HL Deb 02 November 1955 vol 194 cc256-80

5.15 p.m.

LORD RAGLAN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can make a statement on the situation in the Southern Sudan; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may have seen in the Press recently reports of serious disturbances in the Southern Sudan. The most serious of these disturbances are reported from a district of which I was for two years in charge. I left that district nearly forty years ago, and since then, so far as I can learn, it has remained in a state of complete tranquility, as, with trifling exceptions, has the whole of the Southern Sudan. The Southern Sudan is a country of very different character from the Northern Sudan. The Northern Sudan is an arid country inhabited by Moslem Arabs. The Southern Sudan is a country of swamps and forests, inhabited by pagan Negroes. To use a colloquialism, the two regions are as different as chalk from cheese, and up till recent times the only contact between the Northern Sudan and the Southern Sudan was that the Northerners used to raid the Southerners for slaves. These slave raids went on until the time of the Battle of Omdurman —that is well within living memory— and it is reported that the disturbances to which I allude were caused by the fact that those concerned believed they were to be carried off to Khartoum to be sold into slavery.

The history of the Sudan (I will not trouble your Lordships at any great length about it) is this. In the middle of the last century Egypt extended her hold over the Sudan. Various European adventurers in the employment of the Egyptian Government annexed, in a loose sort of way, parts of the Sudan to the Khedivate of Egypt. Of course, the connection with Egypt came to an end with the murder of General Gordon. After that date, slave raids were resumed with renewed vigour until the time of the battle of Omdurman, when they were put an end to. But when the battle of Omdurman was won it was found that a French force under a very brave and adventurous officer, General Marchand, had marched right through Bahr El Ghazal Province into the Upper Nile Province and had established itself at Fashoda which had been the centre of the slave trade. Fashoda is a place of very great strategic importance. Its occupation practically cut the Northern Sudan off from the South.

The British Government in power was then headed by that very great statesman the grandfather of the noble Marquess who leads this House to-day, and he insisted on the withdrawal of General Marchand from Fashoda. The French Government, very unwillingly, withdrew him at the request of the then British Government. They would certainly not have done so at the request of the Egyptians or of the Northern Sudanese. And if they had not done so those two provinces, which make up about half of the Southern Sudan, would have formed part of the French Colonial Empire. A year before that the Belgians had moved South down the Nile and had occupied what is now the Western part of the Equatorial Province; and there they remained until 1910 when, at the request of the British Government—again the Egyptians and the Sudanese had nothing to do with it—they withdrew. Up till that time—from 1897 to 1910—that region formed a part of the Belgian Congo. And I may say that from that region, also, serious disturbances have recently been reported. As for the frontier between the Sudan and Kenya and Uganda, that was a line drawn in White- hall, and it was drawn long before the frontier was administered—certainly on the Sudan side, and I think on the other side as well.

My object is to show your Lordships that the Sudan, as it exists now, is an artificial creation of the British Government. It is really a great chunk of Africa, and it happens that the inhabitants of the Southern half are totally different from the inhabitants of the Northern part. There is no good reason why, without their consent, they should be placed under the domination of the North. The Government were informed that if these people were placed under the domination of the North without adequate precautions there would be trouble, but they chose to ignore this warning completely. They had apparently decided upon a policy of "scuttle," and they proceeded to scuttle without the least regard for the consequences. All I can say is that I hope to hear from the noble Marquess who is to reply on behalf of the Government that the Government have taken some steps to repair the damage which was caused by their obvious neglect of duty. I beg to move for Papers.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who was responsible for this Motion, has asked for a statement of policy on behalf of the Government in the terms of the Motion. Therefore I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to make that statement at this early stage and leave it to other noble Lords who may desire to contribute to the debate; and if the House is willing that it should be so arranged, after other noble Lords have spoken I will endeavour to make some reply. I am grateful to the noble Lord for having put down the Motion because it gives me an opportunity to describe, in as brief terms as I can, recent events in the Southern Sudan and to remove some misapprehensions about the present conditions there. In view of what the noble Lord said in moving his Motion, I would point out that, whatever the situation might have been in the somewhat remote past into which he led us in his opening speech, it is now covered by the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan which was entered into in 1953. The terms of that Agreement now regulate the position in the Sudan and events in the Sudan have to be looked at in the light of that existing and binding Agreement.

Perhaps, I should first remind your Lordships of the more recent political developments which have brought about the present state of affairs. The Anglo-Egyptian Agreement of February, 1953, on the Sudan provided, amongst other things, for the Sudanisation (I cannot get rid of that objectionable word) of the Administration before the Sudan could proceed to the actual processes of self-determination. In accordance with this provision all British administrators had left the Southern Sudan by the end of August, 1954, and for the most part they were replaced by Northern Sudanese, many of whom were men of considerable ability. I agree that from some points of view this replacement by Northerners may have been unfortunate, since it served to revive the traditional enmity of the South towards the North which sprang from the slave-trading days of the last century. The noble Lord was quite right in saying that that was the main source of the feud between North and South. The position in regard to the appointment of Northerners to duties in the South was largely inevitable since the South had very few men capable of conducting the administration and it would probably have been a long time before enough Southerners could be trained to take over the quite considerable responsibilities.

