§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to recent developments in Sudan, with particular reference to the crisis in Darfur.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am most grateful for the opportunity to raise this Question tonight as the situation in Sudan is so grave, and I am deeply grateful to all noble Lords who will be speaking. My only regret is that, given the short notice for the Question, some other noble Lords who would also have made valuable contributions cannot be here. I refer in particular to my noble friend Lord Alton who has recently visited Darfur. I have read his detailed report, and his findings inform my contribution.
The toll of human suffering in Darfur includes 70,000 killed and 1.6 million displaced, with 200,000 who have fled to Chad, as well as countless victims of
atrocities such as torture and rape. UNHCR's recent report, Volume 3, 2004, describes Darfur as, "today's worst humanitarian crisis", and graphically portrays the horrors inflicted on countless innocent civilians. I quote:
Gunmen on horseback killed indiscriminately, raped, pillaged and torched the mud-brick houses".
Detailed stories of individual horror show the human agony and anguish behind the statistics and generalities:
They ripped my child from my back, and when they saw he was a boy, they killed him in front of me".
§ Numerous other reports, such as the Human Rights Watch report in May this year, Darfur destroyed: ethnic cleansing by government and militia forces in western Sudan, give details of mass killings of civilians, looting and destruction of property, burning of crops, aerial bombardment and mass rapes. There have also been credible, authoritative reports of the use of chemical weapons, specifically micotoxins, by the Government in Sudan in conjunction with Syrian experts. The catalogue of atrocity and man-made suffering is endless and horrendous.
§ There are of course complex issues behind this conflict. The local population has long felt marginalised and deeply concerned about lack of involvement in discussions and decisions concerning the distribution of wealth and power in a future Sudan, prompting some of the rebel insurrection. However, the response of the Government of Sudan has been brutal, involving support from the infamous Janjaweed, which has been a major force in the widespread attacks on civilians and the appalling catalogue of death, destruction and atrocities. Forces of the Government of Sudan have also been heavily involved themselves in offences against civilians, and the infamous aerial attacks by low flying helicopters and bombardment from higher flying Antonovs. There is indeed a strong case for indictment of the Government of Sudan for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
§ Some of this horror has been publicised by the media which have, belatedly, focused on Sudan. Images of the horrors of Darfur have appeared on our television screens, while many accounts and analyses have featured in the print media. Such coverage has helped to bring pressure to bear on national governments, international organisations and aid agencies to try to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, to bring about a ceasefire and to hasten a political solution.
§ However, any solution to the tragedy of Darfur must be set in the wider context of the long-running war in Sudan. Tragically, the media arrived too late for the 2 million people already dead and over 4 million already displaced in other parts of Sudan. Since the National Islamic Front regime seized power in 1989, I have made 27 visits to areas it has designated as "no go" to United Nations Operation Lifelines Sudan and other aid agencies. I have walked through killing fields similar to those of Darfur, in Bahr-el-Ghazal, the Nuba mountains, western and eastern Upper Nile and southern Blue Nile. I have also witnessed the suffering 92 inflicted on the Beja people, driven from their lands into the harsh deserts of eastern Sudan, and the deliberate bombing of hospitals and feeding centres in many parts of southern Sudan administered by the SPLM.
§ Many commentators continue to speak and write powerful and well-justified criticisms of the Government of Sudan's genocidal policies. I respect and endorse their concerns.
However, it is perhaps time also to turn to endeavours to bring more humanitarian relief, which is urgently needed if many more thousands of lives are not to be lost in the near future, and also to political initiatives to bring peace and justice to all the people of Sudan. In doing so, perhaps I may pay tribute to all the efforts which have been made in numerous peace initiatives—culminating in Navaisha and Abuja, and the recent announcement that the UN Security Council will be convening two meetings in Nairobi. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, has claimed:
This is certainly more than symbolism. It furthers the peace process in Sudan [and] is an opportunity for the Security Council to demonstrate to all sides in Sudan that the international community is not going to go away".
§ Many other initiatives are already under way, such as the deployment of African Union forces, although there are widespread concerns over delays in their availability and the adequacy of their capability. Other responses are also being advocated which will, I am sure, be mentioned by other noble Lords and by the Minister.
§ Perhaps I may limit myself to one recent development that involves an organisation which I was privileged to help to launch last year in Indonesia: the International Islamic-Christian Organisation for Reconciliation and Reconstruction, which abbreviates to IICORR. We have been able to play a constructive role in the conflict areas of Maluku, and we have been grateful to receive support from Her Majesty's Government in this process.
