Sudan

– in the House of Lords at 3:31 pm on 9th December 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Cox Baroness Cox Crossbench 3:31 pm, 9th December 2005

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of recent developments in Sudan.

My Lords, I am deeply grateful to all noble Lords contributing to this timely debate, because the situation in Sudan remains critical and recent developments are cause for deep concern. When the National Islamic FrontNIF—regime seized power by military force, it began systematic military offensives against its own peoples in the south, the Nuba mountains, Abyei in the west and the Beja people in the east. It also denied access by the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan to areas under attack, so no one could take aid to its victims or see what it was doing. I was able to visit those no-go areas 28 times during the war and witnessed its brutal policies, which, even before Darfur, left 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced. Many more people have since perished in Darfur than in the whole tsunami.

This is the background to the comprehensive peace agreement—CPA—signed in January. While most observers welcomed the prospect of a decline in violence, many who suffered at the hands of the NIF were sceptical. But extreme war-weariness and the involvement of the international community generated some optimism. Sadly, subsequent events. especially the death of Dr John Garang, have threatened to extinguish that optimism.

Current concerns include the composition of the new Government of National Unity; arrangements for power sharing and control of oil revenues; and continuing humanitarian crises, conflicts and violations of human rights. Despite the formation of the GNU, there is evidence of bad faith by the NIF. It dominates the presidency, including its advisory council, and has created, in effect, a shadow government who will retain all real power. So there has been a silent coup in which the facade of shared governance masks the NIF's ruthless preservation of power.

Most conspicuously, the NIF—the ruling faction of the National Congress Party—has retained the two key economic ministries responsible for accounting for Sudan's huge oil revenues. The southern Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Movement—SPLM—fought for at least one of these ministries, as clearly intended in the CPA, but the NIF refused. It is thus exceedingly unlikely that southern Sudan will receive its fair share of the oil wealth according to the wealth-sharing protocol, which is a cornerstone of the CPA.

There has also been conflict over the border between north and south, with northerners moving it southward to claim control of fertile land and oil resources. The NIF has also encouraged the southward migration of Arab peoples into areas from which African tribes were ethnically cleansed. Thus, the NIF/NCP currently claims that the Heglig oilfield in Western Upper Nile lies within northern Sudan. That will severely diminish oil revenues for the south, which are desperately needed for post-war reconstruction and humanitarian crises.

Four million southerners were displaced during the civil war. Some moved to northern towns, where many eked out unhappy existences in IDP camps. Others fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries. However, many have begun the long trek home, and 240,000 had already returned by July. They are returning with their few belongings to devastated areas that cannot sustain this influx. There has been great disappointment. According to the deputy special representative for the UN Secretary- General in Sudan and the humanitarian co-ordinator:

"If you look at the current basic indicators and social services in the SPLM areas, it is very difficult there. You have a huge educational problem and everything else: no health, water, roads, no functioning markets, no justice systems at all, no police, no shops or supply of commodities. The nature of the problem is enormous and what needs to be done is a massive construction of everything".

The World Bank and other development partners have pledged $900 million for southern Sudan. It is vital that this assistance is provided as a matter of urgency. Meanwhile, reports are coming in of more humanitarian crises, or incipient crises, in the Nuba mountains and in the Beja people's lands in the east.

However, forces are at work in many areas that actively obstruct the processes of redevelopment. For example, the Lord's Resistance Army, supported by the NIF, continues to terrorise the people of northern Uganda and southern Sudan. On 2 November, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action suspended operations in areas of southern Sudan after the LRA killed two of its de-miners. A week earlier, two aid workers were killed in LRA attacks in northern Uganda, prompting several NGOs to suspend work in that region.

I shall briefly summarise the catastrophe in Darfur: NIF troops and allied militia continue to attack civilian targets and aid workers and to hinder humanitarian efforts, despite the presence of African Union troops and monitors. It is estimated that close to 400,000 people may have died since violence broke out in 2003. Some analysts estimate that 15,000 Darfuris are dying daily and that over 2 million Darfuris have been displaced to Chad or to camps for internally displaced people, which now litter the landscape. Meanwhile the Janjaweed continue to rape and pillage, despite the government's obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1556 to disarm the Janjaweed militias and rein in their activities. There is now evidence of the Janjaweed enslaving villagers, forcing them to work and to endure gang rape. Aid workers have also become targets. On 1 September, an aid convoy was ambushed and the aid workers were beaten, stripped and whipped, and on 8 October two contractors were killed.

This politically motivated violence is condemning the African population in Darfur to starvation. The situation there can indeed be described as genocide by attrition. The 6,000-plus African Union force deployed to provide security in Darfur was never large enough to police an area the size of France. Despite repeated requests for more money and logistical support from the West, it still lacks adequate finance, military hardware and fuel, and, despite the lack of those essential resources, the UNHCR has announced a cut in aid to displaced people in Darfur.

