§ 4.51 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Unstarred Question which is on the Order Paper in my name:
"To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement of their further intentions in seeking to bring together the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Biafran administration with a view o establishing a cease-fire, an international peace-keeping force, political negotiations for a settlement and massive relief of starvation."
Before I come to the subject matter of the Question, I am going to ask permission to make a personal reference which I know will have the sympathy and the support of all in this House. This morning we read with deep personal sorrow, and with a realisation of public loss, of the death of the noble Baroness, Lady Asquith of Yarnbury. I think that her last speech in this House was on this question of Nigeria and Biafra. I had many conversations with her, and I know how deeply she felt on the subject; but this was only a reflection of a long life which was devoted to liberty and peace. Her family has great historical associations with our country. I think—indeed, I know—that in her later years she took encouragement from the fact that those who are following her in her family are continuing the great contribution which the Asquith tradition has made to our society. Speaking on this subject of Nigeria and Biafra, about which she felt so deeply. I felt that I could not begin to-night without a reference to our loss.
I want also to express appreciation to the leaders of this House for the help which they gave me in postponing the 945 debate from Tuesday night until this afternoon so that this important subject might have more adequate consideration. I thank the Leader of the House; I thank the Chief Whip; I thank the Minister who will reply, and I thank the officials.
My Lords, my only concern in putting down this Question has been to bring about peace; and I shall try to be completely constructive in the proposals which I make. I shall endeavour not to be partisan on one side or the other. And, by exercising some self-discipline, I shall even refrain from criticising the Government's policy in this matter. In all our minds must be the desire to bring this terrible war and its consequences to an end; and I should like, if I may, to appeal to those who are to follow me in this debate to concentrate on proposals which will bring this war to an end rather than to engage in any utterance that is likely to make that solution more difficult.
Proposals for peace in Nigeria and in the Eastern Region, which now claims the title of Biafra, are definitely on the agenda of international discussions at the present time. There was last week the quite extraordinary vote in the Italian Parliament asking for negotiations in this matter. In the United States of America, Senator Edward Kennedy, leading Senators and Congressmen and representatives from Canada, whom I have met in Washington, are now urging that the American Government should take action to help the cause of peace. Also last week there was the meeting of the representatives of the former French colonies in Africa and Madagascar which declared in favour of initiative to bring peace.
At this moment the Ministerial Council of the Organisation of African Unity is meeting at Addis Ababa to consider what actions can be taken, and their meeting began with a notable declaration by Emperor Haile Selassie in an appeal to end this fratricidal war and settle differences round a table. Then last Sunday night, at Oxford, the most distinguished of Nigerian statesmen, Dr. Azikwe, ex-Governor-General and President, made that remarkable speech in favour of pro-proposals to bring this war to an end. My Lords, it is because I am aware that we are now in a position in which we must speak very carefully about 946 endeavours to bring this war to an end that I shall concentrate to-night entirely on constructive proposals.
As I think Members of this House are aware, Mr. James Griffiths, a former Colonial Secretary in Her Majesty's Government, and I went to both Nigeria and Biafra recently and saw the Heads of State with a view to seeking negotiations to end this war. We put to both General Gowon and Colonel Ojukwu the four proposals which are in my Question: a cease-fire, a peace-keeping force, negotiations for a political settlement and massive relief. Both General Gowon and Colonel Ojukwu acepted all those four proposals in principle. We had 70 minutes with General Gowon and we had 90 minutes with Colonel Ojukwu, publicly and privately. I recognise that there were difficulties on both sides in reaching a solution, and I shall not hide those difficulties to-night because we must be realistic. But I want to say this: that it is the view of Mr. James Griffiths and myself, after those discussions, that it is possible to reach a solution of this problem.
My Lords, let me take the four items in our peace plan together: first, a ceasefire. Colonel Ojukwu indicated to us on behalf of the Biafran administration that he was prepared to accept an immediate cease-fire; that on both sides the forces, where they stood, should cease to engage in conflict; that bombing operations should cease, and that following that immediate cease-fire there should be discussions between the two sides regarding more permanent conditions. It was about these permanent conditions that the first difficulties occurred. Colonel Ojukwu indicated that the Biafran administration would desire that the Nigerian troops should withdraw to the border of the old Eastern Region. We recognised at once that that would not be acceptable. We heard when we went to Lagos the proposal that a peace-keeping force in that area following a cease-fire should be responsible to the existing administrations; that is to say, the area which the Nigerians now control and the area which the Biafran administration now controls. I regard that as a concession on the part of Lagos. It is the first instance I know of in which Lagos has been prepared to accept in any way the suggestion of a recognition of the Biafran administration.