§ I have recently been approached by representatives of key political groups in Khartoum, including some within the government, to ask IICORR to help to develop comprehensive peace initiatives and political solutions which will be necessary if democracy and civil society are to develop in Sudan. I therefore welcome the opportunity to raise that possibility here tonight. I realise that the Minister may not be in a position to make any commitment this evening, but she may be aware that two weeks ago I wrote to her honourable friend Chris Mullin, the Minister, on this matter, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government might be willing to consider this proposal sympathetically in due course.
§ Given IICORR's commitment to working with representatives of different faith traditions and its credibility in helping to promote reconciliation and reconstruction—the two must go hand in hand—in conflict zones in Indonesia, we are pleased that some of the key players in Sudan see our organisation as possibly being in a position to play an appropriate role there, in particular given that I have been such a long-standing and outspoken critic of the Government of Sudan's record of gross violations of human rights.93
§ I am always prepared to listen to genuine proposals for peace and policies genuinely intended to bring justice for all the people of Sudan, and if IICORR could play a helpful role—with the blessing of Her Majesty's Government and, perhaps I may dare to suggest, appropriate support—we in IICORR would be happy to make whatever contribution we could.
§ But I must naturally emphasise the caveat that I am aware that one partner to any negotiations will be a regime with incalculable quantities of blood on its hands, which has repeatedly continued to kill even while it talked peace. Therefore there will be a need for clear-cut conditions and safeguards built into any initiatives to ensure that we are not crying "peace" when there is no peace. This requirement is of course inherent in any peace process, whether IICORR is involved or not.
§ Any viable peace process must include modalities for oversight by experts and independent verification that commitments made by the various participants are fulfilled. Moreover, while it is sometimes advisable to conduct negotiations discreetly, there must still be complete transparency as far as many elements of the peace-making process are concerned.
§ I conclude by thanking once again all those contributing to this debate, for addressing the continuing tragedy in Sudan and highlighting the agonies of its long-suffering people. I look forward very much to the Minister's reply, which will be heard with great interest by all concerned—those who are suffering, those who are trying to bring relief, and those who are trying to achieve a peaceful settlement which will not betray any who deserve justice.
§ This is a critical time for Sudan. The enormous toll of man-made agonies inflicted on its people, much of it untold, has been allowed to continue for far too long. It is my hope and prayer that there may be some rays of hope on that dark horizon in the form of initiatives which will help to bring reconciliation based on realism. For only on that basis can there be a true and lasting peace so yearned for by the vast majority of the people of Sudan.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, like all your Lordships, I am deeply grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for the way in which she has turned the spotlight yet again on one of the most painfully troubled parts of the world. I speak with great diffidence in this debate. Everybody who speaks in it knows more about the subject than I do. I only joined the throng because it was such a small one and it seemed that your Lordships owed more notice to this problem of acute importance to large areas of the world than the short list that I saw before the weekend was likely to accord it.
I would also like to record my admiration for the noble Baroness for her own exploits in this and many other parts of the world. She may become weary of that sort of plaudit, but your Lordships will not tire of giving it.
94 As a relative amateur in this field, I should say that it dawned on me relatively late that Darfur is not a cauldron seething on its own on the hob; it is actually part of a vast sea of trouble. No settlement can ignore the complexity of the problem facing us. If we try to overlay, as I did, maps of the administrative regions of Sudan—both actual and theoretical—and the ethnic geography, including the nomadic geography, the rainfall and ecology which determine the behaviour of many communities there, the mineral resources and the economic interests of outside countries in these resources, one begins to see that it is an absolute cat's cradle of competing stresses. I left out of that list the underlying religious tension, which tints it all with a sad form of violence.
What is the correlation between the attitudes of other powers to the use, for example, of sanctions, and the extent of the interest in the development of the mineral resources of those other powers, especially in the oil of the Sudan? In looking at that particular map, one must remember that we are looking at all of this in the context of a world that has become rather frightened of outside intervention in the affairs of broken-down countries as a result of the recent and continuing war in Iraq. The intervention of the African Union is extremely welcome and I join others—I am sure—in welcoming the facilitation, support and finance for that provided by Her Majesty's Government. However, does the Minister know the intended eventual strength of that force and its intended eventual remit? Will the resources available to it in terms of the command structure and training as well as equipment be equal to those tasks? We all have an interest in establishing peace in an explosive situation. It is better that the intervention should be by people from the same continent than those from afar.
