Canadian Activists Post an Open Letter to P.M. Harper on Sudan Crisis

From Mel Middleton, Executive Director, Freedom Quest International

Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 10:36 PM

Subject: Open Letter to PM Harper on Crisis in Sudan
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Dear Mr. Harper,
Re: Urgent Situation in Sudan — Requires Immediate Canadian Leadership!
As a Canadian who has lived and worked in Sudan since 1978, I, on behalf of our organization, would like to voice our deepest concerns for what has just happened in that country this past week. A crisis has arisen which undermines the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the north and south, and which could very well plunge the region back into another genocidal war.

As you are probably aware, northern Sudanese armed forces, acting on what is now widely seen as a pretext, carried out a pre-meditated attack on the town of Abyei on May 21. The Joint Integrated Unit forces, mandated by the CPA to maintain security in the Abyei region, disintegrated and were swept away by an overwhelming force of troops, tanks, helicopter gunships, Antonov bombers and northern militia. Surrounding villages were also attacked. Of the civilians who survived, tens of thousands fled south on foot, leaving torched homes and looted property behind. Many are now in desperate circumstances, needing food, water, shelter and medical attention. We received a report from our school project in Agok, saying 2,800 arrived there seeking shelter, but many had to sleep on open ground or in the bush.

With this blatant violation, the Khartoum regime has demonstrated contempt for the CPA as well as for international law. It already stands accused of genocide, having overseen the massacre and displacement of millions of civilians in the South and in Darfur.

We learned from the tragic Rwandan genocide in 1994 that the international community needs to provide timely security for the civilian population, and hold the belligerent parties accountable for agreements they make and for crimes they commit.

In Rwanda the UN lacked a mandate to protect civilians. In Sudan, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has this in UNSC Resolution 1590, but is neither able nor willing to use it. When northern forces overran Abyei in 2008 — and now yet again — UNMIS let the civilians fend for themselves while their personnel took shelter in bunkers and their military equipment stayed in their compound. The media reported their compound received mortar fire during the attack, and afterward, their helicopters were shot at.

The UN secretary general recently called for a new, more robust UNMIS force; one that will protect civilians. The innocent people of South Sudan, like the Rwandans before them, are dependent upon the good will of the international community to protect them. Will the world again fail to protect the innocent?

Mr. Harper, your government is to be commended for taking a principled stand when required. Five years ago you said: “You can’t lead from the bleachers. I want Canada to be a leader…a country that really leads, not a country that just follows.” You described serving in a UN-mandated, Canadian-led security operation as … “the very best of the Canadian tradition: providing leadership on global issues; stepping up to the plate; doing good when good is required.”

Is this not the perfect time for Canada to “step up to the plate” and provide the leadership on this critical global issue? Perhaps it is “for such a time as this” that you lead a majority government. Certainly doing good in Sudan is what is needed there now. Will any other country step up to the plate if Canada doesn’t lead?

Canada has pledged its support for the peace process in Sudan, and contributed significant tax payer money to it for many years. This could all be for naught if the recent Abyei violation is not challenged immediately with determination.

Specifically, we urge your government to insist that the Khartoum regime:
1. Withdraw its forces from Abyei immediately
2. Recognize the authority of the Abyei Administration, as called for by the CPA, but which was summarily dismissed last week

3. Provide funds to the Abyei administration in order to compensate for:
a) the loss of civilian life and property,
b) assisting displaced civilians to return and get re-established,
c) replenishing the supplies looted from UN and other humanitarian organizations, and
d) restoring Administration and commercial organizations’ buildings, furnishings and supplies that were destroyed or looted

Most importantly, we also urge your government to:
1. Put “boots on the ground” in a leadership role of a new, more robust UNMIS as called for by the UN Secretary General; and

2. Insure that protection of civilian life and property is its highest priority.
This new UNMIS should also ensure that violations of peace agreements made under the auspices of the international community will have dire consequences in the future for those who show contempt for peace and innocent human life.

Sincerely yours,
Mel Middleton
Executive Director,
Freedom Quest International,
Box 173, Three Hills, AB, T0M2A0
403-443-6023, or 250-398-2176

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