Feds Seek Briefing with Sudan Team

(London Free Press — June 4, 1999)

KELLY TEAHEN

Canada’s top foreign affairs officials will meet next week with Londoners Glen Pearson and Jane Roy to hear their report on southern Sudan. Pearson and Roy went on a nine-day slave liberation mission to Sudan in May with Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a Switzerland- based human rights agency. During the trip, the team bought freedom for almost 1,400 Dinka women and children who say they were abducted from their homes after raids on their villages by government-supported militia fighters. Pearson and Roy themselves raised enough money — $60,000 — to pay for 800 slaves’ freedom.

“There’s no replacement for someone who has been there, who has actually seen, touched and felt that human anguish,” says MP Joe Fontana (L — London-North-Centre), who is setting up the meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, David Kilgour, secretary of state for African affairs, and Axworthy’s top aides. “There are all kinds of briefings foreign affairs officials can give, but there’s a human side of the story that needs to be told, ” said Fontana, chairperson of the national Liberal caucus in Ottawa….

Pearson and Roy will be accompanied in Ottawa by John Eibner of CSI, who has travelled in southern Sudan on a regular basis since 1995, overseeing the exchanges in which CSI pays 50,000 Sudanese pounds — about $75 Cdn — for a woman or child who’d been held in slavery…. The briefing is particularly important because of Canada’s role on the United Nations Security Council, Fontana says. “Lloyd (Axworthy) has indicated he believes Canada could take a leadership role in Sudan, as in other places” to help end the 16- year civil war that has fostered, among other atrocities, taking women and children as war booty.”