The scale as well as the complexity of this tragedy is difficult to grasp. My noble friend said—correctly I believe—that about 1.6 million people have been displaced. They have become IDPs or internal displaced persons. That figure refers to four times as many people as took part in the Countryside Alliance mass demonstration, which most of us saw covering every vacant space east and west in the main thoroughfares through London. When she says that there have been 70,000 deaths since February 2003, that works out at 580 days, which is 120 people per day being killed. Do the Government still reject the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that this situation should now be termed genocide by the United Nations?
The reports of all the bodies to have reported, including the noble Baroness, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, Human Rights Watch international and many others concluded that this is genocide. It is not a question merely of semantics, but of what position the rest of the world takes towards what is going on there and the extent to which it feels morally as we'll as politically able to intervene.
On the question of the moral positions of countries, will the Minister reassure me about two figures that I have recently seen? Both are taken from the UN commodity database. One is that more than 180 tonnes 95 of arms were shipped from Britain to Sudan in the past three years. The other is that in 2002, Sudan imported from the United Kingdom arms and ammunition to the value of 184,392 dollars. I apologise for not giving notice of that question, but I only saw the figures recently myself. I assume that those are not official sanctioned exports and it would be welcome to hear from the Government what their attitude is to these and what steps they are taking to close that particular means of supply of material going almost certainly and pretty directly to the Janjaweed via the Government of Sudan.
The tension, complexity, bitterness and duration of strife in Darfur and the wider Sudan calls for extraordinary sorts of intervention. Your Lordships may have forgotten that I am half Norwegian. I take pride in the skills which the Norwegian education system now inculcates in all its schoolchildren in conflict resolution, which is a curriculum subject. The country as a whole plays a remarkable role internationally. However, there is room for other skills. Those which my noble friend—she remains my noble friend although she has migrated internally to the other side of the House—has displayed in bringing together the Muslim and Christian people of good will, with the courage not merely to declare their friendship but also to expose it in areas of the most bitter conflict, could bring a very welcome ray of light.
I have had my seven minutes. I am glad that it is the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, who is answering this debate rather than anyone else.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord Roberts of Llandudno
My Lords, I also join in expressing my gratitude to the noble Baroness for initiating this discussion. However, I must disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He probably knows a great deal more about the situation than I do.
Over many years, we know that this northern part of Africa has suffered so much—so many crises and disasters of mammoth proportions. My introduction came at the time of the Ethiopian famine some years ago. It was then that I realised the scale and severity of the plight of so many millions of people. Tens, scores and thousands of people died and the miracle is that so many managed to survive. However, one of the most emotional experiences of my life was to meet some of the survivors. They had nothing at all. They were rescued from this disaster. They were dressed in flimsy gowns—that is all they had. I cradled some of their children and babies in my arms and wept. Those people had lived in such great tragedy.
Famine, war—usually civil war—and the inability to access more modern techniques and facilities may condemn millions of people to lifestyles that cannot have changed very much in 3,000 years. Often, these disasters can themselves be of Old Testament proportions. Now, not for the first time by any means, we have a grave situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and another humanitarian crisis. There the completely innocent and vulnerable—the weakest people in those communities—are condemned to an existence that we in the West, in our comfort, cannot comprehend at all.
96 Where do we begin to resolve the short-term situation, which will then make it possible to tackle the long-term transformation of so many human lives? First of all, I suggest that any such programme must be international. Surely we must have learnt the lesson that the days of one nation doing its own thing and going along regardless of the rest are over once and for all. I am so grateful for what the United Nations has done and is doing in Sudan. With the African Union, it is taking the lead to protect the people and establish a real peace. Is this not an opportunity for the United Kingdom to take a leading role in international compassion?
I have a dream—many of us have dreams—that one nation could be the nation that gives the moral lead to the rest of the world. There was a time when I believed that India might do it, when Mahatma Gandhi was there. There was a time when I believed that perhaps Israel could do it, with all those people coming in from the Holocaust, from more than 140 different nations. And yet we were unable to see that lead from those people.