947 My Lords, the second proposal was the setting up of a peace-keeping force. I find it tremendously encouraging that both Nigeria and the Biafran administration were willing to accept a peace-keeping force, following a cease-fire, until a political settlement was reached. There were some differences as to the composition of that peace-keeping force. Biafra would have liked a United Nations peace-keeping force. From other sources on the Biafran side we heard the proposal for a Commonwealth peace-keeping force. Lagos has agreed to a peace-keeping force which would represent Canada, Ethiopia and India. I say very definitely to this House that there would be no difficulty at all in reaching agreement between Nigeria and the Biafran administration as to the composition of that peace-keeping force.
The third proposal was that of negotiations for a political settlement. We both took the view that it is necessary to have a very considerable cooling-off period before the political negotiations begin. Both in Nigeria and in Biafra there is intense emotional bitterness; and that bitterness must cool before there can be a hope of political negotiations that are likely to bring success. This brings me to the essential issue which must be overcome if there is to be a cease-fire or if there is to be peace. It lies in the demands made, before negotiations can begin, on each side: the Biafran administration's demand for the declaration of an independent Republic; and Nigeria's insistence on the union of the Twelve States Constitution which it has introduced. If those two rigid lines are continued on both sides it will be very difficult to bring them together towards a cease-fire. And it is to this issue, because it is the central issue, that I want to devote the major part of my remarks to-night.
My Lords, we found that on both sides there are "hawks" and "doves". We found on the Nigerian side, as we met General Gowan and his Ministers, and we found on the Biafran side (and this often happens in the earlier stages of a war), an intensity of feeling among the ordinary people, suspicious that their leaders might make concessions. I want to say quite definitely to the House that for Colonel Ojukwu, in the present state of public opinion in Biafra, to withdraw 948 publicly the proposal for secession would mean that his power to negotiate would be in jeopardy. We found not only that public opinion was opposed to any kind of association with Nigeria; we found that view held very strongly indeed among the younger Ministers and the younger civil servants. I submit to your Lordships to-night that if we are to find a solution to this problem it must not he by the repudiation of past commitments but in an effort to find a new, positive formula providing a basis for discussion.
When we begin to approach the problem in this way we first have to welcome the fact that on both sides there have recently been signs of greater flexibility. We spoke with Colonel Ojukwu for 20 minutes in public and for 50 minutes in private. During those discussions he did not once mention secession and sovereignty. This attitude on his part was confirmed by the New Year Message which he issued subsequently. These are the words he used:There is a wide area of co-operation of great mutual advantage open to Nigeria and Biafra. Negotiations can cover a wide range of subjects including economic relations and even the possibility of a Commonwealth arrangement.Those who have been in Biafra and know the feeling among ordinary people, that after the massacres of the North and the refugees, and everything else, they do not feel that they can associate with Nigeria any longer, can appreciate the courage of that New Year Message.
Thirdly, my Lords, as an evidence of greater flexibility there was the broadcast which Colonel Ojukwu made last Monday to Canada, in which he used these words:Biafra is willing to negotiate a cease-fire without Biafran sovereignty being a precondition.This advance to flexibility is not only on the Biafran side. It is also on the Nigerian side. Nigeria is no longer insisting, as it did at the beginning, on union on the basis of the twelve States it has established. Even at the Addis Ababa discussions the Federal representatives made proposals which leave open the conditions of association between Biafra and Nigeria. This was their proposal:A constitutional conference to decide the degree of association between the various peoples and tribes of Nigeria.949 During the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference in this country Chief Enaharo, speaking for the Federal Government, repeated this offer, and said that consideration even of confederation, though opposed by the Federal Government, would not be excluded from the discussions. Finally, the book by Chief Awolowo, the leading civilian member of the Federal Council, published only in January by the Oxford University Press, indicates how open it is, and how it is recognised that there is complexity in future discussions about the association of the Nigerian peoples. Chief Awolowo advocates the division of the old Nigeria, not into 12 States but into 17 States, associated on what can best be described as a Commonwealth basis. He even refuses confederation. In that book he makes this extraordinary pronouncement:The so-called Nigerian nationality, which is a complete misnomer as there is no such thing as a Nigerian nation anyway, is a veneer or a façade.The point I am putting to your Lordships is this: that it is now perfectly clear that the future of Nigeria is not just an issue between Nigeria and Biafra; it is far more complex than that. It is an issue of all the peoples, and it is an issue which must be discussed in a constitutional conference between them all.
My Lords, I want to emphasise this very strongly indeed. I recognise that the solution of this problem must be found by Africans. There must be no suspicion that there is imposition by this or any other external country. If we did that, we should be repeating the terms of our old colonialism. The only thing we can contribute is help to bring about negotiations which will give an opportunity for the African peoples themselves to decide the pattern of the future. When we look at that problem, what are the possibilities? When he met Mr. James Griffiths and myself, Colonel Ojukwu defined the objective of Biafra in these terms:A recognition of our nationhood in association with all the peoples of Nigeria.That phrase is not inconsistent with the statement by Chief Awolowo in the book to which I have already referred.
