On 15 February 2001, 'The Globe and Mail' published an
article on Sudanese-Canadian relations entitled 'Quiet Diplomacy:
A Shame and a Farce' written by Dave Toycen, the Chief Executive
Officer of World Vision Canada. This article was critical
of the Canadian government's "constructive engagement" with
Sudan and critical of Canadian investment in that country.
Mr Toycen's comments regarding Canada's "constructive engagement"
with Sudan are, however, at best questionable where not
simply naïve. It is obvious that the article was representative
of World Vision Canada's questionable stance on Sudan.
"CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT" AND SUDAN: WHAT MEASUREMENTS?
It has been two years since Talisman Energy became active
in Sudan and one year since the Harker report commissioned
by the Canadian government. (1) How does one measure the
effects of "constructive engagement"? The Sudanese government
and the Sudanese opposition have been engaged in peace talks
for several years, most recently under the auspices of the
Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of seven
East African nations. Political and armed opposition to
the Sudanese government has been focused in the National
Democratic Alliance (NDA), a grouping which includes the
Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). On 26 September 2000
the Sudanese President met face to face with the NDA leadership
in Asmara, Eritrea. (2) World Vision claims that the Sudanese
government is not taking peace talks "seriously". It is
surely for the Sudanese opposition, rather than poorly informed
Canadians, to be the judge of whether Khartoum is serious
or not. It is very clear, for example, that the biggest
Sudanese opposition party, the Umma party, led by former
Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, the mainstay of the rebel
coalition, has left the NDA and abandoned its armed struggle
against the Khartoum government because of what the Umma
party saw as "seriousness" on the part of the Sudanese government.
The former Prime Minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, himself ousted
in 1989 by the present government, and a pivotal rebel leader,
has declared that:
"There are now circumstances and developments which could
favour an agreement on a comprehensive political solution."
The former prime minister returned to Sudan in November
2000. Agence France Press has reported that he is also soon
to be joined by Mohammad al-Mirghani, the leader of the
Democratic Unionist Party, Sudan's second largest opposition
party. (4) Mr al-Mirhani is also the chairman of the NDA.
These developments have been widely covered by the international
news media, with articles such as 'Opposition Leader Predicts
Solution to Sudan's Conflict', 'Sudanese Rebel Group to
Enter Khartoum Politics', and 'Mahdi's Withdrawal Dents
(5) These articles, and others, appear to have escaped
the somewhat selective attention of Mr Toycen and World
And as part of its peace negotiations with the rebel coalition,
Khartoum has, since 1997, offered an internationally-supervised
referendum whereby the people of southern Sudan would be
able - for the first time since independence - to chose
their destiny, either within a united Sudan or as a separate
state. This offer was incorporated into Sudan's new 1998
constitution and has been repeated on several occasions.
(6 ) It is an offer that has also been acknowledged, but
not taken up, by the SPLA. In March 2000 the U.N. Special
Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right
to freedom of opinion and expression stated that Sudan had
made "great progress recently... reflected in greater political
And what of Sudan regionally? Agence France Presse reported
in February 2000 that Sudan was "Heading for Improved Ties
with Neighbours". From having been mired in regional conflicts,
Sudan has over the past three years emerged as a leader
of its region, culminating in Sudan's current presidency
of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development
(IGAD) body made up of seven eastern and central African
countries. And in February 2001, Sudan was also elected
president of the sixteen-strong Community of Sahel-Saharan
States. Sudan's neighbours would seem to have believed that
"constructive engagement" has worked.
It is not just regional groupings that appear to be satisfied
with "constructive engagement". The European Union has publicly
stated that it has "noticed signs of improvement" in Sudan's
political situation. And in June 2000 South Africa and Algeria,
in their capacities as chairs of the 114-member Non-Aligned
Movement and the 22-member Arab Group of states respectively
called on the United Nations to withdraw the limited diplomatic
sanctions in place on Sudan since 1996. The Organisation
of African Unity, representing 53 African countries has
also urged the
Security Council to rescind the sanctions in question.
Ongoing economic reforms and progress have also been enough
for the International Monetary Fund to restore Sudan's voting
WHO IS OBSTRUCTING PEACE IN SUDAN?
