What ARE they doing?

If you have been following the Canadian government’s action on the crisis in Darfur, you might feel that they – like the majority of governments around the world – have fallen short when it comes to taking action on the Darfur. There is no better proof than the fact that this sad situation persists even though the uprising of Darfuri rebel groups, and the corresponding counter-insurgency campaign launched by the Sudanese government, dates back to 2003. We all know that the failure to find a way to stop the atrocities sponsored by the Sudanese government in the Darfur region has been paid for largely with the blood of Darfur’s civilians. If more countries had taken a real stand on this issue, the situation might be very different today.

But for a moment, rather than focusing on what the Canadian government isn’t doing, let’s take a look at what they ARE doing. The following statement, which opens the “Canada: Active in Sudan/ Le Canada à l'œuvre au Soudan” section of the Canadian government’s website, makes it clear that Canada sees itself very much as part of the solution, not part of the problem:

Canada is part of a concerted international effort to support a just and lasting peace in all of Sudan. Canadian contributions focus primarily on resolving the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, and supporting the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the southern civil war in January 2005.”

According to the website, moreover, “Canada’s whole-of-government approach applies to all of Sudan and is based on three pillars of activity: aid, diplomacy and security.”

Canada’s Measures

In this entry I’ll be focusing specifically on the diplomacy pillar (see later blogs for the rest!) According to the website, the areas where Canada has been active in diplomacy specifically relating to Darfur are:

  • Diplomatic involvement in the Darfur Peace Process (particularly with respect to the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) – including providing financial and diplomatic resources and supporting “the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union towards bringing the rebel movements together to prepare for the next round of negotiations.”
  • Multilateral initiatives: “Canadian diplomats take every possible opportunity to raise the issue of the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur in international and multilateral fora such as the G8, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, the International Organization of La Francophonie and other informal groups.”
  • Peacebuilding: “Canada’s Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Group, a component of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), is working with the international community to facilitate the full implementation of Sudan’s peace agreements, with special emphasis on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement…Canada is supporting the political and social consolidation of peace in Sudan by promoting initiatives in several key areas including: strengthening judicial institutions, federalism, corrections reform, improving community security, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), as well as building the capacity of all stakeholders to participate in the renewed talks for peace in Darfur.”
  • Bilateral relations: this refers to an “ongoing dialogue with the Sudanese government,” maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, and members of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York, in addition to other “senior Canadian officials and diplomats throughout the world.”
  • For instance, “in March 2008, the former Foreign Affairs minister made an official visit to Sudan – the first visit to that country by a Canadian Foreign Affairs minister. The former minister took this opportunity to raise Canada’s concerns to senior Sudanese officials, including the Sudanese Foreign Minister.”
  • Measures: The measures Canada has put in place “ against Sudan in response to the current human rights and humanitarian situation, and in support of its policy for peace in this country…include: the withholding of support for commercial support services, including export finance and trade and investment development activities; and the withholding of government-to-government development cooperation.”
  • In addition, Canada has implemented in Canadian domestic law the sanctions mandated by the United Nations Security Council, including an arms embargo as well as an asset freeze and travel ban directed against designated persons.”

Finally, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has set up a Task Force on SudanIn order to coordinate Canada’s whole-of-government contribution to the pursuit of sustainable peace throughout Sudan.”

Key elements

I’ll point to some key items that stood out to me, and some questions that arose in my mind, when I was reading about Canada’s approach to the Sudan/Darfur situation.

  • Canada’s approach is a holistic one, which sees the Darfur situation within the larger context of the rest of Sudan, which includes the North-South dynamic and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This is surely a good thing, but may obscure the urgency of the situation in Darfur if one of Canada’s top priorities rests on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
  • Does the tendency to refer to the situation in Darfur as a “humanitarian and human rights crisis” obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility in causing the crisis? Can the Canadian government employ language that does not do so?
  • In terms of the support that Canada is allocating the “political and social consolidation of peace in Sudan,” what does this mean in practical terms? How is Canada “promoting” different initiatives? What form has Canadian support taken, and how much of it has there been?
  • Has Canada taken a strong enough stance in its bilateral relations with Sudan? What tone have Canadian diplomats taken with Sudanese government officials, and has it reflected the urgency of resolving the situation?
  • Has Canada reviewed the measures it has taken to sanction Sudan, and whether these measures have been sufficient or have proven to be effective?

More to come! Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have!

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Toronto Rally for Darfur TODAY!

A RALLY AND CANDLELIGHT VIGIL WILL BE HELD TODAY (April 12) at 7 pm on Queen's Park South Lawn to urge the Canadian government to take action.

Featuring renowned speakers and performers, including the Honourable Irwin Cotler and Rwandan genocide survivor & musician The Mighty Popo.

