An open letter to all Members of Parliament: Fostering Peace in Sudan

The Friends of Sudan (Canada)
C/O Suite 2108 – 415 MacLaren Avenue
Ottawa ON K2P 2C8
Tel: 613-261-0042/ 236-5909

19th September 2010

Dear _________________:

With Sudan’s general elections now over, the time has come to refocus on the challenges that lie ahead for Sudan in the next year. The tremendous task of holding elections as agreed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement drew international attention to the technical shortcomings of that process. It is likely that in the coming months attention will be concentrated once more on the technical aspects of the second major component of the peace agreement: the January 2011 referendum concerning the independence of Southern Sudan.

We are asking you and all your colleagues in the House of Commons to speak clearly and without political partisanship in support of this referendum process, which will be held on January 9th, 2011. Evidence from a wide variety of respected sources point to problems with the voting process: hundreds of thousands Canadians of Sudanese origin will not be able to exercise their right to vote in the referendum; another 6 million Southern Sudanese have been displaced and are still living as refugees in the northern states of Sudan and will not be able to reach polling stations; at least 35,000 of these refugees have been forced to slavery, and 4000 South Sudanese women in prisons in Khartoum and Umdurman. The world, including Canada, remains largely unaware and mostly silent. Even the UN speaks with a strangely attenuated voice, willing to sacrifice justice so long as a form of peace persists.

In Sudan the tragedy of the Western Sahara is being replayed and a failure to speak and act would be shameful. We ask you to insist that the Prime Minister raise this urgent referendum question with the President of the United States and the United Nation Secretary General. Specifically we recommend that the Prime Minister urge in the strongest possible terms that internally displaced (IDPs) Southern Sudanese living in the north be repatriated with the assistance of the UNHCR and other agencies, and that the Sudan Referendum Commission recognize the voting rights of the Sudanese refugee Diaspora dual citizenships living in Canada and the U.S. by opening Outside Country Vote Centers (OCVCs) in major cities.

To ensure impartiality, the OCVCs should be under the supervision of an independent body such the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), or Elections Canada, rather than the Sudan Embassy or the Government of South Sudan Mission Office in North America. Canada could support the OCVCs with knowledgeable experts, independent scrutineers and other resources. By taking the lead and acting swiftly, Canada may motivate members of the U.N. Security Council (especially France and the United Kingdom) into introducing a resolution to address the importance of the outside country vote in the Sudanese referenda. 

There is much more to be done to ensure the continuance of peace in Sudan, but given the urgency of the referenda situation we believe that common action by MPs would be an excellent first step. Therefore, there is urgency for special envoy to represent Canada’s interest in Sudan in referenda. We look forward to hearing your voice in the House on this subject.

Justin Laku

Cc: The United Nations Secretary General
Cc:  President of the United States of America
Cc:  President of Government of South Sudan
Cc: Chairman of the African Union
Cc: The European Union
Cc:  The Diplomatic Missions in Ottawa
Cc:  The U.S. Special envoy to Sudan
Cc:  The U.S Ambassador to the United Nations
Cc:  Sudan Ambassador to the United States

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