[Relevant documents: Second Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2005—06, Darfur: The killing continues, HC 657, and the Government's response thereto, HC 1017; Fifth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2004—05, Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect, HC 67; and the Government's response thereto, Cm 6576.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Michael Foster.]
It is good to see so many Members here, despite business elsewhere in the House having finished. That reflects the deep interest that Members on both sides of the Chamber have in the tragedy that has affected the people of Darfur, particularly over the past three years. I should say frankly, at the outset, that the crisis is a test of the international community's willingness to act when crimes against humanity are committed. I hope that our debate is very much set in that context. I commend the Select Committee for both of its inquiries into Darfur in the past 15 months; I also commend Mr. Drew, who is here and who ably chairs the all-party group on Sudan, and all other hon. Members for their continued interest in what has been going on.
In three years of war, millions of innocent Darfuris have lost their homes, their livelihoods and, frankly, their dignity. As hon. Members will be aware, conflict has been rife in Darfur since the 1980s, but in the beginning of 2003 it reached new heights, with the rebel attack and the overt involvement of Government forces and the Janjaweed militia, following the formation of the Sudan Liberation Movement. The crisis has been littered with agreements signed and not honoured. I refer in particular to the humanitarian ceasefire agreement signed on
As Members will be aware, in May 2004, the African Union Mission in Sudan—AMIS—was deployed, and it has been in the region ever since. Another thing to which it is important to refer, if just in passing, has taken place since then: the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in January 2005 in Nairobi. That finally brought to an end the north-south conflict that had lasted about a generation in Sudan, claiming more than 2 million lives. That agreement has given Sudan a more representative Government than it has had for a very long time. The UK played an honourable part, both in supporting the negotiations and in the agreement's implementation, including by providing political and financial support.
The UK Government have also played an important role in the UN Security Council in pressing for action to be taken on the crisis in Darfur. Members will be aware that we co-sponsored Security Council resolution 1556, which called for the disarmament of the Janjaweed. We supported Security Council resolution 1591, which provides for travel bans and asset freezes on individuals involved in the Darfur crisis who have committed violations of international law or other atrocities, or who have in other ways impeded the peace process. We co-sponsored resolution 1672, which was adopted on
I, for one, unreservedly welcome the imposition of those sanctions, because it is at least a sign that the international community is serious about calling to account those who, by their actions, prolong the suffering of the people of Darfur. We have made it clear that we think that more names ought to follow. We are also pushing for an extension of the arms embargo to the whole of Sudan. If only every country represented on the Security Council had been as determined as the British Government to hold people to account for what they had done.
The UK also sponsored UN Security Council resolution 1593, which referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court following the report by the UN International Commission of Inquiry. That was an historic moment, not only in the context of the crisis in Darfur, but more generally, because it was the first time that the UN Security Council had referred a matter to the ICC. That, too, was not achieved without a struggle. That moment will come to be remembered because it showed that although we fought hard for the principle of the ICC, with support from Members on both sides of the House, it is no good having the thing if it is not actually used to investigate people and call them to account for what they have done. I am glad to say that the ICC has already begun work on identifying the individuals who were responsible for the crimes against humanity and the war crimes that the International Commission of Inquiry said had been committed in Darfur.
I now want to deal in slightly more detail with the challenge that we face.
I welcome what the Secretary of State said about UN Security Council resolution 1593. In the context of his remarks about the investigations that are under way into individuals who are suspected of involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity and, possibly, attempted genocide, will he tell us whether any decisions have been made about an initial list of people who will be prosecuted?
I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a close and passionate interest in the crisis in Darfur, and I applaud him for that. I can tell him that, in his most recent briefing to the UN Security Council on
"the Office had made good progress" in the investigation's first phase and that the next phase would
"seek the further assistance and cooperation of the Government of the Sudan".
We have certainly made it clear to the Government of Sudan that we expect nothing less than full co-operation. I can also tell the hon. Gentleman that, as far as I am aware, the ICC has raised no concerns about co-operation since that last briefing. If there is any further information, beyond that which is available to me, that I can make available to the hon. Gentleman in response to his question, I will write to him with it, if that is all right.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may or may not know that John Bercow and I met Musa Hilal in Khartoum. Obviously, that predated his being cited as one of the individuals in question, but, with the best will in the world, he was clearly under no constraints whatever at that time. It would be good to hear that we are talking to the Government in Sudan about what they intend to do to bring such people to justice.
Our ambassador in Khartoum is in regular contact with the Government of Sudan. However, I should tell my hon. Friend, who has also achieved great distinction, because of the way in which he chairs and leads the all-party group and keeps the House well informed about what is happening, that several of us talk to a considerable number of people as we seek to support those who are trying to resolve the crisis. That is the sad truth, and I will therefore need to check whether particular representations have been made about the individual to whom my hon. Friend referred.
Once people have been put on the sanctions list or otherwise identified by the organisations that are investigating these events, however, all hon. Members would clearly expect those bodies to take the appropriate action against them. It is too late to undo the terrible crimes that have been committed, but if the international community is to achieve justice for those who suffered and lost their lives and, indeed, more widely—that is why I referred to the crisis as a test—we must send a message to those who are thinking of committing such actions in other places that they will eventually be caught if they do.
Elsewhere, we have seen the indictment of Charles Taylor and those who have been brought before courts in Arusha in connection with the Rwandan genocide. What is being done is important because bit by bit, inconsistently and sometimes hesitantly, the international community has the power to demonstrate that we will not sit back and let such things happen. Have we got things right? No. Have we got a long way to go? Certainly, but those steps forward really matter in showing that we are serious about trying to put into effect the fine words that have been passed in declarations and agreements over many years. We find them in the UN's universal declaration of human rights, in the text on the founding of the UN and in the agreement on the responsibility to protect, agreed by the millennium summit last September. However, someone on the receiving end of the trauma in Darfur might be inclined to say, "Those are fine words and I am glad to read them, but when will someone apply them to me?" That is the real test.
Darfur is the most complex humanitarian operation in the world today. Nearly 14,000 people are working there in extremely difficult circumstances. In the past three years, thousands of innocent people have been killed. The figures range from 80,000 to 400,000. The truth is that no one knows, and frankly no one is ever likely to know, how many people have lost their lives in the conflict, but we do know that about 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes and a further 1.5 million have been affected by the conflict. Reports continue of sexual violence, in particular against women and children.
I, along with other hon. Members here today, have visited some of the camps: Kalma, near Nyala, and el-Meshtel and Abu Shouq, which are near el-Fasher. There, we saw with our own eyes the conditions in which people are forced to live, and we heard testimony from women, men and children about what had happened to them to make them flee their homes, and about the continuing insecurity that they face, in particular when they venture out of the camp. That burden is felt particularly by women, because the task of looking for firewood falls on them. Sadly, they are from time to time attacked as they go beyond the confines of the camp.
I pay tribute to the UN, the non-governmental organisations and the 14,000 individuals on the ground—some are international, but the vast bulk are Sudanese—who have worked tirelessly in very difficult circumstances to try to provide for the needs of the people forced to flee their homes. Their efforts mean that today we can recognise that, compared with two years ago, malnutrition and mortality rates have fallen. Last year, they fell below the emergency threshold. That was entirely due to the international relief effort in terms of money, and the skill, dedication and commitment of those staff.
However, because of the increase in insecurity since last autumn, those improvements have begun to be reversed. There has been further displacement of people. Since the beginning of the year, just under 200,000 more people have had to flee their homes because of fighting, a significant proportion of which is down to the rebel movements. In some areas, the UN and the NGOs have had to reduce their presence and operations because of insecurity. That is the first point.
Secondly, banditry and harassment on all sides have got worse and more brazen, and are getting in the way of the ability of humanitarian agencies to gain regular access to the worst affected areas. Sadly, humanitarian workers have to deal with such situations in a number of countries, as I saw for myself in Somalia yesterday. I shall digress slightly, if you will allow me, Mrs. Dean, to pay tribute to the people working in southern Somalia, who frankly, in some circumstances, are putting their lives on the line—the same is true of people in Darfur—to ensure that others get the help that they need. We all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
We have continued throughout to lobby, press and urge the Government of Sudan to ensure that they place no obstacles in the way of those trying to carry out the relief effort. That is the only country in the world in which as Secretary of State for International Development I have had to raise—I have done so willingly—individual cases of consignments of goods that have been held up. I remember one case in particular from a couple of years ago: 30 tonnes of medical supplies brought into the country by Médecins sans Frontières had been sitting in a container in Port Sudan for three months. Those supplies were desperately needed by the people of Darfur, but the necessary permit had not been obtained. Experience has shown that one has to keep up the pressure to ensure that the Government of Sudan support and help those humanitarian agencies.
The third, and sad, fact is that those humanitarian workers have now been affected by a funding crisis as some donors, frankly, get a bit weary. UN agencies responsible for some of the most important needs in Darfur are being forced to make major cuts to their programme; most significant of all is the decision of the World Food Programme to halve the rations provided in Darfur. That means that malnutrition will worsen. I am pleased that the United States Government have decided to speed up the delivery of their substantial contribution, which had, I think, been undergoing the congressional process. I hope that that will mean that full rations can be restored as soon as possible.
Hon. Members will be aware of the leading role that the United Kingdom Government have played in providing humanitarian relief. We are the second largest bilateral donor after the United States of America. Since September 2003 we have allocated more than £93 million to UN agencies and NGOs. We have provided a further £45 million in support of the UN's 2006 Sudan work plan and its eastern Chad appeal. We are pressing other donors to do more. Two weeks ago I announced that the UK is to provide a further £9 million to the common humanitarian fund, which will help the UN to react more quickly and flexibly to the crisis in Darfur and to meet humanitarian needs in other parts of Sudan. It is a desperately poor country, in large measure because of the conflict that its people have had to endure over the past generation and more.
That means that our total contribution to the UN work plan this years stands at £54 million—more than we provided last year. I wish that that was true of all the other donors, but it is not. We are also providing £18 million to NGO operations, £5 million to the Red Cross for both Darfur and the south of the country and £4 million for the relief effort in Chad. I shall continue to urge other donors to respond as generously as they can. The people of Darfur need that.
The second thing that we have been doing is backing the African Union Mission in Sudan, which has deployed ceasefire monitors and a protection force and police since the middle of 2004. Until last summer, the last but one time I went to Darfur, there was no doubt that in the previous 12 months the presence of that force had improved security. That was what I was told not just by the AMIS force itself and its commander at the time, but by the UN agencies to whose representatives I spoke in both north and south Darfur. However, since the autumn the situation has deteriorated, not for want of effort on the part of AMIS but because of the increasing failure of parties to various ceasefires and humanitarian agreements to honour the obligations that they have entered into. The result has been a new wave of people who must flee their homes.
The situation has become very difficult. When in February I met Major-General Ihekire, who took over, as I remember, about four weeks previously, he was very frank and said, "I haven't got enough troops on the ground." That was the first time that the AMIS force commander had said that. He said he needed more. As hon. Members will be aware, AMIS does not even have the 7,700 troops and civilian police that were envisaged for phase 2 of the operation, because it was hard to find an additional battalion from Africa. We should recognise, also, that the force faces an enormously complex and challenging task.
We should pay tribute to the African Union, despite the difficulties: if it had not taken the initiative and put in that force, who else would have gone to do that work? Its presence is a demonstration in deed by Africa that it is prepared to begin to take responsibility for solving conflict on that continent. It has added to the sum total of forces that are capable of doing that work, and in doing so has made it easier to decide to act. We face two problems when such situations occur in the world. First, is there the will to do something? Secondly, if there is the will, are there people who are prepared to do the work?
