Operation SOLITUDE

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations recently requested a senior officer of the Canadian Forces to serve in west Africa as Military Advisor and Senior Military Liaison Officer to the Special Representative of the Secretary General in West Africa (SRSG West Africa). This request was made on the behalf of the UN Department of Political Affairs. Colonel Daniel Redburn was selected for this tasking, called Operation SOLITUDE, and deployed to Dakar, Senegal on March 22, 2003.

Operation SOLITUDE is made possible through a cost and resource-sharing initiative between the Department of National Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) Human Security Program. As part of this innovative arrangement, the Canadian Forces have made Colonel Redburn available while the DFAIT Human Security Program will fund the costs of the 12-month deployment.

The mission of the SRSG West Africa is to achieve resolution of a dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria concerning sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula, awarded to Cameroon by a decision of the International Court of Justice on October 10, 2002. This decision was repudiated by Nigeria on October 23, 2002, on the grounds that the people of Bakassi are largely Nigerian. On November 27, 2002, to forestall an outbreak of hostilities, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the creation of a Mixed Commission, with a membership accepted by both countries. The Mixed Commission is chaired by the SRSG West Africa.

The Bakassi Peninsula comprises about 1,000 km2 of mangrove swamp located on the west coast of Africa, between Nigeria to the northwest and Cameroon to the southeast. Its few habitable areas are occupied by about 70,000 people, most of them Nigerian. The Gulf of Guinea into which the Bakassi Peninsula extends includes Africa's richest oil fields. Therefore, the crux of the matter is the determination of the maritime boundary, which will have great impact on the oil-production efforts of both countries.

Canada has several reasons for entering into the mission of the SRSG West Africa. We have formally expressed a desire to assist in African affairs through the Africa Action Plan proposed at the 2002 G-8 conference in Kananaskis, Alberta. Also, conflict prevention is the least expensive and most desirable approach to settling the Bakassi dispute. Furthermore, the target region for the Peace and Security Initiative of Canada's Africa Action Plan is West Africa. By providing the SRSG West Africa with a Senior Military Liaison Officer, Canada has a good opportunity to make a significant contribution to the mission, and to gain valuable insight into the workings of the sub-region.

The post of Senior Military Liaison Officer will be held for one year.

Commander Task Force Dakar: Colonel Daniel Redburn

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