Irwin Cotler has an op-ed in the National Post today entitled “The Issue this Election Forgot.” In case you can’t tell from the title, this article is right up our alley (e.g. see every other post on this blog). Below are a few excerpts and comments:
In this federal election campaign, important questions about Darfur need to be addressed by the leaders of Canada’s major parties: How do we respond to the Sudanese government beginning its sixth year of genocidal warfare by launching ferocious ground and air assaults on its African civilian populations? How do we protect the Darfurian people as the Sudanese government attempts to destroy the relief efforts set up to offer food and shelter to those in need? How do we reassure aid workers whose own lives are threatened by a government-orchestrated campaign of terror? How do we respond to the bloodshed in the Kalma displaced persons camp last month, where the Sudanese government killed 31 people, including 17 women and children?…
…As I have previously recommended, what is desperately needed now is a “Darfur Summit” convening the leadership of the African Union, the European Union, the UN, the Arab League, NATO and the Sudanese government, to implement a “Save Darfur/ Sudan” action plan. This would include the urgent mobilization and effective deployment of the UN-African Union protection force, which could include the 10,000 South Sudan volunteer peacekeepers who are ready to act, the enhancement of humanitarian assistance and protection of aid workers, the rescue of the Darfur Peace Process and the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement, both of which are in a coma, the leveraging of China to end its arms sales to Darfur and the implementation of a no-fly zone to stop the indiscriminate bombing of civilian villages.
I have stressed numerous times on this blog that the biggest problem with the international response to Darfur (that is, other than the obvious ones) is a lack of Consistency. There is no strategy, no unity, and no coherency. Cotler’s suggestions are precisely the sort of thing the situation needs for the international community to develop a strategic plan that encompasses diplomacy, justice, military protection, and humanitarian concerns. For example, a large group of nations standing together and saying to the Government of Sudan, “you will be supported if you stop the bombings, proceed with elections, hand over international criminals, etc, but you will be punished in these specific ways if you don’t.”
My only concern with the idea of a “Darfur Summit” is that it would likely be co-opted before it even began by the Government of Sudan’s friends in China, the AU, the Arab League and elsewhere. Basically, President Bashir and his cronies have shown a remarkable ability to rally support from other nations when they need it. For this reason, Canada, the US, the UN, and other concerned parties should get together and make sure they are all on the same page before any such meeting (or regardless of whether such a meeting actually occurs anyway). I think Bashir would have a much more difficult time rallying support against a forceful, unified message from the world’s most powerful nations.
One of the questions that I’m really glad Cotler points out involves the protection of the humanitarian aid community who are supporting close to 5 million people in Chad and Sudan yet could be thrown out any day by the Government (which threatens precisely that). A possible first step of an international contact group for Sudan could be to make it abundantly clear to the Government of Sudan that any attempt to shut down or seriously interfere with the life-saving aid effort will absolutely not be tolerated. If the humanitarian effort is shut down (piece by piece), this crisis could turn suddenly a lot worse.
Thank you Irwin Cotler for your emphasis of this issue.