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Bob Fowler Kidnapped in Niger (Dec 2008-Apr 2009)

Edward Campbell

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This report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is distressing news:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081215.wfowler1215/BNStory/International/home

Former Canadian diplomat missing in Niger

CAMPBELL CLARK

Globe and Mail Update
December 15, 2008 at 3:11 PM EST

Prominent Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler has been reported missing in near Niamey in Niger, where the car he was travelling in was found last night, according to a UN spokesman.

Mr. Fowler, working as UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon's special envoy for Niger, was not been heard from since the car carrying Mr. Fowler, his Niger-based driver and a Canadian aide was found last night, about 45 kilometres northwest of the capital, Niamey, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

All three have not been heard from since, Mr. Haq said from UN headquarters in New York. The name of the other Canadian has not yet been released.

Mr. Fowler, a career foreign-service officer who has been Pierre Trudeau's foreign-policy adviser, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, and Jean Chrétien's special representative to Africa, is one of Canada's most-respected and best-known diplomats.

“We are relying on the government of Niger, and the authorities in Niger, to locate these individuals. We don't have any further information on their whereabouts at this stage,” Mr. Haq said.

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Mr. Fowler was Deputy Minister of National Defence back in the ’80 and into the early '90s. He was intensely disliked by many because he was intrusive, to put it mildly, and was considerably smarter than about 99.9% of the other people in the building. Scott Taylor did a sloppy, less than well researched and generally ignorant hatchet job on him/his office renovations in Tarnished Brass but Mr. Fowler, being a gentleman, did not respond.

Mr. Fowler also served as Canada’s Ambassador to the UN and is, currently, a senior fellow at Ottawa U, affiliated with the Centre for International Policy Studies, where he sometimes makes time to discuss world affairs, strategy and defence policy with tired old soldiers.

Niger is, pretty much, the worst bloody place on earth. It is lawless, corrupt, dirty and dangerous.

 
Mr Fowler also played a very large part in the introduction of SOF into the CF circa 1992.
 
Mr. Fowler and his wife hosted my Regiment at their Official Residence in Rome in September 2005 while we were touring Italy.  His hospitality knew no bounds and he definitely seemed to be a very, very sharp individual.  He took great pleasure in sharing the history of the house (which markedly differed from the story we got from our Italian guides, of course), and made a point of taking a bit of time to speak to all present personally during our time there.

I hope he is alright.
 
The difficulty some had with Mr Fowler were less with Mr Fowler per se than with the military leadership vacuum that permitted the DM to veer into certain areas that were somewhat outside his remit.  There is a very awkward division between DND and CF at the highest levels; Mr Fowler was in the middle of it during his tenure as DM.  That lead to some noses being out of joint, all ready to spill the beans about any real or imagined slights.  (Mike The Flag comes to mind as a dweller of glass houses, but I digress)

(Besides, "Smarter than 99.9% of the people in the building" is damning with faint praise (says one of the people in the building)).


I too hope for his safe return.

 
dapaterson said:
The difficulty some had with Mr Fowler were less with Mr Fowler per se than with the military leadership vacuum that permitted the DM to veer into certain areas that were somewhat outside his remit.  There is a very awkward division between DND and CF at the highest levels; Mr Fowler was in the middle of it during his tenure as DM.

Indeed. I saw him in action on a number of occasions at fairly close range. He had a natural tendency to fill any vacuum he encountered. At least once in my knowledge he forcefully sorted out some very senior CF officers after they had decided to act on some advice that was egregiously bad.

I hope he and his party soon emerge unscathed. He should be worth a pretty penny in ransom, so that may work in his favour.
 
Old Sweat said:
... He had a natural tendency to fill any vacuum he encountered. At least once in my knowledge he forcefully sorted out some very senior CF officers after they had decided to act on some advice that was egregiously bad ...

He still does, at a symposium, about a year ago he sorted out a handful of professors and internationally known experts by asking the key questions: "What is the aim - our (Canadian) aim?" "Do we - politicians, civilians/bureaucrats, media and soldiers - comprehend the mission in anything like a common manner?" "Are we accomplishing the mission we think we have accepted?" "Is the mission a good 'return on our investment' (in lives, treasure and Canada's international political/diplomatic capital)?"

It was kinda fun to be there and watch the high priced help squirm.
 