Given that the 7,000 or so African Union forces are obviously not able to deal with a crisis on the scale of the one that is under way, what size of force does my right hon. Friend anticipate would be needed? Is it realistic to imagine that such a force could come, if not from the AU, even from the UN, given the large number of other UN commitments around the world?
My hon. Friend, who also does a great deal of work on the issue and did so when he was the Minister with responsibility for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, raises an important question. The straight answer is that the purpose of the UN planning mission, which I was about to mention, is to find an answer to that. Self-evidently, judging by what the major-general told me, 7,700 is not enough in a vast region of Sudan, which is an enormous country. I think that the Secretary-General of the United Nations talked at one point about 20,000; I stand to be corrected but I recall the figure.
The planning mission's job is to determine things. Blue-hatting will solve the financial problem, because assessed contributions will bring the money, but it will create a big challenge. We will need to ensure that there are sufficient troop-contributing countries so that the force has the resources that it needs.
The hon. Member for Buckingham might refer to this, but when we were last there we had the opportunity to meet the peacekeepers who were responsible for the ceasefire in the Nuba mountains. The one message that I took from that was that it was not numbers that made the difference, but organisation, logistics, a clear knowledge of what people were doing and earning the respect of the people among whom they were trying to keep the peace. I hope that the Nuba mountains are still at the back of the minds of those who are considering how this situation can be made to work.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Those circumstances were slightly different, in that the security situation was not anything like as difficult. I received a briefing on how those missions worked; independent monitors, one from either side, were involved and could deploy quickly. It was an effective operation, but it was operating in circumstances where the parties were not slugging it out in the way that has continued to occur in Darfur.
There needs to be a combination of things. The first is sufficient physical presence, in particular we need to provide protection for people—the current primary need of those in the camps—and to prevent more people from being forced to flee from their homes. There also needs to be an effective mechanism for when things go wrong and there are incidents, that will allow us to get in there, investigate quickly, publish reports, call people to account for what they have done, and refer it to the mechanisms that have been created. Such mechanisms would include the sanctions committee—if evidence becomes available, that committee can examine it and take action against the individual—and the International Criminal Court in those circumstances.
I am not an expert in military planning, strategy or logistics, but I ought to be able legitimately to look to those who are for advice. If the right hon. Gentleman agrees that sufficient troop numbers are, if not a sufficient condition of progress, at any rate a necessary one, can he advise at what point the judgment will be reached about the appropriate number? My anxiety—this is the alarm bell ringing in my head—is that even once a judgment is reached about the appropriate number, there is every danger that it will be phased, that it will take a long time, and that the deployment will not happen all at once. So,
The hon. Gentleman raises another important point. That is why the UK has for quite some time been considering the capacity of the AU mission, while recognising the difficulty of the situation in which it found itself. It is important that as we have this discussion we do not appear to criticise the AU mission, because without it we would have been in a much worse position. However, we acknowledge the complexity of the task. This is the first big operation that the AU has done, apart from deploying the small number of troops that it put into Burundi, which was successful, and that is why we have given a lot of practical support. I was about to discuss that.
It is for the UN planning mission to ask precisely the question that the hon. Gentleman put in order to get an answer as quickly as possible. Depending on how fast troop-contributing countries can be found, the UN mission can then get in. One or two things have happened, not least the meeting of the peace and security council of the AU, that helped to move things on.
General Bashir had said that in the absence of a peace agreement he was not prepared to consider a UN mission coming in. The best information that I have currently is that the Sudanese Government have indicated that they are thinking about that, but I have not seen a definitive answer. The issue is relevant to a point that I intend to make about the UN Security Council's decision on Tuesday. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I shall come to that.
The third thing that we have done is provide support for a peace agreement. As we all recognise, the only answer is for people to stop fighting and to use politics, debate, argument and elections to determine what will happen in Darfur, rather than killing each other and innocent citizens of that region. That is why we have offered a lot of support to the African Union. It is important that we should recognise that the process has been led by the African Union. In the same way as security and the work of AMIS have been an African-led process, so too have the peace talks in Abuja.
We have kept a presence there, and the then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend Mr. Straw, now the Leader of the House of Commons, travelled there in February—to be a bit unparliamentary about it—to read the Riot Act to those who had been negotiating and say that, frankly, our patience was running out, not least because the international community was paying for the consequences of the war. We are all paying to keep people in the camps because of the failure of the parties to the conflict to do what they did—in the north and the south—when they finally fought themselves to a standstill and realised that Sudan would never progress while people continued to fight. They can do exactly the same thing again if they want.
That is why the African Union set a deadline of
In trying to get the parties to focus on what needed to be done in that four-day period, during the final stages of the negotiations, we proposed some further changes to the agreement, to try to bring the rebel movements on board. On
That was a significant moment, but challenges remain. I hope that it will still be possible for the two other rebel movements—the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement, led by Abdel Wahed, and the Justice And Equality Movement, led by Khalil Ibrahim—to sign. Those two need to be on board, particularly Abdel Wahed's group, because although the Justice And Equality Movement has a national political objective, it has a small number of fighters in Darfur, whereas the other two groups are concerned particularly about Darfur.
The agreement provides for power sharing, with a guaranteed significant role for the rebels in Darfur, in the Government in Khartoum. It provides for wealth sharing, including arrangements for compensation for individuals who have lost their homes. The agreement provides for peace and security with a ceasefire, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, and would deal with the Janjaweed, moving a large number of the rebel forces into the Sudanese army.
Above all, the agreement would provide what the rebels have been fighting for; namely, regional government for Darfur. The agreement says that, within a maximum of three years, subject to a referendum and the will of the people of Darfur, if they vote for regional government, they will get regional government. In those circumstances, what is the justification for carrying on fighting? Or, are the rebels so impatient that they are not prepared to allow people to express a view and to wait a maximum of three years? By the way, in-between there will be elections to all state legislative councils and national elections in Sudan, which the comprehensive peace agreement provides. In my view, there is no justification whatever.
I want to make progress because I know that many hon. Members want to speak. What is the immediate task? The first is for the people of Darfur to know what is in the agreement. That is urgent. The African Union is working on that as we speak, with help from the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. We have also been in conversation with the BBC World Service, which has tried to publicise the agreement.
The second task is to work with the parties—the Government in Sudan and Minni Minnawi's group—to ensure that they get on with it. At a practical level, we have offered English language training to Minni Minnawi who requested that for 100 members of his group. We are also looking at ways to support him in setting up an office. Those are practical matters for anyone who wants to take the post provided for in the transition and who will be the senior assistant to the President and the fourth person in the presidency with significant influence over the composition of the transitional regional authority. Where that person will be based, when they will get to work and when they will go to Khartoum are practical issues in implementing the agreement. Frankly, there are ways in which we could make life difficult for those who stand in the way of peace.
Above all, the agreement provides for the people of Darfur to participate in what is known as the Darfur-Darfur dialogue, but there is an issue about the extent to which the movements represent all the people of Darfur. The crisis is complex and the Darfur-Darfur dialogue is a convocation of people—the final agreement refers to 800 to 1,000 representatives. It would be one way of testing how people feel about the way forward and ensuring that there is an inclusive process to bring together all the tribes, interests and other views to ensure that progress can be made.
On Monday, the AU Peace and Security Council welcomed the agreement, called for its implementation and confirmed—I refer to the point made by John Barrett—that transfer to the United Nations mission should go ahead. The AU Peace and Security Council previously said that that is what it wanted in principle and that preparations should take place, but it has now confirmed that that is what should now occur. The following day, UN Security Council resolution 1679, which the UK co-sponsored, was passed unanimously and called on the parties to implement the agreement, urged the other rebel groups to sign it, and called for the strengthening of AMIS, an acceleration of the transition to a UN force and an immediate end to violence and atrocities.
Now that we have a peace agreement signed by at least one of the rebel movements we must go ahead with the practical tasks in hand, particularly the rapid deployment of a UN force. International pressure must be maintained on the Government of Sudan—the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West referred to this—because just as there is no justification for carrying on fighting now that there is an agreement, there is no justification in my view for the Government of Sudan to resist or obstruct in any way the preparations for a UN handover. After all, there is already a UN force in south Sudan—UNMIS—which is helping to oversee the implementation of the north-south peace agreement. There cannot be any objection in principle to having UN forces in Darfur.
The immediate test is to give visas to the planning mission so that they can go to Darfur and start asking the questions that the hon. Member for Buckingham and others asked.
I hope very much that that will not be the case, but if it were I would deduce that there was no willingness on the part of the Government of Sudan to enable the process to succeed. I would anticipate and hope that both the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council would take a dim view of that. The truth is that this conflict, trauma and tragedy have gone on long enough. The agreement is significant, but it is not a solution unless it is implemented. That is the truth, and we must make that happen. In the end, the responsibility falls on the parties to the conflict to make it happen, with the support, encouragement and help of the international community.
I hope that Members believe, as I do, that the UK has played an honourable role in trying to bring the crisis to an end. However, the international community as a whole will have cause to reflect on how things got to the current situation. I praise the African Union for what it has done but above all, today as always, our thoughts are with the people of Darfur, who have the greatest interest in the trauma now being brought to an end. They have suffered far too much, and what they want more than anything else is the chance to go home and live their lives in peace and tranquillity.
I am grateful to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate. I echo the opening remarks of the Secretary of State when he said that the fact that so many Members are here to discuss this important subject reflects the concern that is felt throughout the House about events in Sudan. At the outset, I praise the Government's contribution to the processes that are in play in Sudan, and the Select Committee, which produced an excellent report earlier this year, and the all-party group on Sudan, which Mr. Drew leads so well.
I also want to echo the Secretary of State's final words. He said that the British Government had played a useful—indeed, I would say pivotal—part in the processes that have taken place in recent weeks. He then made the extraordinary understatement that when this very unhappy situation has been resolved, as we all hope it will be, the international community will have cause to reflect on what has happened in recent months and years. He is certainly right about that, as I hope to demonstrate.
Kofi Annan's comments on Monday put the matter into the correct perspective. He stated:
"The agreement signed between the government of Sudan and the largest rebel movement in Darfur on May 5 gives the world one more chance to bring peace to that unhappy region. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union is meeting...to see how best to take the agreement forward. The rest of the world must also engage rapidly and without reservation if the opportunity the agreement offers is not to be lost...Darfur is still far from being at peace. Last Monday, while the United Nation's top humanitarian envoy was visiting a camp for displaced people, rioting broke out and an interpreter for the African Union Mission...was hacked to death."
I also pay tribute to the Secretary of State for his efforts. I believe he has been in Darfur on five occasions recently, and the genuine anger that he clearly feels came across when he was last on the "Today" programme to comment on recent events.
At the heart of the debate are two key factors on which the international community will want to reflect. The first is that it is far from clear that it has learned the lessons of Rwanda. The appalling events that took place there from early April 1994 and over the ensuing 90 days, the paralysis of the international community, and the failure of the organs that are part of the international community and which we expected to react to what was taking place, must have given everyone profound pause for reflection.
It is all too obvious that many of those lessons were not learned. They certainly have not been applied to the situation that developed in Darfur. During the past three years, I have been struck not by the progress that has been made, but by how little progress has been made.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the case of Rwanda is not entirely analogous? It was much more obvious what was happening there and the lines were clear, whereas in Darfur one of the confusing factors has been the number of different rebel movements, which do not all get on with each other, sometimes attack the very aid convoys that have gone to help people, and appeared at one time to have an agenda for causing a great deal more disruption rather than less. Peace was not on their agenda either, and that has made the situation much more complicated.