World Vision Canada's position with regard to peace in
Sudan is fortunately a minority one. Mr Toycen states that
rather than work towards a constructive engagement with
Khartoum, a better approach would be for Canada to "put
real pressure on Sudan's government to...take the
peace talks seriously". This demonstrates a remarkably
selective and all too naïve view of the Sudanese peace
For all its naivety, Mr Toycen's concern about the obstruction
of peace efforts in Sudan is a valid one. His somewhat simplistic
view as to whom is to blame - that is to say the Sudanese
government - is in stark variance with better-informed and
less partisan observers. Former
President Jimmy Carter, for example, has been very candid
about who he perceives as being to blame for the continuation
of the Sudanese conflict:
"The people in Sudan want to resolve the conflict. The
biggest obstacle is US government policy. The US is committed
to overthrowing the government in Khartoum. Any sort of
peace effort is aborted, basically by policies of the United
States...Instead of working for peace in Sudan, the US government
has basically promoted a continuation of the war." (7)
As Mr Toycen may concede former President Carter is a man
respected the world over for his work towards peace in various
conflicts. Jimmy Carter is also a man who knows Sudan, and
the Sudanese situation well, having followed the issue for
two decades or more. He has also stated:
"If the United States would be reasonably objective in
Sudan, I think that we at the Carter Center and the Africans
who live in the area could bring peace to Sudan. But the
United States government has a policy of trying to overthrow
the government in Sudan. So whenever there's a peace initiative,
unfortunately our government puts up whatever obstruction
it can." (8)
Carter bluntly stated that he also believed that this behaviour
by Washington had a negative effect on the SPLA's interest
in negotiating a political settlement: "I think Garang now
feels he doesn't need to negotiate because he anticipates
a victory brought about by increasing support from his immediate
neighbors, and also from the United States and indirectly
from other countries". (9) World Vision has rightly expressed
concern that the Sudanese air force has doubled its bombings
in southern Sudan in the past year. What World Vision did
not point out
is that in the past year, with the Clinton Administration's
encouragement, the SPLA rebels broke the humanitarian ceasefire
that had been in place in the vast Bahr al-Ghazal region
of southern Sudan. World Vision once again focuses on the
symptom rather than the cause of conflict.
It is somewhat of an indictment of Mr Toycen's judgement
that he goes out of his way in his article to see United
States policies towards Sudan as "positive". It is the very
American policies which Mr Toycen describes as "positive"
that have prolonged the civil war in Sudan, which in turn
results in the warfare and bombing he then condemns. Mr
Toycen's inability to see beyond the next slogan that is
yet another one of the problems faced in assessing Sudan.
WORLD VISION CANADA: DISCREDITING CANADA'S INTERNATIONAL
There is no doubt that the unbalanced and often naïve
images of Sudan and Sudanese issues projected by groups
such as World Vision Canada International only serve to
discredit Canada internationally and within Sudan, and hinders
positive Canadian involvement in that country. This
is for two reasons. Firstly, all too often pressure is
brought to bear upon the Canadian government on the basis
of questionable information, material and conclusions (as
can be seen in Mr Toycen's 'Globe and Mail' article). From
time to time this pressure has the effect of pushing the
Canadian government into actions which themselves are unrealistic
and ill-thought out. Such was the Canadian government's
attempt to secure a resolution on Sudan during Canada's
tenure as chairman of the United Nations Security Council.
The Canadian government had to drop this idea in the face
of considerable opposition from the international community.
The Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Fowler,
"The representations we received suggested that the timing
was not right, that there were important peace initiatives
under way both from Libya and Egypt. The Arab League and
the OAU (Organization of African Unity), as well as the
nonaligned movement, suggested to us that council
engagement on this issue at this time would not be productive."
It is clear that IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority
on Development, the seven nation East African regional body
intimately involved with the Sudanese peace process, also
pointedly opposed any United Nations Security Council resolution
or involvement. The organisation's executive director stated
that IGAD "is strongly opposed to raising the problem at
the Security Council". (11) The 113 nations Non-Aligned
Movement also supported Sudan's position. The fact that
the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organisation of African Unity
and Arab League as well as the vital IGAD nations pointedly
opposed Canada's attempts to raise Sudan at the Security
Council is a key indicator of how out of step Canada was
in seeking such a resolution. It also demonstrated in turn
how out of touch Canadian anti-Sudanese activists such as
Dave Toycen are with opinion on Sudan in much of the world,
and particularly within the developing world.