Cannot the United Kingdom be the one nation able to provide that lead in international compassion? We have a long way to go. I was studying today the table of overseas aid, which shows the percentage of national product that each nation gives. In Europe, we are number 11 in that league table. We need to lift our sights and our vision and become the people who provide, not perhaps military or even political, but a compassionate, caring and moral lead to the rest of the world. A fraction of the money spent in Iraq could have done so much in real, long-term nation building. Where is the will to halt arms sales to other countries like Sudan, especially to those that are weak and most vulnerable? Cannot Her Majesty's Government take the lead in the council of the United Nations to bring an end to those arms sales?
Finally, is the Minister satisfied with the role played by the United Kingdom in the matters that I have raised this evening? I am grateful for the opportunity to share my concerns with those in the Chamber.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Salisbury
My Lords, I, too, welcome this debate and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who is indefatigable in this regard, on securing it. It is good to be able to come to your Lordships' House and know that we shall be kept up to date and up to the mark by the noble Baroness.
In addition to urging the Government to do all that they can to bring to an end the conflict in Darfur and to relieve the enormous sufferings of the displaced people, I want to relate how these events are viewed by my friends and colleagues in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, with whom our diocese has been linked for so long.
Darfur is on the western edge of the vast diocese of El Obeid, an area considerably larger than the Principality of Wales. On that western fringe, the percentage of Christians is probably no more than 5 to 10 per cent. None the less, they have been attacked by Janjaweed 97 militias and by the Government of Sudan forces alike. Most of their churches have been destroyed and such Church leaders who have not escaped have been killed. In those conditions, the Government of Sudan's refusal to let medical supplies through to the Church-sponsored clinics, and a suspicion that they are withholding food supplies and using that as a weapon, raise serious questions.
The conflict is not centred on Arab-Christian conflict; inter-Arab conflict between divided branches of the former National Islamic Front provides a novel twist to this extraordinary conflict and disruption. On a different front, that conflict in Darfur is providing the Government of Sudan with a reason to go slow on the peace proposals in the south. The Churches perceive that the hard-won accords of the IGAD peace process to be in jeopardy. One consultant to the peace process in peace and conflict resolution describes the situation thus:The Government of Sudan has created the present situation in Darfur as one of its strategies to delay peace talks in Southern Sudan. It does not want the protocols so far signed. Similarly, it wants to use the situation in Darfur to mobilise internal fronts that have fragmented so much that in the space of three months, it announced two attempted coups. Furthermore, the Government of Sudan wanted to mobilise support from Arab World and this was obvious from the reaction of the Arab World to the international community about situation in Darfur … At international level, attention was diverted from Peace Talks in Naivasha to humanitarian crisis in Darfur … the conflict in Darfur has a direct impact on the peace process in the South".That is the view of a skilled and committed person working in conflict resolution to try to get the existing accord signed.
With some 1.5 million persons displaced in that region, and hunger, disease and exhaustion at unprecedented levels, even for Africa, any exposure to the rest of the world of what is going on must be welcomed. Any means that our Government can use to put pressure—public pressure, that is—on the Government of Sudan will be widely welcomed and hugely beneficial.
In the Churches in Sudan, it is widely believed that the conflict in Darfur has been fomented to destabilise the area and to displace people from potentially rich areas with mineral resources. Darfur is an area relatively rich in those resources. I received an e-mail this morning from Francis Loyo, Bishop of Rokon, who is studying for a masters degree in Durham this year and is in regular touch with his fellow countrymen. Bishop Francis sees one ray of hope. He says:These divergent views have played well into the hands of the Government of Sudan. However, the only ray of light at the end of the tunnel is the continued international pressure on the Government of Sudan. The UN Security Council has thrown its weight fully on the process. The UN Security Council voted unanimously on 26 October to conduct its business in the Kenyan Capital of Nairobi for two days next month in an effort to end Africa's longest civil war in Southern Sudan. This is the clearest boost for the peace process: the UN Security Council has sent missions abroad many times, but it has only moved its official meetings out of New York on three occasions since 1992. This is a great boost to the peace and an indication that the international community is serious about peace in Sudan and wants to see it through".98 I hope that we shall do all that we can to support the United Nations in that matter and ensure that we make the most of the opportunities for publicity that it will bring. I look forward to the Minister's response—and to her assurance that our Government will pursue the matter and support the United Nations.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, yet again we are greatly indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, as we have been so often over the years, for drawing our attention to the formidable problems in Sudan, particularly those in Darfur. As the right reverend Prelate has just said, that has overshadowed all the rest of the problems in Sudan in recent months, as the death toll and number of refugees, or displaced people, has risen inexorably.