What the hon. Gentleman says is true, but the international organs and institutions to which all of us in the civilised world look to take action appeared to be just as paralysed in the circumstances in Darfur as they were in Rwanda. Although I agree that the situations are not analogous, nevertheless the paralysis in the United Nations that pertained then has also pertained in Darfur.
I visited Darfur last month with my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary. We went to el-Fasher where, thanks to Oxfam, which does such brilliant work in the camps in Darfur, we could see for ourselves what was happening on the ground. We also visited Khartoum to talk to Government officials about what was happening. My abiding memory of that visit was the sight on the tarmac at el-Fasher airport of a Sudanese attack helicopter—almost as a direct insult to the international community and a symbol of Sudanese indifference to world opinion. We were informed that that attack helicopter flew frequently and, as we heard from direct evidence in the camps, was used against the people of Darfur. There is still a huge amount to do, and a huge amount on which the international community needs to reflect.
Will the Secretary of State comment on several points made in the main conclusions to the excellent Select Committee report published earlier this year? Conclusion 2 reflects the Committee's concern about the ability of the aid agencies to deliver assistance. In view of the representations that I, the shadow Foreign Secretary and others made to the Sudanese Government, is the Secretary of State happy that the actions taken by the Khartoum Government to make life more difficult for the aid agencies, and in particular personnel trying to get into Darfur, have been resolved? Will he update us?
In conclusion 3, at paragraph 9 of the report, the Committee was concerned that
Notwithstanding the events of recent weeks, will the Secretary of State update us on that?
Later, the report describes the reality of the problem with trying to impose sanctions, because the one country that could put the squeeze on Khartoum is China. Given the hon. Gentleman's knowledge of Zimbabwe, I am sure he will agree that it is no good the west saying, "All these things we must do", if the Chinese continue to undermine any influence the UN has.
The hon. Gentleman is right. He brings me on to my next point, which relates to conclusions 5 and 8. The Select Committee makes it clear that it is important that, in support of an African solution to an African problem, the surrounding countries put pressure on the Sudanese Government.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. If the surrounding countries are willing and able to put pressure on those countries that are not behaving as they should, that is the most powerful way to influence a situation. There is nothing more clear than the situation in Zimbabwe to demonstrate that. The fact that Britain complains about the behaviour of President Mugabe has far less effect—in fact, it arguably bolsters the President—than when South Africa or the other surrounding countries take exception to what is being done.
If we are to put more pressure on the Sudanese Government to ensure that they stand by the agreements that they have signed and implement the changes that they have agreed, will the Secretary of State update us on the support that other countries are giving to the process?
In talking about sanctions and the other punitive measures that we envisage as necessary, it is perhaps as well to be clear in our minds about the scale of the abuse of human rights that has taken place and, to a significant measure, continues to take place. In that context, is my hon. Friend aware of article 2(c) of the UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, under which
"Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" constitutes a form of genocide? My impression on my two visits was that what was taking place was genocide. Is that also the view of my hon. Friend and our right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary?
That is my view. My hon. Friend makes the point extremely clearly.
The 10th recommendation of the report talks about the importance of African solutions to African problems. Can the Secretary of State update us on the pledge made by the Prime Minister, which was referred to yesterday in Prime Minister's questions, to train 20,000 peacekeepers by the end of this year? In response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, the Prime Minister specifically mentioned how important that would be to Sudan.
I want to turn briefly to a point mentioned in passing by the Secretary of State, which is the decision last year at the millennium development goals review summit to embrace a duty to protect. The Secretary of State rightly said that people hear those fine words but wonder what they actually mean. For the people the shadow Foreign Secretary and I met in the camps, those words are truly meaningless.
My substantive point is that in implementing the agreement and ensuring that the parties to the agreement, as well as those who have not yet signed but will, stand by what they have agreed and said, we will see whether the international community can summon up the political will and sense of urgency to ensure that peace comes to Darfur and that the people in the camps can return in safety to their homes and villages. When we met them, they were quite clear that they would not return unless there was a more substantial force in Darfur. What plans have been developed to translate the African Union force into a blue-hatted force? The timetable is very tight.
The UN and African Union officials whom we met during our visit were people of very great calibre and ability. I think in particular of the African Union's No. 2, General Kamanzi from Rwanda. Indeed, the Rwandan element of the African Union, one of the best groups in the Union, is a symbol of the President of Rwanda's comments who, when asked to deploy a force as part of the African Union, said that his country had suffered terribly and that it would make a significant contribution to the African Union force in Darfur, which it has. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to tell us what progress has been made in that respect.
The Opposition believe that we need a muscular chapter 6 engagement. The difficulties of getting a serious United Nations mandate in Darfur to take the necessary action were eloquently underlined in an intervention by the hon. Member for Stroud, who pointed out that the Chinese have been extremely difficult over the wishes of much of the international community. The United Nations does not lend itself to an easy solution because of the veto structure. I fear that a proper muscular mandate will prove difficult. I hope that the Secretary of State will comment on that.
An astonishing coalition exists throughout much of the world in support of the resolution. It is extraordinary to see complete agreement in America, from left-leaning liberals to the religious right, about what needs to happen in Darfur. Although America may have been preoccupied elsewhere, it agrees about the steps that the international community must take. I hope that the Secretary of State can tell us that the European Union, too, is playing its part in resolving those difficulties.
The Secretary of State mentioned the World Food Programme announcement, which has caused such concern. Britain has done much to support that programme, and I hope that he will be able to tell us that other European countries are putting their shoulders to the wheel to help with this extremely difficult humanitarian situation. We need to provide adequate food, yet we are advised that the amount of food available means that those in receipt of it will receive only 1,000 calories a day, which is barely subsistence level.
Within the constraints set out by Kofi Annan, there are grounds for some optimism. I am deeply concerned that the international community will find it difficult to put muscular, persuasive force behind the agreement signed in Abuja. I hope that the Secretary of State will say a little more about what is to happen on the ground in respect of the translation from the African Union force to a UN force. I very much hope that the challenge in respect of the Sudanese Government and the situation in Darfur will be met through the international collective will as expressed through the United Nations and as supported forcefully by the Secretary of State and his colleagues in the British Government. I hope that that challenge will be faced down and that real progress can now be made for those whom the Secretary of State mentioned, who have had to live in the camps, often in desperately serious and worrying conditions, so that they can return to where they lived before in peace and security.
I am glad to join in this debate, and I thank the Government for bringing this subject before the House. Not only do Members of Parliament have a great interest in this issue, but the British public are increasingly taking an interest, too. The public are rightly preoccupied with issues such as that campaigned for by Make Poverty History and with trade, aid and debt, but Darfur is now coming on to the radar screen. We as MPs will need to account to them for what is happening, as well as reflecting their interest in this debate.
We are at a tense and fragile moment for peace in Darfur. We all applaud the peace agreement signed in Abuja last week by the Sudanese Government and the largest of the rebel groups, the SLM faction led by Minni Minnawi. That is a significant achievement. We also join in the congratulations to the African Union on its leadership. By chance, I had a brief word with the Secretary of State shortly after he returned from Abuja, and he talked strongly about the effectiveness of the African Union in this situation, in moving discussions forward and providing a frame for an effective process. We congratulate him and the former Foreign Secretary, Mr. Straw. The United States, in the person of Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, has also always played a role.
However, I remain very concerned that the two smaller rebel factions have not signed this agreement—most significantly the faction led by Abdel Wahed, who has the widespread support of the Fur people. We often forget that Darfur is the land of the Fur, and Abdel Wahed is a Fur. Although he has relatively few fighters at his command, having split with Minni Minnawi about a year ago, he has overwhelming support within the Fur community. His refusal to sign the peace agreement was based on the issue of compensation, and there have been riots across Darfur—in the west, the south and the north—in the past few days over compensation. We must be clear that people who lost their villages and livestock, either to the Janjaweed with the Government in complicity or directly to the Government through aerial bombing, are looking for restitution, and the restitution offered under the peace agreement is relatively modest: $300,000 as a one-off payment and an additional $200,000 over two years.
People will say, "Look, there is international aid, which will be coming in to support recovery, so this will not be the only money in play," but I understand from people close in on the ground that because of the suffering that is put at the doorstep of the Government, many of the Fur people feel that it is imperative that the restitution comes from that Government, as that would in a sense be an admission of the damage they have suffered and, so to speak, a down-payment on a different future. I wanted to raise that issue and to ask the Secretary of State to tell us more—if he is unable to do so now, then whenever that is appropriate—about the compensation issue and how that obstacle can be overcome.
The peace agreement also sets up a structure for power sharing, with the rebels now to play a role in government. Sometimes such arrangements work, and sometimes they do not, but the rebels will now have the opportunity to have, in effect, a vice-president, a senior assistant to the President. However, if I understand correctly—perhaps the Secretary of State will help me if I am wrong—that is likely to be Minni Minnawi, and Mr. Minnawi is a Zaghawa. He is not Fur, and I do not know how this arrangement would be adjusted if the Fur were to come into the agreement, but we have surely largely missed the point if the largest ethnic group does not play a role in the Government structure. I have serious issues to raise about that. We know that the rebels will have guaranteed seats in the national state assemblies and will be involved in the ministries, but how will those jobs be divided up between the many factions? Has any of that been resolved? We know from the example of Iraq that it is easier to appoint members to a Government than to turn them into a Government.
I have also been troubled that whereas the discussions in Abuja pretty much engaged the national and regional leadership, from what I understand of Darfur and Sudan more generally, tribal leaders are key participants in what happens. Nazir Saeed Madibu heads the most significant or important tribe in Darfur and has managed to keep most of his people out of the conflict by creating pacts with neighbours and taking a different, individual stand. There are others like him and I should be interested to know how those people will be brought into the process.
The Darfur-Darfur dialogue seems a long drawn-out, distant process, which is what troubles me. It seems critical that the individuals concerned should buy into the peace process as soon as possible, if things are to move forward. How realistic is the idea of planned elections by July 2009? Can they be delivered? How willing will the Khartoum Government be in three years' time to hold a referendum leading to an autonomous region of Darfur?
Security is a key precondition of the peace that we hope for. The peace agreement calls for the disarmament of the Janjaweed. Most of us would probably believe that all groups should be disarmed and that a reformed Sudanese military is needed—or one whose leadership is committed to a very different role. Otherwise arms and conflict will not be taken out of the situation. How realistic is the idea of integration of the rebel forces into the Sudanese military, given the history on both sides? Once again, Iraq is an example of a place where such an issue has been discussed from day one, and has proved nearly impossible to implement.
Any hope of security requires the transfer of peacekeeping authority from the struggling African Union, which has inadequate resources and about 7,300 troops, to a UN peacekeeping mission. What is the likelihood that the Sudanese Government will fall in line with that idea?
I leave it to my hon. Friend John Barrett, who has been following the Sudanese press, to provide an update on those concerns. The length of time needed for that transfer is a difficult issue, and the sedentary comment that I heard seems quite pertinent.
If we assume that there is an agreement to move to UN peacekeeping, we must presumably re-hat the African Union troops, but who will make up the numbers? Like the Secretary of State, I have seen 20,000 cited as an effective, meaningful number of troops to deploy.
When the Secretary of State comes to address that point, will he advise us what else is meant by a UN force? Clearly, it is possible to re-hat the African Union soldiers, who are, within the constraints upon them, doing such a good job, but have there been discussions with NATO about providing logistical support—heavy lift support? There are, for example, 2,000 French troops close to the Chad-Darfur border, with aircraft. Clearly, NATO could make a significant contribution to a UN force. What consideration has been given to that?