Since the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement was signed, the Sudan has moved steadily towards self-determination on the basis, laid down in the Agreement, that the Sudan's future status should be decided as one integral whole; and on August 16 of this year the Sudanese Parliament passed a resolution to ask the Co-domini —the United Kingdom and Egypt—to set the process of self-determination in motion. But, unhappily, matters were not progressing so favourably in the South, and only two days after Resolution Day a mutiny of elements of the Equatoria Corps of the Sudan Defence Force broke out at the garrison town of Torit, which is situated in the extreme South close to the Uganda frontier.

The immediate cause of the mutiny seems to have been the decision to remove some companies of the Equatoria Corps from Torit to Khartoum to take part in the ceremonies preceding the withdrawal of British and Egyptian troops from the Sudan. But the underlying causes of the mutiny are undoubtedly more deep-seated. They lie in differences of race, religion and cultural and economic development.


Hear, hear!


Certainly they do. As regards responsibility for these tragic events, it would clearly be wrong to attempt to prejudge the findings of the Commission of Inquiry which the Sudan Government has set up. This Commission, which is still in the process of taking evidence, consists of a Christian-Arab Judge, a Northern Sudanese whose career has been in the police and who was formerly Assistant Sudan Agent in London, and a Chief of the Lokoya, a tribe who live in the neighbourhood of Torit.

The mutiny quickly spread from Torit to the other centres of Equatoria Province and the mutinous soldiers were joined by police and prison warders and in some cases by local tribesmen, whose part was chiefly in looting. It is sad to have to record that altogether about 450 Northerners, officials, teachers and merchants included, lost their lives. A state of emergency was declared in the three Southern provinces, although it was only in Equatoria Province that most of the trouble took place. Troops were rushed to Juba, many of them in R.A.F. planes, in order to restore the situation. Before military action was taken against the mutineers they were given adequate time to surrender. Rather than surrender, most of them fled into the bush and it has been an extremely difficult job to round them up. More than 700 have now surrendered and a further 150 are interned in Uganda. The rest, about 400, are at large but are not in organised bodies.

The House may well be concerned about the effect which these events may have on those parts of the Uganda Protectorate which border the troubled areas of the Sudan. In addition to the troops of the Sudan Defence Force at present interned in Uganda, it is estimated that between 2.000 and 3.000 civilian refugees have crossed the border since the mutiny began. It has proved possible to absorb these refugees without difficulty among members of their own tribes who live in Uganda or to find a livelihood for them elsewhere in the Protectorate. However, the Uganda Government are carefully watching the situation across the border and are fully aware of the possible repercussions that any worsening of the situation in Southern Sudan might have on the inhabitants of the Protectorate.

Discussions have taken place between representatives of the Sudan Government and the Uganda Government about the future of those mutineers who are interned in a camp at Gulu in Uganda. The Sudanese representatives returned to Khartoum to ask their Government to try to collect evidence which could be used in asking the Uganda authorities to extradite the men. The Uganda Government made it clear that they can only return to the Sudan those who are prepared to go (no one has so far volunteered) and those against whom charges can be substantiated of committing crimes not connected with, or arising out of, the mutiny. The remainder have to be treated as political refugees under International Law, since they were involvd in a mutiny with a political objective.

The Sudan Government have taken steps to restore order in Equatoria Province, and Northern administrators are now present at all the main centres, although they rely for their safety upon the support of detachments of Northern troops. The troops have been given strict orders to observe good behaviour, and our information is that they have for the most part done so, particularly in those centres where the troops are commanded by responsible officers. It is, however, more difficult to keep a close watch on the activities of small detachments of troops in outlying areas, and there have certainly been cases of ill-treatment and illegal methods of extracting evidence. The only really serious trouble which has occurred since the mutiny was at Yei, near the Uganda border, when Northern troops shot dead seven Southern policemen who were trying to escape capture. The policemen were all, it is believed, deeply involved in the mutiny. It is, however, clear that the Sudan authorities will not tolerate conduct of this sort since the officer commanding the troops involved has been removed.

All my information indicates that reports about the situation in the Southern Sudan which have recently appeared in certain sections of the Press are greatly exaggerated. There is a danger that the food and medical situa- tion may deteriorate further and that many more refugees will cross the border, but there are signs that in other respects the situation in Equatoria Province is returning to normal. Juba airport is now open again to traffic and the Nile steamer service between the Sudan and Uganda is about to be resumed. The Equatoria Projects Board factory at Nzara is due to be reopened on November 15 and a new Northern manager has been appointed.

