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Say no to Canadian troops for Congo and yes to Canadian diplomacy

May 19, 2010

by Bodia Macharia Bavuidi, President, Friends of the Congo, University of Toronto

University of Toronto Friends of the Congo President Bodia Macharia Bavuidi protests in solidarity with native peoples against mining abuse on their native land in Canada, in Congo, in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. – Photo: Meagan Moore
As Canada’s Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean visits the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), much speculation abounds regarding the new-found attention being paid to the DRC by the Canadian government. It appears that Canadian Gen. Andrew Leslie is primed to head the 20,000-strong United Nations Mission in the Congo. There is speculation that the anticipated Canadian troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan may result in Canadian troops’ presence in Congo.

Canadian troops should stay home. The DRC does not need more militarization; it needs justice. Canada can help to advance justice, peace and stability in the Congo without sending a single soldier. Should the Canadian government and people in general do the following, it would go further to advance peace and stability in the Congo than any number of Canadian troops:

1. Call on the United States and England in particular as well as other nations throughout the globe to make Congo a top diplomatic priority.

Canadian Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean is greeted in Goma April 20 by dancers and North Kivu Province Gov. Julien Paluku Kahongya. – Photo: Sgt. Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall
2. Call on the United States and England to pressure their allies Rwanda and Uganda to cease the destabilization of the Congo, open political space in their own countries and engage in sincere and earnest dialogue with their countrymen who are wreaking havoc in the Congo.

3. Canada should also leverage its position with Rwanda to open political space inside Rwanda and engage in dialogue with Rwandan rebel groups inside Congo.

4. Canada should call on its corporations and those raising capital on the Toronto Stock Exchange – an estimated half the mining capital in the world is raised on the Toronto Stock Exchange – to cease their exploitation of Congo’s riches. Companies such as Banro, First Quantum, Anvil Mining, Barrick Gold via its partner Anglo-Gold Ashanti and others have benefited and continue to benefit at the expense of the Congolese people. A good start would be for the Parliament to pass Bill C-300. In addition, assure that the Canadian Investment Fund for Africa is used for its original purpose: African companies, not Canadian companies that have ready access to capital markets.

Canadian Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean joins HEAL Africa nurses clapping to a song in Goma, Congo, on April 20. – Photo: Sean Kilpatrick, Canadian Press
5. Provide support to local institutions as opposed to authoritarian regimes – Rwanda and Uganda, for example – that oppress their populations with the support of Canadian tax dollars.

Congo does not need more militarization; it needs justice.

Remember to join Friends of Congo on the Break the Silence Tour as we travel all over North America. Go to www.friendsofthecongo.org/upcomingevents/index.php to see where you can join us on the tour!

Contact Friends of the Congo, 1629 K St., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006, (202) 584-6512, www.friendsofthecongo.org, info@friendsofthecongo.org.

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