Canada pledges $13M for Mali aid

Money ex­clu­sively for food and health care, Fantino says

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA - LEE BERTHI­AUME

The Con­ser­va­tive government con­tin­ued its ef­forts to keep Canada at arms-length from the war in Mali on Tues­day, pledg­ing $13 mil­lion in hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance but re­fus­ing to help pay for any African-led mil­i­tary mis­sion.

In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Ju­lian Fantino an­nounced the new aid money at a ma­jor con­fer­ence in Ethiopia, where or­ga­niz­ers had hoped to raise nearly $1 bil­lion to cover the costs of sev­eral African-led mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions.

French and Malian forces are cur­rently push­ing back Is­lamic mil­i­tants who have taken over the north­ern half of Mali, but troops from the sur­round­ing West African re­gion are be­ing or­ga­nized to take over in the coming weeks and months.

Fantino said Canada’s money is ex­clu­sively to pro­vide food and health care to Malians strug­gling in­side the coun­try and the es­ti­mated 383,000 who have been dis­placed by the con­flict, and not for mil­i­tary pur­poses.

“Canada has been a friend of the Malian peo­ple,” Fantino said in a state­ment. “Build­ing on Canada’s sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments over the past year, Canada will con­tinue its lifesaving work in Mali through hu­man­i­tar­ian and devel­op­ment as­sis­tance.”

Of­fi­cials did not say why the government opted to con­trib­ute emer­gency aid, which will flow through the UN and a num­ber of aid groups, and not the in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions.

While dozens of coun­tries pledged money and equip­ment at the con­fer­ence in Ethiopia, the to­tal raised was only $455 mil­lion — well short of the $1-bil­lion tar­get.

De­spite this, NDP for­eign af­fairs critic Paul De­war in­di­cated his party’s sup­port for the government’s de­ci­sion to di­rect money to­ward aid in­stead of mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions.

“What we do know is that there is a huge need for hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port,” he said. “It’s a good start.”

De­war said Canada will have an op­por­tu­nity to make ad­di­tional com­mit­ments on Mali at an EU-or­ga­nized con­fer­ence next month — if Par­lia­ment de­cides that is the way to go.

“The (African Union) has stepped up and done its job and if there’s still a need for other sup­port, ob­vi­ously when that con­fer­ence in Brus­sels comes up, we should be tak­ing a look at it,” he said.

In­terim Lib­eral leader Bob Rae, how­ever, de­scribed the de­ci­sion not to con­trib­ute to the African-led mis­sions as “re­gret­table,” par­tic­u­larly given they were ap­proved by the United Na­tions.

“I think we should con­tinue to par­tic­i­pate and sup­port the ac­tiv­i­ties of the UN in Africa to pro­vide more se­cu­rity, not only to Africans but to the rest of the world,” he said.

Canada has so far com­mit­ted a C-17 mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft to help ferry French troops and equip­ment to Mali un­til the mid­dle of next month, and it has de­ployed spe­cial forces troops to guard the Cana­dian Em­bassy in Ba­mako.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion in Mali, Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper has ruled out any “di­rect” mil­i­tary mis­sion.

Rae in­di­cated he is strongly in favour of an in­creased Cana­dian role in the con­flict.

“There are is­sues here of se­cu­rity as well as of in­ter­nal gov­er­nance that have a con­se­quence for the whole re­gion,” he said.

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