Sudan is scheduled to assume the presidency of the AU in January 2006. Given the continuing horrors in Darfur and the fact that the government are an active party to the conflict there, that presidency is surely inconceivable. Another cause for concern is the retention by the NIF of the Interior Ministry, so that human rights issues, including freedom of the press and of political expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture, will be controlled by the NIF, with its notorious disregard for human rights. Recent causes for concern include a crackdown on the press in Khartoum; numerous reports of arrests and torture; and, on 18 October, a Lutheran church in Khartoum was torched in broad daylight.

The NIF has also taken a series of unilateral actions affecting humanitarian relief. Those include new visa regulations delaying access of key personnel and restrictions on financing aid organisations. Those new regulations could not have come at a worse time. Food insecurity is mounting, malnutrition levels are rising and humanitarian assistance is critically short. The mortality rate in under-fives in some areas, especially the Upper Nile region, is critical, comparable to Niger. Despite the billions of dollars in annual oil revenues, the NIF has the temerity to blame the international community for the suffering of its people.

Following that catalogue of concerns, will the Government seek assurances from the Government of Sudan that they will ensure the rights of the south to oil revenues and the boundaries agreed under the Machakos agreement; that they will fulfil their undertakings under Security Council Resolution 1556 to rein in the Janjaweed; that they cease all assistance to the LRA; and that they ratify the Convention against Torture as soon as possible? Will the Government use every appropriate initiative to ensure that the African Union presence in Sudan receives increased funding, manpower and mandate to allow it more effectively to protect civilians and aid workers? Finally, will the Government urge members of the African Union to delay the Sudanese presidency until a clear resolution of the Darfur issue has been attained?

Sudan cannot function as a country, and the new Government of National Unity cannot serve as a means of democratising power, as long as the NIF is engaged in genocide in Darfur and is deliberately aborting essential features of the CPA. Either the international community chooses to address those fundamental problems or it will be abandoning Sudan yet again. The people of Sudan look with justification to the United Kingdom for support at this critical time, and they will be looking to the response to this debate to see whether they can take comfort from the Government's position. I passionately hope that they will not be disappointed.

Photo of The Bishop of Manchester The Bishop of Manchester Bishop 3:42 pm, 9th December 2005

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this debate and, once again, demonstrating by her excellent and informative speech her tireless concern on behalf of the bruised, the broken and the dying in tragic parts of the world. In the early 1980s, my wife and I had a Sudanese archdeacon staying with us at home and I remember how horrified we were as we listened to his description of his brother being attached by ropes to a vehicle and then dragged along until he was dead. It is a tragedy that, 25 years later and for so much of the time in between, Sudan is and has been one of the most terrible scenes of cruelty, homelessness, hunger, rape, torture, fighting and killing.

Much attention has rightly been given lately by the media to the Darfur situation, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, said, the situation in the south—where, incidentally, our archdeacon came from—is, in a different way, just as desperate. As the noble Baroness said, in the east there is also a war waiting to happen with the oppression of the Béja people. In fact, the humanitarian issues in the east are being rather neglected by the international media.

Since the peace deal was signed in 2005, the situation in the south of Sudan has fluctuated. It was only pressure from the international community that caused that peace deal to be signed in the first place after 22 years of war. The truth is that only international pressure will enable a true peace to be established and maintained.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement allows for a six-year interim period during which resources are supposedly shared and a foundation put in place for a future of unity in the country. I am afraid that in many ways the Darfur situation is slowing up the CPA process. In any case, the 4 million displaced by the war between north and south are simply watching and waiting, with some sending representatives back to their home areas to see what is happening, and many returning to their displaced families having found that nothing has happened. In most areas there is still nothing in place to receive people returning from exile: no reasonable roads, no working infrastructure, no clean water, no schools, no medical facilities and no communications. Equally, in many areas there is not enough food to feed the returning people. It has been reported that a group of around 10,000 tried to return to the Bahr El Gazal region from Darfur, but the situation in Bahr El Gazal was so bad that they realised it would be better to be back in Darfur.

Most people feel rather like the pawns in a chess game, being utterly helpless to do anything. Large-scale returns estimated at 580,000 are expected over the next dry season. However, many communities in the south lack the sustained livelihoods, necessary resources and opportunities to be able to make decent lives. The vice-president of the government of southern Sudan has recently spoken about a "tsunami of returns". To date, planning and preparation has focused on en-route support rather than addressing the main elements of viable return and reintegration, ensuring that there is an environment at the community level that is conducive to return to.