E.R. Campbell said:
He still does, at a symposium, about a year ago he sorted out a handful of professors and internationally known experts by asking the key questions: "What is the aim - our (Canadian) aim?" "Do we - politicians, civilians/bureaucrats, media and soldiers - comprehend the mission in anything like a common manner?" "Are we accomplishing the mission we think we have accepted?" "Is the mission a good 'return on our investment' (in lives, treasure and Canada's international political/diplomatic capital)?"

It was kinda fun to be there and watch the high priced help squirm.

He was also our ambassador to Italy the last couple of years I was in Naples('99 - '03). He was supposed to officiate at the '02 Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ortona but, unfortunately was a no-show due to back injuries.

The above report states that Fowler's vehicle was found northwest of the capital city, while this one says northeast?? Go figure.

This is what DFAIT has to say about Niger: "advised to exercise a high degree of caution in the country. Travellers should maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid public gatherings and street demonstrations.";

- "Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to northern Niger, beyond Tahoua. Rebel groups are active in the north-west and north-east regions, creating an extremely insecure situation. Reports indicate that targeted attacks on foreign workers by armed groups could occur. The Nigerian government has also restricted travel to northern Niger..";

-"Canadians in Niger should remain vigilant and maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times."

So I guess it doesn't really matter where his vehicle was found, the whole north is a danger zone. Here's hoping he, and the two with him, make it out Okay.
 
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is a report that Mr. Fowler has been kidnapped by a rebel group, the Front des Forces de Redressement opposed to the government (if that’s the right word for a rag-tag mob of thieves) of President Mamadou Tandja:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081216.wfowler1216/BNStory/International/home

Niger rebel group says it holds Canadian UN envoy

Reuters and The Canadian Press

December 16, 2008 at 4:55 AM EST

A rebel group in Niger led by a dissident Tuareg insurgent leader said on Tuesday it was holding a retired Canadian diplomat serving as UN special envoy to the West African state who was reported missing on Monday.

"On December 15, 2008, fighters of the Front des Forces de Redressement (FFR) carried out a commando operation in the Tillabery region in which we detained four people including a Canadian diplomat, Mr. Robert Fowler," the FFR, which is led by dissident rebel leader Rhissa Ag Boula, said in a posting on its website.

United Nations officials said on Monday the UN vehicle in which Mr. Fowler, his Canadian aide Louis Guay and a local driver were travelling was found abandoned in southwest Niger some 45 kilometres from the capital Niamey.

Mr. Ag Boula, a leader of a previous rebellion by Niger's Tuaregs in the 1990s, said in the statement the operation was a warning to "all diplomats who collaborate with the ethnic-killing regime of (Niger President) Mamadou Tandja."

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the claim by the FFR, formed by dissident Tuareg fighters who split this year with the main Tuareg rebel group, the Niger Justice Movement (MNJ), which operates mainly in the desert north.

Mr. Ag Boula said Mr. Fowler was well and would be transported to a "safe place."

In a statement issued on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said: "Our consular officials both in the capital of Niger as well as in other regional offices are actively engaged with both local and UN officials."

Mr. Cannon added that he has spoken with senior UN officials, and that consular officials are in contact with the families of both men to provide assistance and support.

"I want to assure family, friends and all Canadians that we will do everything we can to resolve the situation successfully."

Mr. Fowler, 64, is a former deputy Defence minister who later served as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations and to Italy.

He has since worked as a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa's new graduate school of public and international affairs.

In July, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as special envoy for Niger, a country of about 15 million on the southwest flank of the Sahara.

Since 2007, a group called the Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice has fomented unrest in the northern region of the country.

The group is predominantly made up of Tuaregs, a minority group of nomadic or semi-nomadic people who subsist by with their herds on the fringe of the desert.

Mr. Fowler has a long history with the UN. Early in his career, he served as first secretary with the Canadian mission to the world body. He would return as ambassador in 1995 and was a member of the Security Council in 1999-2000.

While on the council, he worked on a number of African issues, including efforts to stifle the trade in African blood diamonds.

After his stint at the UN, he helped organize the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alta., and served as ambassador to Italy.

During his 38 years in the public service, Mr. Fowler acted as a foreign policy adviser to prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien.

He was deputy minister of defence 1989-95, during a difficult time when the Somalia affair rocked the department and the military.

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For the record, I’m pretty sure Mr. Fowler is 68, not 64 as reported here.

