The lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees in central Africa may depend on Lt.-Gen. Maurice Baril’s success as the Canadian commander of the multinational relief force. But he is also being watched closely by military personnel at home. A year ago, the 53-yearold general was appointed commander of the army with a mandate to restore its flagging morale. In Africa, says Nicholas Stethem, a military watcher at the Toronto-based Strategic Analysis Group, “if he does a good job, it will mean the army has done a good job. They will both reap the benefits.” Already, Baril is rumored to be Defence Minister Doug Young’s favorite to replace the disgraced former chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jean Boyle, who resigned amid charges of a coverup over the 1993 killing of a local teenager by Canadian peace-
keepers in Somalia.
With the army in disarray due to the ongoing Somalia inquiry and deep budget cuts, Baril is viewed as a safe choice to replace Boyle simply because he was out of
Canada during the time of trouble. From 1992 to 1995, he served in New York City as military adviser to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Baril, known as a “Mr. Fix-It,” is given credit by many for restoring order to the United Nations’s chaotic peacekeeping office. Says retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie, who led a Bosnia UN mission: “Maurice gets things done. Period.”
Other colleagues say he is good at communicating his views to the common soldier, a quality many say was sadly lacking in his predecessors. Barii has made it no secret that he wants to stop the rot. “The army has a significant leadership deficiency and I intend to both address it and rectify it forthrightly,” he said last July. He has moved aggressively to investigate allegations that a group of drunken Canadian peacekeepers beat mental patients and harassed local women in Bosnia. To the surprise of some, he has openly questioned the military’s relaxed attitude towards alcohol.
Born in St-Albert-de-Warwick, Que., Baril had made a steady but unspectacular rise through the ranks before shining at the United Nations. Now, says Stethem, “with success in Zaïre, this guy should be the choice for chief of defence staff. There is nobody waiting in the wings.”
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