After 14 days, December 17 was my final day of fasting for Darfur. I broke my fast and enjoyed a lovely lentil soup from my daughter, Kirsten, and a tasty apple for dessert – they were delicious!
As I return to other duties also I will remain part of a team of people across this country that shared in the Christmas for Darfur Campaign and the hope that Canada will do its part in the UN Mission for Darfur. I am very thankful and greatly encouraged by our collective actions. Our Darfuri friends including Ameera, Mustafa, Siddiga, Muamar, Abdallah and Amir have been with us in Ottawa to share in the discussions with people like Romeo Dallaire (Senator), David Kilgour and Grant Mitchell, as well as MPâ€™s including Jason Kenney, Kevin Sorenson, Glen Pearson, Michael Ignatieff and others. Tara Tavender at Save Darfur Canada was a great resource to us all in official meetings. Many Canadians, individuals, groups and United Church members have taken up the call for action to protect human rights and justice in Darfur. This must build in the New Year with all MP’s hearing our concern, in respectful words, about this issue.
While we have heard nothing from the Government of Canada on the UN Mission in Darfur we will renew our efforts in the New Year and trust that we can count on a your support for 26,000 peace-keepers (requested by the UN) and the resources they need to succeed.
My thanks and great admiration for my two staff people – Mike Fotheringham and Anne Miller, as well as volunteer extraordinaire Holly-Ann Penny who, together, spearheaded the Campaign at this end of the country. Many thanks also to Kevin Taft and my caucus colleagues, as well as my constituency association, for their understanding and great support of my efforts. Thank you to Judy Chapman (who fasted in solidarity with me), and Scarboro Church, as well as David Giuliano the United Church Moderator, for all of their support.
Finally my heartfelt thanks to my family and especially to my wife, Laureen, for her untiring support and continued commitment at home through this intense 14 days. I have no doubt this will be a memorable Christmas for us – and we will not forget that this Season of Hope and Peace must extend to all citizens of the world; especially now for Darfur!
Kempton Lam interviewed me at the beginning of my time outside Harper’s office, and did a follow-up interview on Day 11. Watch the video below, or visit Kempton’s blog: http://kempton.wordpress.com/2007/12/11/helping-darfur/
Kempton Lam recently did an interview with me outside of Harper’s office and put it up on Google Video and his blog (http://kempton.wordpress.com/2007/12/11/helping-darfur/)
WHY A HUNGER STRIKE?
A hunger strike is a non-violent means that an individual or a small group uses in a public place and a public way to call attention to an issue or problem from which they do not expect to personally benefit. Examples: to call attention to the persistent suffering of a people, to protest a widely prevalent injustice and to compel people and authorities to address a problem they are ignoring. Mahatma Gandhi successfully used a hunger strike to compel Hindus and Muslims from killing each other in the wake of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
(Prepared by Mathew Zachariah for Dr. David Swann MLA; 12 December 2007).
People on the street are busy on errands and Christmas preparations and many of the them stop and encourage me – believing in the importance of our solidarity with the poorest and most desperate people on earth.
My hunger strike is really a quiet protest that such atrocities go on, but especially that we, in the most privileged country in the world, are not extending ourselves more actively to get the peace-keepers on the ground. It is only then that our food and material aid get through and peace talks between the government of Sudan and the many rebel groups begin in earnest.
We owe a huge debt to Africa for hundreds of years of exploitation. it’s time for the western countries to pay it back and Canada could do so with generous contributions of equimpment and training and money to the UN Mission in Darfur now.
Thanks to all who are writing and fasting in solidarity with these basic human values
PS – Please read this wonderful article published in Embassy Magazine (a foreign affairs weekly that is popular in Ottawa). You can check their website online: http://www.embassymag.ca/
Embassy, December 12th, 2007
Alberta Politician Brings Darfuri Refugees to Ottawa
A group of eight Darfuri refugees were on Parliament Hill last week to make an urgent, personal call to action, encouraging MPs of all political stripes to urge the government to contribute to a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur, which they say is balancing on the edge of failure.
This visit is just one more step in the long struggle the Sudanese-Canadian community has waged over the past years for meaningful support from the Canadian government.
David Swann, a Liberal MLA from Calgary, co-ordinated the trip to Ottawa as part of an ongoing campaign called “Christmas for Darfur: Troops on the Ground.”
“We want the Canadian government to take leadership and get troops on the ground,” he says.
Mustafa Mousa, a member of Calgary’s Darfuri community, says Sudan is in desperate need of help.