As the noble Baroness said, John Garang's death was a huge loss to the south; the people had come to rely on him as a kind of victor, brother and almost saviour. The handing over to his successor seemed to go well and he appeared to be more democratic, but my own estimate is that he is an inexperienced politician and possibly unlikely to be able to keep control over these complex issues. I have to say that the Church is really the only infrastructure that is widely established at the grassroots level, and it does have a huge influence. But it is itself struggling to develop strong leadership.

As I see it, three main challenges face Sudan. The first, which has already been mentioned, is the Lord's Resistance Army, which has been moving across Equatoria from northern Uganda and its already established bases in eastern Equatoria of southern Sudan. That took many people in the south by surprise. The LRA is disrupting communities by looting, burning and abducting people. Also the trade and supply routes to the southern capital, Juba, from other parts of the south as well as from Kenya and Uganda, which were beginning to open up since the signing of the peace agreement, are now being cut off by the LRA. Much of the trade to the previous single route of the airway from Khartoum is now limited. We have also seen the news of the British Christian Aid worker who a few weeks ago was horrifically killed by the LRA in front of his wife.

A big worry that follows from all this is that the NGOs are now in danger of pulling out of areas where the LRA has been particularly active, thus taking away not only much-needed help, but also that quality which is perhaps even more important—priceless hope, which is instilled when there is an international presence.

Another issue is the escalating conflict between the Dinka people and other people groups. This is a long-standing conflict. Many of the Dinka were displaced because of the war and the actions of the northern government in violently clearing people from areas around the prospective oilfields in central Sudan. They fled with their cattle and settled in areas around the towns and villages of the agricultural people. The cattle randomly ate the crops and there have been intermittent tensions and clashes. But the truth is that the Dinka people now do not want to go back to their home areas. So a very strong, wise and united leadership is needed to deal with these situations. Unfortunately, there is already talk of an imbalance because of the large number of new government posts being given to Dinkas. Those who have a larger overview of the situation and the various attacks that are taking place are despairing. They feel that the world will look at southern Sudan and say what the north has been claiming all along: "There you are. They cannot rule themselves. They just end up fighting".

The third issue is the continuing cold war between the north and south. There is a widespread belief that the north is trying to sabotage plans to develop the south and a long-standing view in the Sudan that the Arabs want the land but not the people of black Africa. There are reports coming back after landmine clearing exercises of the landmines suddenly being replaced. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has already mentioned the northern government's wish to move the boundaries so that the north includes more of the oilfields still being discovered. It all adds up to a total loss of trust.

There is a serious stumbling block within the Khartoum Government which questions their commitment to national unity. A symbol of that is how they address the practical grievances of the Churches, especially in relation to the seizure of Church property, schools, guest houses and other buildings. As to the land rights in Khartoum, how can they offer to the rest of the country what they will not do in their own capital city? As we all know, the ongoing crisis in Darfur is getting worse with inadequate numbers of African Union forces for the huge task in hand. Because it is a farmer/nomad and Muslim/Muslim conflict, the Churches, though active, are not as influential as we would like them to be.

The longer term priority is for effective education, particularly at secondary level, for which huge investment is needed. In the mean time, in addition to keeping the Churches involved and helping with medical aid, our most important task is to keep Sudan high on the public, political and media agenda, both at home and abroad, so that perpetrators of racial, tribal and religious attacks and crimes, whether at national or local level, will be deterred from committing such crimes because they will become known.

I hope that we will hear from the Minister today of the Government's continuing commitment to the Sudan and that they will do all in their power to maintain effective peacekeeping.

Photo of Lord St John of Bletso Lord St John of Bletso Crossbench 3:52 pm, 9th December 2005

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Cox for introducing today's debate and for drawing attention to the deepening crisis in Sudan. Her tireless efforts in bringing attention to the atrocities in that country have played a major role in keeping the country on the international political agenda. It is now more important than ever that the developments unfolding in the country are put back onto centre stage as many commentators believe that a certain level of complacency has crept into the coverage of what is happening in Sudan and the enormous economic and political challenges that the country faces.

I have never before spoken in your Lordships' House on Sudan, partly because I have never visited the country, but more because I have always focused my speeches on southern Africa. However, from reports that I have been receiving from friends of mine who operate and live in the country—including journalists, people who work for NGOs and businessmen—I have become increasingly alarmed at what is clearly a deterioration of the much-heralded Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January this year, which gave us all so much hope after 21 years of civil war.

I have always tended to look on the bright side of the huge opportunities that lie in Africa. Last year was a particularly good year for the continent with global attention being focused on the opportunities and challenges, much of which was covered in the exceptionally good work of the African commission.

With its vast oil reserves, with daily production soon to exceed 500 million barrels a day, Sudan clearly has huge economic potential. However, because of the totally inadequate physical infrastructure of roads and with so much of the country devastated by several decades of civil war, it will take many years for the country to get back on its feet. It is frustrating that despite donor countries pledging several billion dollars for reconstruction in April and $1.9 billion for development, the lack of capacity and infrastructure in the country has resulted in only a trickle of funds reaching the ground. This, and other peace dividends, have been put on hold because of the separate crisis in Darfur.