Although many people are reported to have fled into the bush, we know that many of them are sufficiently confident to continue to gather together for church services, and at one place in Equatoria Province since the mutiny took place 666 Southerners were confirmed by the Southern Anglican Bishop on one day. There are no secret courts: civil courts are trying cases and appear to be acting legally. The inaccuracy of some Press reports has undoubtedly been caused in part by the fact that they have been written chiefly from outside the Sudan, because until recently the Sudan Government have refused to allow any correspondents into the South. The Sudan Government are now beginning to relax these restrictions and this change of policy will help towards obtaining a more objective view of the situation.

Although the Governor-General has, under the Self-Government Statute, a special responsibility to ensure fair and equitable treatment to all the inhabitants of the various provinces of the Sudan, it is obvious that he can exercise it effectively only with co-operation of the Sudan Government. So far, the Sudanese Prime Minister has shown by the restraint which he has observed that he is aware of the dangers of the situation and of the need for a constructive solution of the Southern problem. The administration of the South is now entirely in the hands of the Sudan Government, and we as a co-dominus can only advise.

A number of suggestions have recently been made as to how the present situation in the Southern Sudan should be dealt with. It has been proposed, for instance, that an International Commission should be sent to the South, possibly under the auspices of the United Nations, to see that the Southerners get fair play. Other suggestions have been made that the International Red Cross or the World Health Organisation should send a mission to the South. Either of these measures could be taken only with the agreement of the Sudan Government, who would probably regard such proposals as a sign of lack of confidence in them and therefore as calculated to weaken their position. The despatch of United Nations observers would almost certainly revive and strengthen the movement for some sort of self-rule in the South, thus widening the gap between South and North and running counter to the declared intention of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan, that the future of the country should be decided as one integral whole. Moreover, these observers would at best be only a palliative. What would happen after their withdrawal?

Her Majesty's Government are strongly of the opinion that the future interests of the Sudan can be served only if the authority of the Sudanese Government is maintained and strengthened. Other countries, at a similar stage on the road towards self-government, have in the past been faced with tragic and complex internal difficulties and their patience and resource in overcoming them has done much to reconcile and unify the various elements. The present difficulties in the Southern Sudan can be solved only if the Sudanese Government themselves earnestly seek a solution by consultation with all parties; and I am glad to say that there are signs that they realise the necessity for such a step.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I always feel that if one is privileged to take part at a comparatively early stage in one of your Lordships' debates one should not strain the patience of your Lordships by speaking too long, and I wish to put my points in tabloid form. I should like first to make one personal observation in general. I am a great admirer of the conduct of foreign affairs since 1945, by both the Labour and the Conservative Governments and by the many distinguished Ministers in office and their advisers who have been responsible for that conduct. But I am certainly not an admirer of the method in which the Sudan has been dealt with. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Raglan for having raised this matter. Of course, he is absolutely right in making a point with which the Minister never dealt in his speech. He is quite right in saying that the Sudan was never a national entity, but was purely a geographical expression. It was obvious that there was no sort of compatibility between the comparatively sophisticated and mainly Moslem and partly Arab North and the primitive, mainly negroid tribes of the South, with their memories of Northern slave raids. The difference goes deeper than the memories of slave raiding, and the two parts of the country are completely incompatible.

When Her Majesty's Government announced that they were going to bring about self-government I was the only Member of your Lordships' House who ventured to express some doubt. My noble friend made his usual courteous reply and said that he would take note of my warning. I would challenge any noble Lord, including members of the Government, to deny what I am about to say—namely, that the country was rescued from the bloody chaos of the past, and enabled to reach a progressive standard of prosperity, only by sixty years of British guidance and superintendence; and in the whole of our history there has never been anything which did more credit to British rule than what we did in the Sudan during that sixty years. It was as clear as it could be to everyone, except, apparently, members of the Government, that the removal of that guidance and superintendence would lead to trouble and possibly to the chaos of over sixty years ago before Lord Kitchener's victory.

I ask: Why did we do it? It was no doubt mainly in order to try to conciliate Egypt—whether we were successful in that the noble Marquess and members of Her Majesty's Government will be able to tell, but we do not seem to have been very successful in getting Egypt on our side in other respects—and partly because we have persuaded ourselves (this applies to all Parties) as a nation that self-government is more desirable than good government. I suggest that the real motive behind that assumption is a desire to appease the opponents of colonialism, for reasons that one can appreciate, because we must work with our American friends, and the wish to avoid trouble, since we already have enough on our hands in Malaya and elsewhere. So we cheerfully, at short notice, divest ourselves of our responsibilities, allowing the inhabitants to murder each other, as they did on a tremendous scale in the Indian Peninsula in 1945.

I well recollect the speech of Sir Winston Churchill in another place—one of the most formidable of the speeches that even he has made—criticising His late Majesty's Government for what they did when they got out of India. Fortunately, what has happened in the Sudan has not been as bad, though it is had enough. Politically we may be quite right, but whether we are morally justified is a different thing. Of course, at the moment we could not be in a more unfortunate position than we are in the Sudan. We have a British Governor and we have British planes there, but we have no sort of executive authority whatever. Therefore, we are being accused by our numerous enemies in the Middle East of being responsible for the trouble or for doing nothing about it, as the case may be.

