Canada’s Next Military Deployment Will Likely Be in Sudan?

Canadian military likely headed to Sudan according to Canadian diplomat.

KINGSTON, Ont. – A former Canadian diplomat to Africa said Canada’s next military deployment will likely be in war-torn Sudan. John Schram — who was Canada’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Sudan from 1998 to 2002 — said now that Sudan has completed a referendum, big issues are being raised, and the fractured country will need international support to bring some measure of calm. Those issues include negotiations on frontiers and oil rights and revenues between country’s north and south, a second referendum in the oil-rich Abyei region and the ongoing peacekeeping/peacemaking effort to support the emerging state. The Canadian military’s presence in Afghanistan has prepared it for such a mission, he said. “We’re going to come under pressure from the Americans who have been in the lead all along,” said Schram, who is a senior fellow in international relations at Queen’s University and who spent almost four decades on the Africa file for the federal department of external affairs. “However, we also have a skeptical public and a non-interventionist government and there’s a sense of weariness and reluctance to do what the Americans want us to do,” he said. “After Afghanistan, do Canadians have the stomach for another nation-building program?” Schram thinks Canada’s soldiers do. He believes that among the rank and file, although their equipment has been chewed up in the harsh Afghan climate and they are tired and overstretched, there is a belief that Task Force Afghanistan is not a single mission, but the establishment of a permanent expeditionary force always on a mission overseas. There is already a contingent of nearly 40 military officers in the Sudan monitoring the situation and reporting back to the Canadian government. Such contingents nearly always precede a military intervention to provide intelligence and logistics support. Even top-level military officers will quietly admit the era of traditional blue-helmet United Nations peacekeeping is over, and never really worked that well, anyhow, Schram said. Sudan, or any future deployment, will likely be by troops who are armed and with rules of engagement, allowing them to engage the enemy, not stand between warring factions with good intentions and no ammunition, Schram said. He said a Sudan mission would likely look like Afghanistan, where the military supports and protects vulnerable towns and areas while assisting in reconstruction and negotiations. Schram said Canada cannot ignore an international effort in Sudan if it wants to maintain its role on the international stage. But he laments that Sudan, from the genocide in Darfur to the border skirmishes and ineffective national government, is often ignored in Canada. “With Sudan, we don’t really talk about it all that much. You don’t really hear about what Canada has done there, yet it has been one of our major foreign-aid efforts over the years,” he said. Canada has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, trade and technical expertise to Sudan, putting it just behind Norway when it comes to helping the African nation. “We’re still included at the table with countries such as Norway because Canada has done so much there, and you never hear about the Canadian contribution,” he said.

Given that the Canadian military has been deployed in Afghanistan for the past decade or so, the obvious question is how real might this be? With Canada being led by Prime Minister Harper, who believes Canada being active in global affairs,  the chances of this happening are very high. Another factor to ponder about the deployment in Sudan is the appetite of the Canadian public about another humanitarian mission. Though Canada has one of the world’s most effective military, it is historically a pacifist nation. The stationing of military officers might seem like mission creep to the average Canadian after being part of ISAF-NATO forces in Afghanistan for 10 years. On the other hand having Canadian security personnel will improve the situation in Sudan, especially since they are more competent than U.N. peacekeepers. Just look where U.N. troops have been stationed in countries like Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Congo and the continuation of disarray in those locations.

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