As has been said, this is a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale much bigger than that of Kosovo. However, the United Nations, though at last acting under Chapter 7 of the charter, which allows the imposition of manager duties on member states, has allowed Sudan to dictate the pace and scale of the response to the emergency. With great difficulty, Khartoum has been persuaded to agree to the expanded AU mission. The Government of Sudan wanted the mandate to be limited to monitoring and observing compliance with the ceasefire agreement of last April. However, the AU has given the mission power to protect civilians whom it encounters, who are under immediate threat and in the immediate vicinity.
It is important that civilians should know precisely under what circumstances they can look to AU troops for protection if they come under Janjaweed or Government of Sudan attack, if they are to be persuaded to return to the charred remains of their villages.
It is long odds against the AU witnessing an attack with only 3,000 troops in a territory the size of France. In Liberia, for example, UNMIL has five times as many troops, and 1,000 police as well, in a smaller area. In eastern DRC, the Security Council has authorised a total of 16,700 troops, which is still short of the 23,900 recommended by the Secretary-General. These are much larger figures than the number of troops in the AU mission to Darfur. Can the Minister say whether the UK will press for an increase in the force and an extension of its mandate so that it is explicitly required to protect civilians?
In carrying out its monitoring functions, will the AU have reconnaissance aircraft and who will provide them? The UN uses helicopters in Afghanistan, DRC, Sierra Leone and Georgia. In Darfur, it has helicopters and an AN-12 cargo plane for humanitarian relief. Nyala, El Fasher and El Geneina airports are open, so the AU should have its own helicopters and light aircraft. If observers on such an aircraft detect an attack on civilians, will that mean that they have encountered a threat and would they be able to call in ground troops under the mandate?
99 What has happened to the idea, which has frequently been raised, of a no-fly zone prohibiting Sudanese military flights over Darfur so that returning civilians have one less threat to face? As the noble Baroness has reminded us, reports are still coming in of bombing raids, which are detailed by Amnesty International in the report of its September mission and in the Secretary-General's October 4 report of attacks by helicopter gunships continuing right up to the end of September. Thus, Sudan is in breach of Security Council Resolution 1564, which calls on it to refrain from conducting military flights in and over the Darfur region.
It has also been asked to disarm and demobilise the Janjaweed militia but the Secretary-General says that it has submitted no information on the methodology or the timeframe for disarmament, nor has it handed over, as required, the serial numbers of the weapons collected and the keys to their containers. It has not complied with the Security Council's earlier demand for an end to impunity for the,systematic campaign against the unarmed civilian population",as the UN expert on human rights in Sudan described it at the General Assembly last week.
These are very serious breaches of Sudan's duty to obey the decisions of the United Nations made under Chapter VII and the UK must consider what further measures the Security Council should take to secure compliance.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked if we should label the events of Darfur as genocide, as the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has already done. But we need some degree of co-operation from the regime if the AU is to be effective in preventing further bloodshed, rape and brutality of the kind described in the chilling report of the mission of Amnesty International a month ago. AU troops and monitors and the humanitarian agencies are all there with the reluctant permission of the authorities in Khartoum and if further progress is to be made towards a stable peace, self-government and human rights in the region, then it has to be through persuasion rather than compulsion. The AU has come a long way towards establishing an effective continental system of conflict prevention and peace-keeping and we should continue to support and reinforce the mechanisms that it has developed, rather than taking a route of which other African states would not approve.
As for the negotiations in Abuja, there are many differences still to be resolved, for example, the disarmament of the militias, which has to precede cantonment, and making the no-fly zone over Darfur mandatory. The rebels say that the AU force is grossly inadequate. They do not trust the new police force, which is supposed to maintain order, but which, they say, includes Janjaweed war criminals. It is a fact that the issue of trust makes it very hard to progress but also the rebels feel that they lack the technical negotiating skills, as five of their leading representatives told me when I met them recently in your Lordships' House. Perhaps the AU 100 might offer to help them find independent advisers to help the Abuja process keep pace with the peacekeepers' deployment in Darfur itself.