We could not be in a weaker or a worse position. I understand that we use British planes to convey some of the troops from the North to the South which of course will make the Southerners—those who are in revolt against the Sudan Government—think that we are in some way on the side of the North. I can only say that the least we can do—and I was glad to hear my noble friend's remarks in that connection— is to let these Southern refugees enter British territory, and to refuse to agree to the proposal which was made by the Sudan Government that they should be returned as criminals. The noble Marquess told us—and I am sure all your Lordships were delighted to hear it—that the atrocities on both sides had been exaggerated owing to the lack of information. For that, the Sudan Government are entirely responsible. There were a number of correspondents, including a war correspondent of great ability of the Daily Telegraph, who endeavoured to get permission to go to the South to see things on the spot, but the Sudan Government refused permission to do so.

My last point is this, and I think it is one which is worth making. I have always felt that the weakness of the British character is that they appear to do things which may look in the eyes of the world rather hypocritical; and here is an instance of something which other nations would describe as hypocrisy. When the Central African Federation Bill was before Parliament, some Members of your Lordships' House, as well as of another place, and at least two important organs of the Press, showed intense solicitude for the welfare of Africans in the territories concerned, and great apprehensions as to what might happen to them after federation. None of their fears, incidentally, was justified, and my noble friend the Leader of the House, very properly if I may say so, castigated some Members of your Lordships' House who expressed these fears. The Southern Sudanese strongly objected, so for as they were able vocally (most of them, of course, being illiterate), to the removal of our power to protect them; and the dreadful events which have resulted show that their fears were justified.

The pro-native African party, as represented by those who spoke in your Lordships' House and in another place, and who wrote in the Press, have been almost completely silent on this issue. Instead of using, as they did at the time of the federation, even the pulpit of St. Paul's in order to propound their political views on the subject, not a word has been said, so far as I know, on this subject by anybody of those who objected to federation. I suggest that we are owed some explanation. They were right to express concern for native Africans, which is a very proper thing to do. It should be a general concern.

I say only this in conclusion—I must apologise to your Lordships for speaking somewhat strongly, but I feel very strongly on this matter, having myself in the past had some knowledge of the country. I cannot help thinking that if some distinguished past Members of your Lordships' House—infinitely more distinguished than I can ever be—like Lord Melbourne, Lord Palmerston, Lord Derby and the grandfather of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, had been present in this debate, they would have had a certain sympathy with what I have said. In their day we showed frankness and directness of approach towards international affairs, because, as a nation, we believed alike in our mission and in our rights in the world—two very important things. It is a state of feeling, a climate of opinion, which, both for good and ill reasons, we have discarded as a nation. Of course, our influence is still enormous, but we use it to-day in quite a different connection. I cannot help thinking—and this is my last word —what would have happened in the 'eighties. Suppose that a Liberal Government had done what the present Conservative Government did in the Sudan. We can guess what would have been said by the Conservative Party. We know what the Conservative Party did say about Mr. Gladstone's betrayal of General Gordon. I think they would have been very critical. We can only hope that things will improve, that the noble Marquess's hopes will be justified; and, however critical we may be of what has taken place in the past, all of us can wish that the Sudanese Government will meet with success in governing this country and that there will be a hopeful future for it.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, I had to speak once before immediately after the noble Earl, Lord Winterton. At that time he violently disapproved of what I said, and I hope I shall not be quarrelling with him this time. I ask to be allowed to add a few words on this extremely important and delicate subject. I think something ought to be said from the Bishops' Bench, because our sympathies are deeply engaged in what concerns the welfare of the Sudan, and we may be able to make some small contribution.

The Church authorities do not command the Intelligence of the Foreign Office—I mean, of course, the Intelligence Service of the Foreign Office—but information does come to us, and perhaps sometimes we know things that some Government officials do not. When we remember the great servants that this country has given to the Sudan, both in Church and State, it is tragic to think that these troubles should have arisen so early in the new experiment, just when all the work of these great servants has been carried out and while the new régime is still so inexperienced. But the tension between North and South, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, pointed out, is nothing new. It has always been inherent in the contrast between the Moslem North, with its relatively higher standard, and the pagan and primitive societies indigenous in the equatorial provinces. They are totally unequal in material power, and they are living in different universes of spiritual and cultural development. Does not the weak always fear the strong, and does not the more advanced always tend to despise, if not actively to exploit, the more backward?

As has been already hinted, the South has a long and bitter memory, and the more we know about the earlier history of Equatorial Africa the more shall we understand and be able to sympathise with the fears and apprehensions of the Southern people. But the balance was being rapidly redressed. It is only fifty years ago since that great apostle of the Sudan, Bishop Gwynne, whom I have heard described in Khartoum as the second founder of the country, General Gordon being, of course, the first, led the first Anglican missionaries down to the help of the primitive tribes of Equatoria who were then untamed, naked and near savages. In that short time of fifty years a church has developed, drawn from four or five Southern tribes. It has grown to such an extent that during his recent visit to Uganda the Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated a Southern Sudani priest as assistant bishop in that area. And as many of your Lordships know, Southern Christians are already sitting as members of the Legislative Assembly. Schools have been built, health services established and a whole network of social services, some Government sponsored and some mission sponsored, has been initiated and spread throughout the country. It is wonderful what has been done in so short a time. It is a thrilling story, full of hope.