My Lords, the most important thing which I am trying to say is that, in view of these accommodations on both sides 950 towards a common formula, I want to put forward a possible basis for negotiation. I am doing so after consultation not only with both sides, but with members of our own Government and with leading figures in America. The formula I suggest as a basis of peace reads as follows:Agreement for negotiation might be found not on insistence upon or withdrawal from previous positions, but on acceptance of participation in a conference of representatives of all administrations and peoples within the prewar Nigeria to seek a constitutional arrangement in which national aspirations can be harmonised with a political, social and economic association covering all common interests.It is my belief that on a formula of that character the beginning of negotiations between Nigeria and Biafra can take place.
I want next to ask how we can encourage negotiations on such a basis. First, I would urge African initiative. The Ministerial Council of the Organisation of African Unity is now meting in Addis Ababa. The Committee for Peace in Nigeria, which James Griffiths and I represented, has made the proposals to Emperor Haile Selassie that he should become Chairman of a Committee of Three that the other two members should be an African Head of State supporting the Federal side and an African Head of State supporting the Biafran side, and that they should become a Committee of Good Offices for that purpose.
The second proposal which we made is this. We found on both the Biafran and the Nigerian sides that below the top level of the Heads of Government there were highly respected and responsible persons who were seeking a settlement. We have two persons in mind. If they could meet outside Nigeria and Biafra, we believe it would be possible or important preliminary discussions to take place.
Thirdly, there is the proposal of United Nations participation. This has been supported unanimously by the Italian Parliament and by Senator Edward Kennedy and many influential m embers of the Senate and Congress of the United States. The difficulty is that Nigeria is a member State, and the United Nations is supposed to be excluded from intervening in any matters within a member 951 State. I will not develop the point, because I might give an argument to some of my noble friends on the opposite side. The United Nations has intervened in Southern Rhodesia and the United Nations has intervened in South Africa. But I will not press that too far.
What I am going to say is that there are legitimate issues on which the United Nations may intervene. There is no reason whatsoever why the General Assembly of the United Nations should not express the hope that a cease-fire will be achieved and urge the Organisation of African Unity and other African organisations to take action for this purpose—and not merely urge them but offer the services of the United Nations in a peace-keeping force, if that is so desired, and in the supervision of any plebiscites which may take place in disputed areas about their future.
In addition, I am going to ask for the active participation of the United Nations in two directions. The first is in connection with arms supplies. One of the most appalling facts of the present situation is that Africans are killing each other in Nigeria and Biafra with arms supplied by Europe. I find it appalling that Governments, including our own and those of Soviet Russia and of France, should be providing the implements by which this appalling war is carried on and for the profits of arms firms, who do not care a damn whether their arms are supplied to one side or the other so long as profits are made for them. This is one of the most shocking facts of our present civilisation.
There is a great danger now that this war between Nigeria and Biafra will extend from a war between Africans to become a war between Great Powers. Soviet Russia, gaining little influence in Africa outside the U.A.R. and Algeria, is now using the situation to penetrate into Nigeria. We saw the Foreign Secretary and warned him of this danger. He said that Soviet Russia was offering them arms on more generous terms than Great Britain. We warned him of the danger of Nigeria becoming servile to Soviet Russia. He said that they will remain non-aligned. But no one with any knowledge of African conditions can accept for one moment that the Nigerians will be able to agree to arms coming in and 952 yet be able to maintain a self-reliant and independent position.
Britain in conflict with Russia; France on the other side in conflict with both. This war is now becoming a war between the Great Powers, and the victims are the peoples of Nigeria and Biafra, on both sides. In that sense the United Nations has the right to intervene and to decide in favour of an arms embargo, which would prevent arms coming from outside countries to either of the countries engaged in this conflict. I would add that there is a wicked black market arms racket going on in Nigeria and Biafra from European countries. We saw arms from eight different European countries, supplied to both sides, just for profit. We have got the Council of Europe to take action in this matter. It has a resolution before it now applauding what the Swiss Government are doing in putting an embargo on all arms and asking all other European Governments to do so. But it it not only Europe. The United Nations itself should be taking action in this matter. The United Nations should at least be referring it to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva.
The other question on which the United Nations could immediately participate is that of hunger. What has happened and what is likely to happen is a human calamity which overrides national privileges. We have proposed that a conference should be held in Geneva, representing the United Nations agencies, Governments, the International Red Cross and all the relief organisations, to plan efficient relief. That anneal has been strengthened this week by the International Red Cross, which only yesterday said that it would be impossible for voluntary organisations to raise all the funds that are necessary to prevent starvation, and asked Governments to contribute as well.
