Canada’s Support for Peace in Darfur

Tasneem Jamal

Ploughshares letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

November 29, 2007

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Re: Canada’s Support for Peace in Darfur

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

I am writing to you on behalf of Project Ploughshares to urgently request that the Government of Canada take a more pronounced leadership role to help the people of Darfur, Sudan.

The conflict in Sudan’s western province of Darfur between rebels and government-supported militias, known as the Janjaweed, has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced more than two million since 2003. In 2004 the first of several ceasefire agreements was reached between the Government of Sudan and some of the rebel groups. None of these ceasefires have been observed in practice by either the Government or the rebel groups, despite the presence of an African Union observer mission.

The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has never been large enough or had a strong enough mandate to stop the killing. AMIS and the rest of the international community have also had to deal with Government of Sudan resistance to international intervention. It took four years for the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1769 (July 2007), which authorizes a joint UN/African Union force to enter Sudan and stop the ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity.

We gratefully acknowledge that, since 2004, Canada has contributed $441-million for humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, and reconstruction, making it the fourth largest donor to AMIS. Canada also has contributed military trainers, equipment, vehicles, air transport support, and other technical and logistic assistance as well as diplomatic support to the AU’s mediation efforts. But currently there are still insufficient resources to deploy the needed 26,000 troops for the combined UN/AU force by January 2008.

Canada’s leadership in articulating and promoting the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine puts a special onus on Canada to ensure intervention where a sovereign state consistently violates the rights and freedom of particular groups of people or allows gross crimes against humanity. Since the Darfur crisis first gained international attention in 2003, many have framed the required response by the international community within the R2P doctrine. Darfur is a real test of Canada’s and the world’s resolve to move the Responsibility to Protect from concept to full recognition in international law.

The Canadian Government has the opportunity to honour its commitment to provide real security to the vulnerable in Darfur. The lack of financial resources in Canada cannot be used as an excuse when an annual federal surplus of $13.9-billion was recently recorded. As a wealthy country we should step up and provide the logistics, financial support, equipment, and training that will allow the UN/AU mission in Darfur to deploy by its target of January 2008. Canada should also continue and enhance its support for diplomatic efforts to find a long-term political solution to the conflict in Darfur.

We do not want to under-estimate the challenges that Canada and the world face in effectively establishing UNAMID in a politically volatile and insecure environment, but it is the people of Darfur who continue to suffer while Canada and the international community take too much time to release the required resources to stop the violence. More than ever Canadians are asking themselves: What do we stand for? Can we live with another Rwanda in the 21st century? Or will we join hands across the world to protect our fellow human beings and thereby leave a proud legacy for our children?

Time is of the essence. This tragedy has been unfolding since 2003. Darfur now represents an irresistible call for Canadian leadership to stop the atrocities.

Sincerely,

John Siebert
Executive Director
Project Ploughshares

cc.
The Honourable Maxime Bernier
Minister of Foreign Affairs

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