Of course, the Christianised, the educated and the politically informed or conscious are a tiny minority, a sort of little clearing in a vast jungle. The dark gods still reign in the jungle and ancestral voices prophesy disaster, because, behind all these tragic events, there lies a deep and inarticulate terror. All this development has grown up with the help of British officials and administrators in half a century. What is going to happen to these people now? I am sure there is fear and terror in their hearts of what may happen when the last foreigner has been withdrawn. That fear lies behind the scene. This outbreak, apparently, has been far more deliberate and widespread than we realised from the original report. As the noble Marquess appears to confirm, it seems to have been something far more than mutiny that had to be reckoned with. Surely we can understand and, however much we deplore the actions to which it has driven people, can sympathise at least with their spiritual predicament and their mental bewilderment and distress.

The situation is delicate in the extreme and full of grim and dangerous possibilities. It seems to me that there are a lot of things that many of us would like to say which are far better left unsaid. Of course, there is the fear that there may be demands for retaliation and revenge. Juba is a long way from Khartoum and the central Government may not always be able to control its representatives in remote places. In connection with that, there are two things that ought to be said. One is that, on the evidence of European witnesses and spectators, the behaviour of the Northern troops of occupation has been quite impeccable. Though there have been occasional incidents and excesses, as there are almost inevitably in situations of this kind, as we ourselves know in other parts of Africa, nevertheless, when such abuses did occur, the Khartoum Government at once dealt swiftly and drastically with offenders. Therefore there is every ground for hoping that the Northern Government may be able to deal with the situation.

The other point is that one of the strongest grounds for hope is the personal character and wisdom of the Prime Minister himself. The noble Marquess has referred to him already. I should like to say from another angle that all the information at our disposal bears witness to the firmness, the moderation and the liberal statesmanship with which he has handled the crisis, refusing to yield to any demands for a vindictive witch-hunt. It might help a little if mention were made of this in your Lordships' House, confirmed as it is by non-political information. It may help to strengthen his hand a little. Of course, there is danger from, the other end: there may be more provocation from the South. But as to that it ought to be on the record that, in spite of everything and amid all the fearful difficulties and demoralised atmosphere, the Christian leaders, both English and Sudani, have been able to wield a calming and restraining influence. They themselves have been instrumental in saving the lives of a number of Northern officials and their families. That fact has been gracefully acknowledged in Khartoum.

I have only a word more to add. Over and beyond the political problem there is a vast human problem. When the troubles broke out, the crops had not been harvested. The rains have come since then and it is now too late. I am told that in some areas the sleeping sickness controls have broken down and famine and epidemic on a big scale threaten. If ordered government should break down, if the social and welfare services should be completely disrupted, the whole area might easily revert to primitivism. Therefore the human and political problems coalesce at this point, and those who care most for the Southern people will surely hope that they will understand that the only result of further political provocation must be to increase their social and economic distress. Whether Her Majesty's Government can do anything at all to alleviate that, without being invited to by the Sudan Government, I understand to be extremely doubtful; but I know that they will do anything they can. Inside the situation as it is, and looking at the facts as they are and not at the facts as we might wish they were, surely the South will best serve its own true and permanent interests by trying to come to terms with the Northern Government in a constructive spirit of conciliation and co-operation and working together wish them for sudanese unity.

5.59 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is late and I shall certainly try to be brief. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who, from his great personal experience, painted a picture of the conditions, racial, historical end social, which give the Southern Sudan a completely different identity from that appertaining to the North. I myself have no personal experience of the Sudan; I speak only as a student of international affairs, and if at the close of my remarks I offer suggestions which may appear revolutionary I ask the noble Marquess to believe me when I say that I regard them as coming within the context of the 1953 Anglo-Egyptian Agreement, which he referred to as both existing and binding.

It is, of course, no comfort to those of us who predicted this tragic story to know that we were right. I can recall a friend of mine, back after many years of faithful service in the Sudan, telling me three years ago that already in the North they were talking of the spoils which would come from the South when the day of self-determination arrived. And reinforcing these crystal-clear divisions which we have all known divide the two Sudans have lately come intrigue and bribery from outside. The amount of damage done by the Minister of so-called National Guidance, consistently misguiding both the Sudan and his own country over the last three years, will take a long time to repair. Your Lordships may recall the story of a humble medical dresser at Torit who, in his innocence, firmly believed that he was going to receive the appointment of Director General of Medical Services when the great day of Utopia promised by this Minister arrived.

