ARCHIVED - Operation CROCODILE’s Canadian Task Force helping DRC government to stand alone

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Article / February 27, 2015 / Project number: 15-0036

Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Peacekeeping has been anything but peaceful recently in the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but Canadian expertise is helping to calm the situation, according to Colonel Stephane Plante, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations & Plans of the Force Headquarters (FHQ).

A professional military officer with 27 years of service and an Executive Master of Business Administration from HEC Montréal and McGill University, Col Plante arrived in the DRC from Canadian Army Headquarters in June of 2014 to be Task Force Commander of Operation CROCODILE.

The operation is Canada’s military contribution to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, better known as MONUSCO (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République Démocratique du Congo).

MONUSCO’s mandate is to protect the civilians, implement the peace and security cooperation framework in the DRC and stabilize the conflict area.  In short, the MONUSCO Force is there to neutralize the illegal armed groups in the DRCMONUSCO personnel monitor the implementation of the arms embargo imposed by the UN in November of 2009 and seize and collect materials that violate the ban. The mandate includes providing technical and logistical support to national and local elections if asked by DRC authorities.

Col Plante, a native of Rimouski, Quebec, is fourth in command inside of MONUSCO’s FHQ organization. He works for the Force Chief of Staff and is responsible for 101 people who work mainly in the following domains: intelligence, operations, plans, communication, liaison with Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, military aviation, special forces operations, information operations and riverine operations.  “What I am responsible for is what we call the operation and the plans,” said Col Plante.  “That is my span of control.”  

The Canadian contingent, known as Task Force DRC, consists of nine staff officers with expertise in infantry, artillery, engineers, communication and training. The Chief Liaison Officer and an officer working in training are based in the capital city of Kinshasa, one of the largest francophone urban areas in the world. The other seven members, including Col Plante, work out of the eastern city of Goma.

 “We have most of our people in liaison sections,” said Col Plante, noting the Canadians are well regarded by other MONUSCO participants.  “We occupy mainly major functions inside the Force HQ.

According to the Colonel, the task force is not dedicated to only one task; he and his staff often visit other regions of the DRC when their duties demand it. He had no hesitation identifying the highlight of his deployment so far.  “I like to teach, so when I give a personal development presentation and I know people are getting better at what they are doing, I think for me, that’s the best thing.

Col Plante says there are dozens of illegal armed groups in the DRC, and the mission priority is to neutralize the groups which may potentially create problems in neighbouring countries, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group opposed to the Ugandan government.

He considers his Canadian officers to be well-suited to the needs of the mission. MONUSCO is the largest current UN peacekeeping operation, with around 50 countries participating, so communication can be a challenge.  “We are well trained for what we are doing, and it’s pretty easy for us to adapt to any kind of situation or culture,” he noted.

Asked why he considers it vital to be in the DRC, Col Plante pointed to the recent attacks on civilians by the ADF around the town of Beni in the east as an example of the need for the MONUSCO mission.

The illegal armed groups are doing things to create panic and fear inside the civilian population,” said the Colonel.  “Protection of civilians is something we are doing by first of all being present here, and having the mechanisms to help the national government react if something happens.

Col Plante will end his deployment in July 2015.

By Gerry Weaver, Army Public Affairs

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