About 27,000 people have logged-on to this blog site since I posted the very first comment late in 2007. The statistics available through Google's Blogspot confirm that more than 500 have read "The Enigma In Fowler's Mission To Niger", (Feb, 1/2009) about seven times more than the next most popular post.
Canadian Ambassadors Robert Fowler and Louis Guay were kidnapped in the African nation of Niger in December of 2008 by al-Qaeda operatives. They were released several months later, and returned to Canada.
In Africa, perhaps more than anywhere else, it has become a frequent occurrence that foreign travellers, emissaries, and tourists are kidnapped regularly by supporters of AQIM, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - The North African branch of the radical Islamic group which has been operating with impunity in the vast desert area across Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger where it's been carrying-out attacks, trafficking and the kidnapping of westerners...including high profile foreign Ambassadors Fowler and Guay slightly more than two years ago.
And this month just as Wiki-Leaks released secret documents are seeing the light-of-day; special forces from Canada's elite counter-insurgent JTF-2 are being assigned to a U.S. led mission to train and assist soldiers in North Africa fighting against al-Qaeda.
The Wiki-Leaks released secret cables, transmissions and documents make it abundantly clear that our allies were none too happy about Canada's surreptitious payment of a substantial ransom (Reportedly five-million euros) as well as arranging the release of four jailed "mujaheddin" fighters. Of course all of this contradicts statements made by the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, when Fowler and Guay were released after 130 days in April 2009..."but as you know, the government of Canada's position is clear in these things: We do not pay ransom and we do not release prisoners."
Two years hence sending elite forces into the "heart of the matter" as part of an American led effort dubbed Operation Flintlock clearly is the Harper Government's effort to make amends to its allies who (so it's claimed) were somewhat displeased with Canada's decision at the time regarding measures to secure the release of Ambassadors Guay and Fowler. In light of the Wiki-Leaks documents now available it's obvious that major allies: The United-States and the United-Kingdom were not "on-board" with whatever insight led Canada to follow the secretive ransom payments route.
Obviously, it is unclear what fate would have ultimately awaited Robert Fowler and Louis Guay had the kidnappers' demands not been met. Within the same time frame, the British Government still had a hostage in the hands of the AQIM who was subsequently executed.
The problem for Canada, as I explored in what has turned-out to be the popular post of February 2009, is that Robert Fowler wasn't working for us when he fell victim to his al-Qaeda kidnappers in Niger in December of 2008. He was there on a somewhat nebulous mission as a personal emissary of the Secretary-General of the United-Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. A mission that neither Mr. Fowler nor certainly the Head of the United-Nations have ever explained. At the time, while Secretary Ban Ki-Moon professed many pious concerns for the welfare of the kidnapped Ambassadors; he seemed perfectly happy to dump the entire mess on Canadian laps. And - Mr. Harper's government, anxious to secure a Canadian seat in 2010 on the U.N.'s Security Council, seemed only too happy to oblige. Costs be damned!
Mercifully, Rabert Fowler and Louis Guay are now safe on Canadian soil. But: Ban Ki-Moon did not deliver. Canada flamed-out to an embarrassing defeat by Portugal at the Security Council. We're left with making amends for the lingering resentment of our allies for caving-in to ransom demands from al-Qaeda.
Me thinks someone has some 'splainin' to do!