In assessing the present situation it is important that we should be quite fair to the Northern Sudan. I was glad to hear the tribute of the right reverend Prelate to Sayed Ismail el Azheri. Those of us who met him when he came to this country last year were impressed by his sincerity, his balance and, above all, his complete integrity; and if any dim suggestions of a way out which I may offer appear revolutionary, they are made in the belief that it is our duty to help the Sudan as a whole in its predicament. The present situation seems to me difficult to assess. In spite of the noble Marquess's assurances, on October 24 The Times representative in Kampala gave us a tragic picture of conditions. It is true that only yesterday, from the distance and point of control at Khartoum, their representative gave us a slightly more optimistic picture. But whatever the truth as to the conditions, I would agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, that there is no reason to believe that the new administrators from the North who have replaced in the South their British predecessors were not honestly making a brave effort to get on terms with the South and to identify themselves with the interests and lives of the Southerners. Indeed, there is a story of a certain attempt to present an anticolonial front against their less enlightened colleagues in the North.

What about the sentiments of the Southerners? I stand open to correction, but I understand that the Constitution, which was worked out by a Sudanese Commission in 1953, was agreed on by the Condominium Powers and gave the South about one-quarter representation in the Legislative Assembly, with two Cabinet Ministers. Years previously to that, I think at Juba, a conference had been called at which Southern representatives had opted for union with the North. But was that a free choice? Did those who made that choice have the slightest conception of the nature of the issues about which they were asked to choose? Certainly, at the time a Mr. Martin Parr, who had spent eight years as Governor of the three Southern Provinces, gave us to believe that, so far as a choice was made, it was meaningless. In any case, at this moment I should like to know to what extent the representatives from the South are in any way in touch with the people they represent.

My Lords, I presume that there is a purpose in these debates. It is not merely to enable us to ventilate our views, but that we may put forward positive lines of approach which Her Majesty's Government may either refuse or accept, may follow up or not. Therefore, I am allowing myself the luxury of what might be called a little "thinking aloud." I can see nothing revolutionary in the nature of a proposal which would ask the Northern Sudan to grant to the Southern Sudan just that freedom of choice which they themselves have been granted and from which they will derive their new nationhood.

Before I elaborate that point, however, I should like to say a word about the constitutional position as I see it—of course, I stand open to correction. As the noble Marquess reminded us, in 1953 a draft Statute was prepared by the Sudanese themselves, which gave the Governor General special responsibility for the South. Later, those terms were broadened to include all people in all provinces. It is important to note that at the time the Foreign Secretary made that announcement in another place, on February 12, he referred to the broadening of those terms in this way: This wording includes the Southern Provinces. I think there is still a Governor General's Commission which sits at the elbow of the Governor General and acts as a brake, if not as a veto; but I would urge that the mere fact that the Governor General's powers in relation to these unprotected minorities were considered at the time, and that statutory arrangements were made, and that the Governor General is still in Khartoum, should not be overlooked.

All that may sound like a threat. I quite realise that to-day threats are not popular in international negotiations. So I would put forward, not perhaps so much an alternative remedy as a modification which, on a long-term view, I believe would be to the benefit of all. At this last moment, cannot the Northern Sudan be persuaded to turn back to Her Majesty's Government and ask us to reassume responsibility, at least for the Equatoria Province to be administered as a trust—if necessary, as a United Nations Trust? That is an extension of the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart. Could it not be a Trust which would harness the existing talent which is already in the North in partnership with Great Britain? I cannot believe that, if that kind of proposal were put carefully to the Sudan Government, they would be so unintelligent as to regard it as completely outrageous.

Of course, I anticipate the immediate objection—that Egypt would make obvious charges. As I see it, so far as Egypt is concerned, much hangs on the good will of the Sudan, particularly in relation to such dreams and schemes as the "High Dam" project; and yet so long as doubt and instability reign in Southern Sudan, the South will surely remain the breeding ground for friction and intrigue as between the Sudan and Egypt. And before Egypt would condemn out of hand such a development, she would do well to pause and to consider whether security in the far South is not also a guarantee of her own security at her own back door.

My Lords, that is really all I have to suggest. The poet talked, I think, of "craven fear of being great." That is a line of approach which many of those who have themselves served in the Sudan would support. I claim that a former "greatness" yields to a new "wisdom." "Pray God that justice may not fail through craven fear of being wise!" might govern a new hope for the Southern Sudan.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, as the only member of your House present tonight who held the office of High Commissioner for the Sudan when it still existed, your Lordships might perhaps take it amiss if I held my peace and said nothing in the present debate. In any case, having listened to the debate I feel moved to get up and say one or two things. I suppose there is nobody in this House—there can be nobody—who does not deplore what has happened in the Sudan. I will go further and say that few of us are really surprised that things have gone wrong. When the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan and other matters were being discussed, most of us, I believe, felt strongly that, whatever might be said or however it might be wrapped up, the South were in fact being "thrown to the wolves." That may be a rather strong and not very tactful way of putting it, but that is what it really comes to. Anybody who knows anything of this subject at first hand knows that there is this inherent difference between the South and the North which has been well explained to-night. We were really expecting much if we believed that things could work there without friction.