The hon. Gentleman anticipates the direction of my comments—I am glad to have given a good steer. It seems critically important that the UN force should as far as possible be made up of troops from other African countries, or, potentially, from the Arab League. How do we deal with the concern that deploying white troops—troops from the west—on the ground will be treated as an echo of an imperialist past? I have concerns about bringing in NATO; I understand the logistical need, but how do we do that without creating a concern about those troops that could fracture an already fraught and rather fragile Government in Khartoum? I was concerned to hear a statement by President Bush in which he basically said that there would be NATO stewardship of the UN peacekeeping operation. That is an area in which we have to think things through extremely carefully.
The hon. Lady is entirely right, and no one is suggesting that NATO troops be placed on the ground—indeed, the Government have eloquently set out how non-African troops could be a magnet for conflict, rather than a help in resolving it—but it is clear that only an organisation such as NATO has the heavy lift equipment and the logistical support to give real muscle and mobility to African troops on the ground. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State addressed that point.
Our difficulty in finding the appropriate peacekeeping force—the African Union is not in a position to provide a sufficiently robust on-the-ground presence—is an indictment of the international community. We have so often talked of Africa sorting out its own problems; here, in many ways, is an example of Africa attempting to sort out its own problems, yet we have not provided the resources, the back-up or the resilience that would have enabled the African Union troops to manage the situation without giving rise to the questions that we now face.
I do not want to take up too much time, but let me quickly turn to two more issues, both of which have to do with aid. International donors are standing in line to offer recovery aid to Darfur. I raise a note of caution, not about the amount of recovery aid or the need for it, but about its timing. My concern springs from various conversations with non-governmental organisations in the area, which pointed out to me that sequencing matters. We must not attempt to bring in aid before there has been disarmament, before issues such as compensation are agreed on and the Fur are tied into those agreements, or before the issue of forced land ownership has been resolved. Hon. Members will know that many people have been displaced and land has been occupied, particularly in west Darfur, which has some agricultural potential. There is fear that recovery aid would lock in that occupation, rather than deal with the issue of who owns that land.
We have not tackled the issues of tribe-on-tribe violence or most issues of extortion—"self-protection payments" would be the language that we would use if it was happening on our streets—and that needs to be resolved before recovery aid is moved in. The Government have not yet lifted their unofficial embargo on trade outside the main towns. I just wanted to sound a note of caution about the overall situation and get the Government's comments on that. There is real fear that if recovery aid is brought in, people who are displaced will return to their villages, although they are unsafe, and rebuild them, that new livestock will be provided and that people will then merely become a magnet for yet another attack. So I raise the issue of the preconditions, and ask the Government how they intend to approach that set of issues.
Humanitarian aid is obviously an entirely different matter and is desperately needed. We were all shocked to find out that only 20 per cent. of the UN's appeal had been funded, and that the World Food Programme had to cut rations by 50 per cent. We understand that food stocks in the country are very low, and that the only way to get large amounts of food in now could be through airlifts, which are extremely costly.
I have been told that the World Food Programme has done an excellent and very much unsung job in distributing food, despite the violence. In the light of what has been happening in Darfur, the very fact that the WFP has been able to reach out to remote areas and reduce malnutrition rates is entirely to its credit. However, we are entering the hungry season, and as Members will know, that is not only when food stocks are at their lowest, but when most energy is needed to cultivate the next harvest, which will be in September.
Some might say that we should fill the gap with aid, but it seems to take some five months between a pledge of aid to Darfur being made and food being delivered on the ground. The World Food Programme was telling people as early as January that the crisis was coming, and it pointed to the timetable, but aid has been slow to arrive. Although I congratulate the Government on putting in another £9 million, that was in May, and the question is whether we will have a far more significant crisis on our hands by the time that money is available on the ground.
I have a couple of questions about that for the Secretary of State. First, he is one of the architects of the United Nations emergency relief fund, but where are its representatives in Darfur now? Secondly, he is one of the architects of a co-ordinated approach to aid, which, in Darfur, takes the form of the UN common humanitarian fund. Those on the ground tell me that that approach seems a positive idea, but that the bureaucratic layers that have been added to the process have delayed aid distribution to such an extent that we face a potential crisis over the next several months, until new aid, as it were, turns into food or cultivated crops provide in-country resources.
Given that the World Food Programme has received only 32 per cent. of the funds that it needs in 2006 to sustain its operations and that there is an estimated funding gap of $443 million, does the hon. Lady agree that it would be reasonable to put every member of the United Nations that signed up to the idea of the peace agreement on the spot by asking them exactly what they will contribute in pounds, shillings and pence that they have not previously contributed? It logically follows that that is the only way we can plug the gap.
I could not agree more. It would be the ultimate tragedy to lose the chance of peace because we failed to follow through and to lose so many Darfurians, if not quite a generation, through lack of food aid, just when we thought that we had achieved a resolution of the conflict. What people at large very much want to tell this Government and Governments across the globe is, "Don't give us the spin. Give us the beef" and, in this case, "Deliver the food." I therefore agree that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is significant.
I shall make just two more quick remarks before I sit down. We must be conscious of the context of the Darfur crisis, and it would be helpful to understand how much Darfur is at risk from surrounding instability. Civil war is spiralling out of control in Chad, and many of us are anxious to ensure that at least the Chadian rebel strongholds in Darfur are closed down and dealt with in the context of the peace agreement. East Sudan is scarcely ever discussed, but many people say that a potential humanitarian crisis is developing there, on a scale that overshadows the crisis in Darfur. Who on earth is negotiating with the Eastern Front rebel group? Knowing more about that would help us to set the current issue in context. The Secretary of State talked about the success of the north-south comprehensive peace agreement in the south, but many feel that it is not playing out with quite the robustness that was intended. Simple measures, such as the promised publication of data on oil resources, which would allow us to understand the allocation between north and south, do not seem to have worked their way through into practical reality.
Darfur, like Sudan generally, was once a peaceful multi-ethnic society. Then came drought, and people started to move, to look for other land and to displace other people. In a strange way, we have seen a microcosm—a very localised form—of the disruption, conflict and suffering that comes from climate change. There is a lesson in that, but if we cannot deal with Darfur, as contained as it is, I wonder how we will deal with the much larger dislocation that climate change will cause in the future.
I am delighted to follow Susan Kramer. I shall come back to some of the points that she made. It was also good to hear the spokesman for the official Opposition, Mr. Mitchell, who went to Darfur and, I am sure, learned a lot.
I also want to say how much I appreciate the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—I have been able to put that in print in the form of an early-day motion. He addressed the all-party group on Sudan just after he had got off the plane from the Darfur peace talks. I thought that he could not do any more, but he went off to northern Uganda and Somalia and returned to address us today. I do not know whether there is much more that one can say about his stamina, let alone his interest in these issues, with all the problems that they bring with them.
It is easy to criticise some groups for the way in which they raise money and for some of the lobbying that they undertake. However, the all-party group on Sudan is a model for what it has tried to do in this place and beyond. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Hilton Dawson, who was a wonderful chairman and who went to Darfur with John Bercow and me. I also pay tribute to our current co-ordinator, Senait Petros, who keeps us wonderfully well informed of everything that is happening with Sudan, and to her predecessor, Sultana Begum.
I do not want to speak for long because this will be a consensual debate, albeit we could disagree on what more could be done and what lessons could be learned. However, something that may not have come out as clearly as it should is that, although we have had to analyse and play our part in trying to resolve the recent crisis, many of the problems date back some considerable time. Anyone who has time to read the two recent books on Darfur by Flint and de Waal, who are well known commentators, and by Gérard Prunier, whom I have had the opportunity to meet—yes, I will put those books back in the Library shortly—will at least gain an understanding that these are, in some respects, age-old conflicts. I am talking about the question of who belongs to the Fur and who belongs to the Zaghawa. The Masalit is another tribe that is very dominant in Darfur.
Sadly, tribal conflict goes back a long way. In many respects, this is where, as always, the British come in, because it was largely our decision that put Darfur in Sudan. We cannot escape that responsibility. With regard to what the hon. Member for Richmond Park said, I would not exaggerate and say that this is the first conflict for which global warming has been directly responsible, but it certainly contributed, in that the nomads have been driven south and have come into conflict with the pasturalists. In many respects, the conflict is about land—who has the land and who is keeping animals there. One should never underestimate the importance of animals. One lesson that the hon. Member for Buckingham and I learned was that, as much as seeing people starve to death is terribly difficult to come to terms with and when we see dead donkeys we think, "Well, thank goodness they are not children", the Darfurians would say, "But those animals are our future." If people do not have a donkey to carry firewood back to the settlement, they have no future—they will die.
Let me explain another fact from which we can never escape. As the hon. Lady mentioned, Sudan—that huge area that we call a country—has suffered from the problem of balkanisation for a considerable time. Many of the antecedents of the conflict came from the south; in the early days, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Sudan People's Liberation Army had a lot of influence over the Sudan Liberation Army/Sudan Liberation Movement. Furthermore, the work of Mr. al-Turabi through the Justice and Equality Movement cannot be underestimated, given that it added to the belief of those in the Darfur area that they were getting less than those who had taken up arms in the south, and made them ask why they should not take up arms, as they could become beneficiaries by fighting in that conflict.
The hon. Lady was right to mention east Sudan. I make no apology for asking that this time, please, the world must get ahead of the conflict, given that there is already evidence that it is happening on the ground. We have to prevent it from happening, not just pick up the pieces. It is vital that we look at what is happening in the east of the country and continue to support the comprehensive peace agreement in the south. Given that the eyes of the world have been on Darfur, the danger is that it is easy to say that that is where the aid and effort should go, but the south might begin to slip back into problems.
We have reached a good stage. Six months ago, some of us would have despaired about whether there was ever going to be anything like a peace agreement. There will not really be peace be until we get it on the ground. However, Minni Minnawi's faction has been willing to come formally into discussions via my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's good agencies and Robert Zoellick, through the Sudan Government. It is good that that has moved forward rather rapidly.
However, as the hon. Lady said, there are still the other two factions—that of Abdel Wahed, and the Ibrahim faction of the Justice and Equality Movement. Both are still outside the process. One hopes that they will see the benefits that the Minni Minnawi faction gets—sooner rather than later—and that that will encourage them to lay down their arms.
One of the challenges that has not been mentioned is who will disarm the Janjaweed. It is easy to cast aspersions. In an intervention on my right hon. Friend, I mentioned the role of Musa Hilal. In his eyes, the Janjaweed was not a tool of the Sudanese Government, although he was occasionally seen in a Government of Sudan army colonel's uniform. He lectured us at length about his justification—that his people had for years been abused and shut out from the opportunities to share in the riches of the area, let alone the wider country.
In recent times, it has been clear that some of the things going wrong on the ground have been not about political movements, or even about people feeling that they are justified in doing the things they do because of what has happened previously, but about sheer banditry. That is the difficulty with putting a force in on the ground. We need numbers because the operation is not only for peacekeeping, but policing. People have grown used to the fact that they take what they believe to be theirs—even if it is not theirs in any way, they still take it.
The all-party group has built a relationship with the Sudan Organisation Against Torture, in the face of the most vicious attacks by the Government of Sudan, who demand that the British Government stop funding it. We have continued to fund it. It brings to our attention some of the worst aspects of depravity, whether they be the attacks on villages or the summary justice that is issued on the back of them, where the so-called "perpetrators" are arrested and all sorts of things happen. One can never cease to be amazed at the irony that we must get used to when dealing with Sudan. In terms of the Darfur-to-Darfur dialogue and civil society, some of us found it difficult that the representative who was put before us as the best person to talk on behalf of civil society when we were dealing with the south-south dialogue was Mrs. Garang. She, of course, was the wife of John Garang. Some of us found it difficult to understand that we were dealing with civil society, because her husband was leading the SPLM.