My Lords, I apologise for speaking so long, but this is a vitally important subject. I have tried to be constructive. I end by a further reference to the need for relief. I want to pay tribute to what both the Nigerian Government and the Biafra administration have done to try to lessen the hunger and starvation. The Federal Government in Calabar; Colonel Ojukwu in Biafra. He has appealed "Every man with a hoe", and has 953 brought forward a plan for cultivation, similar to our own plan for cultivation in this country during the war. I am anxious to refrain from being partisan, but I say that those who suggest that Colonel Ojukwu and the Biafrans are using hunger as part of their political propaganda do not know the efforts which the Biafrans themselves are making to bring about the cultivation which will relieve this situation.
Mr. Griffiths and I saw the hunger. Quite honestly, we were a little surprised. We saw 3,000 children being fed in one centre, and thousands of other children being fed elsewhere. The children were in a better physical condition than we expected. The doctor said to us: "Two months ago these children were skeletons or had protruding stomachs, indicating their diet deficiency". And he added: "In two months' time they will be like that again". The exhaustion of the supply of carbohydrates, not immediately but within two or three months, may create a starvation situation which will be worse than any we have known. This danger is supplemented by the fact that the only means of taking in relief is by the Uli airstrip. That airstrip is not more than a tarmac road. It is in a valley between woods, and I pay my tribute to any pilot who can take down a plane there. As we left, it was being bombed, and we had to wait five or six hours in darkness before our plane could get away. Uli is now being bombed every night, and the one means of relief to starvation is likely to be destroyed.
In this connection, I want to make two constructive proposals. The first is that the offer which has been made of a neutralised airstrip in Biafra, to be used exclusively for relief, under international supervision, should be accepted, and that Governments should aid the relief organisations in contributing to the construction of that neutralised airstrip. The second constructive proposal I want to make is this. Biafra has been criticised because it has not allowed mercy roads for relief. It is now prepared to consider that suggestion, and I make the proposal that the port of Buruta in the Niger Delta, should be used for the relief of both sides. It could be used for the relief of the hunger which still exists in the South-Eastern Regions. Up the River Niger barges of footstuffs could be taken 954 to Obute and then by road into Biafra. If that were done under international supervision it could be achieved without danger.
I do not apologise for speaking so long because I think I have spoken in a constructive and practical way. I end by asking Her Majesty's Government to support these proposals. This war is a human outrage. It is a disaster to Africa. It is a disgrace to Europe, which is supplying the arms. It is a danger to the peace of the world. Let us do what we can to end it.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, before I begin to talk about Nigeria I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, very much for the moving tribute that he paid to a near relative of mine, Lady Asquith, who died only yesterday. I cannot remember a period in my life, which is now a long one, when I did not know Violet Bonham Carter intimately, and I loved her very dearly. I think I should be quite justified in saying on behalf of the family how grateful we are that tribute has been paid to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and I thank him very much indeed.
I intervene for only a short time in this discussion, because I wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and pay tribute to what he and Mr. James Griffiths have done in their efforts to promote some kind of good will between these two warring sections of the great country of Nigeria. Travelling backwards and forwards as they have done, tirelessly interviewing people, even going to the United States, must be a great strain, and I should like to pay a real tribute to what they are ceaselessly trying to do. I pay tribute also to the efforts made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in his Committee to try to bring about some meeting place for both sides (because on the Committee both sides are represented), and also, as he has done to-night and at other times, to see whether we can find some new ground to advance the end of this war.
My interest in Nigeria really stems from quite a long time ago, because it was in 1944 that my late husband was invited by the then Colonial Secretary to head a Royal Commission on Higher 955 Education in what was then known as West Africa, comprising at that time the three Colonies of the Gold Coast, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It was then that I began to take a keen interest in the development of the West African countries (now all independent), and therefore it was with great pride and pleasure that I went as one of the Parliamentary delegates to the Independence Celebrations in Nigeria in 1960. From that moment I have always had a close interest in the development there.
The start was so hopeful and encouraging, with none of the terrible problems of the European versus the African, and so on. Here was a country where one could see that there was no hostility to those Europeans who went out there, of which I was one, and with a long tradition of co-operation with missionaries, teachers and others. It seemed to be an amazingly successful entry of a great nation into independence, without the extraordinary problems which beset so many African countries. It was therefore a terrible tragedy when two years ago this war broke out. It seems to the ordinary person like myself (and this is where I admire the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, so much) who has not been out there since, who receives, as I am sure your Lordships do, almost every week a great amount of propaganda from both sides, that the situation is a total stalemate. The combatants on each side give interviews to people and to the Press, and appear to offer some reasonable views. But when it comes to taking any definite step, no-one will budge. I think the noble Lord, Lord Brockway (and we have listened with great interest to the noble Lord's speech) and Mr. Griffiths got nearer to trying to persuade the two sides to come together than anyone else has done.