“There is a bad humanitarian situation. The janjaweed is still raping women and the government is training a militia,” he says, “So now we are looking for the Canadian government to participate, to implement the Security Council resolutions and to send aid.”
Mr. Mousa says Canada’s diplomatic clout is also badly needed.
“The Sudanese government is now mobilizing the other countries to influence the international events,” he says, “so we need Canada, as a member of UN, to force and push other countries to protect the people of Darfur.”
Siddiqa Adom, who escaped Sudan for Canada three years ago, is a high school student in Calgary.
Her message is simple.
“My mother died because of this, and I don’t want my other family to die,” she says.
Mr. Swann says he and his Darfuri comrades spent two days engaging MPs in whatever way they could, from scheduled sit-downs to impromptu meetings in the halls of Parliament.
The delegation met with a number of government members, including Jason Kenney, Deepak Obhrai, Kevin Sorensen and Patrick Brown.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, declined to meet with the Darfuri delegation.
“We’ve requested an audience with the prime minister,” Mr. Swann says. “They came back to us within five minutes and said it wasn’t possible.”
Mr. Swann says the mission currently suffers from a dearth of leadership.
“The world is looking for leadership and the UN is looking for leadership,” he says, “Canada has an opportunity to lead here and stop the first genocide in the 21st century.”
He adds that Canada is not following through on its earlier UN actions.
“We signed R2P [Right to Protect], and what are we doing?” he asks. “I don’t see the evidence that we are actually going to follow through on that commitment.”
As part of this initiative, Mr. Swann is enduring a 14 day fast, during which he will consume only water and clear juices.
The fast, which has inspired by Mahatma Ghandi, “identifies with the suffering and the hunger that’s going on over there,” he says. “It raises the level of importance in people’s minds when somebody decides to give up a common everyday requirement for life to make a statement about he inadequacy of the world response to Darfur.”
Mr. Swann is currently carrying on his fast outside Prime Minister Harper’s Calgary constituency office.
Here’s a snapshot of the press conference we did in Ottawa last week. Unfortunately not one media outlet carried the press conference – obviously dissapointing. Many of the Darfuris were asking why Canadians were so interested in scandals and celebrities rather than people dying in Africa. I don’t know what to tell them… I wish it wasn’t so.
Below is a good op-ed from the NY Times today. As you can read, the US is showing some leadership on this issue with a pledge of $40 million in equipment and an offer to pay 26% of the costs for the UNAMID force. I am still waiting for the government of Canada to show similar leadership. In light of this, I will be outside of Stephen Harper’s office for another week continuing my hunger strike. As always, please send me your thoughts.
New York Times
December 10, 2007
Delay, Obstruction and Darfur
The worldâ€™s leaders say they care desperately about Darfurâ€™s suffering, until they get distracted. It took years of international hand-wringing before the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to send in 26,000 peacekeepers to replace a current force of 7,000, to try to halt the killing. With the deployment now set for Jan. 1, major countries are ignoring the U.N.â€™s appeals for essential aircraft, and Sudanâ€™s government â€” which unleashed the genocide â€” is again reneging on its promises to cooperate.
Khartoum is now refusing to accept some non-African peacekeeping units â€” including a Thai infantry battalion and a Nepalese special forces unit â€” in what is intended to be a joint United Nations-African Union force. It is also trying to limit the peacekeepersâ€™ use of helicopters, refusing to provide land for a peacekeeping base and insisting on other untenable restrictions, including advance notice of all troop movements.
Khartoum never seems to run out of ways to demonstrate its contempt for the United Nations.
After the International Criminal Court indicted Ahmad Harun, Sudanâ€™s minister of state for humanitarian affairs, for war crimes in Darfur, Sudanâ€™s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, refused to turn him over for prosecution. Instead, Mr. Bashir put Mr. Harun on a committee overseeing deployment of the new peacekeeping mission.
President Bashir and his henchmen may be the worst problem, but not the only one.
There are serious questions about whether the United Nations can manage such a large peacekeeping operation. Meanwhile, major players â€” including South Africa, Russia, China, Ukraine and NATO â€” have not heeded a direct appeal from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to provide the helicopters and planes that the force will need to do its job, or even defend itself, in a region the size of France.
The United States has already flown in troops for the new force, promised $40 million in equipment and offered to pay 26 percent of the total cost of the operation. If others donâ€™t step in quickly, Washington will need to twist their arms or do even more itself.