Since the tragic death of John Garang in late July, the implementation of the peace agreement has radically slowed down. Some believe that it is more than six months behind already. His successor, Salva Kiir, while highly respected as a military leader, does not appear, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester mentioned, to have the same leadership qualities to control and drive the peace agreement forward. To keep the peace agreement on track, decisive and clear political and economic decisions need to be taken consensually between the leaders. This does not appear to be happening, and with disequilibria in the implementation of the agreement, I fear that there is a very real risk that it could all fall apart with devastating consequences for the country.

I wish to focus my few remarks on the southern part of Sudan. I am very concerned that the deployment of United Nations civilian and military staff in Juba to make sure the CPA works is far too slow. My understanding is that the total number should ultimately reach 10,000 but so far only 1,000 have arrived. There is a clear lack of adequate monitoring and enforcement of the peace accord. More than 5,000 SPLA soldiers recently arrived in Juba, all heavily armed. Their control of the region is almost complete. The government of Sudan forces still remaining in Juba town are now heavily outnumbered but rumours abound that they are re-arming to counter this new threat. Does the Minister have any details on the timing of when the government of Sudan forces will be withdrawing from the garrison towns in the south and when the SPLM troops will be withdrawing from the north?

As my noble friend Lady Cox and the right reverend Prelate mentioned, another cause of instability in the south is the presence of LRA rebel fighters from Uganda. I will not elaborate on that.

The ongoing conflict has made southern Sudan particularly vulnerable to HIV. Access to basic services is among the lowest in the world, with adult literacy standing at only 24 per cent of the population, one doctor for every 100,000 people and a largely non-existent healthcare system. This lack of healthcare and skilled health workers makes treatment and care of people living with HIV/AIDS almost impossible. Only one in eight children currently attends school and normally only up to the age of 11.

On security, more than 500,000 southern Sudanese are living in neighbouring countries, many of whom are expected to come home or, with the help of UNHCR, have already done so. I fear that many of the great expectations for the peace agreement have already been dashed and that their trip home will be unsafe. Many of them will not even have a home when they come back. There have been many reports that crops and villages are being deliberately destroyed by the rebels to make it difficult for the displaced to return.

Although the aid agencies have helped to cut malnutrition and mortality rates in the refugee camps, many of the roads used to supply the camps are regarded as unsafe because of bandits, rebels and other fighters, resulting in several agencies withdrawing. Oxfam has to use United Nations helicopters to get to at least half of the camps in which they work.

What I find alarming are the dire warnings recently issued by various UN officials in Sudan in a desperate attempt to force the international community to take urgent cognizance of Darfur's continuing crisis. There seems to have been a sudden increase in violence, particularly in September and October, and another wave of violence in November.

From all accounts, it appears that the Sudanese Government are giving their blessing and support to the Janjaweed militia. Does the Minister have information on whether any measures are being taken to disarm it? There are far too few African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur to control the escalation of attacks on the camps. I hope that the Minister can give us some encouragement by saying what assistance can be given to increasing their numbers.

I fear that, after all the good work that has been done in securing the comprehensive peace accord, there is a real risk that, with the lack of unity and strong leadership in Sudan and the expectations of the people not being met, the country could slide back to civil war, which would be devastating not just for Sudan but for all the countries surrounding it. I hope the Minister can give us some encouragement by saying what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to assist in keeping the peace agreement on track.

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 4:01 pm, 9th December 2005

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, whose views always command enormous respect for the length and breadth of her experience in Sudan, has expressed grave concerns about the implementation of the north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The right reverend Prelate spoke about the lack of trust which exists. The noble Lord, Lord St John, spoke with deep pessimism about the prospects of the agreement being fully implemented. But there are some good signs: the adoption of the interim national constitution; the installation of the Government in the south; and the partial deployment of UN peacekeepers. The process survived the tragic death of John Garang, and I hope that there is enough momentum to carry it forward. Khartoum has reduced its military presence in the south by some 17 per cent. As we have heard, SPLA troops have entered the city of Juba peacefully. Some 4,000 UNMIS troops and observers are in the mission area, compared with the target of 10,000 that was set by UNSCR 1590 last March. We understand that there have been some logistical difficulties. It would be useful if the Minister could say whether a timetable exists for the deployment to be completed.

We would be grateful too for a first reaction to the request from Jan Pronk of SRSG to the international community for $1.7 billion for Sudan, which is a third of the total of the UN's humanitarian appeal for next year. Donors would be keener to produce this enormous sum if it were not for the continuing violence in Darfur, as well as the grievances of the Beja people in the east, about which the noble Baroness spoke, as she has many times in the past. The talks between Khartoum and the Eastern Front, which were supposed to begin in November, were postponed for a month. I understand that they have now been put off again until January.

