African Union chair to meet with Harper
Boni Yayi, President of Benin, speaks during the 67th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. (AP / Seth Wenig)
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, January 6, 2013 4:59PM EST
OTTAWA -- The head of the African Union is set to visit Ottawa this week.
Thomas Yayi Boni's meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper could bring a request for Canadian troops to be involved in an international mission in Mali.
The United Nations Security Council backed a proposal in December to send an African-led force of 3,300 soldiers into the country.
But the resolution also called for broader international assistance.
A military coup last year created a power vacuum in Mali that's led to the rise of armed groups linked to al-Qaida in the country's northern region.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last week that Canada could be willing to send troops to help train African forces.
As the president of the African Union, Yayi Boni was instrumental in convincing the United Nations that international intervention was needed.
And the African Union, along with a coalition of West African states, is now responsible for putting the resolution into action.
Mali, a landlocked country bordering on Algeria and Niger, has been one of the biggest recipients of Canada's foreign aid.
Canadian special forces were active in the west African country for several training missions prior to the coup and before Islamic Maghreb -- known as AQIM -- overran much of the northern portion of the impoverished nation.
In addition to being the chairperson of the AU, Yayi Boni is also the president of Benin.
"Benin is a democratic African partner that continues to make impressive progress in the areas of economic and institutional reform while promoting regional stability," said Harper in a statement Sunday.
"I look forward to meeting with (President Yayi Boni) to explore ways of expanding commercial relations and contributing further to Benin's development."