There were discussions about safeguards for the South but I do not think that anybody could be surprised at the way things have worked out, though the trouble has perhaps come rather earlier than I thought it would. Most of us in our hearts were afraid that ultimately there would be trouble as between the South and the North. Now it is upon us. We have no particular reason to be proud of ourselves, for we must have known that something of this kind would happen, though perhaps not of so violent a nature, for there was something in the situation which was unwholesome. It is no good for anyone to say, "I told you so," even though some of us did tell you so; for saying that now helps nobody. The real question is: what, if anything, can be done about it? I was greatly relieved to hear from the noble Marquess that those people who have crossed the frontier are not to be returned but treated as political refugees. I am thankful for that, though I suppose we could not have done anything else.

We are largely dependent for information on what we read in the Press. Khartoum is to blame for not allowing Press representatives to go down and give us the picture; but there have been unpleasant stories of shootings and retaliations. I did not know, until the noble Marquess made his statement, that there had already been a suggestion for an international inquiry under the United Nations or the Red Cross which apparently has been ruled out. It may be difficult, but we cannot just let things go like that. The noble Lord who has just spoken had a proposal which was rather a root-and-branch policy and I doubt whether it could be done; but I cannot help feeling that this House should take the view that we cannot let this situation go by default. Whether it be an international commission or a Red Cross inquiry or something else, the Sudan Government would have to agree.

Mention of self-determination was made by my noble friend on my left. I should have thought the people there were hardly ripe for that at the moment, but I do not know why it should be indefinitely ruled out for the Southern Sudan, though it would be no solution of the present trouble. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether some form of inquiry might not be possible or desirable. We have, or we had, a certain responsibility to these people. I believe we still have an implicit responsibility for the results of our actions, as we have handed these people over. Even if there cannot be an international inquiry, something should be done. The reasons we have heard against an international inquiry do not appear to me to exhaust the possibilities.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Marquess replies, I should like to ask him one question. I understand that certain responsibilities were placed upon the Governor-General by the Agreement of 1953. I understood the noble Marquess to say just now that the Governor-General could not do anything because he had no power. Is it really the case that responsibility without power is imposed on a Governor-General? If so, it is sheer lunacy.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I can only intervene in the debate again with the permission of the House, but, as I indicated at the beginning, I rather assume that it will not he unwelcome to the House if I endeavour to deal with some of the matters which have been discussed. This has been in many ways a useful discussion, though, frankly, there seems to he some misapprehension about the Sudan itself. To begin with, the Governor-General has not the status of a British official: he is the servant of the Condominium. It happens that he is a British retired Foreign Service official, but he was appointed by the Egyptian Government on the proposal of the British Government. If I may use the term, he is not the "exclusive preserve" of the British Government in this matter; he is the Governor-General, still on behalf of the Condominium.

The other point that has repeatedly been made here is the great distinction that has been made between North and South. In the statement I made earlier I made no attempt to deny that. I pointed out that there were between them these great divergencies of race, religion, culture, economy and so forth. It was said that the Sudan is a great block of territory which has been carved out, more or less arbitrarily, in the past: but it was in the past. It is not new that North and South are being treated alike. The North and the South have been treated as one Sudan during all the period of sixty years to which the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, referred. That has been the structure of the country. I agree with the point the noble Earl made. The difference is that the British service has withdrawn. That may lead to great stresses and strains between the North and the South without any third party to take the weight off the two—I do not like to use the word "opponents." but let me say the two different parties in the country. That is quite true.

But we have to contemplate the situation, not as it was sixty or twenty or even ten years ago, but as it has arisen with the coming into force of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement which dated from 1953. That was on the basis that the Sudan should continue to consist of these two halves—the North and the South—and the whole endeavour should be to mould those two halves into one coherent, united country. That was the basis of the Agreement, and that is still the best hope, in my view, for the future of the Sudan. If that object is to be attained, it is no good considering what someone would have said in 1880 or what the situation might have been at the beginning of this century. We have to confront the situation as it is to-day. Some of your Lordships have said that you did not want in any way to say, "I told you so," but at the same time have continued your speeches by saying, with ill-concealed relish, almost exactly those words, "I told you so."


Not relish at all—disappointment, sadness. It was certainly not relish on my part, if the noble Marquess is referring to me.


Here is the situation as it arises under this Agreement. What is the best hope of carrying out that basic principle of the Agreement that the Sudan shall form one coherent whole? The best hope of achieving that—indeed, the only really promising and constructive hope—must be to give every strength and confidence to the present Prime Minister of the Sudan, to do everything we can, although the matter is in the hands of the Sudan Government; to advise if requested but, at the same time, to see that we do not interfere in ways in which we are no longer entitled to interfere in that country. As for the Prime Minister—and your Lordships are aware of all that has been said about him to-day, the confidence he created in those who met him when he was over here, and the tribute which the right reverend Prelate has paid to him in the course of his interesting and valuable speech this afternoon—it is his task to see that every effort within his power is made to bring these two halves into one harmonious whole. Some of your Lordships have said that you expected this trouble to arise but it has come earlier than you thought. That, I confess, rather surprises me. Although it is a matter for infinite regret that it came at all, I should have thought, first, it was more likely to come at the early stage, and, secondly, that there was more hope for the future in the prospect of this particular trouble coming at that early stage and being dealt with—as has been said—up to date with restraint, with a minimum of reprisals and with a desire not to break off but to continue the policy by uniting the two halves.