Has the UK made any offer to contribute to the $1.7 billion? Is it conditional on progress at the Abuja talks, which seem to have run into trouble, with both rebel groups rejecting the AU formula for power sharing? Will the Minister give us an update on the negotiations and his assessment on whether there is any realistic hope of concluding an agreement by the end of the year as was being suggested until a few days ago?

I know that the south is beginning from ground zero, but part of the money for de-mining and infrastructure developments should come out of the south's 50 per cent share of the oil revenues, plus the additional 2 per cent for the states where the oil is produced. What arrangements are being made to ensure that the revenue from the oil output, which is estimated to reach 750,000 barrels a day by the end of 2006, is properly recorded and audited? Sudan is not a member of the EITI and should be asked to sign up to that agreement. Taxpayers in donor countries will not be keen on writing large cheques to a country that is not fully transparent.

We should also help the south to resuscitate its agriculture and its trade with neighbouring Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and DRC so as to reduce the need for foreign aid.

The situation in Darfur has been described as the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world, with further attacks continuing, as we have heard, by the Janjaweed and the Sudanese military on the civilian population in spite of the repeated warnings that have been given by the international community. On Tuesday, militias attacked a town in west Darfur and destroyed wells constructed for the local people by humanitarian agencies. This seems to be part of a more general campaign to destroy farmland, crops and water supplies.

It has been reported separately that there has been a huge increase in the number of attacks and robberies on humanitarian workers. An attack took place on three villages about 40 kilometres north of Nyala by Sudanese armed forces and militia last Saturday, displacing 7,000 people and causing an unknown number of casualties. People of 20 villages in southern Darfur have sought refuge in Gereida, where the internally displaced have increased to 60,000 in the past few weeks.

This brings me to the question of whether the size and mandate of the AU force is adequate for the task it is undertaking, or should be asked to undertake. A month ago, the force had reached 5,500 military and civilian personnel plus 1,000 police, which is not far short of the authorised number of 7,700, although it took them a long time to get there. The Minister said in a recent answer that there would be an assessment in the near future of AMIS's effectiveness, and of whether any further expansion was required. The international military advice in March was that the mandate was adequate, but that more troops were needed to deliver it effectively.

Clearly, the international responsibility to protect the civilian population against overwhelming humanitarian disaster, which was first invoked in the case of Kosovo but is now perhaps a customary principle of international law, has not been observed in Darfur. AMIS has not been asked to prevent the attacks on civilians and the few assets that allow them to stay alive in a harsh environment. It has been obstructed by Khartoum's failure to co-operate, exemplified by the refusal to allow unrestricted use of Sudan's airspace and the obstacles that were placed in the way of the delivery of essential equipment, such as the Canadian armoured vehicles that, I am glad to see, have now at last been allowed through.

Nor have the Government of Sudan co-operated in the arrest and prosecution of those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since not a single one of the militia criminals who have perpetrated innumerable war crimes has been arrested, an expanded AMIS should be given the task, and should be reinforced with teams of experts who could take witness statements and collect forensic evidence, using methods that comply with the rules of evidence of the International Criminal Court.

The Prosecutor of the ICC has opened an investigation into a number of cases that were referred to him by the Security Council, based on the report of the International Commissioner of Inquiry on Darfur established by the Secretary-General. He says that his investigation, which has only just begun, needs the sustained co-operation of national and international authorities, including the African Union, as required by the Security Council. Clearly he will get nothing from Khartoum. If witnesses are to be persuaded to make statements, they will need protection. Although there was a great deal of self-congratulation about the precedent of getting a reference to the ICC through the Security Council, war criminals have nothing to fear unless there is a determined and systematic campaign to collect and store the evidence.

After Srebrenica and Rwanda there was a lot of hand-wringing. There were inquiries into the failure of the international community to respond in time, or with effective force, to the threat of genocide and mass murder. The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica, according to the Secretary-General, was:

"that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorise, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion".

In his comment on the official report on Rwanda, he said:

"All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it. There was a United Nations force in the country at the time, but it was neither mandated nor equipped for the kind of forceful action that would have been needed to prevent or halt the genocide. On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse".

Yesterday, Mr Annan said he was gravely concerned about the worsening situation in Darfur and urged the Security Council and the donor community to do everything possible to assist AMIS. But that has all been said before. The very least we should and can do now is to call an emergency meeting of the Security Council and invite the AU and its commander in Darfur to attend, bringing proposals for protecting civilians from further attack, disarming the Janjaweed and bringing to justice those who are still perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Spokespersons In the Lords, Foreign Affairs, Spokespersons In the Lords, International Development 4:10 pm, 9th December 2005

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for securing this short but very moving debate. Her continual pursuit in highlighting the plight of this country is a most admirable one, which has enabled this House to keep the political spotlight on Sudan.

