Sunday, 22 April 2007 20:00 Alexa McDonough Editorial Dept - Africa
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Harper PMNDP Challenges Harper to Support New UN Initiative - Stephen Harper remains silent on the suffering of civilians in Darfur, a week after the government of Sudan announced its consent to a UN heavy support package of up to 3,000 troops for the troubled region.

At a press conference today, three NDP MPs - Foreign Affairs Critic Alexa McDonough, Defence Critic Dawn Black, and the vice-chair for the all-party commission for the prevention of genocide, Paul Dewar - challenged the government to use the occasion of the Armenian genocide commemoration to announce its strategy to support a renewed peace-support mission in Darfur.

"Darfur's is a story that sounds far too similar to the experience of Armenians, of the European Jews, of many Native Americans, of the Rwandan Tutsi," said the MPs in their press conference. "If we do not act with conviction around Darfur, then soon we will reconvene to establish another day of commemoration for the suffering of yet another innocent people."
 

The following is text of Alexa McDonough's Statement:

This week we will commemorate the Armenian genocide. In 1915, there was no international body to rally international action around the suffering of over a million Armenians, who died under the worst of Ottoman rule.

Today, the world is changed. We have political institutions, legal frameworks, and guiding principles like the Responsibility to Protect that facilitate and legitimize collective action to put an end to the world's worst humanitarian abuses.

Still, for the past four years, the people of Darfur have watched their region burn. In most cases, the Darfurians cannot rely on their own government - the government of Sudan - for safety and security, because that government has been complicit in some of the worst abuses.

For four years the Sudanese government has provided direct military support for militia attacks on innocent civilians; their villages and their communities. It has nurtured a culture of total impunity for the thousands of war crimes committed in a vicious counter-insurgency campaign - including murder, rape, torture, forced displacement of civilians, pillage, and interference in the delivery of humanitarian aid. Hundreds of thousands have died as a result of this violence. 2.5 million Darfurians have been displaced from their homes and their livelihoods.

Hundreds of thousands have fled Darfur for neighboring countries, where they are still at risk from cross-border raids by government-sponsored militia. Because of this spreading violence, the Darfur crisis has been repeatedly referred to by the UN Security Council as a threat to international peace and security.

Darfur's is a story that sounds far too similar to the experience of Armenians, of the European Jews, of many Native Americans, of the Rwandan Tutsi. If we do not act with conviction around Darfur, then soon we will reconvene to establish another day of commemoration for the suffering of yet another innocent people.

Canada, to its credit, has been engaged with the crisis in Darfur. We have provided financial support, logistical support, and military equipment to the current African Union mission on the ground. We have been active participants in the Darfur peace process. We have contributed to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which has brought an end to decades of conflict between Sudan's North and South. These are positive steps, but while thousands of Darfurians continue to die every month, more needs to be done.

A new opportunity for peace in Darfur has emerged. The government of Sudan announced its consent for the deployment of up to 3,000 UN-sanctioned troops, policy officers, civilian staff and equipment to support the AU force in the region. This is a positive step by the government of Sudan.

The international community must now act quickly and decisively before the Sudanese government changes its mind. Canada must be at the forefront of this international response. The NDP calls on the government of Canada to state its clear intent to seize this emerging opportunity for effective action in Darfur. We urge the government to state its clear strategy outlining how it will contribute to the UN's heavy support package. We call upon the government of Canada to show its commitment and leadership with a renewed, long-term diplomatic initiative aimed at stabilizing and building up the political environment required for meaningful and inclusive peace negotiations.

Alexa McDonough (Halifax)
NDP Foreign Affairs and International Development Critic

Image Courtesy of the PMO



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