G8 Summit: Zimbabwe

– in the House of Lords at 2:58 pm on 29 June 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 2:58, 29 June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the emphasis of the forthcoming G8 Summit on Africa, they will take steps to ensure that there is adequate discussion at the summit of the situation in Zimbabwe.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the G8 summit will discuss a range of issues. We aim to get agreement on a comprehensive set of measures to support African efforts to promote peace, security and good governance, and to invest in people and growth. The discussions at the G8 will focus on that.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall that the Prime Minister said that the state of Africa was a scar on the conscience of the world? Is not the state of Zimbabwe a scar on the conscience of Africa? The African leaders have not observed the bargain that they made with the G8 at the Kananaskis conference in 2002 with regard to human rights, the rule of law and good governance. Would it be useful if the G8, in a mood of quiet diplomacy, were to discuss with the African leaders who will be at the conference whether they believe that the G8 countries will continue to invest in Africa and have confidence in it if those leaders allow the absolutely horrifying conditions in Zimbabwe which now prevail to continue?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, Zimbabwe is a scar on all decent society and on all processes of democratic normality throughout the world but, fortunately, Zimbabwe is not Africa. It is one country in Africa which is doing very poorly by any civilised standard. We have continued to be clear with African leaders that they should speak out on Zimbabwe. Although Africa should not be held to ransom by that one country, everyone should say that Zimbabwe cannot get away with the kinds of activities in which it is engaged and that it does damage other countries when their great strides begin to vanish behind the events in Zimbabwe. We will not seek to harm other African countries in that context, but we look for the most general support in condemnation of Zimbabwe and its regime and for change there.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

My Lords, could Her Majesty's Government not ask the G8 to form a group of eminent persons to go to Zimbabwe? That was done in 1986 in the case of South Africa, where they were given access everywhere. The eminent persons included not only representatives from Canada, the UK and India, but General Obasanjo, as he then was—now President Obasanjo—and John Malacela from Tanzania, who was proposed by Robert Mugabe and Kenneth Kaunda.

Is it not likely to be difficult for Mugabe to resist a visit by such eminent persons with the same object of initiating dialogue and reviewing the situation? Perhaps I may add that the South African regime at the time gave the eminent persons absolutely full access to the whole country. Could not Her Majesty's Government make that proposal at the G8?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I do not think that the Government would want to rule out that proposal. At the moment we are working closely with the United Nations as the first line of approach. Our ambassador raised that matter with the Secretary-General and held extensive discussions on 10 June. That is an important initiative. We welcomed the decision of Kofi Annan to send Anna Tibaijuka, the executive director of the Nairobi-based UN-Habitat, as his special representative, to study the scope of the crackdown and its humanitarian impact on the affected population. I do not know how difficult or easy she is finding that mission, but that is the live mission and we all expect a very early report on her conclusions.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson in the Lords (With Special Responsibility for Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs

My Lords, regardless of whether Mrs Tibaijuka manages to see those who have been displaced, the opposition MPs and so on, is the Minister aware that the African Solidarity Peace Trust has published an interim report, Discarding the filth, which provides graphic detail of the urban cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people and the suffering that that has caused? The report describes it as a crime against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Will the Minister therefore press his leader, who is attending the summit at Gleneagles, to get the states there present, including the African guests, to pass a resolution calling on the Commission on Human Rights to examine the crimes against humanity, as they did in Darfur, and to draft indictments against those responsible which would be presented to the Security Council?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I am aware of the report which is very serious. Candidly, anyone who turns on their television on an average evening probably does not need to read another word. Everyone can see precisely what is happening and treat it with the degree of repugnance that I know is shared in this House. But before other steps are taken, we are eager to see whether the initiative that the UN Secretary-General has started can produce a result. We believe that it is likely to have a more compelling impact on the countries in the region that, regrettably, have been silent on the matter until now.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

My Lords, picking up the theme of the problem of the silence of many African governments and, indeed, of the African Union, is it not a fact that the African Union—the extension of whose role many of us want to support—has moved from a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries to non-indifference? The African Union must take this opportunity for the sake of its own reputation in Africa. All of us are on the same side on this question.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I think that we are on the same side. It is true that it would be of great assistance if the African Union were to take steps that it has so far declined to take. However—in the fairness of achieving a balance—the African Union has not only deployed troops in some of the most difficult places in Africa; it has also assumed responsibility for trying to end some of the most savage conflicts. The progress has been significant. The progress on Zimbabwe has not been significant. I hope that we can change that.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Spokespersons In the Lords, Foreign Affairs, Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, following the words of my noble friend Lady Park about other steps, does the Minister recall our suggestion the other day—that in the absence of a full-scale UN resolution, we should publish a draft or sample UN resolution? I have in my hand a draft of a resolution requiring the UN to send a full-scale mission to Zimbabwe to examine the food horrors going on there. Would he like to see it? Shall I bring it round to his department afterwards?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lord, I am very willing to receive any draft resolution. When we have discussed this matter in the House on other occasions, we have recognised that a draft resolution—indeed, any resolution that might go to the Security Council—would need to show that Zimbabwe poses a threat to the peace and security of its region. Other council members show no sign of accepting that. Putting forward a resolution and losing it would give great comfort to Mugabe, and that is the last thing any of us would wish to do.