The situation in Sudan is in many cases one of paradox. On the one hand, it appears to have come so far—as described by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—with the peace agreement in the south. On the other hand, this portends to be the calm before the renewed storm—a storm which will not be helped by the increasing tensions in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

As we have heard, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was finally signed less than a year ago, in theory ending the guerrilla warfare and genocide that have devastated the region. As I have highlighted before, the number of deaths and tortures in Sudan echoes the horrors of Rwanda and dwarfs those of Kosovo and Bosnia.

We have witnessed the increasing involvement of other nations investing both time and money in Sudan. However, despite relative progress, the Khartoum Government have continually failed to shift their behaviour towards their own people. This continual mistreatment is increasingly alarming. Indeed, the past few months have seen growing evidence that the country is slipping back into horror—so much so that the Economist reported the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as declaring it to be in a state of anarchy.

As your Lordships have indicated, there are grave concerns that the southern peace may have legitimised the Khartoum Government in the world's chancelleries, making the former a negotiating partner. It has given them, too, the licence to go on killing their own people in western Sudan—predominantly Darfur—and now in the east as well, where a rebel group has recently opened up a new front.

The ceasefire has once again been broken, but is this surprising when the African Union force has received little if any help or co-operation from the Sudanese Government in enforcing it? I would be interested to know whether the Minister supports the Human Rights Watch protest against the plans to hold an African Union meeting in Khartoum next January while these problems continue to grow.

The ODI and Sudan Advocacy Coalition claim that the situation in the east is actually often worse than in the rest of Sudan, but this has received little attention. Does the Minister agree with them that:

"There is a need for greater commitment from national and international actors, to the long term development that the east, (as well as the rest of Sudan) requires, and that short-term humanitarian interventions are not sufficient"?

If so, what steps do Her Majesty's Government propose to take to address this issue? Do they plan to produce a response to the report due to be launched on Monday at the ODI?

What are Her Majesty's Government and the international community getting for our friendly efforts? There has been a failure to demilitarise local militias in the south, let alone to tackle the ongoing problems of the east and west.

There are tensions over the lack of internal co-operation on oil and there remains a very large army presence, despite promises to reduce numbers.

Some 2 million displaced people remain dependent on humanitarian assistance from the United Nations and NGOs, yet the security situation for those staff has become so bad, with deaths, abusive attacks and rape, that the UN has had to withdraw its temporary staff and the NGOs can operate only within the main towns. As a result, aid simply cannot get to where it is really needed.

Back in September, the World Food Programme's emergency assessment concluded that the situation was beyond serious. We on these Benches support the urgent call for emergency relief for those in need, but it is vital that we look at the long-term issues that may plunge those who are already in crisis even deeper into it. Even the welfare of the camels is crucial, according to the British Red Cross. The ICRC is focusing increasingly on livestock programmes as being vital to protecting people's livelihoods.

All the regional problems of Sudan are interconnected. We cannot lose sight of what is happening in other areas, while focusing on the stumbling progress that the south is trying to make. Unfortunately, our continually expressed concerns seem to be only manifestations. Sudan appears to take one step forward and slip three steps back. We commend the work that the African Union, the United Nations and the NGOs do in an increasingly difficult and unsupported situation.

We urge Her Majesty's Government to hold discussions with the members of the United Nations Security Council, in particular with Russia and China, as to the immediate and long-term security of the Sudanese people, so that they can have a fully supported programmed. That should work towards reining in the Khartoum Government.

Following the horror stories that we have heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, the noble Lords, Lord St John of Bletso and Lord Avebury, and, of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who introduced this important debate on this humanitarian scandal, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, who is always most helpful, if he will urge as soon as possible the Prime Minister and his Government to come good on all his passionate and tough talk on Africa. It would help stir the world's conscience and not allow Sudan to fall apart once again.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:18 pm, 9th December 2005

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for initiating this important debate, as well as all noble Lords who have participated. The noble Baroness is engaged in and intervenes in the human rights issues of many countries such as Sudan with great vigour and is an inspiration us all.

There are problems of huge dimensions, with terrible consequences for the people of Sudan. I saw the situation myself in Darfur and in Juba in October. I met representatives of the Sudanese Government, the African Union, the United Nations and the NGOs and I hope that I have come to grips, at least in part, with some of the problems. I went to several of the camps. I went out with the AU convoy patrols with Xavier Solana. I held discussions with First Vice-President Salva Kiir, Second Vice-President Taha, and Foreign Minister Lam Akol, as well as with Ambassador Kingibe, the head of the AMIS force and mission. All of that has reinforced my commitment and that of the Government to a Sudan which we wish to see peaceful, democratic and prosperous, which respects human rights and the rule of law, whose people must share equally in its national prosperity—which is there to be shared—and which is an active and constructive member of the international community.