May I ask the noble Marquess this, question? This is really the gist of the whole matter. I understood him now, speaking on the authority of Her Majesty's Government, to say that this insurrection, or whatever you call it, has been put down with the minimum of reprisals. He is speaking, of course, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. That is not the information we have generally received and it suggests that the Press reports are all false.


I do not think that anything that has been said to-day—certainly anything said by me—suggests that there have been unjustified, widespread reprisals, by the North on the South. The right reverend Prelate who spoke bore witness to the impeccable behaviour of the Northern troops who had been sent down to the South, and to the state of affairs which, according to his information, there prevailed. I have said, and I say again, that I think much of the reporting of what has taken place down there has been substantially exaggerated, and I did add, when I was originally addressing your Lordships, that, certainly in part, that exaggeration was likely to have come from the fact that reporters had not been able to give first-hand accounts of what they had seen on the spot but had been obliged to write accounts from outside the area.


Could the noble Marquess give us any information about the report in the paper this morning of forty sentences of death?


I cannot give any precise information about a number of sentences of death; but what I have said, and what I believe to be true, is that courts are operating down there, and we have no reason to think that they are not operating legally. They are not special military courts or emergency courts; they are civil courts. As to what sentences they may have passed, I have no precise information.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess again but will these sentences have to be confirmed by the Governor-General?


Yes, they will. I have no reason to think that these courts are operating in any way illegally in the work which they are doing now. A certain amount has been said about an inquiry. As regards the suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, made of sending down some sort of an international inquiry, as he said, that could only go with the assent of the Sudanese Government, and, for reasons which I tried to indicate earlier on, it seems to me improbable that they would agree to that. What noble Lords did not take into account, I think, was something which I also said earlier—that the Sudanese Government themselves have appointed what appeals to be an authori- tative and impartial committee of inquiry which is still operating on the spot.


How can it be impartial?


I told the noble Lord the position. It is impartial in the sense that there is no reason to think it cannot produce an objective and acceptable report. The fact that people may have a particular interest does not mean that if they are serving upon an inquiry they are not capable of putting that interest aside and reaching an objective conclusion. Certainly, I am not going to prejudge either the Commission itself or the Report which the Commission may issue until that stage is reached.

The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, had another suggestion, which I am afraid would be equally impracticable, as it appeared to consist of an attempt to persuade the Sudanese Government in Khartoum to return to the United Kingdom a portion of the South in the Equatorial Provinces.


My Lords, may I correct the noble Marquess? I did not intend to suggest in any way that the South should be returned to the United Kingdom but that it should be held in trust for some period, during which stability might return to the South, with a view to its possible reunification in the future.


Again the suggestion seems to be that Her Majesty's Government in this country can act by themselves in these matters. Not only are the Sudan Government concerned, but the Egyptian Government are concerned, and would presumably have to give their assent to such a proposal. Again, I cannot really think that an attempt to reopen the whole situation, which has been based upon the position created by the 1953 Agreement, would either have any chances of success or in itself be desirable.

I come back to what I said at the beginning: that no one wishes to depreciate in any way the value of the work that was done by this country on behalf of the Sudan in the past. The situation we now have to meet is the situation created by the 1953 Agreement, and although some noble Lords may dislike and deplore that Agreement, it is the governing factor as regards the status of the North and the status of the South in relation to one another. Our best hope of seeing these two halves coalesce is not to emphasise and insist upon the differences, but to point out ways of making the similarities increase and thus to assist the present Government of the Sudan in any way we can to carry on the policy, which is the policy of the Agreement accepted by them, and which, in my submission, maintains the best hope for the future development of the country.


My Lords, may I ask this question before the noble Marquess sits down? I am in some doubt, as I am sure other noble Lords must be, about the position in international law of the use of British planes to carry troops to the Southern Sudan. We were told that R.A.F. planes were used to fly troops from the North to the South. The noble Marquess has told us that the Governor-General is a Condominium official and not a representative of Her Majesty's Government. If that is so, why were these planes used? What concern is it of ours to fly troops to Southern Sudan?


Troops were flown down at the request of the Sudanese Government, which is responsible for keeping order not only in the North but in the South. They had no other means of getting troops readily and effectively to the spot. I do not quite understand the criticism of that action, because surely it was in the interest of everybody that troops should be moved into the area and that the state of affairs which had arisen in the South should be brought to an end at the earliest possible moment. It seems to me that by flying troops there and by giving consent for R.A.F. planes to be used for the purpose, those who gave that consent were doing a service to all concerned.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.