What follows is a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the situation in South Sudan.
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Harper:
For more than a month, Anglicans, along with many other Canadians and people around the world, have watched as violence has ravaged South Sudan, and visited additional suffering upon peoples who have endured as much or more violence and upheaval as any in the world over the past five decades. Through partnership with the Episcopal Church of Sudan, through the Anglican Communion and consultation with Canadian Sudanese Anglican leaders, we have learned firsthand the stories of how the senseless violence began in December and how it is spreading within and beyond South Sudan’s borders.
The Anglican Church of Canada, with local and international ecumenical partners, and Episcopal and Anglican churches around the world, has responded with calls for prayers, learning and action for peace. Through The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, Canadian Anglicans have contributed through Action of Churches Together (ACT) to initiatives seeking to meet the immediate, most basic needs of peoples affected by violence in Juba and surrounding area, and for the thousands fleeing into refugee camps in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
We believe strongly that the Episcopal Church of Sudan and other faith groups in South Sudan are among the most successful potential actors in leading and facilitating peace, humanitarian assistance and healing. At the same time, we believe urgent and intensified leadership from the Government of Canada and the international community is essential for stemming the present violence and building instead a future of peace.
While we welcome the January 23 announcement of an agreement on a cessation of hostilities between the warring parties, we remain deeply concerned that a firm and lasting peace has yet to be realized. Accordingly, we share the following recommendations based on our analysis and understanding of the situation on the ground in South Sudan (see also Annex attached):
1. We call on the Canadian government to issue a strong statement calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an unconditional ceasefire by the parties in the conflict. Such a statement should be backed by diplomatic and financial support to the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) mediation efforts taking place in Addis Ababa. In the past Canada played a proactive role in the IGAD and greatly contributed to the peace agreement achieved in the conflict between the North and South Sudan. We therefore ask the Canadian Government to use this experience, diplomatic clout, and expertise to achieve similar outcomes in the present conflict. Such involvement would contribute to the prevention of human rights abuses and further mass atrocities in South Sudan.
2.We believe It is imperative for the Canadian government to continue to develop a cohesive strategy for ensuring aid reaches those most in need and fulfills other strategic purposes without colluding in any way with the efforts of those who would bring greater instability. In the longer term, we believe it necessary for the Government of Canada to continue to examine Canadian aid strategy to South Sudan. We believe Canadian aid to South Sudan has made meaningful differences in a variety of sectors of life in South Sudan and the wider region.
3.We urge the Government of Canada and the international community to use all means at its disposal to hold South Sudanese political leaders accountable for not exacerbating ethnic tension; providing support to those documenting human rights abuses that have occurred in the context of the conflict.
4.We urge the Government of Canada, as it considers the best ways to work with rival South Sudanese leaders to end hostilities and re-engage in political dialogue, to pay special attention to supporting the efforts of local civil- society leaders -particularly the faith community of South Sudan — who have longstanding credibility as peacemakers. The Church has credibility and presence but requires the means to effectively implement an extensive peace process.
5.Finally, we emphasize that neither an effective ceasefire nor a just and lasting peace will occur until all parties are genuinely represented at the table. At present, the absence of those South Sudanese leaders now detained by the Government of South Sudan impedes the peace process. We urge the Government of Canada to call for the release of these prisoners as an important gesture toward bringing about a ceasefire and a negotiated peace.
The Anglican Church of Canada, for its part, currently is considering a variety of ways to support bishops of the Sudanese Church working to put together a peace meeting of national religious leaders, particularly from the Dinka and Nuer tribes, to promote constructive peacemaking. We are doing this with sister Provinces of the Anglican Communion and, with them, have supported peacemaking initiatives in the past. Ultimately, these efforts must be linked to those of other outside parties. Our Church’s Government Relations Office stands ready to make appropriate contacts for any in the Canadian Government or other international partners wishing to engage local leaders in deeper conversation about constructive long-term peace-building initiatives.
In closing, the urgency of the present moment could not be clearer. If South Sudan plunges back into full-scale civil war, the devastation and displacement may be irreversible in the short term. Neither South Sudan nor the wider region, nor the whole of humanity can afford this outcome. The responsibility to avoid it, thus, belongs to all people, including the people of Canada.
We look forward to hearing from you regarding the Canadian government’s response to the crisis in South Sudan.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Anglican Church of Canada
Ms. Adele Finney
The Primate’s World Relief & Development Fund
Dr. Andrea Mann
Global Relations Director
Anglican Church of Canada
cc. The Honourable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie
Annex 1: Analysis of the Crisis in South Sudan and Recommendations
Public Representation of the Conflict and Accountability of Parties for Fueling Ethnic Tensions: Media reporting of the present conflict in South Sudan has consistently highlighted ethnic and tribal differences as a primary driving factor in the present violence. Our partners in South Sudan, and Canadian Sudanese Anglicans, who encompass many different tribal and ethnic backgrounds, inform us this representation is misleading, simplistic, and could carry dire consequences if not altered. Rather than being primarily a tribal or ethnic conflict, they understand the present fighting as motivated principally by political elites with conflicting power agendas who are, in turn, using long-simmering ethnic and tribal differences to fuel further violence.
While ethnic tensions are real and reflect decades of upheaval and struggle, they are not the primary driving engine for the current violence. These tensions do, however, threaten to become an inexorable source of fuel for the fire of violence as long as Sudanese political leaders trumpet them and as long as international actors fail to present a more nuanced narrative. Moreover, the Canadian government and other international actors bear a responsibility to hold political leaders in South Sudan accountable for actions appearing to bear either the intent or consequence of further exacerbating ethnic tension.