Likewise, the previous time that we were in Darfur, we heard a wonderful lecture by the Minister for human rights—at least, he called himself that—Ali Osman Taha's brother. He said that the best thing to teach people about human rights was to indulge in Hudood—lopping people's hands and legs off—because they then understood what human rights were all about. Irony is strong in Sudan, and it is sometimes difficult to bring ourselves back to western values and understand how we approach the problem.
As the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield said, there is clearly an issue about the role of international non-governmental organisations. The worst offences against them are the delaying of visas and people making it difficult for them to operate on the ground. I hope that my right hon. Friend will say something about how we will engage with the Government of Sudan in particular, this time, so that we allow those organisations to operate freely and with a degree of effectiveness that has not been possible in the past. We are all aware that we do not know what has been happening in whole areas of Darfur, because the NGOs have not been able to get into them. They have had no protection, and that is as much to do with the Sudanese Government as it is to do with the rebels' activities.
The UN Security Council visit on 5 to
There is also an issue about how the transference of power is to be managed: whether things go through NATO or directly to the UN. It is a bit worrying that, in a sense, as the transition occurs, people take their eyes off the ball. The last thing we want is the AU to start thinking it can withdraw troops because its job is over. In addition, those who have been funding it might think that they might as well start funding the UN or NATO as an interim agency. In reality, we must keep people doing the jobs that they are doing. We cannot allow a further vacuum to develop. That is an important consideration.
The humanitarian situation is everything. I have talked about the human rights abuses. We sometimes grow used to them, but we must never ignore them, and they need to be highlighted. There is an idea about a donor conference; I gather it is being planned for September. It would be useful if my right hon. Friend told us what is expected. We clearly need more money. How will that be organised? What is being sought? Are we seeking just money, money and food, or money, food and the means to be able to move to the UN mandate being properly delivered? Who else are we trying to bring on board? It would be wonderful if the Chinese could think outside their self-interested approach to the country and be brought on board as part of the resolution rather than as a large part of the problem because of their specific role, as I said to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield.
I am slightly alarmed by what the hon. Gentleman just said, because I understand that Kofi Annan said on Monday that there will be a pledging conference of donors in June, not September, and that it is incredibly important that donors should not wait for that conference, but should make clear commitments and be "very generous" now.
The hon. Gentleman is probably much more knowledgeable than I am. It is quite likely—my right hon. Friend will arbitrate between us—that the September conference has been brought forward to June, which can only be a good thing. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that dates slip occasionally. The main thing is that the world is engaged and that matters are properly organised, because we have only one chance to get it right.
On the comprehensive peace agreement, for the Darfur-to-Darfur dialogue to stand any chance, we must learn from what has been going on in the south. It is early days there, but all the evidence is that the only chance for long-term peace in Darfur is if we develop not just a political solution, but one in which civil society has a specific mandate and responsibilities. It must play its role in a way that will, over time, bring about a normalisation of events on the ground. Given the history of the area, what is normal is very difficult to understand from our western point of view, but we have to work incredibly hard to build up the things that will prove that we are making a difference to people's lives in education, health, social services and how people are catered for. That simply has never occurred, and that has been the stimulus for people taking up arms, because they think, "What difference does it make? We might as well fight for what we believe we can achieve," rather than see a growing dialogue.
I would be interested to know a bit more about how we are learning from the south-to-south dialogue, primitive as it might be, in relation to the Darfur-to-Darfur dialogue, and how genuinely civil society can grow, take its part, take responsibility and be given a real role, given that the history of Sudan tells us that the Sudanese Government will start interfering. I expect that the hon. Member for Buckingham will have something to say on that.
I leave things on a negative note, because my speech has been largely positive. We have all learned to our cost that what the Government of Sudan say is not necessarily the whole truth or something that we can take as read. It would be good to hear that the inclusion of Ministers from the SPLM into the Government is beginning to make a difference, and that the Government, with their unified command, can be trusted to deliver the things that the world—not just the UK or EU—expects of them. We know why Sudan did not get the presidency of the AU. If the Government of Sudan want to achieve that status in the future, they must be able to deliver not only the words but the actions on the ground. That is very important, and I hope that we can trust them to do that.
The people of Darfur have been victims of some of the most egregious human rights abuses inflicted on anyone, anywhere in the world at any time in recent memory. It is important to recognise the significance and enormity of the suffering that has taken place and not simply jump on to the next stage. Aerial bombing, mass shooting, widespread rape, destruction of crops, theft of livestock, poisoned water supplies, and human beings chained together and burned alive have all been part of the cocktail of barbarity that has scarred the conscience of the world.
I intervened on my hon. Friend Mr. Mitchell because some time ago I concluded that genocide versus non-genocide, which is a discussion that could take place about what has transpired in Darfur, is not a semantic debate. It is not simply a matter of the choice of terminology of one individual or another. It is a matter of real significance both because we understand that certain consequences and actions ordinarily are expected to flow from a judgment in international law that genocide has been committed, and because it is important that our moral conscience should be stirred by what has happened.
My impression is that the events that have taken place—the calculated and remorseless evil that has been committed in Darfur—do amount to genocide. In those circumstances, and with the best will in the world and recognising the merit of constructive discourse for the purpose of future progress, I find it incredibly difficult simply to take at face value the commitments that have thus far been made. It is especially difficult when those who have entered into those commitments and to whom we were particularly looking for statements and signatures are people who have themselves conspired to commit that genocide. As the Secretary of State will understand, I refer principally to the Government of Sudan.
There has been a good deal of consensus among right hon. and hon. Members today, and, in a sense, it is healthy. I do not seek to puncture that for the sake of doing so, and I do not dismiss its merit in total, but it is important to issue this caveat: the present period is simultaneously one of great opportunity and one of supreme danger. I say "supreme danger" because in practical terms we must learn from the experience of the past. We are all fond of invoking the importance of learning from past experience, of seeking to develop better practices for the future and of acknowledging the need never again to tolerate genocide and mass slaughter, but what does that mean in practice?
Let us think of what took place in Rwanda in 1994. If we are not careful, there could be a direct parallel between the Arusha peace agreement and the present situation. In the end, the Arusha peace agreement was signed and progress towards its implementation was starting to be made, but the extremists were planning the ultimate genocide. In other words, people of thoroughly ill will were planning to use a period in which there was a semblance of good will—and, dare I say it, perhaps accidental complacency—to force through the slaughter that they had in mind. I do not want something similar to happen in Darfur. I mention this—the Secretary of State's brow is momentarily furrowed—because I am concerned about the scale of the killing that might still be taking place, and it worries me that I cannot get accurate figures.
My hon. Friend is confronting directly the issue that I skirted around but which I put in several ways to the Secretary of State. What provisions or plans are the international community making in case, as a result of events that have taken place, it is unable to enforce its will upon the Government of Sudan and other warring parties in Sudan? What provisions or planning does the Secretary of State believe the United Nations and others should be making to confront that possibility?
That is a pertinent intervention from my hon. Friend. I have been unhappy for some months about the sequence of events. It seemed intolerable that earlier this year, foot-stamping by the Sudanese Government effectively vetoed an urgently required UN troop deployment. It was put off ostensibly until September, but it might prove to be longer than that.
I want to focus briefly on the key issues. First, in so far as the African Union mission in Sudan is concerned, will the Secretary of State at least say something more about what is envisaged? What additional help will be provided, how much is it expected to cost, and which countries are, so far, committed to providing a contribution and at what level? Is there to be simply a ratcheting-up of numbers of personnel, or a change and a strengthening of mandate in the period between now and the start of October?
It seems in no way alarmist but merely a sober reflection of reality for the Aegis Trust, a magnificent anti-genocide organisation and sponsor of the "Protect Darfur" campaign, to observe that unless significant action on security is taken now, there is a danger of a void that would, in its word, be "disastrous"—the threat then being that Darfur would deteriorate into what the trust describes as irretrievable chaos.
I understand that the Secretary of State is not the sole player; he cannot act alone. However, at a time when we are saying that it is good that there is a peace agreement because it is much better that there should be than there should not be, it is important that we do not neglect our constitutional responsibility to ask exactly what is going to happen, when it will happen, who will ensure that it happens and, as a result, what we can expect to be the consequences of improved security.
If we then press the fast-forward button to the intended transfer of responsibility to the United Nations, as far as one can reasonably foresee or guarantee, will that transfer take place on
I do not wish in any sense to trivialise what is an incredibly important debate, in respect of which I have not the slightest doubt about the sincerity, integrity and commitment of the right hon. Gentleman; but in such situations, I sometimes worry that when we are told that something is going to happen—for example, that there will be a troop deployment and that it will begin in October—it is analogous to the conversation that one might have when ordering a taxi from a hard-pressed firm. One says to the controller, "When will the taxi come?", and he says, possibly after a moment's hesitation, "It'll be 15 minutes, sir." And one says, "Do you really mean 15 minutes, or do you mean that you would like it to be 15 minutes, but in practice, it is much more likely to be half an hour?" I would rather know. I ask the Secretary of State in all sincerity, will he give us a little more information?
I admire the right hon. Gentleman greatly, and I think that he is an extremely good Secretary of State for International Development. I also happen personally to have a very high regard for the former Foreign Secretary, the Leader of the House of Commons, Mr. Straw. I hope therefore that it will not be taken in the wrong spirit if I say that although I greatly esteem both right hon. Gentlemen, I do not exonerate the Government entirely from responsibility for the sorry saga that has beset the people of Darfur. It is not really good enough simply to blame others. DFID has done a superb job, but I have been much less sanguine about the foreign policy response of the international community, in respect of which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has had a part to play.
Today is not the day to explore in detail whether sequencing took place, inadvertently or calculatedly, but we must all examine our consciences very carefully and unsparingly, with a view to trying to ensure that foreign policy responses in the future are much more robust and that they reflect the words contained in international agreements and public protocols. I think, for example, of the United Nations' responsibility to protect and the UN millennium review summit, which was referred to earlier.
We would like to have some idea, just on the numbers, of what the Secretary of State might consider an appropriate peacekeeping force. I was honest enough to say—and if I had not been, it would probably have been readily discovered in any meaningful exchange—that I have no expertise whatever in military planning, strategy or logistics. However, it worries me greatly that we still do not seem to have much sense of what the scale of the peacekeeping commitment is intended to be.
On the one hand, the Aegis Trust has proffered into the public domain the figure of 25,000 troops, which it judges might be required for the peacekeeping task. On the other hand, General Romeo Dallaire, who is not exactly uninformed about such matters, having had the searing experience of trying to cope in wholly inadequate circumstances in Rwanda, long ago suggested that 44,000 troops would be required. There is also the view of Major General Collins Ihikere, the AMIS force commander, who is on the record somewhere as speculating that up to 60,000 troops could be required.
There is a huge difference between the figure of 7,000 talked about for the African Union force and the figures that I have quoted; indeed, there are even huge differences between 25,000, 44,000 and 60,000. Is the truth of the matter that the judgment will not really be made on the basis of the peacekeeping requirement, but will end up being involuntarily made on the basis of the relative parsimony of the individual contributor nations?