As MSF says in its report published today, for well over a year the people of Darfur have endured a vicious campaign of terror and the GoS and the international community have completely failed them. Action is now under way, but in terms of protection and humanitarian aid a great deal more is urgently required. As my noble friend has said, our Government must keep up the pressure in the Security Council and in our bilateral relations with other African states so that we can bring the agony of Darfur to an end as soon as possible.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Lord Astor of Hever
My Lords, I would also like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for initiating this very important debate. I share the admiration of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for the noble Baroness's continued efforts to keep Sudan in the headlines. I can but reiterate what other noble Lords have said regarding the importance of keeping the political spotlight on Sudan. When your Lordships returned from the Summer Recess, we on these Benches expressed our deep regret and frustration at the deteriorating situation. Indeed, in terms of the number of deaths and incidents of torture, it echoed the horrors of Rwanda and dwarfed those of Bosnia and, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, of Kosovo.
Last week, rebel groups abruptly broke off talks with the Sudanese Government. Nigeria and Rwanda, whose efforts we very much welcome, have sent in emergency troops to join those African soldiers already there. Meanwhile, the UN envoy says that the violence, which has already displaced 1.6 million people, is increasing. The right reverend Prelate told the House some of the terrible problems that the Churches are facing in Sudan. These are not signs of things getting better; indeed, they are getting progressively worse. USAid estimates that at least 80,000 people have died in Darfur alone since 2003. Meanwhile, aid workers report that currently 1,000 people are dying each day. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is right to say that this is genocide and that the government of Sudan are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Can the noble Baroness inform the House of the timetable for the completion of the UN commission's report looking into the question of genocide in Sudan? In light of the collapse of peace negotiations, can the noble Baroness inform the House what steps Her Majesty's Government can take to try to prevent both sides violating the ceasefire?
Once again, we see the people of a country suffering due to internal strife. The Famine Early Warning System Network has reported that despite some rainfall in the past two months, pasture conditions continue to suffer. Drinking and irrigation water levels remain low, with no relief expected until the rainy season next year. This chronic water shortage is hampering the establishment of new refugee camps. In existing overcrowded camps, particularly those in Chad, water is fast running out. The 101 ground water reserves are drying up from over-extraction, and the standard 15 litres per refugee per day has dropped to only six litres. In addition, the World Food Programme emergency assessment concludes that the situation is beyond serious.
One in six households is severely short of food, with a food gap greater than 50 per cent while twice as many struggle to meet minimum levels of food intake. High rates of child malnutrition and overall poor health of the population are symptomatic of inadequate access to health services and food. The refugees are totally dependent on international assistance due to loss of livelihood on top of food shortages.
There are still frequent reports of aid agencies having difficulties in getting to refugees, particularly those in the Darfur region, despite promises of open access. Can the noble Baroness update the House on the current situation now the rebels have failed to sign the humanitarian protocol? My noble friend Lord Elton asked questions about the remit and the resources of the AU, as did the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Perhaps I may therefore ask the noble Baroness what powers the AU force has to ensure the safe access and delivery of humanitarian supplies.
While it is essential that relief is delivered, where needed, in Darfur and the camps, it is vital that we look to the long-term issues that may plunge those already suffering into even deeper crisis. What steps are Her Majesty's Government taking to monitor the environmental impact of the large-scale population displacement and livelihood disruption which will reduce the longevity of the camps and the ability of refugees eventually to return once peace is achieved? What parallel assistance plans are in place to cater for the poorest residents and the most affected infrastructure and housing outside the IDP camps? There is always the danger, once aid is flowing freely to the camps, that the stability and improved camp services, such as better healthcare, will surpass other areas and could act as a pull factor to those living outside them.
The same issues that have blighted this conflict are now growing in stature, while the rest of the world has been slow to act. We need to ensure that we help Sudan, not only now, but in the future, to plan for its recovery. We commend the work of the AU forces. However, at the moment it appears that for each step forward the peace process takes, it slips back three. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is right to say that the international community is not going away from this issue. It must not go away. As the right reverend Prelate said, that is the only ray of light. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, suggested that Her Majesty's Government should take the moral lead on Sudan. I certainly look forward to hearing what plans the Government have to deliver after all the passionate and tough talk on Africa.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for introducing this debate. She was, as always on this subject, lucid, convincing and passionate.
102 Her Majesty's Government remain gravely concerned by the continuing crisis in Darfur. Your Lordships will have read the latest very disturbing World Health Organisation mortality report. It estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 people in Darfur are dying each month. The report puts the number of dead, so far, at between 35,000 and 70,000 people, with almost 1.5 million internally displaced. As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, told us, the situation in Darfur remains very insecure: attacks continue, civilian protection remains a major concern, and the humanitarian needs in Darfur are enormous.
