KINSHASA, Congo — Michaelle Jean has touched down in Congo amid indications Canada may take on a larger military role in the strife-torn country.
A decision is expected within weeks about whether Canada will take over the leadership of a UN peacekeeping force, and send more troops than the 12 soldiers currently there.
An estimated 5 million people have been killed in a complex web of conflicts — often referred to as Africa’s World War — involving various national armies, militias, and control of mining resources.
The Governor General will meet with peacekeepers and the country’s leadership.
But the main focus of her trip will be violence against women.
She plans to discuss the country’s rape epidemic in a speech to parliamentarians, and meet with abused women.
After a red-carpet greeting at the airport, she will head straight to a meeting with the UN special adviser on sexual violence.
Congo is the second stop on Jean’s four-country African tour.
She arrives from Senegal, which is far more stable and prosperous.
While that West African coastal country struggles with endemic corruption and rights abuses, its president says things could be worse.
President Abdoulaye Wade noted that his country’s per-capita income places Senegal two times higher than the internationally recognized poverty line. However, more than half the country’s residents live below that $2-a-day level while a select few scoot around the capital in luxury vehicles.
“Senegal is not paradise. But it’s also not hell,” Wade said as he bid Jean farewell at the airport.
“Perhaps I should say it’s purgatory. But it’s a first-class purgatory.”