Mr Toycen also presents a further example of disturbing
Canadian arrogance when he gloated that Sudan was denied
a seat on the United Security Council (as a result of intensive
American lobbying). He is seemingly ignorant of the fact
that Sudan was nominated by the African
continent and put forward for the seat by the Organisation
of African Unity. Perhaps Mr Toycen and World Vision think
that in addition to knowing what was best for the Sudanese
nation, they know what is in the best interests of the African
people, even to the extent of whom the OAU
should have chosen to represent the Africa? This is an
arrogance that once again jars with the reputation of Canada
as an international team-player.
Secondly, demands by some Canadian activists and groups
that the Sudanese oil project should not be allowed to continue,
and that it is not in their own best interests for the Sudanese
to exploit their own natural resources border on the sort
of colonialist paternalism that Canada and Canadians have
rightly distanced themselves from so vigorously over the
WORLD VISION CANADA, THE WINNIPEG CONFERENCE AND DOUBLE
Mr Toycen points to the Winnipeg Conference on War-affected
Children held in 2000, during which Uganda and Sudan agreed
to cooperate in the repatriation of captives held by insurgents
operating out of their respective countries, and asks "What
happened to the famous Winnipeg
agreement. Sudan's government scuttled its implementation
after delegates returned home." He further states that "Ministers
from Sudan, Uganda, Canada and Egypt were supposed to meet
in January to review progress. They did not meet because
there was no progress to report." Either through prejudice
or ignorance he ignores the fact that Sudanese-Ugandan relations
continue to be problematic. In December, 1999, Sudan and
Uganda signed an agreement brokered by Jimmy Carter which
sought to normalise relations. This agreement sought to
end support for combatants
in their respective civil wars. (12) Despite having signed
this, and other, agreements pledging an end to military
support for the SPLA rebels, Uganda has, however, continued
such assistance. The first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
for Foreign Affairs Eriya Kategaya, appearing before the
Ugandan parliamentary committee on presidential and foreign
affairs, stated for example that Uganda would not stop supporting
the SPLA. He said that "To be seen to abandon them because
we want peace with (Sudanese President) Bashir is not correct."
(13) Six months after having signed the Nairobi accord,
Museveni admitted to the Ugandan newspaper 'New Vision',
that he was still providing the SPLA with weapons. (14)
Such a stance can only but impact negatively on repatriation
projects such as that outlined in Winnipeg.
World Vision Canada's position with regard to the Winnipeg
conference is itself deeply questionable. Kathy Vandergrift,
of World Vision Canada and co-ordinator of the private aid
agencies that attended the Winnipeg conference called on
the Sudanese and Ugandan governments to free all abducted
children by the end of 2000, to disband the Lords Resistance
Army, and to "put into place mechanisms to ensure this
never happens again." (15) While it is a fact that Ugandan
children have been abducted, what is also beyond doubt is
that tens of thousands of Sudanese children have been abducted
from areas in southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains by the
SPLA. This purposeful abduction of minors for use of child
soldiers continues to this day. The United Nations Special
Rapporteur for human rights in the Sudan, Leonardo Franco
in his September 2000 report stated that the SPLA "were
children" in southern Sudan. (16) The use of child soldiers
has also been confirmed by
Reuters (17) and 'The National Post'. (18)
Uganda can only but be seen as actively supporting the
SPLA, a group described by 'The New York Times' as an "occupying
army, killing, raping and pillaging" its way across southern
Sudan. By World Vision Canada's own logic, Uganda is therefore
also directly or indirectly responsible
for the continued abduction of Sudanese children and their
enforced use as child soldiers not only within Sudan itself
but also within the many SPLA camps inside Uganda. Uganda
must be held accountable for the return of the thousands
of child soldiers within SPLA ranks, as well as those
child soldiers and minors held in SPLA bases within Uganda.
There are simple questions which must be asked of World
Vision. Does World Vision Canada really believe they are
equipped to differentiate between groups of murderous gunmen
involved in "killing, raping and pillaging" who also abduct
children? Why does World Vision Canada not
call for the disbandment of the SPLA as well as the LRA?
Surely not to do so is a subjective, political or ill-informed
decision? What has Mr Toycen's organisation done with regard
to the thousands of Sudanese children held by the SPLA?
