Two Canadians — one a former top Canadian diplomat at the United Nations — are missing in the West African country of Niger, officials confirmed Monday.
Robert Fowler, who is now a UN special envoy to Niger but has also served as Canada's ambassador to Italy and to the UN, was travelling with Canadian Louis Guay, who works for the UN and was assisting Fowler, and their driver from Niger.
Their vehicle was found Sunday evening in good working condition about 40 kilometres northeast of the capital, Niamey. Cellphones, a camera and jacket were reportedly found in the vehicle.
Fowler, 64, arrived in the country a few days earlier for talks with government and non-governmental officials.
UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said officials are not sure whether the three people were on the way to or returning from a meeting with senior government officials when they went missing.
The UN learned of the situation Sunday morning and is working with the government of Niger, said Haq.
The UN has not received any demands or claims.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters he is concerned about the disappearance.
"We are mobilizing all networks," he said.
In a news release, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he spoke with senior UN officials Monday and was monitoring the situation closely.
"I am very concerned by the situation and want to assure family and friends of the missing Canadian diplomats, and all Canadians, that we will do everything we can to resolve the situation successfully," he said.
Consular officials have been in touch with the families of the missing Canadians, he said.
Served under 3 prime ministers
The secretary general appointed Fowler as special envoy to Niger earlier this year.
He is also a former deputy minister of National Defence and served as foreign policy adviser to former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien. He most recently served as senior fellow at the University of Ottawa's new graduate school of public and international affairs.
Speaking to the CBC in May, Fowler said he believed in the importance of the UN. He said that the world is still a troubled place, and there is a collective responsibility to fix those troubles.
"The only body … that can sanction the fixing is the UN Security Council," he said. "Do I think therefore the world is about to become trouble-free? Absolutely not."
Niger is a landlocked country of roughly 15 million people in western Africa, bordered by Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Chad and Mali. One of the world's least developed and poorest countries, it has suffered decades of political turmoil and civil war. Rebels from minority Tuaregs in the country's north launched a renewed insurgency last year.