A great column published in the Toronto Star today by Roméo Dallaire emphasised Canada's responsibility to protect:
A leading middle power goes AWOL from Darfur: Canada championed the `responsibility to protect' but has been virtually absent from the scene
Canada championed the `responsibility to protect' but has been virtually absent from the scene
We Canadians should be mad as hell that the genocide in Darfur, now entering its sixth year, rages on unimpeded while our leaders stand by and do nothing. It's not as if we don't hear daily about this ongoing crisis. If we plead ignorance, then it is willful ignorance.
Detailed UN and media reports from the ravaged area tell of more massacres and more violence against inhabitants and 2.2 million displaced persons. Systemic rape as a weapon of war has become a major feature of the conflict. Darfuri boys between the ages of 12 and 18 are singled out and murdered. Non-governmental organizations seeking to bring desperately needed relief to the population are looted and attacked. Darfuris fleeing to Chad suffer in squalid, unsupplied camps while cross-border attacks by the janjaweed militias occur unabated.
Why does the slaughter, which has already claimed 200,000 to 300,000 lives, continue? The brave but beleaguered African Union peacekeeping force (AMIS) attempted unsuccessfully for several years to stem the tide of violence and human rights violations. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1769 six months ago to relieve the AMIS forces and create a combined UN-AU force, dubbed UNAMID, to stop the killing and ensure distribution of humanitarian aid.
On Feb. 18, UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes summed up one offensive in west Darfur that illustrates UNAMID's daunting challenge. He said their assessments have revealed the extent of the violence inflicted on 160,000 civilians in the northern corridor connecting El Geneina and Kulbus, including the 20,000 currently at risk in Jebel Moun. "The civilian population has experienced widespread displacement, property damage and significant trauma and loss of life. Approximately 57,000 civilians have been displaced due to the offensive." Compounding their plight, the Khartoum government has grounded all humanitarian aid flights to these besieged people.
So why is UNAMID still not fully deployed? Bluntly speaking, it's because Sudan is obstructionist, China is complacent, and Canada and the rest of the international community are AWOL.
The Sudan government is a major obstacle to peace efforts in Darfur. It has foot-dragged, niggled and pontificated against UNAMID every step of the way, even in the face of Resolution 1769. The reason is clear enough: Khartoum and the janjaweed militias want to buy time to torture, drive out and kill as many Darfuris as possible before the combined UNAMID becomes fully effective.
Standing solidly behind Khartoum is China, a Security Council member and the major supplier of weaponry and engineering support enabling Sudan to carry out its bloody agenda in Darfur.
The Chinese deny this, of course, but it was China that watered down Resolution 1769 to create loopholes permitting delay and weakening the resolution. Chinese officials have recently made soothing statements about their eagerness to stop the bloodshed, but no meaningful action has ensued. China's weapons still clatter into Sudan while Sudanese oil flows back to China – it's the perfect genocidal storm.
As the 2008 Olympic Games approach and China squirms in the international spotlight about its role in the genocide, every country should bear down on China to act resolutely to end the Darfur tragedy.
For Canadians, the big question must be: What is Canada doing to help Darfuris? They are under attack by their own vicious government. Whatever happened to the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) principle that Canada championed so stridently at the UN in 2005? Aren't we morally obliged, after all the arm-twisting by our diplomats at the UN to adopt R2P, to be a model state when it comes to applying R2P measures in Darfur?
Canada has been virtually absent from efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis. Now is the time to lead by example by committing serious resources to the UN, which is in desperate need of our high-quality troops and leadership.
It is not acceptable for Canada to point to Afghanistan and say that mission precludes a leading role in Darfur. The military told the Martin and Harper governments that it could handle two major international operations.
To his credit, former prime minister Paul Martin appointed an advisory group and had begun contributing real resources, but Stephen Harper promptly fired the group and contributions stalled. As a leading middle power, are we incapable of handling two problems at once? If we are capable, why aren't we moving on Darfur?
Canada has become hypocritical. Instead of demanding a meaningful, robust military presence, Canadians and their elected officials throw aid money at the problem to buy peace for our consciences.
Maybe we should stop prattling about our country's greatness and accept that we are no better than any other world power, middle or otherwise, where unbridled self-interest and fear of casualties dominate debate.
To prove otherwise, Canada should set aside its economic interests and show its mettle by expressing to oil-thirsty China our willingness to cut PetroChina out of the Alberta oil-sands project if it continues to arm the Sudanese.
More than ever, we need to find the statesmanship in Canada to intervene in this massive human rights tragedy. We said great things after the Rwandan genocide, but we have done nothing. And Darfur is not our only failure: We did not intervene to stop the slaughter in the Congo and we are leaving Sierra Leone too soon.
Speaking to the Conference of Defence Associations recently, Harper said there are times when political will must use force to bring peace and security to besieged peoples.
Canadians must ask themselves: If not Darfur, where? If not now, when?Senator Roméo Dallaire is the author of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.