I would like to point out another great blog post put up by Kate Heartfield at the Ottawa Citizen on her blog the World Next Door. Once again focused on Darfur, this time she posts the transcript of a meeting with Ben Hoffman, the Green Party candidate for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and a world class conflict mediator.
The comments that Mr. Hoffman makes are extremely interesting because they are based on past experiences. In 2000 he was given the task of bringing about peace between the North and South in Sudan by ex-President Carter. That war had raged on and off since the country’s independence in 1956, with the 1990s seeing some particularly brutal violence as the government in Khartoum began arming and supporting proxy militias to do their dirty work for them (sound familiar?). Particularly brutal were the campaigns waged to clear the oil fields of certain ethnic groups that identified as Southerners (African, Christian or animist) as opposed to Northerners (Muslim, Arab).
As with Darfur, this conflict was extremely intractable. As with Darfur, heinous crimes were committed by both sides, though the government in Khartoum definitely stands out as particularly savage. As with Darfur, it required a sustained and committed international effort to bring about a peace agreement.
Ben Hoffman saw all this first hand. It really pleases me to hear a candidate discussing how it is possible to solve seemingly intractable conflicts through unified and consistent international pressure. Too often politicians as well as citizens get caught up in the myth of “primordial hatreds” in which the conflicts are seen as too deep and complicated to ever realistically address. This is not true.
Similarly, it is wonderful to hear Mr. Hoffman talk about the ways in which Canada can take a lead on this issue. No one doubts that the US (and now China) have to be involved in some way, but it is refreshing to hear someone admit that Canada has the ability to get the process rolling and keep it on track.
Another aspect of his comments that stood out to me is the mention of a Canadian Special Envoy to Sudan in 2000. Now, why, oh why did Sudan merit a special envoy back then but not now? Why is this not being more seriously considered as a policy option? This just proves that such a move is possible and can possibly play a big role in working towards a peace agreement.
Don’t get me wrong: there are quite a few differences between the North-South conflict and the situation in Darfur, not least of all the myriad of fractured rebel groups in Darfur and the ICC indictment against the President of Sudan. It cannot be doubted, however, the importance of taking lessons learned from the resolution of that past conflict and applying them wherever possible to the current conflict.
Congratulations to Ben Hoffman of the Green Party (and Kate Heartfield) for pointing that out.