Crisis in Sudan: Canadian Assistance in Darfur

Tasneem Jamal

Peter Whelan

The Ploughshares Monitor Summer 2005 Volume 26 Issue 2

The crisis in the western Sudan region of Darfur came to public attention in the West in early 2003 when two rebel groups in the region escalated their fight against Sudanese government forces and their Janjaweed allies. In April 2004 a ceasefire agreement was signed by the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups. Although this agreement was ultimately unsuccessful in ending hostilities, it did include provisions for the deployment of an African Union (AU) observer mission to Darfur to monitor adherence to the ceasefire agreement. This mission was authorized by the AU Peace and Security Council in May and endorsed by the UN Security Council in July. By September, several months after it was deployed, it consisted of 80 Military Observers and a protection force of 300 members.

In October 2004 the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) was authorized to increase to 3,320 personnel, primarily troops, but also Military Observers and civilian police. As well, the mandate of these troops was expanded to contribute more to the security of the people of Darfur. In April 2005 AMIS received a new authorization to grow to a force of approximately 7,700 personnel.

Although the Member States of the African Union are the primary contributors of personnel to AMIS, the mission is also getting financial and logistical support from a range of actors, including Canada. Because the African Union is only a few years old and its peace and security architectures remain underdeveloped, international support is needed.

Several departments of the Canadian Government, including Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and Department of National Defence (DND) have pledged aid to Darfur. To coordinate their efforts, Prime Minister Martin created a Special Advisory Team of Ambassador Robert Fowler, the PM’s Personal Representative for Africa; Senator Roméo Dallaire; and Senator Mobina Jaffer, Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan.

CIDA has pledged approximately $50-million in humanitarian assistance, $28-million of which was pledged at a donor conference in Oslo in April 2005. An additional $190-million ($20-million in 2004 and $170-million announced in May 2005) has been pledged to support AMIS. The bulk of the initial $20-million was devoted to the leasing of 15 medium-lift helicopters to provide tactical and logistical airlift support to the AU force. This funding also provided for the deployment of two members of the Canadian Forces (CF) and one RCMP officer. The $170-million recently pledged is to be used to expand the airlift support to AMIS, as well as to provide additional Canadian military support, including strategic planning experts.

The 28 April 2005 report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Darfur noted that Canada was the fourth highest contributor to AMIS, behind the European Union, the US, and the UK. A pledge at the Addis Ababa donor conference in May of an additional $170-million makes Canada the second largest contributor to AMIS after the US.

While Canada’s financial commitment is substantial, other elements of the response have been criticized. So far only two CF personnel and one RCMP officer have been sent to the AU in Addis Ababa and AMIS in Khartoum in support of the mission. And, although funding for AMIS and humanitarian assistance is essential to the longer-term stabilization of Darfur, some have argued that it does little to provide immediate protection to threatened individuals.

One suggestion is that Canada, perhaps in collaboration with NATO allies, should send military personnel to Darfur to assist AU forces in protecting civilians who continue to face extraordinary threats to their safety. In calling for this intervention, many have recalled the international community’s inaction during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Now Independent MP David Kilgour (2005) claims that a force of “tens of thousands of troops of NATO quality, with a robust mandate to protect civilians” is needed to stabilize the situation in Darfur. He believes that Canada should participate in such a force, and also take a leadership role in finding economic ways to persuade Sudan to negotiate a peace agreement in good faith.

In May, when Prime Minister Martin announced Canada’s increased engagement in Darfur, he stated that Canada would increase its support to AMIS by providing up to 100 CF personnel, including military intelligence officers, strategic planners, and logistics experts, as required by the AU force. However, this offer was rejected by Sudanese officials who insisted that no non-African military personnel would be permitted in Darfur. Khartoum has consistently resisted interventions by foreigners, including Africans, in what it describes as an internal matter. Canadian officials have since announced that no CF personnel will be sent to Darfur.

