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Harper Still Has a Long Way to Go on Africa

14 December 2007 at 07:10 | 745 views

By Clement Abas Apaak.

Let me close the year with a commentary on the role and position of the most influential Canadian when it comes to Canada-Africa relations.

Obviously, I am speaking of Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and his government. Since my article on this subject was published after the last G-8 summit, there has been some movement on the part of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Thus, after his recent pledge of money for Education in Africa, the question is whether my labeling of the Harper government as one of the most Anti-Africa(ns) is still fair.

In all honesty, while I applaud Harper for taking the first step to show that he wants to help Africa(ns) by his recent pledge made in Tanzania after the meeting of the Heads of Commonwealth nations held in the Ugandan Capital, Kampala, he still has a long way to go.

Harper announced in DAR E’S SALAAM, Tanzania, that Canada would give $105 million to a global initiative aimed at improving living conditions in Africa and promising to double Canada’s aid to the African continent. The Prime Minister admitted that Canada’s foreign aid levels have declined below the average for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, attributing it to the unexpected surge in the country’s economy.

The $105 million will be spent over the next five years for the global initiative known as Catalytic Initiative To Save A Million Lives, a $500 million project to provide health-care services for poor mothers and children in Africa and Asia. UNICEF Canada will handle Canada’ s $105 million contribution. The organization said the funding will go toward efforts to save children in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and other places.

UNICEF Canada pledged additional $105 million to the initiative to be spent on services such as training health workers, immunization, anti-retroviral medication, community-level health education, and the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, anti-malarial drugs and antibiotics. Other partners in the initiative include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the governments of Norway, the United States, Britain and Australia, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

In spite of this welcome action, Harper and the conservative government still lack a clearly articulated foreign policy on Africa. As the government of the day, the conservatives must outline such a policy position to the Canadians, most of whom have an interest in seeing Canada do more for Africa.

So, here is some free advice for the Prime Minister on Africa in general:
1) Appoint a special adviser or an advisory team on Africa to directly report to him, and to formulate a foreign policy position for him on Africa.

2) Consider and African-Canadian for an adviser on Africa and or include one in such an advisory team.

3) Appoint special envoys to parts of the continent with the need for peace and stability such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.

4) State the position of his government on working to help find a peaceful resolution of the Darfur issue. In this regard, I call on the government adopt what my organization has been calling for, most of which is stated in the opposition Liberal Party policy position on Darfur, unveiled on December 10th, 2007.

The elements of how Canada can to help save Darfur include:

1. Strengthening the International Commitment to Africa

- Canada should appoint a high level regional coordinator/envoy to work with donors, troop contributing countries and the UN to improve co-ordination of UN missions in the region.

- Canada should increase Canadian bilateral and multilateral aid and trade to Africa.

2. Rescuing the North-South Peace Process in Sudan:

- Canada should convene a conference to review the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and re-engage partners in compliance with their commitments.

3. Re-Energizing the Darfur Peace Process:

- Canada’s high level regional coordinator/envoy (see above) should reenergize the US-Norway-Canada-UN contact group, engage China and help the international community to coalesce rebel movements into reliable partners for peace.

- Canada should provide all possible assistance to the International Criminal Court in its attempts to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity, crimes against women, massacre and war crimes.

4. Strengthening the UN/AU Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur
- In response to the UN Secretary General’s urgent call, Canada should provide a comprehensive assistance package to the UN/AU mission consisting of lift capability, trucks and helicopters, signals and communication capability, HQ staff.

Clement Apaak(photo)is from Ghana. He is a very popular public speaker, DJ and MC. He is a motivational speaker and speaks on various subjects including on Africa, Black History, Human Rights and Peace. He is the producer and host of African Connection on CJSF 90.1FM every Saturday from 2-4 pm. Among his many titles, he is a member of the SFU Board of Governors and is the Founder of Canadian Students for Darfur. Contact him at caapaak@yahoo.ca or catch him on 90.1FM (www.cjsf.ca).

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