Since the last debate in this House there has been some progress. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, that humanitarian access in Darfur has greatly improved. There are many more international non-governmental organisations and agencies working in Darfur, bringing humanitarian relief to more and more people. There are now an estimated 800 international and more than 5,000 national staff working in Darfur. I am sure that your Lordships will join me in acknowledging the remarkable efforts of these brave people.
Of course, as access to Darfur improves, the increasing needs of the internally displaced person (IDP) population are becoming clearer to the international community. Since September 2003 Her Majesty's Government have allocated £62.5 million to the humanitarian relief effort in Darfur. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, that we are the second largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid. We have also been lobbying others to do more.
As many of your Lordships acknowledged this evening, improving the security situation is now the key priority. In order to stem the growing IDP numbers, the fighting has to stop. People will return to their homes only when they believe it is safe to do so. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister pressed this point and others with President Bashir when he visited Sudan on 6 October. President Bashir agreed to a five-point plan to improve security in Darfur. He agreed to: co-operate in full with an expanded African Union mission; notify the AU of the location of its forces; confine its forces and militia to barracks, if the rebels also did so; and immediately and unilaterally implement the Abuja humanitarian protocol and conclude the comprehensive peace agreement as soon as possible. We are closely monitoring the Government of Sudan's compliance with these commitments given to our Prime Minister and the other commitments they have given to the international community.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, specifically raised the matter of the arms allegedly supplied by Britain. We rigorously enforce the EU arms embargo that has been in place since 1994. We believe that the UN statistics are inaccurate and we have already asked the UN to correct its records on the matter. We take it as seriously as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, implied that we should.
103 I acknowledge the enormity of the horrors described by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury about the importance of the Government of Sudan co-operating with international efforts. It is welcome that the Government of Sudan have agreed to co-operate with the international community and to comply with the requirements placed upon them by Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1564, which the United Kingdom sponsored. However, the Prime Minister made clear that the Government of Sudan would be judged not by their words, but by their actions. Should they fail to fulfil their promises, the Security Council resolutions set out the measures—including, but not limited to, sanctions—that the council is prepared to take against the Sudanese Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, asked about the rebels. The African Union—
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, if the noble Baroness will forgive me, she says that there is a commitment to sanctions if the conditions are not met. Have we not heard that members of the Security Council have said that they will veto them?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
My Lords, no doubt there are some members of the Security Council who will feel that that is the case. However, that does not stop us pressing the issue. As we all acknowledge, the United Nations is where we try to solve these issues, but not exclusively. If the noble Lord will give me a moment or two, I shall try to deal with some of the other areas where we can try to improve the situation. One of those is in relation to the African Union ceasefire commission, which reports that the rebels also continue to violate the ceasefire—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, was anxious that I cover in dealing with the position of the rebels.
When the Secretary-General makes his monthly report to the Security Council this Friday, he will focus not only on progress made by the Government of Sudan, but on whether the rebel groups have been fulfilling their commitments—an important point that the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, raised. We must leave the rebel groups in no doubt that the international community will take action against them should they not honour their promises. This is the message that my honourable friend the Minister for Africa, Mr Mullin, gave to the leadership of the main Darfur rebel group, the SLM, when they visited London three weeks ago.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked about the attitudes of other powers. Like the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Avebury, I hope that the African Union's decision to expand its monitoring mission in Darfur is one that we can all acknowledge is a real movement in the right direction. I say in answer to the specific points made by the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Avebury, that over the coming weeks the African Union will increase the number of its troops in Darfur from less than 500 to more than 3,000. The first 104 troops from Nigeria and Rwanda have already arrived. During his visit to Sudan the Prime Minister announced that the United Kingdom would be contributing a further £12 million, in addition to the £2 million we provided in May, to assist the AU in expanding its mission.
I assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that we are considering what logistical and technical support we can provide to the AU. We currently have a military planner working with the AU in Addis Ababa, and we have been instrumental in securing 80 million euros in funding from the European Union.
In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, the African Union will have a vital role to play in improving security in Darfur. Its increased numbers will allow it to monitor the situation on the ground more proactively. A more visible AU presence should help to rebuild the confidence of the people of Darfur.
All those who have spoken this evening have raised the vital issues of human rights and genocide. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, spoke on human rights with huge conviction. Of course, the Government are gravely concerned by the terrible violations and crimes against humanity that have taken place in Darfur. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear to the Government of Sudan that there can be no impunity for such crimes.
