Trudeau meets with women peacekeepers before wrapping up visit to Senegal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his last day in Senegal Thursday with a photo op focused on women in peacekeeping where he praised the women for bringing “added value” to missions.

The prime minister watched from beneath a tent decked out in the green, yellow and red of Senegal’s flag as female peacekeepers demonstrated how they would stop an attacker approaching a United Nations checkpoint in a vehicle.

The women, members of Senegal’s gendarmerie, trained their rifles on the suspect and barked orders at him through a loudspeaker.

After removing him from the SUV, they handcuffed him and put him in the back of a UN pickup truck while other gendarmes took covering positions. They then searched the SUV with a sniffer dog. Car bombs are a major threat to peacekeepers in some of Africa’s most dangerous conflict zones, such as Mali. 

Senegal, which has some of Africa’s most professional armed forces, is the eighth-largest provider of UN Blue Helmets in the world. 

Its forces are serving in six UN operations, including in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. 

After the demonstration, Trudeau sat down for what was billed as an “informal chat” with the peacekeepers.

In front of the cameras, Trudeau and Senegal Defence Minister Sidiki Kaba spoke about the importance of including women in peace operations.

Trudeau praised the women as “incredibly professional.”

“They can do everything that is needed to do, and bring added value as well, to the full range of operations,” said Trudeau.

Watch: Trudeau says Canada has worked to get more women into international peacekeeping because they bring results:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about what women bring to the field of peacekeeping in Dakar, Senegal. 0:40

None of the women present — including Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s ambassador for women, peace and security — spoke at the event. Journalists were prevented from speaking with the women gendarmes. 

Later in the day, O’Neill told reporters that behind closed doors the women did the talking.

Trudeau, who is wrapping up a brief tour as part of Canada’s bid for a UN security seat, also highlighted Canada’s work on the Elsie Initiative, which aims to meaningfully increase women’s participation in peace operations. Canada has contributed $15 million to the project.

Media were asked to leave while the prime minister talked privately with the female peacekeepers about their experiences.

WATCH | Trudeau questioned about speaking out against human rights issues:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced questions about addressing human rights issues with his international counterparts during a visit to Senegal. 1:50

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