Against the backdrop of this genuinely serious situation—I do not want to hint that I do not think that it is serious, least of all from what I saw—real progress has also been made, and I want to highlight three of the most significant achievements of the past 12 months.

First, the comprehensive peace agreement, signed in January, has broadly ended the north/south conflict, if not some of the manoeuvring that is still taking place. The UK was closely involved in the negotiations and provided political and financial support. Secondly, the new Government of National Unity in Khartoum have brought together the former belligerents and other political parties. They are by no means perfect—I do not say that they are—but they are the most representative government that Sudan has had for generations. The country has decades of violence and bad government to put behind it, and in these circumstances it would have been astonishing if the process of the past year had been in just one direction and smooth.

I understand the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, about whether the new government of southern Sudan are stumbling along and whether enough is being done there and in the Government of National Unity. But after 22 years of intensive fighting with one another, a government in southern Sudan are in place—a longstanding demand of the people of the south of Sudan—and the number of people being killed, other than by the LRA, has diminished to almost zero.

As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly said, we are seeing people building from nothing. There is no wealth there; there is no capacity and hardly any animals, as I saw for myself; and there are hardly any buildings, desks or typewriters—hardly anything. You find only poverty in abundance, and so we have a huge task before us.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester also raised questions. The arrangements to implement the peace agreement are now being put in place in the north and the south, supported by the international community. I am happy that this country is at the forefront. We are assisting the key commissions for the peace agreement and providing substantial development aid to the south. The UN force, UNMIS, has been established to support the peace, and we believe that it will reach full strength in the new year. Most significantly, large numbers of displaced people from the south are going home to their farms and their land. The UN estimates that there will be more than half a million returnees in the coming months.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is also right. The peace process survived the recent death of John Garang. As the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, said, his death probably caused a six-month delay in that process. I cannot specify the number of months but there was certainly a delay. Perhaps the most important aspect of that terrible event is that it has demonstrated how committed the parties are to making the CPA work. They have continued to try because they know that it is their best chance—probably their only chance—for real peace in Sudan.

When I met Salva Kiir, I found someone who was prepared to put in a huge effort both to the Government of National Unity and, at the same time, to the creation of the government in the south. As has been said, he is from a military background but I suspect that he is learning the art of politics very rapidly.

In Darfur, where the situation is still critical, there have been improvements. Darfur is the largest humanitarian operation in the world. Nearly 14,000 workers are there in difficult circumstances, feeding and providing for 3.4 million people. The humanitarian situation has significantly improved: the mortality rate is down and malnutrition rates have almost halved since last year. The UK is the second biggest national donor to Darfur, providing £75 million this year.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that it is hard to tell exactly how many people are dying in Darfur, over and above those who die in any population. We have seen death rates decrease significantly but, of course, we want to see them go down to the situation that would obtain if there were peace and people were back on their farms.

AMIS has a flexible enough mandate, although that is to be reviewed literally all the time. I am not certain that it has exploited its mandate to the fullest extent that it might. That may need to be reflected on.

The African Union monitoring force has established an increasingly effective presence. It now numbers 6,700 troops. It needs more. It now includes a significant policing element—including women police, which is very important in the camps—and is improving where it operates. Security is better and human rights abuses, including rape, have been reduced. The United Kingdom is assisting in Addis Ababa and, with the UN, in Juba—just to go back to the south for a moment—as a vital resource in the advice that we are giving. I had hoped that there would be a boost in numbers with a South African battalion coming in as well. They are having to decide whether to deploy there or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure that the elections there go ahead.

All in all, however, the effort has to be made. International pressure has to be continually extended. The government of Sudan has responded by withdrawing its Antonov bombers from Darfur, and has agreed to allow 105 Canadian-supplied armoured personnel carriers in for the AU force. About half are there, and the rest are arriving. I believe that it was this country that forced that issue on the Government of Sudan in October.

There is now a peace process—the Abuja talks—that offers the possibility of a political settlement. It will be a political settlement that resolves the matter in the end. The referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court also sends a strong signal to the world at large that there will be no impunity for those guilty of grave human rights abuses.

There has not been enough progress, however. In some areas, there has been a significant deterioration. I offer the House my assessment. The CPA is fragile. The Government of National Unity exist more in name than in fact. The old Khartoum regime has done far too little to rein in its forces and proxies in Darfur, and have not taken the steps required to punish those guilty of human rights abuses. It will be a long time before the new governments in Khartoum and the south are really effective. The humanitarian situation in the south and east is, if anything, worse than in Darfur, as noble Lords have said.