Since it is unlikely that the UN can do anything useful about any dangerous situation and as Canada’s footprint in Niger is light to quite nonexistent it behoves Minister Cannon and Minister MacKay to seek some help from allies with resources in Niger to secure the release of the two Canadians, by whatever means necessary - even if a little (local) blood must be shed in the process.

Mr. Fowler is an eminent person and real countries do not allow their eminent people to be held hostage by bandits.

Further, when, rather than if Africa becomes our new main area of combat operations, Niger is likely to be of the hell-holes in which Canadians troops will operate. The problems are not just in Darfur or Somalia - they are everywhere in that poor, sad, failed continent; it is only a question of which problem, from Angola to Zimbabwe, explodes next and provides the political tipping point.
 
And here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, is a report describing Mr. Fowler’s long connection with Africa:
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http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Fowler+missing+Africa+loved+continent+friends/1079039/story.html

Fowler, missing in Africa, loved the continent his friends say

BY GLEN MCGREGOR DECEMBER 15, 2008

1216fowler188.jpg


Two Canadian diplomats, including one who served as foreign policy advisor to three prime ministers, have gone missing while on assignment for the United Nations in Niger.

Robert Fowler, formerly Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations and once one of Ottawa’s most powerful public servants, was reported missing after local authorities in the impoverished African country found the vehicle he was traveling in empty, with its lights on and engine running.

Louis Guay, another Canadian diplomat working with Mr. Fowler, is also missing, along with their driver.

Their vehicle was discovered on Sunday night in a small community about 45 kilometres from the capital city of Niamey. Three cell phones and a jacket were found inside the car. 

Mr. Fowler arrived in the country last week in his capacity as U.N. special envoy for Niger, reporting to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Guay is assisting Mr. Fowler with his work.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released Monday evening that Canadian officials are engaged with local and UN officials in Niger. Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon is following the situation closely, the statement said.

A UN spokesman said officials were attempting to determine where Mr. Fowler was headed when the vehicle was located.

“We trying to reconstruct what happened but we don’t have any specific details,” said Farhan Haq. He refuted reports that Mr. Fowler was working on issues related to the trade of illicit weapons in Africa, saying his brief pertained to Niger’s political situation generally.

Colleagues say Mr. Fowler, 68, has long been fascinated by Africa. As a young foreign service officer with the Department of External Affairs, he was first posted in Rwanda. He has returned to the continent regularly ever since.

While working as Canada’s ambassador to Italy, he served the dual role as the prime minister’s special ambassador for Africa and in 2005, worked on advisory team reporting to the prime minister on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
Mr. Fowler was always careful about security while traveling in Africa, said Sen. Mobina Jaffer, who traveled with Mr. Fowler and Sen. Romeo Dallaire to Darfur.

“When you work in danger areas you don’t do stupid things but you just keep working, that was his attitude,” Ms. Jaffer said. “He was cautious but you know when you go into a conflict zone, it is not 100 per cent safe.”

An amateur photographer, Mr. Fowler’s affection for Africa and its people was evident in the many pictures he took while on traveling there, Ms. Jaffer said.

Mr. Fowler served as foreign policy advisor to prime minister’s Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney. He helped advance Africa on the Canadian agenda, said Senator Colin Kenny, a friend of Mr. Fowler’s and a former classmate from Bishops College Schools in Lennoxville, Que.

“He certainly connected with Trudeau on Africa. He caught the prime minister’s imagination with his ability to talk about his experiences,” Mr. Kenny said.

“He always talked about it as a place with issues and problems but I never heard him talk in the context of personal risks.”

In Ottawa, Mr. Fowler is best remembered as a powerful deputy minister of Defence under the Brian Mulroney government, in a difficult period that saw the department tarnished by the ill-fated mission in Somalia.   Later, he became the longest-serving Canadian ambassador to the U.N.

On a webpage featuring many of the photographs he has taken ( www.robertrfowler.com ), Mr. Fowler writes that his travels have taken him to “some of our time's most appalling circumstances.

“Whether it be the midst of the genocide in Rwanda, the ravages of the Angolan civil war, the never-ending struggle in the Middle East, or the pervasive and grinding poverty which afflicts so much of our world as we in the West enjoy a time of unprecedented plenty, individual dignity is ever-evident and the human spirit so clearly does prevail.

“It is this that I've tried to capture in these images.”