I was a trifle depressed when the last piece of propaganda which I received, this time from United Nigeria, had as its first headline: "No cease-fire." It is very depressing and gloomy for those of us who do not want to take sides. I am like the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in not wanting to take sides with anybody. But I am deeply distressed, and most anxious that every effort should be made to stop the fighting. So far the African approach, the approach through Emperor 956 Haile Selassie, has also come to a dead stop. I was encouraged to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, say that he had reason to suppose that there might be a possibility of an advance on those lines. I agree with him, that if this matter can be solved by Africans in Africa it will be very much better than if anyone else intervenes.
I was enormously interested in the meeting, which was well reported in the Press, I think on Monday, which the late Governor, Doctor Azikwe, attended in Oxford, where clearly students of both sides were present. As was reported, a great number of African students were there. They were not all either Federal Government supporters or Biafran supporters: they were in fact a mixed audience. Apparently this was a most interesting and, according to the newspapers at any rate, a very well behaved meeting, and discussion was sustained without anybody resorting either to violence or to any other behaviour which we are used to nowadays in public meetings.
It seems to me—and I speak very humbly because I am not at the moment closely associated with either side; but I read all the propaganda that comes out—that the only hope lies in trying to obtain help from people on both sides who so far have not come out into the open and been party to negotiations that have broken down. It sounds rather a strange thing to say, but I well remember the position in 1960 when very distinguished people were available—lawyers, educationists, university people, people who must have been there at least in some numbers but who have not been reported in the public Press as being opposed to each other in any military sense at all. I am sure that Lord Brockway is right in saying that there are "doves" and "hawks" among the civilian population. I am sure there must be "doves" among the civilian population on both sides; and it is to them that I should like some approach to be made. There are many churchmen of great distinction, African churchmen; there are lawyers; there are people connected with universities, and so on. There are businessmen who might well be willing, in the interest of peace, to try to start some talks with different people on both sides. I suggest that these people should 957 be approached, rather than always the same people, who we know perfectly well are fighting, or purporting to fight, to the death on this particular subject.
I was very much interested in the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that we might try to find some other formula in order to start negotiations. It seems that there are possibilities if a different nomenclature can be used when describing things in this connection. I always think that words can become terrible obstacles. Certain words are tremendously emotive: "secession"; "rebellion"; "military activities of one kind and another". These are very emotive words. If only one could get around a table and talk about federation or confederation! Apparently Colonel Ojukwu in talking to Lord Brockway never mentioned the question of secession at all. Perhaps, if given the opportunity, the State might well go into a confederation, or whatever came out of such discussions; because it seems that there is no absolutely hard and fast pattern on which people are being asked to come in. There seems to be some latitude for further discussion. But it is extremely difficult to find out how to start those discussions. I cannot help feeling that it is not beyond the wit of man to find some formula, other than the harsh words that have been bandied about so much, in order to try to see whether a truce could take place, and talks begin.
People here in this country, I find, are beginning to think that everything is hopeless, and they are even losing interest, in the sense that they say, "Well, it is useless. Nothing can be done." This attitude seems to me enormously dangerous. It is not being said in other countries of Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has mentioned and as one has read in the newspapers. I think that the Prime Minister, when he was in Bonn or Berlin, suddenly found himself in a great mob of people all violently taking the part of one side or the other concerning the Nigerian war. I feel that it will be a most tragic thing if we cannot keep the interest of people of this country in trying to help in every possible way to open some new approach to these problems.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and Mr. Griffiths seem to me to have been the only two people who managed to 958 see and to talk to both sides. I have heard quite a number of people talking about their discussions with the Federal side, with General Gowon and his side. I listened with great interest to Major-General Alexander yesterday speaking to a group in the House of Commons. Of course, he never went to the Biafrans; he could not get there. He was one of the observers. The observers have put out an extremely interesting interim report on their visit to the Third Marine Commando Division. I have no doubt that everything that appears in this document, and everything I heard from Field-Marshal Alexander, is absolutely true in every sense; but it does not gel us very far.
My plea to-night to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who has been most patient and has endeavoured to do all he can to bring about a cease-fire, is that we should try to see whether we cannot get some other people to talk to them—not the people whom everybody has been talking to all the time, but some fresh faces, some fresh people, who are influential, as I am quite sure many are. I do not like to mention any names because, as I say, one is rather out of date in this connection, but I re member clearly in 1960 the number of remarkable people in other professions who were there. At that time, one saw very little of the military, but there were enormously interesting and very important people of great legal and other distinctions. If only one could get through to them and try to get another group of people on each side dealing with this question, I believe that some of the matters of which Lord Brockway has spoken and which he personally saw might begin to be affected. My Lords, I beg the Government (to use a very hackneyed phrase) not to leave any stone unturned, and also to turn over a few new ones, because I think that those which have been tried for so long are not going to get us very far.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I should like, if I may, to pay my tribute to the noble Baroness, the late Lady Asquith of Yarnbury, whom we lost so tragically yesterday. Like the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I feel that she would have been here to-day, feeling so deeply as she did about this issue. I did not know 959 the noble Baroness very well, but I remember that she once approached me—in 1938, when I was a very young Socialist—and said that a certain gentleman named Mr. Winston Churchill wanted to see me; and I replied, being a very Left Wing young Socialist, that I would not go and sit down with the class enemy. To which she said: "Don't be silly, I will box your ears. He just wants to talk to you." So I went, and we talked; and I kept in touch, on and off, with Lady Asquith, and had great pleasure in seeing her join your Lordships' House a few years ago. She was a woman of great talent and deep humanity, and a great human being. She will be sadly missed.