If that is the reality, we ought at least to be honest with ourselves about it. If we know that far more troops are needed, but that far fewer will be provided because countries are not prepared to cough up, let us please at least abandon the truly stomach-churning hypocrisy of claiming that the international community is now seriously concerned about bringing an end to the genocide. One might conclude—it would be sad, but probably inevitable to have to do so—that the international community was not that bothered about black Africans dying in Darfur, as opposed to people dying in Yugoslavia, Kosovo or Iraq.
Will the Secretary of State tell us something about the interesting idea of police-keeping and apply his remarks to the real crisis of insecurity and the sense of terror that had been pervasive in the camps for too long? On both my visits, with Mr. Drew and subsequently with members of the Select Committee, the most striking feature was the spontaneous and unprompted response from people suffering in the camps. As John Barrett knows only too well, when they were asked, "What's your greatest concern? What is the biggest handicap you face? What is the most striking impediment to progress in your lives?", they all said, "Lack of security. We are not safe. We are terrified." If then asked the supplementary question, "From what have you fled and what are you frightened of?", the answer was, almost always, the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed and other militias.
I would be interested to hear more about security in the camps, because there is desperate concern that they will eventually prove to be not temporary places of refuge for a suffering, impoverished and starving population, but the permanent sanctuary of people who simply dare not go anywhere else for fear that they will be killed or raped if they attempt to do so.
My last point for the Secretary of State, which I want to float with colleagues, concerns the significance of the International Criminal Court. I can be explicit and very generous, although no more generous than I think the facts warrant. The British Government have been completely robust and sound on the importance of referrals to the International Criminal Court. My impression is that both the Foreign Office and DFID have been committed from the outset. I believe that it is in no small measure due to the efforts of the Secretary of State and the former Foreign Secretary that the United States Administration came on side. I was quite worried about that because on the one hand the United States Administration had been the first to say that there was genocide in Darfur, but on the other hand we know the real reservations about and even hostility to the International Criminal Court that President Bush and his team felt and articulated. The fact that the British Government had a hand in persuading the United States Administration not to veto a referral to the ICC was a very significant development indeed.
As the Secretary of State probably knows, I am by nature and disposition a suspicious soul and I make no apology for that. I can well understand that there might be a point—it could even be now—at which some people would be inclined to say that I should not focus too much on that matter at the moment because it is important to establish security, to tackle the humanitarian crisis and to try to make progress towards referendums and the development of life and so on, and that it would rather cloud the issue if I were to bang on too much about referrals to the ICC. My view is that it is important to establish the position and get some commitments on referrals to the ICC.
What worries me is that in the name of securing peace and preventing a resumption of aggressive hostilities by the Government of Sudan it might be suggested, either expressly or implicitly, that it would be a good idea to go gently on referrals. It is imperative that there should be no impunity for those who are guilty of slaughter. Those individuals, wherever they come from, who are suspected of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity must be dragged, kicking and screaming if necessary, before the International Criminal Court. We have the advantage of precedent and the knowledge that flows from it. Yes, important work has been done in relation to war crimes in Rwanda, but it is frankly a damning indictment of the international community that the whole process from start to finish will have taken approximately 14 years.
I shall not refer in detail to any of those circumstances because we are debating Darfur, but right hon. and hon. Members will be aware of the controversy surrounding Charles Munyaneza who is suspected of responsibility for war crimes and attempted genocide in Rwanda and is currently living in Bedford in this country. We do not want, in years to come, individuals to seek asylum in Britain when they are suspected of bestial war crimes in Darfur and when it is said to be too late to do anything. I say that, as the Secretary of State knows, with no hostility to the legitimate pursuit of asylum. He will understand that on such matters I take a liberal conservative view. I greatly value the reputation of this country as one that gives sanctuary to those fleeing prosecution, but we cannot allow our procedures to be abused by those who are seeking to flee their just desserts and the acceptance of responsibility for what they have done.
I want it to be made clear that the people who are suspected of such crimes will be referred, that we will get regular updates and be told what is taking place and that resources will be invested. There are two reasons for that. First, it is right that those who are guilty of slaughtering other people should pay the price—I mean that in strict juridical terms. I am not arguing for revenge, or calling for the death penalty; I do not believe in state murder. But they should be forced to accept responsibility for what they have done. Secondly, it is vital that they are brought to book for the simple reason of deterrence. If ever we are to reach a situation in which we can genuinely say that it will never happen again, we must ensure that we can show that those who did it before copped it as a result.
I have spoken with some force and passion on these matters because I have immensely strong feelings about the subject. It has been so far a worthwhile debate. I listened with the greatest interest and respect to what the Secretary of State had to say, but we must focus on the details. We have to be particular and we have a responsibility, in a sense, almost to be pedantic. Better that we be pedantic in focusing on the detail than we be guilty of the rather unedifying spectacle of telling each other how well we have done. I do not think that we have a right to do that when so many have been killed and when so much suffering continues to take place. The truth is that far too many people in Darfur have suffered too much for too long with far too little done about it. Some progress is now being made and I have every confidence that the Secretary of State will exercise his good offices. I hope that he will take the prods that I have offered this afternoon in the positive spirit for the benefit of people in Darfur in which they were intended.
The situation in Darfur is possibly the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. If there is one part of the world where everything that could combine to cause the maximum of human suffering and misery did so, Darfur is it. Conflict, with the Arab militias and the Janjaweed, too many guns, a corrupt Government, global warming, religious divides, refugees, famine, human rights abuse, civil war and poverty: the scale of the problem, like the scale of the country, is different from that here in the UK.
The debate so far has been excellent. I particularly commend the speech by John Bercow, who is always a hard act to follow, but there have been excellent speeches from members of all parties. The Chairman of the Select Committee, whose report was mentioned earlier today, would have been here were the Select Committee not visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The numbers might be estimates, but they are all staggering, with more than 3 million people needing food aid and up to 300,000 estimated by the UN to have died in Darfur during the conflict. Millions have fled their destroyed villages with many heading for camps near the main towns or over the border into Chad. The Janjaweed patrol outside camps: Darfurians are killed and women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water. Some 200,000 Darfurians have sought safety in Chad, but many are camped along the border and in danger of attack. There are also those who, although they have not been displaced, have been impoverished by the collapse of the rural economy caused by the continuing violence in the countryside.
Early in 2006, a total of 3.5 million Darfurians, more than half of the region's population, were in need of humanitarian assistance. Nowhere is Sudan's humanitarian crisis as acute as in west Darfur, and the United Nations estimates that 716,000 people have been uprooted and have taken refuge in internally displaced persons camps over the past two and a half years.
The images from my last visit are lodged in my mind, and they will be brought back to life this summer when I hope to return. They are images of villages burned out, attacked in a co-ordinated way from the sky and the ground, and of Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships sitting side by side with the white helicopters of the AU, mentioned by Mr. Mitchell. They left me and others with no doubt about what had been happening and who were involved.
We visited camps where we met women and children and old people but relatively few men: the men were either dead, fighting or missing. We watched people walking for miles with nothing and starting again with the few basics of life—PVC sheets, food, some soap, containers for water, but not much more. We saw women taking their lives in their hands as they risked everything to obtain firewood, while in the distance they could see men waiting to rape them or possibly kill them.
I pay tribute to the non-governmental organisations and the workers, who are doing an excellent job. Many of them are young and some are inexperienced, but they have real commitment. They are from various organisations including Médecins sans Frontières and Oxfam. However, I pay special tribute to Save the Children, which pulled out of Darfur following the execution of two of its staff in a roadside incident. That incident followed another two of its staff being killed by landmines.
Even with the work that is going on in Darfur, the UN estimates that it has no access, or only limited access, to about 650,000 civilians who need assistance. Those people are living close to the edge of a cliff that has a very long drop. Relief workers are struggling to reach hundreds of thousands of civilians in dire need of food, water, shelter and protection from further attacks. Jan Egeland, the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator said recently that humanitarian access was the worst it had been since the spring of 2004, and:
"The world's largest aid effort now hangs in the balance...If we are to avoid an imminent, massive loss of life, we need immediate action".
The work being done by those agencies in villages with no water, no sanitation, no food, little health care and little security makes the task ahead—at least to restore security, which, as the hon. Member for Buckingham said, is the basic requirement; the rest will follow—all the more important.
DFID's role in the reconstruction and the funding promised by others is important. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for once again briefing Members immediately on returning from his trip. It is not the first time that he has done so. I clearly remember that after visiting the earthquake in Pakistan he flew straight back and reported to the House.
I would like to raise a number of issues following on from that visit and the recent signing of the peace agreement. The UN force must be deployed as a united force, not as a common enemy from outside. As the Secretary of State said, there is no reason for it to be a problem. If the UN force can continue to hold the peace in the south and to bring peace in Darfur region, it will have been a great success.
Even in areas where humanitarian agencies have had safe access to civilians, the Sudanese Government have obstructed relief activities, as we heard from Mr. Drew. In fact, one could go so far as to say that they had conducted a campaign of administrative harassment; the restrictions included delaying visas and travel authorisations, using laws to regulate the activities of NGOs and imposing arbitrary and onerous regulations on humanitarian agencies.
We saw that happen also during the 21-year civil war in south Sudan; the Government regularly blocked humanitarian agencies, using tactics ranging from outright denials to flight bans and an array of other obstacles. Those delays must not be allowed to continue in Darfur. The role of the Sudanese Government was mentioned by the hon. Member for Buckingham, who is not known for mincing his words.
The recent peace treaty almost assumes that the Sudanese Government are an innocent party, hoping to resolve the problem by incorporating the rebels into the army and the police. To a certain extent, the fact that up till now there has been co-operation between the Sudanese Government and those groups is being ignored. That point was raised by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield.
We can learn from what is happening elsewhere. Following the conflict in Sierra Leone much training was given to former combatants in carpentry, mechanics and blacksmithing, but, because the economy had not taken off, there was little or no demand for those skills or the products that they produced. Blacksmithing tools are now lying stored in a warehouse. It is important that the wealth of the country is spread, or the divide will remain and the frustration will grow. The unemployed youth who previously went out to fire a gun will be even more frustrated if he is trained and then finds out that no one wants his skills. The country is rich in oil revenues, which must be spread throughout the country, so that the economy can once again come to life. There is a risk that if the economy remains poor, or remains in the hands of a few, conflict will return.
Avoiding a return to violence after it has stopped is a challenge for all involved, and much reconstruction work is required. The basic infrastructure of roads, water supply, health facilities and education is lacking in many parts of the country. The democratic institutions need to be rebuilt and such basics as water supply will make a huge difference.
We must take heed of what is happening in the south after the signing of the peace agreement and the civil war. The war caused the death of about 2 million people. According to humanitarian agencies the death toll was one of the highest in any war since 1945. It ended with the signing of a peace agreement, but in the fight for control of southern Sudan one in five of the southern Sudanese population was killed.
Expectations in the south have, however, been raised, and those who have been fighting are waiting for a peace dividend. If there is no sign of that the ingredients for conflict will be present, and the conflict could resume. My hon. Friend Susan Kramer mentioned compensation. The danger in compensation is that individual political groups will try to outbid each other in offering large amounts. That will raise expectations and, when those are not fulfilled, the frustration may end in violence.
We look forward, following the signing of the peace agreement, to elections to regional government in Darfur. However, I have a word of warning: we should not expect that the advent of elections will necessarily bring immediate peace. When the Select Committee recently took evidence, a witness answered our question about what factor was most often overrated in post-conflict situations by saying that it was elections: often, there is an expectation that conflict will reduce after everyone has had their vote, when, in reality, there is usually a lull before the elections, when everyone thinks that they will get their way through the ballot box, but conflict resumes when they lose.