Recently, Paul Heinbecker (former Canadian ambassador to the UN) and Lloyd Axworthy (former Minister of Foreign Affairs) spoke out in favour of Canada’s playing a more active role in resolving the crisis in Darfur, claiming that, to ‘do the right thing’, Canada must “field a battalion or two [1,000-2,000] of boots-on-the-ground soldiers, not just a platoon or two [60-80] of logistics support” (2005). According to Heinbecker and Axworthy, in line with the “Responsibility to Protect” concept which holds that when governments are either unable or unwilling to protect their citizenry from extraordinary harm, the international community has an obligation to do so, this deployment should proceed in spite of the obstacles presented by the Sudanese government and the UN Security Council, some of whose permanent members are not keen on intervention in Darfur. Bold moves by Canada, which may spur the rest of the international community to act, are justified because “[c]rimes against humanity are everyone’s business.”

For now, it seems that the AU will provide the ‘boots on the ground’ in Darfur, with international actors including NATO, the EU, the US, and Canada providing support such as airlift. Yet, in spite of the constraints of the Government of Sudan’s position on direct non-African involvement in Darfur, Canada can remain actively involved in resolving the crisis. The Sudan Inter-Agency Reference Group (SIARG), a forum of 23 Canadian non-governmental organizations and agencies with programming on Sudan, recently sent to Prime Minister Martin a series of recommendations on resolving the crisis in Darfur.

Specifically, they called for Canada to use its political influence, other diplomatic means, and resources at its disposal to push for progress in the following areas where it was deemed Canada could have an impact:

  • Facilitating the full deployment of the expanded AU mission, with a strengthened mandate to protect civilians. Attacks on civilians have generally decreased where AU personnel have been deployed. Therefore, the expansion of AMIS by over 4,000 personnel in the coming months should further reduce the violence.
  • Ensuring access for humanitarian agencies to vulnerable individuals in Darfur.
  • Implementing the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and southern rebel forces.
  • Establishing the requisite conditions that would allow for the safe return of displaced Darfur residents to their communities and homes.
  • Ensuring that existing targeted Security Council measures such as travel bans, freezing of assets, and arms embargoes are effectively enforced.
  • Pushing forward the political peace process, in particular the peace talks at which Canada has observer status that are set to resume in Abuja, Nigeria in early June. An effective peace agreement is essential to end the immediate crisis and begin the process of building sustainable peace in the region. The deployment of a UN peace support operation to Darfur, which would contribute to the longer-term stability of Darfur, will likely occur only after a peace agreement is signed by all parties.
  • Assisting in the initiatives aimed at improving the human rights situation in Darfur, such as the monitoring work being carried out by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as those endeavoring to bring about accountability for extraordinary rights abuses, such as the International Criminal Court investigations already underway.

As well as responding to the recommendations put forward by SIARG, Canada could also have a positive impact on Darfur by contributing to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) that was established in March 2005. Although UNMIS was established to support implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the Sudanese civil war with southern rebels, UN officials are also exploring ways in which UNMIS could foster peace efforts in Darfur, in part through supporting AMIS. Furthermore, it is possible that the area of deployment for UNMIS may be extended to include Darfur and that it may take over peace support work from the AU.

Canada has announced its intention to deploy up to 31 CF personnel to Sudan as part of UNMIS. By June 3, Canada had deployed seven CF personnel, including a Brigadier-General who is serving as Deputy Force Commander to the mission. Because of the crucial role that UNMIS will play in solidifying the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and the role that the mission may potentially play in resolving the crisis in Darfur, Canada should consider pledging additional military and/or civilian personnel, including police officers, to UNMIS.

Axworthy, L. and Heinbecker, P. 2005, “Let’s do the right thing in Darfur,” The Globe and Mail, June 4.

Kilgour, D. 2005, “Does Canada stand for anything in Darfur?” The Globe and Mail, March 18.

Kiplagat, N. 2005. “Darfur and the case for Intervention,” The Ploughshares Monitor, Spring, pp. 17-19.

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