I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, made a most moving, logical and clear analysis of the situation and put forward some well-based arguments in favour of a settlement along the lines indicated in his Question. I should like to lend my full support to all that he has said. I do not propose to detain your Lordships long. I cannot promise to show the same discipline and restraint as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, did in his remarks (although I shall try to do so), because I find it impossible on this issue not to be partisan. The one thing that makes me doubtful about the situation and about these proposals—which, after all, are directed towards Her Majesty's Government—is the thought that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in the last two years has been developed in such a way as, in my view, almost totally to destroy the possibility that they might have any influence in bringing about peace talks in this new and flexible situation. I hope that this is not so, but I am very much afraid that it may be.
I ask myself in this connection two questions, and this is perhaps where my partisanship emerges. The first question is this: why does Biafra continue to fight on? Despite her huge losses, despite her frightening sacrifices, despite all this terror, why does she continue to fight on? Why has there never been one single, solitary hint of surrender? There are perhaps those indications of flexibility mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, but never one hint of surrender in spite of all that has been going on.
960 If we are to judge from some correspondents and some politicians it would seem simply that the Biafran leaders are just being stupid and obstinate and rather awkward; that in fact the Biafran people are being misled by their leaders, and that Biafra is responsible for its own plight because it refuses to see reason and give up the struggle. It would be a simple matter in international affairs (for us, if not for them) if all small nations and all small races stopped demanding some degree of independence, some right to self-government and self-determination. What a lot of suffering would have been saved in the past if the Irish had only been sensible boys and been content to let themselves be ruled for ever by the English! And how much more convenient and less awkward it would have been for our Governments in the past, and how much better to-day, if the Scots and the Welsh were to knuckle under and renounce any claim to self-government and greater authority in their own affairs! It would be much more comfortable, my Lords, but would it be right? It is in the nature of people to want to decide their own destiny, and the strange paradox is that the more national and the more independent a nation becomes, the more interdependent it becomes, and that in fact federation grows on the basis of equality and not of inequality. Federations and commonwealths cannot be imposed by force; they can be composed only of equal partners.
My Lords, as a Socialist and a lifelong member of the Labour movement, I took it always to be one of our fundamental principles that all races and all nations should have the inalienable right to self-determination, to be free and independent. There can be no doubt on this, surely. Therefore, not only should we support any people which seeks its independence; we should resist those who seek to frustrate or crush that freedom. We may sometimes think, in our greater Western wisdom, that the seeking of complete independence is misguided or ill-timed; but that is no affair of ours. It makes no difference. It sometimes looks stupid when some of these tiny West Indian islands demand independence. We should support them. They will learn soon enough, and it is their affair. We have no right to impose any other solution 961 on them, or on anybody else. It is not for us to decide—it is as simple as that.
Personally, I do not think the action of Biafra in declaring independence was misguided or ill-timed. In my view, and I think it is supported by the facts, they had no other choice. I do not want to rake up the past, but it was literally a situation of "Get out or die". When a million and a half people flee from their homes to another region there must be a very good reason.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, would my noble friend permit me to interrupt? I am interested in his argument about national destiny and national rights, but could he explain to me, and to the House, what is the Biafran nation? What is it made up of, and what are the various tribes involved? He has referred to the sufferings and massacres that took place. These were of Ibos, but as I think my noble friend will know—at least I think he does—Biafra, as we understand it, is one of many nations, apart from the Ibos.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for answering his own question. I was referring particularly to the Ibo people, as I believe he knows, and it was a million and a half Ibo people who fled to the Biafra region. It is not only the Ibo people who are there but it is the Ibo people with many other races. As we all know, and as the noble Lord is aware, Nigeria itself is an imperial rag-bag. It was a handy piece of shaking out. It never was a nation before, as one, and the frontiers that we left there were untidy. It was merely an imperial concept. The fact is that the Ibos are in the leadership and they are leading many other races in this area which they call "Biafra", and, as I indicated earlier, there must be some good reason why all those races have stuck together in spite of their suffering, and still demand secession and the creation of an independent Biafra.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? May I say from personal knowledge that what he has just said is absolutely false and untrue. He speaks of the Ibos and the 962 other tribes in what they have named "Biafra"—incidentally there never was such a country as Biafra; it is a name given to cover up certain things, but these other tribes have disliked the Ibos and for 25 years have been begging to be freed from Ibo domination. Many of them were slaughtered by Ojukwu because they refused to fight with him against the Federal Government, and when the Federal forces came into that country and took charge, most of the young men voted readily to join the Federal army.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his speech. The fact is that they hate each other so much in this particular territory called Biafra that they are still prepared to fight and die together. I think the noble Lord must be aware that the Biafran administration has offered a plebiscite to all the peoples in the region of Biafra which would guarantee equality before the law. I think that at this point to rake up the tribal differences in Biafra, when in fact they are a united force fighting against the Federal Government, is a little out of the question. The fact is that they are fighting on; there has not been one whisper of surrender. It is all very well for the noble Lord to smile, but they are fighting on, at some considerable sacrifice in lives and in other things. 1f your Lordships can find a better reason why these people should fight on than that they really want to decide their own destiny in their own way, I should like to hear it.