By some accounts, deaths in Darfur are down, but the region remains in severe crisis. People who flocked to refugee camps as a temporary escape from the government-backed janjaweed militias have been trapped there for nearly five years. Life inside the camps, where crime is rampant, is only slightly better than life outside. The rebel groups who claim to be Darfurâ€™s defenders are increasingly fragmented and adding to the violence.
Darfuris have high hopes that the new United Nations-African Union mission will save them, but so far there is no peace to keep.
Sudan has showed time and again that it does not care about the suffering in Darfur. Without a lot more international pressure, Sudan will continue to obstruct the peacekeeping mission and spread ever more suffering and mayhem. China, one of Sudanâ€™s major trading partners, and the Arab League must bring on that pressure. And the U.N. and other envoys must work full time for the resumption of peace talks.
The credibility of the Security Council is on the line. So are the lives of 2.5 million Darfuris.
Thanks very much to you David for opening our eyes to many of these atrocities across the planet and for opening doors for us in the Parliament of Canada which seems so impenetrable to the average citizen. Like me our 7 Darfuri representatives from Calgary were literally ‘blown away’ by the experience in Ottawa – the grandness of the buildings, the beauty of the City and the opportunity to rub shoulders with MP’s informally as well as in formal meetings, including Senator Dallaire, Senator Mitchell, MP Jason Kenney and MP Michael Ignatieff and MP Irwin Cotler.
My friends were also disappointed, as I was, with the lack of understanding and commitment by many MP’s and apparent unwillingness of the PM to address the needs of the UN Mission in Darfur more actively.
Today (day five of my hunger strike) at Mr. Harper’s office, a policeman met me when I first arrived to hand out leaflets and speak to people of the unspeakable in Darfur. Apparently Mr Harper’s office was concerned about being inundated with people – some possibly upset with the lack of leadership from Canada on this, the first genocide of the 21st century. I indicated that barring visitors was hardly a way to deal with dissent and I assured the policeman that we are all peace-loving Canadians. We are simply seeking our country’s legendary peace-keeping efforts for Darfur. After all, next week Canada celebrates the 50th anniversary of our Nobel Prize for Peace under PM Pearson! What better way to honor our vital role in peace-keeping in countless countries than to show leadership in Darfur?
Today is the third day of my fast (only mild fatigue thankfully!) and my final day in Ottawa. It has been clear from our meetings with MPs from all parties, that there is support for the UN Mission to Sudan. What is lacking from Canada is a clear commitment to funding this mission. Canada has, so far, committed nothing to the UN mission in Darfur.
It is time to raise the level urgency in our government leaders towards commitment to help make the UN Mission possible! During my week in Ottawa, we’ve been unsuccessful in getting a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I will therefore begin a sit-in at Harper’s constituency office in Calgary starting tomorrow at 9:00am. I will continue my fast as I sit at Harper’s office from 10:00am to 6:00pm until Monday evening. I welcome anyone who wishes to show support to stop by Harper’s Office (1600 – 90th Avenue SW, Suite A-203) and also to write to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs andÂ your own MP (visit www.davidswann.ca for details on how to do this, and for template letters you can use). Call 1-800-GENOCIDE to leave a message for these members!
I will continue to fast until the evening of Monday December 10th – the International Day for Human Rights. Thank you to everyone for your continued support!
This has been an inspiring and discouraging 2 days with our seven Darfuris, witnesses to the genocide going on in their homeland. The press conference with Sen. Romeo Dallaire, David Kilgour, Sen. Grant Mitchell, Dr. Keith Mills (MP), Glen Pearson (MP), Paul Dewar (MP), Mario Silva (MP), Green Party Human Rights critic Joe Foster and Tara Tavender from the Save Darfur Canada coalition went well but we haven’t seen much news coverage of the key messages – “Canada must not turn away from this evolving human catastrophe. We must take some leadership to get troops on the ground with the UN Mission in Darfur before it’s too late.”
We have since met with dozens of MP’s (eg. Min. Stockwell Day and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Kevin Sorenson) so the word is getting out. Now is the time for people to barrage their MP’s and the PMO. Every Day. This is how we let them know we really care about the plight of real children, women and men whose lives have been disrupted and\or destroyed. The UN has called for troops and support from member countries and Canada has not yet pledged resources for this new force. We must.
Please join me at Prime Minister Harper’s office in Calgary (Glenmore Landing) all day on Friday after 9am where I’ll be on my 5th day on a hunger strike (clear fluids) to draw attention to the important role Canada is not playing yet.
Thanks for writing, calling, meeting or demonstrating to stop this first genocide of the 21st century.
Not on our Watch!