Given that World Vision Canada is one of the founders of
the 'Friends of the War-affected Children from Northern
Uganda', can one ask whether there a similar 'Friends of
the War-affected Children from Southern Sudan and the Nuba
Mountains'? The reality is that World Vision Canada have
turned their backs on the thousands of Sudanese children
held in conditions similar to the LRA children?
Despite World Vision's partisan stance, Canadian political
and economic engagement have clearly been co-terminous with
quantifiable changes for the better within Sudan and regionally.
While Ottawa's political touch may not always been particularly
deft internationally, it should
nevertheless take credit for playing its part in positively
influencing some of these developments. While there is a
clear role for World Vision Canada to play in Sudan, the
positions adopted hitherto by Mr Toycen and World Vision
Canada with regard to Sudan can at best be described as
questionable and at worst as white, Western neo-colonial
arrogance. It ill behoves a white Christian non-governmental
organisation to position itself as knowing what is in the
best interests of not only the Sudanese people but the African
continent as a whole. Such an attitude discredits
both World Vision Canada and the Canadian nation at large.
1 John Harker, 'Human Security in Sudan: The Report of
a Canadian Assessment Mission', Prepared for the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, Ottawa, January 2000, available at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc-foreignp-3110186-e.pdf
2 See 'Sudan President Meets Opposition', News Article
by BBC on 27 September 2000 at 01:07:11 EST (-5 GMT).
3 'Developments in Sudan Favour National Reconciliation:
Mahdi', News Article by Agence France Presse on 25 December
1999 at 12:38:20.
4 'Sudanese Dissident to Return from Exile after 11 Years
in Egypt', News Article by Agence France Presse on 29 January
5 See, for example, 'Opposition Leader Predicts Solution
to Sudan's Conflict', News Article by PANA on 27 March 2000;
'Sudanese Rebel Group to Enter Khartoum Politics', News
Article by Agence France Presse on 20 March 2000 at 15:03:57
EST; and 'Mahdi's Withdrawal Dents
Opposition Alliance', News Article by PANA on 25 March,
2000 at 00:40:27 EST.
6 See, 'Sudan offers South secession', News Article by
BBC, 22 February 1999 at 00:16:14 GMT; 'Southern secession
better than more war: Sudan's president', News Article by
Agence France Presse, 22 February 1999, at 10:04:31; 'Referendum
agreed at Sudan peace talks', News
Article by BBC World, 7 May 1998, at 11:06 GMT; 'Sudan
Says Happy for South to secede', News Article by Reuters,
7 May 1998.
7 'Carter, Others Say US Has Faltered in Africa', 'The
Boston Globe', 8 December 1999.
8 'CARE Seeks Political Fix in Sudan', 'Atlanta Journal-Constitution',
7 October 1999.
9 'Ex-President Opposes Policy of Aiding Khartoum's Foes',
'The Washington Times', 25 September 1997.
10 'Canada Drops Bid to Discuss Sudan in U.N. Council',
News Article by Reuters on 5 April 2000 at 00:36:08 EST.
11 'IGAD Against Internationalising Sudan Peace Bid', News
Article by Agence France Presse on 25 April 2000 at 08:05:26
12 See, for example, 'Carter's Patience Pays Off in Africa',
'The Washington Post', 12 December 1999; 'Uganda, Sudan
Agree On Ending Rebel Activity', News Article by Reuters
on 8 December 1999.
13 'Kategaya Takes Up Issue with Defence', 'New Vision',
Kampala, 3 March 2000.
14 'Museveni Warns Sudan on LRA Rebels', 'New Vision',
Kampala, 25 May 2000.
15 'Children of War Rescued by Canada', 'The Globe and
Mail', Toronto, 18 September 2000.
16 'Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan', Interim Report
of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights on the Situation
of Human Rights in the Sudan, United Nations General Assembly,
A/55/374, 11 September 2000.
17 'Rag-tag Rebels Fight for Sudan's Oil Riches', News
Article by Reuters on 14 February 2000 at 14:24:21.
18 'Meeting the Victims of Sudan's Oil Boom', 'The National
Post', Canada, 27 November 1999.
19 It is ironic therefore to find the December 2000 Great
Lakes Region Consultative Conference on protection and development
of children affected by wars was opened by Yoweri Museveni's
wife, Janet Museveni: 'Aboke Girls' Parents Attack Otunnu',
'New Vision', Kampala, 7 December 2000.