The second question we have to ask ourselves is this. Why is it that the British Government, a Labour Government—and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, touched very movingly on this—continues to supply arms and allows arms to be supplied to one side in particular in this conflict, and this in spite of the resolution which was passed by acclamation at the Labour Party Conference, supported by the National Executive which includes many influential members of the Government? It is baffling in terms of the personalities involved. I know them to be Socialists; I know that they are warm-hearted people who believe in the independence of nations and hate war and suffering as much as anyone. Why do they allow this policy to continue?
963 We are told, first, that if we do not supply arms to Nigeria someone else will; and, secondly, that by supplying arms and giving support to the central Government we maintain a position of influence at the centre of affairs—that old story of a place at the top table. These are pretty feeble and weak-kneed excuses, and I think that the Ministers who have to make them feel that as much as I do. As for the argument that if we do not supply arms someone else will, the only honest answer to that is, "So what?" Let our hands at least be clean in this matter. We made a great virtue out of our stand on arms to South Africa. Do we believe in making a stand on some moral issues and not on others? Do we believe not only in a mixed economy but a mixed morality?
It is said that we maintain a position of influence by this policy. Do we seriously? Certainly not if you look at some of the central Government newspapers, where Britain is quite often under attack. What has our influence achieved in two years? Has it shortened the war, saved lives, brought peace nearer? There is no evidence of it. So why do the Government continue with a policy which is against the principles and expressed wishes of the movement that supports it and which has clearly failed? One can only conclude that their aims are dictated by reasons of which we have not been told and which one can only guess at. And if part of those reasons arises out of the aim of countering Russian influence in Africa and controlling an alternative supply of oil to the Middle East, we have not met with much success in that old imperial tack either, because the Federal Government has increasingly turned to Russia for military supplies and capital for industrial expansion.
Whatever the reason, our policy has been miscalculated, it has been wrong in principle and, above all, it has been unsuccessful. The Federal Government and its supporters laugh at us and the Biafrans hate us. Perhaps it is futile to ask the Government at this late stage to turn in their tracks, but I believe that in reality it is never too late, and I believe the proposals put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, offer a reasonable basis for coming together. Colonel Ojukwu has appealed to the Nor- 964 dic Prime Ministers to use their influence to effect a truce. We could support the suggestions put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and the other suggestion made the other day that Biafra be given an interim status pending negotiations.
We could do all this and do it with some sincerity and some strength if, above all, we took a stand on these other issues and we led the way, together with the Swiss, in putting an immediate embargo on any further arms to that area. That seems to me the one prerequisite for Britain regaining its influence in this matter and in this area. There is no Minister in this entire House that I admire and respect more than my noble friend Lord Shepherd. I know, too, how much he has worked to try to understand this issue and bring about a solution, but I think that he has been in difficulties because he has had to operate on the basis of false premises. I ask him now to give the closest consideration to what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said so that, after two years at least, we can emerge with some credit from this horrible conflict and play some part in bringing about peace.
§ 6.5 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, should like to follow other noble Lords in paying a tribute to Lady Asquith. The first occasion on which I ever encountered her and heard her speak was when she came to my school, where her son was also being educated. She came to take part in a debating society, and I was injudicious enough to disagree with something she said. I cannot remember what the disagreement was or what her reply was. I can only remember the effect that it had on me because she did indeed squash one verbally, but so courteously and delicately. I never dared cross swords with her again. She was a very great figure and will be greatly missed.