I hope that those who have suffered most will have access to compensation to help them rebuild their lives. They are starting from a low level and will not need a huge amount to get them back on the bottom rung of the ladder. However, what is needed in Sudan and Darfur is good leadership and the recognition that those who led the fighting are not always the best people to lead the reconstruction. We look to Sudan and Darfur to produce politicians whom we can trust. That has not been the case so far.
Other hon. Members have mentioned the permanence of the camps. That will be a problem. The World Food Programme has been successful in supplying food to those who are hungry. Oxfam and Médecins sans Frontières have been providing water, sanitation and health care facilities. People are now being urged to go back, if peace holds, to their villages, where there are few, if any, of those facilities.
We must also keep in mind the contribution of other parts of the world to the conflict in Sudan. There are, as I said earlier, too many guns in the country. There have been concerns about the rise in imports to Sudan from Libya. Libya has had sanctions lifted and can now import weapons. Old, second-hand weapons are leaving Libya and crossing the border into Sudan. There is also concern about the supply of arms from Russia and the fact that Sudan's oil is going to China. As was mentioned earlier, it is all part of one, large problem, because the oil from Sudan is fuelling the fastest-growing economy in the world, which has one of the most rapidly growing rates of pollution. That affects global warming, which affects the very nomads and herdsmen who find that they have nowhere to feed their animals and there are conflicts over land rights.
The hon. Gentleman's warning about the fragility of the situation is salutary, as is his reminder that elections should not be regarded as a panacea. Would he agree that, at least for a period, the emphasis of any financial assistance from the international community should be on humanitarian aid on the one hand and security, security, security on the other, before we get on to things such as education, education, education? I make that point not out of a spirit of meanness, but because we have a fiduciary responsibility to contribute our resources to best effect, and not to leap ahead of ourselves.
One key issue relating to security is planning for what happens next. If I may take the hon. Gentleman back to the planning for the war in Iraq, there was no doubt that, by a certain date, a certain number of troops had to be in place and certain actions had to follow. There is a real concern that, even with the best of intentions, dates are not met and security is not delivered on time. If that security is not delivered, nothing else can follow. Large sums of money have been committed by the UK Government and others—it is good to hear that the US announced an additional $225 million in emergency aid this week—but all the money pouring into the country will not solve the problem without security and without good governance.
On the increased involvement of the US, it was mentioned both on the liberal left and on the right that there seemed to be a feeling in the US that the subject is now at the top of the agenda. I pay tribute to a number of people, including celebrities such as George Clooney and Mia Farrow, who have brought the issue on to America's television screens. In the past, public opinion has often followed where the news crews have been. I am sad to say that there are many regions of Sudan that news crews cannot get to, so there is much more to be concerned about.
When the hon. Member for Buckingham and I were in Sudan with the Select Committee, there had been killings in Port Sudan in the east. The Sudan Organisation Against Torture detailed exactly what happened, and we were left in no doubt that the Sudanese Government had played their part. We got details of the killings of young men, young women, and older women and men; no one was immune. It is good that the issue is at the top of the agenda in the UK, the United States and many countries around the world. We must not allow what has gone on for far too long in Sudan to continue, and I hope that with the recent signing of the peace agreement, we are heading towards the light at the end of a very long tunnel.
With the leave of the House, I would like to respond to this excellent debate. I say that not because there has been a cosy consensus, to address the point made by John Bercow directly, but because, in the past two-and-a-bit hours, we have laid bare the practical and moral choices and challenges that we face in trying to do something about the trauma that the people of Darfur have suffered. I shall take each speech in turn and do my best to respond to the many points raised.
I begin by paying tribute to Mr. Mitchell for the interest that he has taken, for his visit, for the pertinent questions that he asked, and for going to the heart of the moral challenge that we face. I shall try to respond to each of his questions. As far as humanitarian access is concerned, one bit of progress—they are small steps—was made earlier this year. I raised this point during my visit a couple of months ago. The Government of Sudan have been operating a fast-track process to clear humanitarian workers' visas and permits. They proposed to bring that process to an end, but others were able to persuade them to extend it to the end of the current year.
That is one example of the constant struggle—I use the word deliberately—that we must engage in to get a lobby as each case comes up. It is a responsibility of the ambassadors and representatives in Khartoum and of each Minister to play our part. I will continue to do what I have done throughout: if people bring cases to my attention, including hon. Members taking part in this debate and others, I will take them up. Experience has taught me that that is the only way to keep up the pressure.
During the course of my visit, one of the questions concerned AMIS's difficulty using the el-Fasher airport at night. It had been said that the problem was a lack of lighting. Because of my visit there, I was able to say to the Minister, "Well, that's very curious. I've seen the lighting on the apron and the runway, and as far as I understand it, the problem is you providing someone to open up the control tower, turn on the lights and provide air traffic control after the hours of darkness so that if AMIS wishes to fly in and out, it can do its work." It was as absurd as trying to apply a curfew to AMIS in Darfur in the interests of security instead of applying it to those causing trouble.
Have the Government of Sudan complied? Self-evidently, none of the parties has complied. That is why one of the individuals against whom sanctions have been applied is someone from the Government of Sudan military. The Select Committee report to which the hon. Gentleman referred asked the Government to get on the case and do something about it. That is why we have been working so hard to get the sanctions committee to do its work—to look at a list of names, to weigh up the evidence and, if the evidence is sufficient to justify sanctions, to get on and apply them. That is how to send a message. It is not by saying to the parties, "Please do what you promised"; it is by demonstrating the consequences.
Have others in Africa helped? As well as paying tribute to President Obasanjo, I pay tribute to President Konare, as he is known, of the African Union and President Sassou-Nguesso, the chair of the African Union. They both came to the final stages of the negotiations in Abuja and lent their weight and moral authority on behalf of the nations of Africa. They put pressure on the parties, who were invited in one by one to sit at the table and be asked, "Are you going to sign? What's the problem? Why won't you do it?" I do not think that the one signature, that of Minni Minnawi, would have been achieved if the African Union had not demonstrated its determination to help in that practical way.
On the African stand-by force, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the G8 countries that committed to help with that training are well on target to meet their commitments on training requirements, and that the AU is making progress in setting up the necessary logistics to make the force work. If he is interested in more information about that, I shall be happy to provide it.
The hon. Gentleman raised a point about the UN force, as did the hon. Member for Buckingham and others. We have heard various estimates in this debate, ranging from 12,000 to 40,000. To be honest, I have no more expertise than the hon. Member for Buckingham. That is why the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations exists. It needs urgently to get in there and make its assessment through a UN technical assessment mission so that it can confirm what the right numbers are, what the mandate should be and how the force should be composed. UN Security Council resolution 1679, which was passed recently, was important because it called for that to be done by
The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield is absolutely right to want practical steps. The first practical step to answering all the questions about how the UN force should work and be composed is getting the team in so that it can work. But in all honesty, because of the loss of time, the chances of getting a force up and running by
One issue that the UN force is going to face is providing water for troops. I spoke to the deputy head of the DPKO in New York a month and a half ago, and I remember that she put her hand on a map of Darfur and said, "There is not a lot of water north of this line." Such practical considerations will have to be addressed if the force is to be able to do its job. I assure hon. Members that we will press for a sufficient number of troops and a strong mandate at the UN Security Council in exactly the same way as we did in the debates, about a year ago, on the size of the MONUC—Mission of the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—force in the DRC. Some people did not want an increase in those forces at all, and some wanted a lot. Britain pressed very hard for an increase.
NATO has already been providing logistical support, including heavy lift, to get the AU troops in and out of Darfur as their terms have rotated. All of us in the international community, including NATO, need to consider what further practical support to the AU mission is required. Another practical thing that Britain has done is to provide vehicles, because AMIS said that, "If we don't have vehicles, we can't get out and do our job." That is why we have taken responsibility for one of the fuel contracts, so that there is enough fuel to put in the vehicles and helicopters for AMIS to do its work. I have to tell hon. Members that about 90 per cent. of helicopter hours currently available to AMIS are spent resupplying its own troops. Its representatives need more capacity to spend a greater proportion of their time going out and about and doing their jobs.
Susan Kramer made an extremely well-informed speech. She is absolutely right to say that this is a tense and fragile moment. I very much welcome what she said about the African Union. She reminded us about the tribal make-up of the conflict when she talked about the Fur. That is important, because it is one of the layers of complexity in Darfur. It is not a reason for not trying to do something, but it is important that we understand what we are dealing with.
I want to address the hon. Lady's point about compensation directly, because I feel strongly about this. I spent a lot of time in Abuja trying to point out to Abdel Wahed and his people what is in the agreement. I entirely accept her point about the importance of compensation psychologically and politically. It is part of the culture: you kill my family, you take my goods. Compensation is one of the ways in which the people make amends. We may find it hard to understand that the loss of life can be expunged by the payment of money, but that is part of the culture in Darfur.
As for any help that anyone else can give to try to get the point across, it is all in the Darfur peace agreement, which provides for the setting up of a compensation commission, which would have wide powers on the form and nature of compensation, including that for loss of life and loss of land. You name it, it is there. The draft that the AU tabled said that the Government of Sudan would make a contribution to the compensation fund, but no sum was mentioned. So the second thing that we did in Abuja was to ask the Government of Sudan what they were going to do. They said, "We will make an immediate initial contribution of $30 million."
There is also provision in the Darfur peace agreement for a reconstruction and redevelopment fund. The Government of Sudan have committed to put into that fund $300 million this year and $200 million next year and the year after, making a total of $700 million. Perhaps I should not say this, but I will: if we want to be creative once we have signed an agreement and are getting on with implementing it, it is perfectly possible to say, "As an aid to reconstruction and redevelopment, people will need to resettle themselves in the places that they have been burnt out of." There is a big pot of money that could also be used to make payments in recompense for loss of livelihood, animals and household utensils if one cared to look at what has actually been negotiated by the rebel movements and had the confidence to say, "Look, you wanted compensation: look what we brought back." I say this with force and passion, because I learned something most forcefully during those peace negotiations, which was my first opportunity to participate in such negotiations. I learned that the texts and demands are important, but there comes a moment when we have to decide whether to make the psychological step from being a victim and a demander, a fighter and an outsider, to saying, "I am now going to take that step for peace and be part of trying to implement a solution to the crisis." I could see Minni Minnawi doing that, and through the medium of this debate—though I do not know whether he will read it—I would plead with Abdel Wahed to do the same.
Well, some people have even closer contact with him than others.
The point is important because, in truth, any movement's leader must be concerned about what its members will say. That is why I referred to people being able to see what is in the agreement. It is perfectly understandable that leaders want to feel sufficient confidence to turn around and say, "Look what we have been able to achieve." I really believe in the DPA; it delivers on compensation. The hon. Member for Richmond Park was right to highlight that because it is central to the points that Abdel Wahed has been making.
On the post of senior assistant to the president, in truth we do not yet know who will occupy it. The agreement makes provision for the movements to nominate. If the three movements sign, they have to agree between themselves who to nominate, but at present only one movement has signed. So, yes, that appointment will currently be in the gift of Minni Minnawi, but whether it will be him or someone else, I do not know. That will be down to him and his movement to determine.
On the tribal leaders, the hon. Lady was right and answered the question by referring to the Darfur dialogue, because its central purpose is to bring into the process those other interest groups in Darfur which are not necessarily represented by the movements, but which need to play a part in addressing the many concerns and issues that surround this complex crisis. That must not be a distant process, and people must get on with implementing it as soon as possible.