As the genocide in Darfur enters its sixth year, it is crucial that Canadians unite to send a message to our government: the people of Darfur require immediate protection and relief and the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity should be brought to justice.


www.darfurtoronto.com Continue reading this article...

The Guns of Darfur

John R. Matchim

The conflict in Darfur has been fuelled by a decades long influx of foreign weaponry, ranging from small arms to helicopter gunships. China and the Russian Federation have been the most prominent suppliers of weaponry, but there are and were many other sources, some unknown. This entry will provide some basic background regarding Darfur’s weapons importers and highlight the international nature of the conflict, with both national governments and hidden gunrunners vying for a share of the slaughter's profits. The plethora of actors and factors involved in the arming of the region highlight the futility of international intervention without real negotiations between the warring factions.

The People’s Republic of China

Though Africa contains some of the largest proven reserves of oil in the world, its fields have been largely ignored by Western companies. China has recognized the potential of African oil to satisfy the demands of its growing economy, and has made some of its most significant investments in Sudan. In exchange for oil, China has offered Sudan large quantities of small arms as well as some its most sophisticated military equipment. The arrangement is doubly beneficial to Beijing as it provides a rare opportunity for its inefficient and poor-quality arms industry to manufacture for the export market. Because Sudan has no significant arms industry of its own, equipment received from China outfits a large number of military units, and also provides China additional opportunities to provide maintenance and operational training. While the Sudanese army has been the recipient of most of the heavy equipment, small arms have been supplied to the Janjaweed. Chinese manufactured Fantan ground attack aircraft have also been photographed operating from El-Fasher.


The Russian Federation

The Russian state-owned arms industry is another major source of military equipment for the armed forces and militias of Sudan. After oil and natural gas, arms are one of Russia’s most lucrative exports. Because Moscow considers an independent (not reliant on foreign technology) and sophisticated defence-industrial complex vital to its national security interests, it is eager to export weapons wherever the opportunity arises. In 2002 Russia signed a military-technical cooperation agreement with Sudan and forced through the sale of MiG-29 combat aircraft despite opposition from human rights groups. The infamous helicopter gunships that have shaped public imagination are also of Russian origin. Like China, Russia is interested in expanding its central African influence and developing untapped oil and gas fields.


Libya, Sudan and Small Arms

The government militias and fractured rebel groups of Darfur have never found themselves for want of weapons. While some of that weaponry has been supplied by China, there are many other sources of assault rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and light mortars. Many of those weapons were transferred by the government of Sudan decades ago, arming villages and groups considered loyal to the Khartoum regime at a time of increasing environmental tension. The government, wanting to remain clear of societal stresses, chose to flood the region with weapons and let the problem sort itself out. During the 1980’s Muammar Gadaffi of Libya also funneled small arms into Darfur as part of a larger effort to establish a pro-Libyan sphere of influence throughout the North African region. Most recently, instability in neighboring Chad has left government arsenals vulnerable to attack by rebels, with many of the seized weapons easily finding their way across the vast and undefended border of Darfur.
Iran, Belarus, Egypt and the United Arab Emirate are other major suppliers of Sudanese weaponry. However, arming Darfur is not limited to state governments alone, and the profit potential of Darfur is no less significant than that of any other conflict. Indeed, because of the official United Nations arms embargo, gun running is a very lucrative venture. In September of 2007 a United Nations Security Council Panel of Experts estimated that between September 2006 and July 2007 private cargo companies transported a combined capacity of 13,000 tons of equipment and supplies into Darfur, much of it military.


The multitude of actors, vital interests, vast and porous borders, regional instability and the profit motive have left Darfur awash in weaponry. Any United Nations arms embargo, no matter how tough, would be difficult or impossible to enforce without a significant military presence. However, easy access to weaponry practically makes armed resistance to such an effort inevitable. The problems of Darfur perhaps complicate and transcend the potential of armed international intervention, with a renewed emphasis on negotiations the best alternative. After all, if the causes of conflict are resolved, the demand for weapons will gradually disappear.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR54/019/2007 Continue reading this article...

Attention Ottawa Standers: Rally for Darfur TOMORROW: 7 April 2009!

The rally will begin on the University of Ottawa campus (in front of the Morisset Library terrace) at 1 pm and will proceed to the Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, located at 354 Stewart Street in Sandy Hill. At both the university and the embassy, political and community leaders, members of the Darfuri Community and student activists will speak about the need for public condemnation of recent events on the ground in Darfur. NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar, Sudanese activitst Tragi Mustafa and Darfuri community leader Abdul-Ghaffar Ahmed are confirmed as speakers.

