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A dozen Canadian peacekeepers arrive in Mali as yearlong mission begins

The first Canadian troops arrive at a UN base in Gao, Mali, on Sunday, June 24, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

About a dozen Canadian troops landed at a UN base in Mali Sunday morning, marking the official start of a yearlong mission to the West African nation and a new era in Canada’s long history of peacekeeping.

The contingent composed of about a dozen members flew into the northern city of Gao by Hercules transport plane and will now prepare for the arrival in the coming weeks of Canada’s entire peacekeeping force to Mali.

The Liberal government committed two large Chinook transports and four smaller Griffin escorts for medical evacuations and transport, but the Canadian Forces is sending one more of each as spares in case any of the others break down in the harsh desert heat and dust.

The total force will include about 250 Canadian service members who will call a German-run camp outside Gao home, and from which the helicopters will operate across a broad swath of disputed territory.

The peacekeepers’ arrival in Mali is the culmination of years of promises by the Liberal government.

But it also comes amid ongoing political debate as well as questions about whether there is any peace to actually keep on the country.