baffled, surprised, bewildered by Canada's failing, nay failed, "Quiet Diplomacy" over the abduction and disappearance of Ambassadors Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, and their United-Nations driver, Soulmania Mounkaila, near Niamey, Niger, six weeks ago this weekend.

I very much fear for the lives of the Canadian emissaries and their U.N. driver as we enter into the 7th week of their mysterious disappearance on the outskirts of the River Niger ferry heading back from a Canadian mining operation to Niger's capital city, Niamey.

It is obviously too late for Canada to put "boots on the ground" to locate the missing men. As it were, it isn't really our job to do so. I am at odds with my respect for the United-Nations, and the callous attitude being demonstrated by the U-N's Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, for the well being of Ambassador Fowler, who was in Niger as a special envoy trying to sort-out the country's messy involvement with the separatist forces of the Tuareg Region.

Having now reviewed Amnesty Internationals' indictment of the Niger military's involvement in the disappearance and murder of dozens of civilians over the rebellious forces of the Gold and Uranium rich northern Tuareg Sahara desert region of Niger; I am finding myself near alone (and wondering why?) in the public belief that somehow, some way, the Government of Niger and President, Manadou Tanya, may have been involved in the unexplained disappearance of Mr(s) Fowler, Guay and driver Mounkaila.

Is no one out there listening? The facts quite simply are as follows: Last fall, the highly respected "Medecins Sans Frontieres" (Doctors Without Borders) shut down its Niger operations after the country's government withdrew its permission to operate in the west African country. A stinging evaluation published by "Amnesty International" during the summer of 2008 blames Niger's military for the execution of many civilians; and the arrest of two journalists, for alleged connections to the Tuareg "Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice" (MNJ) about which Ambassador Fowler had been sent by the United-Nations to look into.

In the spring of 2008, Amnesty Internationals' report claimed examples of the systematic torture and murder by Niger's military of civilians it believed connected to the Tuareg (MNJ) rebellion for carrying as little as satellite telephones. In jail to this day is journalist Moussa Kaka, a Radio France International correspondent, because Niger President's Tanya, believes he is somewhat sympathetic to the Tuareg cause.

In its spring 2008 report, Amnesty International says that 16 civilians were executed after their vehicles were intercepted by Niger military forces along a major highway in Agadez region on the belief they'd been somehow involved with the Tuareg rebels...On December 14th when Ambassador Fowler and Guay's United-Nations vehicle was recovered near the River Niger ferry crossing heading into the capital of Niamey; the car's flashing turn indicator was still "on"...as if it had voluntarily pulled-over after some "official" agency (police/military?) signalled that it should.

On Thursday of this week, the European Union, based in Brussels, Belgium, issued a statement expressing "deep concern" over the disappearance of Ambassadors Fowler and Guay. The European Union says the...."situation is serious and asks the kidnappers to set them free."

It is worth noting here that although Niger is a former colony of France, a number of European and African countries have special relationships. Including in this case the existence of a mixed Niger/Belgian Commission on Cooperation represented by a Belgian envoy, Ambassador, Charles Michel.

I hope to "cripes" that I am not the only Canadian concerned over this matter of international life and death diplomacy. Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's silence and my Canadian Government's casual response to this critical issue leave me in fear for the lives of Ambassadors Fowler and Guay, and their U.-N. driver on that fateful December 14th.

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