Axworthy and Minna condemn aerial bombings in Southern Sudan and call for return of NGOs to the region

March 7, 2000 (1:45 p.m. EST) No. 39

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Minister for International Co-operation Maria Minna today expressed outrage at the recent aerial bombings by the Government of Sudan of a hospital and grade school in the southern region of the country.

"The sustained and intentional bombing of civilian targets by the Government of Sudan is reprehensible and clearly demonstrates to the world that this administration is unconcerned with the human security of its population," said Minister Axworthy. "The bombing of school children and the infirm by the military is unacceptable and flies in the face of the Geneva Conventions and the protection of civilians in armed conflict."

In February, 14 children were killed when the Sudanese armed forces bombed a grade school in the Nuba mountains. On March 1, two civilians died and three were critically injured when the military attacked the Samaritan's Purse Hospital in Lui. Further bombings in southern Sudan are alleged to have taken place over the past weekend.

Noting the terrible toll the conflict in Sudan takes on innocent civilians, Ministers Axworthy and Minna also appealed to the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), the relief arm of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), to negotiate the early return of 11 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were recently compelled to leave the region.

"The departure of 11 of the major relief NGOs from southern Sudan greatly reduces the capacity of the international community to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians," said Minister Minna.

The NGOs, including World Vision, OXFAM Canada and Oxfam Québec, were compelled to leave SPLA-controlled areas of southern Sudan because of their reluctance to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SRRA. The NGOs contended that by signing the framework, which the SRRA alleged would improve local capacity and self-sufficiency, they would have compromised the safety of their personnel, as well as their capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance in an impartial manner. The Canadian government shares these concerns.

Canada is currently working on new initiatives to bring peace to Sudan. These include: support for Leonardo Franco, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Sudan; financial assistance to combat the abductions of women and children; an undertaking to use Canada's presidency of the UN Security Council in April to address the humanitarian impact of this conflict; further collaboration with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights; and the opening of a Canadian office in Khartoum.

Canada is also promoting the development of a mechanism that would ensure the effective monitoring of public expenditures, including military spending within the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank.

Finally, Minister Axworthy has repeatedly urged Canadian multinational companies to act in a responsible and upstanding manner in their operations abroad, and to that end, has encouraged them to sign and adhere to the International Code of Ethics for Canadian Business.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Debora Brown
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
(613) 995-1851

Media Relations Office
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
(613) 995-1874

Robin Walsh
Office of the Minister for International Co-operation
(819) 953-3160

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency
(819) 953-6534