We strongly welcomed, and indeed pressed for, the establishment of the International Commission of Inquiry. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, the commission will investigate violations of human rights in Darfur and determine whether those crimes amount to genocide. It will also determine who should be held accountable. In answer to a specific question of the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, we expect the commission to report back in three months.
However, the Government are taking action now to address the human rights situation. We have made it clear to all sides that those violations must stop. We funded the original eight human rights monitors from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which has just increased the number of its monitors in Darfur to 16. And a number of UN protection-oriented agencies have, with UK funding, begun programmes to train the Government of Sudan police and their armed forces in human rights law. Those agencies are addressing the issues in all three Darfur states.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was also able to secure visas to Darfur for human rights agencies Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International, which before my right honourable friend's intervention had been denied access to Darfur, reported that it was allowed to carry out its investigations without hindrance. That is very welcome news. I can tell the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury that our embassy in Khartoum is in close touch with the Churches and takes up the concerns that are brought to its attention.
105 The persecution against Christians as a religious group is somewhat less clear. Southerners of all religions suffer from mistreatment, as the right reverend Prelate acknowledged, but in other areas, many thousands of Christians worship freely.
As a number of your Lordships have suggested, it is clear that the only way in which to resolve the problems in Darfur, as in the rest of Sudan, is through a political process. That is why we have placed such great emphasis over the past few years on the peace talks between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement—the SPLM—in Kenya, and more recently, on the AU-led Darfur peace talks taking place in Abuja.
The United Kingdom's special representative—now Alastair McPhail—continues to attend the talks in Kenya, and we have sent an observer to the peace talks in Abuja, where he is playing an active role in pressing for peace.
In Abuja, we are pressing the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups to sign the humanitarian protocol, which they agreed at the last round of talks. Both the Sudanese Government and the Sudan Liberation Movement—SLM—have given their commitment to do so and to implement the protocol immediately. We are also pressing both sides to negotiate in good faith on the remaining security issues.
In Kenya, first Vice-President Taha and the SPLM leader, John Garang, made good progress on the comprehensive peace agreement. The parties will return later this month to resolve the remaining issues. Both sides have told us that they are keen to sign a comprehensive peace agreement before the end of the year. We believe that that is possible. That comprehensive peace agreement could provide the framework for a comprehensive peace in the whole of Sudan, including Darfur.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred to a possible role in the peace process for the International Islamic-Christian Organisation for Reconciliation and Reconstruction. I know that the noble Baroness has met my right honourable friend the Minister for Africa to discuss that point. I assure her that the joint DfID and FCO Sudan unit will carefully consider the proposal put to it.
I strongly agree with the right reverend Prelate about the importance of international pressure in the conflict. The UN will shortly publish its 2005 Sudan appeal. The international community will need to increase its contributions throughout 2005 so that agencies working in Darfur and throughout Sudan can continue to bring food and medicine to those who desperately need it. Your Lordships will know that the Prime Minister recently announced that the United Kingdom would contribute £100 million to Sudan—I emphasise that for the noble Lord, Lord Roberts—for humanitarian and development assistance next year, subject to the signature of the comprehensive peace agreement.
The Prime Minister's visit demonstrates the importance that the Government attach to a successful resolution of Sudan's crisis. That pressure on the 106 Government of Sudan has led to some positive steps forward. There is also greater co-operation with the international community. As I said, the rebels must adhere to the ceasefire and show commitment to negotiating a political solution. We shall maintain the pressure on both sides. The expansion of the humanitarian effort is achieving some results. The numbers of people receiving food aid grew from 940,000 in August to 1.4 million in September, but there is much more to do to safeguard the victims and prepare the way for them to return home in safety. The expanded African Union force offers hope for the future, and we will ensure that the international community reinforces its efforts to solve the crisis.
Sudan now has an opportunity to bring about an end to the fighting which has ravaged the country and its people for so long—too long. But as I have said before in this House, implementing the peace agreement will be harder than negotiating it. It is vital that the international community helps Sudan through the difficult but essential period of transition it faces. As our involvement in the peace process and the generous humanitarian and development aid shows, the Government are committed to doing that and to helping to create a peaceful and prosperous Sudan, where the needs of all its peoples are considered. For Sudan, and Africa as a whole, the price of failure and the rewards for success are very great.
§ Baroness Crawley
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.30 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 8.27 to 8.31 p.m.]