Our goal is to raise public awareness of the dire and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur following the ICC indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. We will unite to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Darfur, and our hope that Canada will take on a greater role in alleviating this crisis.

The date of the event is of utmost significance, as it is the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. As we reflect on the international community's failure to act in Rwanda, we will draw attention to the ongoing crisis in Darfur, which has been described as "Rwanda in slow motion". The theme of enduring hope will be represented through a constant beating of drums.

For more information, please contact Jackie Bonisteel at jbonisteel@standcanada.org. Hope to see you there!

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Bashir shows his defiance in the face of the International Criminal Court’s warrant for his arrest (Photo from De Welt).

Some recent news coming out of Darfur is that a Sudanese aid worker with Canadian agency Fellowship for African Relief (based in Ontario) has been shot to death. It has been suggested that there is a link with the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese President Bashir, though at this stage it’s only speculation (UNAMID is investigating the crime). A clearer link can be made between the indictment and the kidnapping about two weeks ago in Darfur of three aid workers, including Laura Archer, a Canadian nurse. Happily, the kidnapped workers were released three days later, but Médecins sans frontières (MSF) had to withdraw almost all of its expatriate employees from the region. This will only compound the already drastic effects of President Bashir’s expulsion of a number of humanitarian NGOs from Darfur in the wake of the ICC indictment.

A dangerous trend is apparent here. There is no justification for transferring anger about the application of international criminal justice to aid agencies. Yet President Bashir has managed to take this position to the extreme with his expulsion of aid agencies from the country. But is it the government or other actors who are behind the latest attacks? World leaders, including the Canadian government, need to make sure that a high-quality investigation is carried out into these latest attacks, to prevent the impunity that already surrounds the expulsion of humanitarian agencies from going any further.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a plea for the international community to pressure Bashir to reverse his decision to expel aid agencies from Sudan. This is certainly a welcome move, but I fear that without a targeted approach, international condemnation will only harden Bashir’s resolve. It’s time to get creative! Can some of the Arab states that Bashir considers his allies – who have already said they will not arrest Bashir on their soil – be harnessed to put some (friendly) pressure on Bashir to allow humanitarian agencies pursue their work in the country?

In this increasingly desperate situation, what will work best with Bashir – international condemnation, or a more conciliatory approach? Bashir is, after only, only a human being. Humans can be persuaded, but they can also be stubborn and inflexible. It’s an indication of how bad things have gotten that in this particular scenario, what’s at stake are thousands upon thousands of lives.

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Stand Events Coast to Coast tonight!

Stand Chapters coast to coast are holding events to make it easy for you to raise your voice in support of Canadian action in Darfur. Attend your nearest event(s) this month and show your support!


Toronto Benefit For Darfur
Featuring Birds of Wales & We Are the Take

April 2nd, 9 pm, Tattoo Rock Parlour (567 Queen St.W)

Stand Canada is having a concert with our friends Birds of Wales and We Are the Take! Come out to see some photos from our last trip to Sudan, and hear some great music.

Tickets are only $10 - order now! Space is limited. Cover is $15 at the door.

Email awagner@standcanada.org for more information.

Stand UBC Presents: Children of Darfur Film Screening
April 2nd, 6 pm, Room 106A in Buchanan A, Main Mall, UBC

Featuring the highly acclaimed short film, Children of Darfur, and special guest speaker Dr. Clement Apaak.

Come find out what you can easily and effortlessly do to initiate crucial and expedient change in Darfur.

Email ubc@standcanada.org for more details.

Stand McGill presents: Pub Night Fundraiser for Darfur

April 2nd, 10 pm, Brutopia (1219 Crescent Street)

Featuring Tara Hall and First You Get the Sugar.

Tickets $5 - all proceeds go to Stand & Doctors without Borders.

Email mcgill@standcanada.org for more details.

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April is Genocide Prevention Month

In what can only be called a gruesome coincidence, six acts of genocide and mass atrocity crimes have anniversaries in April: Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Holocaust and Armenia.

This month, anti-genocide organizations and advocates are focusing on the repeated pledge of "never again" and asking the question: what have we learned? It is important for us to look to our mistakes and learn from them in order to honour that pledge. Genocide Prevention Month calls for a strong policy framework that focuses on drawing from these lessons for prevention of genocide. Stand chapters across the country will be holding events and rallies to urge the Canadian government to make acting against genocide a key foreign policy issue.

Stand Canada friend and supporter Education for Change has launched a blog project to join the movement. A new entry will be up daily to examine what genocide prevention really entails. The blog will focus on a different perspective with each entry: whether it is the voices of those whose families and friends have been affected by conflict, or discussion on how our generation have many choices to make in the face of genocide in order to prevent future occurrences. Check it out, and join in the discussion. Continue reading this article...