Sudan, The Peace Process
In 2002, I was appointed the Special Envoy to the peace process in Sudan by the Government of Canada. While serving in this capacity I was given the opportunity to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Sudanese people as well as diplomatic communities.While working in Sudan I gained insight into the many unfortunate realities that people living in all parts of this country are confronted with.
I visited refugee camps in Darfur where I sat in a rape centre with 13 and 14 year old girls who had been gang raped.I visited eastern Sudan which had also been plagued by violence, where I spoke to mothers who would stand at the port and watch shipments of food going to Darfur while their children starved.
Finally I visited Juba, the capital city, which is located in southern Sudan. Here I saw villages that were destroyed by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The situation in this region was so volatile that no one, not even the United Nations, dared to enter. It was here that girls and boys aged 9-14 were taken as soldiers and sex slaves.
Although I witnessed the grave human rights situation in this country I also witnessed first hand the importance women played in the peace process.
While I was serving as the Envoy I would often ask “where are all the women?”. Unfortunately, much to my dismay, I was often silenced and told that the situation was fragile enough and that I need not rock the boat. I however refused to accept the fact that women were not to be included in peace negotiations.
While in Abuja I noticed that people were being picked up people from all over Europe and I insisted that the women too be picked up so that their voices could be heard. After over 17 women were brought to the table we all watched as the peace process changed.
For example, when discussing water rights, women would point out that several rivers and wells had dried up. When discussing food they would point out that certain routes no longer existed. All of the women who participated in the negotiations brought a very valuable perspective to the table, one that proved to be of great practical significance.
Although my four-year appointment has concluded I continue to find ways to work in Sudan as I am committed to improving the plight of my brothers and sisters in this country.