Date of Publication: March 2001





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.


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." (3)

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 Opposition Alliance'.

(5) These articles, and others, appear to have escaped the somewhat selective attention of Mr Toycen and World Vision Canada.

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 expression."

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 rights.


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 process.

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.



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, said that:

"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." (10)

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 past century.



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 forcefully recruiting

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. (19)

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 2001.

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 EST.

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.

Espac Published by The European - Sudanese Public Affairs Council Copyright © David Hoile 2005
powered by