Is integration realistic? I was encouraged by the approach taken by the Government of Sudan general who came to the negotiations. When we were trying to craft additional changes to the agreement as a way to make progress, he was discussing those in practical terms and they had obviously thought about it. There is evidence from other conflicts around the world that if we have the right approach it is possible to make the transition happen. MinniMinnawi and his group have been particularly concerned about security, and the changes made to the agreement in trying to respond to them show that that is possible, but much of it is down to trust. The truth is that people want to see each party to the agreement doing what it has promised if that trust is going to be applied in those circumstances.
My point is slightly different from that of the practicality of the integration. I have read that it was proposed to integrate 1,000 people from rebel forces within the police and security structure, and that figure struck me as being very small. Do I have that wrong?
In the original agreement, I think that it was in the area of 1,000. That was changed after four days of negotiation. From memory, I think it is 4,000. In addition, I think that 1,500 will go into the police forces. [Interruption.] I apologise, it is 1,000. So, there are 5,000, which is a significant increase on what was in the draft tabled by the AU. There was a lot of debate about exactly how many forces the rebels have, but we made significant progress and it was key to unlocking the agreement from Minni Minnawi's group.
The hon. Lady is right about the timing on recovery aid and issues of land. Dealing with those is going to be difficult. She was also right about the World Food Programme, which is the most outstanding organisation. I saw that for myself yesterday in Somalia, and what it did to stop 6 million people starving to death in Afghanistan three years ago was extraordinary. On the central emergency response fund, $20 million has so far been put in. The truth is that there have been some delays in getting the common humanitarian fund up and running. It is a pilot. As I have said right from the start in proposing the common humanitarian fund approach, it will not be any good if it does not work speedily to deliver the money.
I remain absolutely convinced of the rightness of an approach that says we look at what we have and at the needs, and we get one person to take an overall view of how we will divvy up the cash that we have to meet those needs. I know that that is a different way of doing things for some UN agencies, which have had their own long-standing relationships with individual donors. To be honest, not all of them like the change. However, when we have needs and a certain amount of resources available, it is the logical way of handling matters. Nonetheless, we have to move quickly and we must therefore distinguish between, on the one hand, the speed of operation, which is an important issue, and, on the other hand, the amounts that are available.
The excellent contribution by my hon. Friend Mr. Drew revealed the depth of his knowledge. He drew to our attention the competition for land and for water, and the issue of banditry. He also raised the matter of the east, to which the hon. Member for Richmond Park referred. In Sudan, there is a big issue about the balance of power between the centre and the periphery. That is what such matters are all about, in part.
As for the discussions and the conflict with the Abuja Congress, if that is an issue—and it is—can we skip the fighting and go straight to negotiating? In the comprehensive peace agreement, which is why it mattered so much—I will come back to the point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham and the role that Britain played—all the elements that we need to make a deal are there, such as on power sharing, wealth sharing and transitional arrangements. I hope that, having learned the bitter lesson from the 25-year civil war and the conflict in Darfur that, as other parts of Sudan legitimately express their desire to share in power and wealth, the people of those parts of the country do not go through the same cycle of violence and suffering.
On the donor conference that I was asked to arbitrate, the truth is that there are two conferences. There will be the AU pledging conference on further support to AMIS scheduled for June. There will also be the donor conference in support of Darfur's reconstruction and redevelopment, which the Dutch are hosting, and which is scheduled for September.
Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud and the hon. Member for Buckingham were both right. They were just talking about different events.
We agreed in Abuja that the senior assistant to the President will be asked to represent the Darfur peace agreement and the people of Darfur in implementing the agreement, because that is the role given to the transitional authority. The senior assistant will be asked to present an initial plan on what they will do to support reconstruction and development and ask the international community how they can help. The plan will be about food, redevelopment, education and health and all the things that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud rightly pointed out, people want when there is peace.
I say to the hon. Member for Buckingham that I welcome his prods and passion in what was a characteristically powerful and elegant speech. One of the ironies that befalls those who seek to do something to help is that we are also lightning conductors for the intense frustration that every one of us feels about the lack of progress. The hon. Gentleman was right to remind us of the cocktail of barbarity. He was right to ask us to reach deep into our consciences. I want to come back to that point at the end as it goes to the heart of the debate.
Will people do what they promised? As for the Government of Sudan, we can at least look at the comprehensive peace agreement and have some encouragement. In the end, they did a deal. Yes, it is slow and imperfect, and there are frustrations, but it is happening. That should give us some cause for hope—not naïve optimism, but hope. Above all else, we must hang on to hope and combine it with a good dose of hard-nosed realism, which, as ever, the hon. Gentleman contributed to the debate. I also say to him that there is some evidence of a reduction in violence since the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement. I hope that Jan Pronk will continue to keep up to date on that, and I hope that it endures..
I am extremely appreciative of the Minister giving way yet again. He has been immensely generous. I do not dispute his point about a reduction in violence; I have no basis for doing so. Does he know whether the reduction has been on the part of the Government of Sudan or of the militias, in so far as we are supposed to regard them as divisible?
The honest answer is that I do not know, but I will inquire and write to the hon. Gentleman. I can say that, in recent months, an increasing proportion of the insecurity has been down to the rebel movements. If I can give the hon. Gentleman one gentle prod in return, I hope that he uses some of his fire and passion to give the rebel movements a hard time for what they have been doing, because they, too, have been inflicting suffering. In The Guardian yesterday, there was a report of inter-SLMA fighting that had caused great suffering and some loss of life.
On AMIS and funding, the UK has given £32 million so far. When I was there two months ago, I said that we would give another £20 million and we are on our way to honouring that pledge. Others will be able to make progress at the pledging conference to which I referred, but the problem of troop numbers remains. In the past year, the AU has found it impossible to get, in effect, the remaining battalion that is required to get up to the 7,700 mark. On the UN force, I hope that I have covered the points already. Ditto for the police—to whom the hon. Gentleman referred—because they have not yet been able to get the numbers that they want. That links to a point about insecurity in the camps, raised by John Barrett, which I shall come to.
The hon. Member for Buckingham said that he did not want a debate on the FCO, but if he does seek to drive a wedge between DFID and the FCO, I will take my mallet and resolutely knock it out again, because I do not think that that would be fair. This issue was the subject of great debate in the Select Committee. It was alleged that there is too much concentration on the comprehensive peace agreement and not enough on Darfur. I do not believe that to be the case. I shall return to the broader context in a moment. It was right and proper to continue to try to shepherd the comprehensive peace agreement to a conclusion, first because it brought an end to that conflict and secondly because it provided the framework that has been drawn on for the Darfur peace agreement and it is the framework available to deal with conflict in other parts of Sudan. If we had not secured that, we would, heaven forbid, have been in an even worse situation, so I resolutely argue against the hon. Gentleman's point.
On the International Criminal Court, the hon. Gentleman was inadvertently too kind to me. I deserve no credit whatever in that regard, but my right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary deserves enormous credit, because the skill, passion and dedication to which the hon. Gentleman referred was demonstrated by my right hon. Friend in getting the UN Security Council to the point at which that resolution was passed. That was remarkable and I hope that history will record it. The hon. Gentleman is right: we need to ensure that when such matters are referred to the ICC, some consequence follows. That is why I am glad that it has started work. I hope that it finds evidence and, if it does, that it will indict people and they will be called to account, for the reasons that I set out in my opening remarks.
I raised the issue for the purposes that I described at the time, and it is important to have this on the record. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is vital that no one who is reasonably suspected of atrocious acts should be allowed impunity on the ground that he is assisting in the war against terror?
I do agree. I expect the International Criminal Court, an independent body, to do its work. That is why I said carefully that it must look for evidence and, if it finds evidence, make indictments. That is the point of an independent international criminal court; it is why we fought so hard to get that in place.
This is not a dialogue with the hon. Member for Buckingham through the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend will be aware, given his recent visit to northern Uganda, that five people from the Lord's Resistance Army have been indicted. The jury is still out—no pun is intended—on whether that is helping to resolve that dreadful conflict. If the International Criminal Court means anything, somebody has to find the people who have been indicted, or it is a useless process. That is why it is so important for action to follow indictment. Does the Secretary of State agree?
I do agree. There is a connection, because the LRA has also been present in Sudan, which we are discussing. The five—Kony and Otti and the other three—had plenty of time to give up if they wanted to. The fact is that they did not. Now the ICC has indicted them and, as I said to President Museveni when I spoke to him on Tuesday, there is a responsibility on all of the countries now affected—northern Uganda, southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the bulk of them are now to be found—to get together. This is a threat to regional security. Those individuals have to be found and shipped off to the Hague where they belong. The rest of the fighters should come back into society because President Museveni has very wisely said that he will consider an amnesty in relation to them.
Finally, may I say to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, who made an extremely thoughtful and important speech, that the insecurity that women face is one of the characteristics of this terrible conflict. One question that occurred to me when we went to the camps—I do not know whether it occurred to him—was why the men do not go out with the women when they are collecting the fire wood. That might act as a deterrent to those who attack them. It is a real problem, and in the absence of sufficient AU patrols—they have had police stations in the camps and are trying to increase their number—it is something that people could do now to ensure that their women are protected.
The hon. Gentleman made a really important point about elections and referendums, not because they are not important—they are desperately important—but because, as he said, some people do not like the results. That tells us that there has to be a culture that comes with the use of elections and referendums as a means of resolving debate and argument. That means that, like it or not, sometimes one loses and the other side wins, and if one is not able to accept that there can be real difficulties.
I did not hear the whole of that comment. The official Opposition have had a lot of experience recently.
On the permanence of the camps, we might find—it has certainly been the case in the camps around Khartoum—that some people choose to stay where they are living. That will have to be worked through. When I spoke to people in the camps in Khartoum a couple of years ago it was clear that the younger generation did not fancy going back—they had been there for a long time because of the length of the north-south conflict and it was the only life they knew—whereas members of the older generation were keen to return to the homes that they had lost. On arms imports, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West is right. That is why we want an arms embargo.
My final point brings us back to where the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield started, and to the powerful points made by the hon. Member for Buckingham and others. We should reflect on Kosovo, Iraq, Pol Pot and Rwanda. We should ask where the international community was when 200,000 or 300,000 people were shot in the head and dumped in the desert. Rwanda sticks in our minds. I do not know whether other Members have seen the film "Shooting Dogs". I watched it and I wept. The most painful part of that film—an excruciatingly painful and raw piece of film making—was a scene at the end in which a we saw a hapless spokesperson from the United States Administration of the time struggling not to use the word "genocide". That really brought into stark relief the point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham.
In the end, we asked the international commission of inquiry to go and do its work on behalf of the United Nations, and it reported on what it found. Whether we describe that as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, what matters is whether we are prepared to do anything about it. What has been at the heart of our debate today is how, as an international community, we have struggled to turn the fine desires that we expressed in words and resolutions at the millennium review summit into doing something to prevent such things from happening to people. That is the biggest challenge that the world faces so far as peace and security are concerned. We have an institution whose job it is to do it, but if it cannot reach agreement and somebody exercises a veto, nothing happens. On the other hand, when countries decide to take unilateral action, others tut and say that that should not happen. Such action should have legitimacy only if it is taken by the international community through the institutions that we have created.
We have been discussing what happens when crises, suffering and pain fall between the cracks of the system that we have created. I come back to the point that I made at the end of my opening remarks. In the end it is down to two things: have we the will to do anything about it, and are people prepared to contribute—to play their part? I say that not in the sense of trying to pat the British Government on the back; that would be wholly inappropriate, although we have tried hard to do our bit. Do we all need to do more? Yes, we do, because the fact that the suffering in Darfur continues is to the shame of every one of us.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at sixteen minutes past Five o'clock.