We welcome Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s statement calling for “an immediate stop to the fighting in South Sudan” and expressing Canada’s “strong support for the efforts of the UN mission and the African Union to help the parties resolve the current conflict through dialogue.” We urge the Government of Canada and the international community to use all means at its disposal to hold South Sudanese political leaders accountable for not exacerbating ethnic tension.
Foreign Assistance: We welcome the Canadian government’s decision to continue to list South Sudan among its top 20 countries world wide to receive development assistance. We urge additional funding in new humanitarian assistance to victims of the conflict and those seeking asylum and refugee status in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. We are mindful, and appreciative, of the monies provided in the past by the Government of Canada to multilateral agencies and civil society organizations as we believe, and the Episcopal Church in Sudan confirms, these agencies and the multinational coordination they provide are vital to the international response. New funds will allow these organizations to provide additional, life-saving assistance to those affected by the violence, including emergency health care services, shelter, access to clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, support reunification of families separated by the fighting, and transport life-saving relief to those in need both inside and outside the country.
At the same time we continue to hear from regional partners and Canadian Sudanese leaders, of the need for better inter-governmental and inter-agency coordination of aid, and — in particular — better coordination with civil- society actors, particularly the faith community, that have the national and regional infrastructure capacity to distribute aid so it reaches those most in need. In spite of often-meager financial resources, the capacity of the faith community in South Sudan to provide relief is extraordinary. For example, The Episcopal Church of Sudan has established nine relief centres in Awerial to provide supplies and pastoral care to people who have fled violence in the nearby town of Bor, with the Church’s relief and development arm reporting nearly 76,000 people from Bor currently receiving shelter at churches, schools and outside areas provided by the Church. The Sudanese Church’s development arm is working with the support of global partners like The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund through ACT to address emerging food scarcities and the acute need for shelter materials, cooking utensils, medical care, and adequate water and sanitation. PWRDF is also in close contact with its partner, the National Council of Churches of Kenya, a member of the ACT Alliance involved in the reception, housing and care of refugees fleeing South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp. NCCK staff report that camp capacities are quickly being overwhelmed. Additional support and coordination with governmental and international-agency partners is needed to strengthen the response to the now regional humanitarian crisis.
It is imperative for the Canadian government to continue to develop a cohesive strategy for ensuring aid reaches those most in need and fulfills other strategic purposes without colluding in any way with the efforts of those who would bring greater instability. In the longer term, we believe it necessary for the Government of Canada to continue to examine Canadian aid strategy to South Sudan. We believe Canadian aid to South Sudan has made meaningful differences in a variety of sectors of life in South Sudan and the wider region.
Human rights Protection and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities: With South Sudan now on the edge of full- scale civil war, international actors bear an affirmative moral and legal responsibility to ensure the prevention of mass atrocities by any party to the conflict, and protection of human rights for all involved.?Human-rights concerns in South Sudan are not new. International partners, including the Government of Canada, in recent months have expressed increasingly grave concern about human-rights conditions, especially in Jonglei. The South Sudanese government has responded to those concerns with assurances against ethnic cleansing and other abuses, but independent reports have suggested concerns are founded, even in advance of the December outbreak in violence. Now, as conditions threaten to replicate those known before the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, there is an urgent need for international actors to provide a similar level of engagement in protecting human rights and stemming mass atrocities.
We urge the Canadian government to engage an expansive group of international actors for the purpose of examining increased international action, including UN intervention, to prevent mass atrocities in South Sudan.
Building a Future of Peace: From decades of relationship with our own church partners in South Sudan, we can attest to the longing for peace that exists far and wide among the people of South Sudan. The African Union put it well recently in expressing deep disappointment at “the failure of political leaders in the country to live up to the hopes and aspirations of their citizens.”
The roots of the present crisis must be understood as having their beginnings well before the formation of South Sudan in 2011. The euphoria and optimism that accompanied the launching of this new state nearly three years ago were not tempered by a realization that longstanding political disagreements and ethnic tensions still needed resolution. The leaders of the new state did not vigorously undertake the task of addressing the challenges of developing a unified nation and healing past divisions.
Any peacemaking efforts must now include this task as a central focus requiring urgent attention. Leaders must make serious efforts to create a Constitution that provides for a truly democratic legal and social framework that can gain popular support and bring about key governance reforms. Nation building must also take care to recognize the needs of large numbers of Sudanese refugees in camps in South Sudan, providing for their security, food, and other needs.
International actors can play an active role to a certain extent in peace and capacity building but ultimately, the most important function the Canadian government and other global partners can play is in facilitating and supporting locally led and owned peacemaking initiatives.
We urge the Government of Canada, as it considers the best ways to work with rival South Sudanese leaders to end hostilities and re-engage in political dialogue, to pay special attention to supporting the efforts of local civil- society leaders -particularly, once again, the faith community of South Sudan — who have longstanding credibility as peacemakers. The Church has credibility and presence but needs the means to effectively implement an extensive peace process.
Finally, it bears emphasis that neither an effective ceasefire nor a just and lasting peace will occur until all parties are genuinely represented at the table. At present, the absence of those South Sudanese leaders now detained by the Government of South Sudan impedes the peace process. We urge the Government of Canada to call for the release of these prisoners as an important gesture toward bringing about a ceasefire and a negotiated peace.
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