With a file from Steven Edwards.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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Mr. Fowler was neither an amateur nor a tourist. He knew and understood the risks; he is, as befits a senior diplomat and public servant, appropriately cautious in word and deed, but his missionstrategic, political intelligence gathering for the UN’s Secretary General - entailed considerable risk, which he accepted as his duty.

 
Reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act.  (Link in Title)

Two Canadian diplomats missing in Niger


Two Canadian diplomats have gone missing near Niamey, Niger, while working for the United Nations.


15/12/2008 10:47:36 PM

CTV.ca News Staff

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told CTV Newsnet that local residents found an abandoned United Nations Development Programme car late Sunday evening that was supposed to be carrying three people -- now identified as Canadians Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, and their unnamed driver.

The car was found about 40 kilometres northeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger.

All three are currently missing.

"We at the UN are trying to get further information from the Nigerian authorities," Haq said.

"The authorities in Niger are trying...to determine what's happened to those three missing individuals. But at present we don't have any real information about their whereabouts."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed the 64-year-old Fowler as special envoy for Niger last July.

Guay was working as Fowler's aide.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon released a statement Monday saying consular officials "are actively engaged" with officials in Niger and at the UN.

"I want to assure family, friends and all Canadians that we will do everything we can to resolve the situation successfully," he said in the statement.

Former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy told CTV Newsnet it was not surprising that the two Canadian UN representatives were travelling throughout Niger without much support.

"You don't have a lot of infrastructure, or protection, or security," said Axworthy, who has previously served as a special envoy for the UN.

"You're running on a pretty lean entourage and you really have to make -- in many cases -- your own way. You don't have a lot of networks to work with."


CTV parliamentary correspondent Roger Smith said Fowler's family knows that he is missing, but are reluctant to talk about the situation for fear that doing so may put him in danger.

Fowler is also a senior fellow of the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

University of Ottawa spokesperson Nadine Saint-Amour told CTV.ca that Fowler had been teaching at the school since the fall of 2007.

Fowler has had a long career in public service, working for Canada and for the UN.

He is a former deputy defence minister, also served as a foreign policy adviser under several prime ministers and previously served as Canada's ambassador to Italy.

Fowler is also a former Security Council member and UN ambassador.

With files from The Canadian Press

============================================================

I just wonder what the UN thinks about, when it is being so naive as to not protect the people it sends off to nations like this around the world?
 
Would it be irony if the military unit he helped establish had to go rescue him?

But I digress.

From afar, in my youthful CF memories, I can not help but connect "Bob" with all things bad that was the CF and what passed as CF leadership in the early 90's. Also given his "love of Africa", it does not strike me as surprising that the CF had many pushes toward the Black Continent in the early 90s.
 
perhaps this is a JTF-2 mission? if he's in Niger and they got everything right, of course.

But what do I know 8-), I'm still in the application process...

DLord
 
Look above you, that's what PD was hinting at, but who knows, anything is within the realm of possibility.....
 
Prairie Dog said:
Would it be irony if the military unit he helped establish had to go rescue him?

But I digress.

From afar, in my youthful CF memories, I can not help but connect "Bob" with all things bad that was the CF and what passed as CF leadership in the early 90's. Also given his "love of Africa", it does not strike me as surprising that the CF had many pushes toward the Black Continent in the early 90s.

The early 90's was indeed the half decade of "my career" over "my troops".

Bob Fowler may have not been a popular guy, but he's one of ours. I hope he comes out of this OK.
 
As I remember it : Career- Yes; Mission- Possibly; Troops - Never!

Mr Fowler will probably slip out of this. Hope so.
 
In this case, they protect them with indoctrinated child soldiers to preclude intervention.
 
George Wallace said:
I don't know.  How do Rebels treat prisoners who are aloof or arrogant?

If that is your characterization of Mr. Fowler then I find it crude, ignorant, ill informed and offensive - most likely informed by the likes of Scott Taylor and similar purveyors of trash.

If you're telling us how most of the little, narrow minded people who ran DND and the CF in the '80s and '90s saw Mr. Fowler then, "fair enough" - compared to, say, Maurice Baril Mr. Fowler had a lot about which to be arrogant and good reason to be aloof.

We'll see if Niger rebels can recognize and deal with a gentleman.

 
- No matter what our differences of opinion with Mr. Fowler, he does not deserve his present circumstances, nor does his family.

 
TCBF said:
- No matter what our differences of opinion with Mr. Fowler, he does not deserve his present circumstances, nor does his family.

I heartily agree.
 
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