In Darfur itself, security has deteriorated in recent months. The sheer numbers of people who have been killed or injured through violence are shocking and abhorrent. The situation is becoming more complex with the two rebel forces having split internally, and fighting among one another. I asked for a print-out of every incident we knew, and it runs to pages. They are incidents of rebel forces fighting each other; the Government of Sudan fighting rebel forces; and various factions of the Janjaweed—there is no one Janjaweed—and armed militias within more or less every tribal people fighting each other and the government. The list of who is fighting is truly astounding. It fragments, literally, by the week. In many cases, who the perpetrator is has a question mark after it, because hardly anybody knows any more.

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, the Minister talked about the commission of experts which was supposed to evaluate the success of the United Nations embargo, one of the objectives being to prevent weapons from reaching the Janjaweed. If all the weapons are coming from the Sudanese army, however, how can the embargo do any good? Is it not necessary for AMIS's mandate to be expanded so that it could at least take possession of weapons captured from the Janjaweed, and submit them to international examination to see where they came from?

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

My Lords, I personally think that that would be a useful step—not easy to do, but useful. It is also true that weapons are coming in from all over the place. They are coming in across the Chad border. Many came in years ago. The tribal militias have been armed for generations, as they have defended their herds and tried to get access to other peoples' land to feed them.

People will not go home for good in Darfur until there is a peace agreement. Some progress has been made at Abuja, but there is still a long way to go. Even if there is an agreement, it will have to be delivered on the ground, which will be challenging. As I said, I am pleased to announce that the African Union mediators now intend to continue their talks without a break. I cannot say that they will have been completed by the end of the year, but they are not going home for long holidays in the middle of talks, which loses all the momentum.

I am also concerned in case the response of the international community has been too weak. With the Sudan crisis only half solved, the tension inevitably begins to drift elsewhere. We must not let that happen. We have a lot to do that can improve things. We will play our part. We are vocal in pressing the government of Sudan to provide security for their own people and to support the AU force in Darfur. We spoke to the government of Sudan on brutally frank terms about this abrogation of responsibilities in October. In the UN and EU we have also worked to maintain strong international pressure on the government and we will continue to do so. We want to see the arms embargo extended and we want to see people named as being war criminals and brought to justice.

We are heavily engaged in the Abuja talks. We have a UK observer at the current session and we are providing advice to the parties and the AU mediators on security matters. We are playing a leading role in establishing the AU mission in Darfur, which is doing a difficult job. Since its inception, we have provided some £32 million for airlifting troops into Darfur for vehicles, rations and equipment. We will provide more practical help and the EU will provide about another €70 million between now and March.

Many noble Lords raised questions, but most were contained in the initial speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Perhaps I may address them from that script. The first was on the composition of the Government of National Unity and whether the power sharing and the sharing of revenues have been fair. We have commented on the new government and their shortcomings as well as on the possibilities they have shown. On oil revenues, we have begun to have an impact because in October we suggested that there should be independent monitoring of what was being pumped and stored. After all, it is 50 per cent of what? That question must be resolved to ensure that there is peace.

On the shadow government in the background, I agree that there are many faces of this government. Knowing the history of this country, what I observe is no surprise. But I also observed that Salva Kiir is beginning to do the job necessary to ensure real progress. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, spoke of the Lord's Resistance Army. There are international warrants out for the arrest of its members and it is vital that they are arrested. It is much better that they are arrested and face trial so that everyone understands there is no impunity, rather than that they happen to be killed in a clash, which is just another in the series of fatalities. One way or another, they have to be stopped.

On the presidency of the AU and the location of its meeting, I do not believe that Khartoum will hold the presidency of the AU. I believe that there is an energetic search for a figure whose stature speaks to peace and reconciliation and that is not the case with the President of Sudan. As to whether the meeting of the AU will take place in January, I do not believe that it is in a position to change that. We will continue to play our role, to argue for the disarming of the Janjaweed and to make financial provision.

I conclude with a brief comment. I could run through all the figures on expenditure, but your Lordships are well attuned to those arguments. I have tried to argue the matter in a balanced way because I believe there is progress as there are terrible setbacks. Feeding and protecting people, protecting them from war criminals, pursuing and prosecuting war criminals, entrenching civil and religious freedoms, educating people, and looking after their health is a massive agenda. It is a vast, almost overwhelming, agenda in the case of Sudan. But, as I saw in the camps, we, as a country, and others in the international partnership, have stepped up to our responsibilities. We must be determined that the government of Sudan step up to their responsibilities as well. We are committed to it. But it is no moment to be other than bitingly realistic about what is both positive and negative. Otherwise, we would become vulnerable to a counsel of despair. We should not do that. If we did, we would let down the people of Sudan.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before five o'clock.