France has requested Britain and Canada's assistance in Mali due to a growing concern of Islamic fundamentalism and al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups gaining control of the northern region of the African country.

 

Mali has been in a state of turmoil since March 2012, when the government was overthrown by rebel forces. Tension between north and south Mali, the Sehal droughts and turmoil in neighboring countries in the aftermath of the Arab Spring led to the government's collapse.

 

Jesse Thompson, director of humanitarian assistance for CARE Canada, explained how the heightened chaos in the country has affected the NGO. "We had offices throughout the country but for the time being we have suspended our activities until the end of January just until we can see how the situation evolves and have a better understanding of the security situations so we can make informed decisions about our staff," Thompson said. CARE Canada has been providing Mali aid assistance throughout the country for over 30 years.

 

"The people of northern Mali are really stressed beyond their limits both because of the food crisis and the political crisis so we really have to act quickly to provide life-saving food, shelter, health, hygiene support to ensure that those urgent needs are met really as soon as possible," she said.

 

The organization is hopeful to have offices re-open within the next few weeks. However there is much uncertainty about the future.

 

Thompson emphasized her appreciation for the Canadian government's assistance to CARE's work. "Canada has been very generous in the support of the humanitarian response, providing funding to CARE in order to continue to respond to the (international displaced peoples) situation and the situation of the people affected by the drought," said Thompson.

 

Experts question Canada's potential involvement within the country. Martin Hewson, a University of Regina political science professor with a background in international affairs, acknowledges that although Canadian resources to assist the French will be helpful, Canadian troops on the ground will not resolve the issue.

 

"I think a much better thing than getting sucked or dragged into war in Mali is to try to pressure the Mali government to come to a deal with these rebels and to give them some kind of autonomy. For years and years they demanded their own autonomy; they wanted their own self rule," said Hewson.

 

Canadian peacekeeping troops and a C-17 aircraft departed to Mali the afternoon of Jan 15.