I rise to take part in this discussion basically because my interest in Nigeria emanated from a Parliamentary delegation on which I was fortunate enough to go in 1965. For some three weeks we were taken over the country and enjoyed enormously seeing the country and meeting the people there. Indeed, I well remember the Sardauna of Sokoto who was such a resplendent figure, and to whom I sat next at dinner one night, saying to 965 me that it was safer to be in the northern region of Nigeria than in London. The statistics show that there is less chance or likelihood of getting a knife in your back in the northern region of Nigeria than in London, and I found that a pretty impressive thing to be told. It was, sadly enough, only six weeks later that the whole place blew up into the turmoil we have all witnessed. At that time the cauldron, as it were, was simmering, but I do not think anybody had the slightest idea that it would result in this kind of upset. I, like everyone else, have been horrified by the war that has continued and still continues in Nigeria. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, it seems to me extraordinary that no solution can apparently be found to it.
I sympathise with the Government and with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, over the Government's difficulties because they fall between the two stools; on the one side they are cursed for not doing more to end the war and on the other side they are cursed for doing too much, and it is a very difficult line on which to go. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on what I would consider to be the calm, firm and fair attitude which the Government have taken over a very difficult situation.
We have heard a great deal about Biafra, about the tragedies, the atrocities and the conditions that occur there. Nobody could but be moved by what they have heard. Indeed, there has been a very great deal of world sympathy declared on behalf of Biafra. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Willis, this afternoon make out a very plausible case for it. But I think that most people would agree that a great deal of what might be described as the pro-Biafra feeling has been the result of an excellent example of a very aggressive effort in public relations by a firm in Switzerland called Mark-press. I do not suppose there is one noble Lord in this House who has not been bombarded consistently with reports from this firm. It has been an exercise in public relations which has paid off.
However, we ought to remember one or two things, and I will try to put my points of disagreement with the noble, Lord, Lord Willis, as delicately as I may. I think one should remember, first, that what has happened is in fact a rebellion, 966 not just of, by, or for a tribe, but one which has been generated by tribal conditions. It is also important to remember that the territory claimed by Biafra covers the non-Ibo areas of Nigeria as well as the oil and mineral rights which Colonel Ojukwu hopes to gain for Biafra by military action. We, in Britain, have, of course, a natural sympathy—one always has—for what appears to be the "underdog", hut I think one ought to et away from the feeling so often generated that here we have an enslaved Biafra which is almost persecuted by a monolithic Federal Government, because I do not believe that that is the fact.
The Government have been blamed for allowing arms to go to Nigeria. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, blamed the Government, and so did the noble Lord, Lord Willis. I can understand their reasons and I can understand their feelings. I think everyone would prefer this not to happen. But I do not believe that it is a practical solution to the problem to say that the Government should prevent arms from going to Nigeria. The only practical way for this to happen is for arms both to Nigeria and to Biafra to be stopped. If we were to stop them, I think there is no use saying that the other countries—such as Russia and France—who are at the moment engaged in sending arms, would also stop, and do not believe that in fact this move would achieve the desired objective. If other countries did not follow suit, we should not have achieved what we set out to achieve, and, worse still, we should have incurred the odium of many other countries, including the Federal Government of Nigeria, for two reasons: first, because it would be wrong to remove arms from a fellow-member of the Commonwealth at a time when it was under serious pressure from a minority; secondly, because if we did, it would be tantamount to accepting the claims and the methods of secession of the minority. This would have serious repercussions against Britain, both from Nigeria and from other countries in West Agrica, many of whom also have problems of minority political groups.
We have also heard much—not so much to-day—in Press reports and so forth of the starvation and deaths that are taking place in Nigeria. These reports, of 967 course, are wildly exaggerated. My information, from people who have been there, is that they are grossly exaggerated. I think it is only right to point out at the outset that there is no sign whatsoever of the genocide which was attributed to the Federal Government on many occasions some time ago. In fact, there are Ibos living and working on the western side of the River Niger—which is occupied by Federal troops—in perfect peace and harmony. There is no sign whatsoever of a deliberate blockade, or deliberate starvation. My information is that there is no shortage of basic foodstuffs. There is, however, some malnutrition by virtue of there being a shortage of proteins. Again, this is a terrible thing, but it is not unique to Nigeria. It has happened before this trouble ever started, and there always was malnutrition.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? I am wondering whether the noble Lord saw the film on television some months ago about the starvation in Biafra? Is he suggesting that in fact those skeleton-like children that we saw, and who really looked like something out of Buchenwald or Dachau, were roped together for the occasion? That was not malnutrition; that was something a lot worse.
My Lords, if the noble Lord would contain himself a little longer, he might be able to find the answer to some of the questions he posed. He did pose one: whether I saw the television programmes. I have seen some of them and I think it is generally agreed that almost all the television programmes that have been produced have not been unbiased. There is a certain amount of malnutrition, but this always was the case. There are some sisters in hospitals there who claim that in fact the degree of malnutrition has gone up by about 25 to 50 per cent., but that the hospitals have ample food and medical supplies. Where the starvation occurs, I believe—and I hope that I shall be able to carry the noble Lord with me here—it is not so much as a result of deliberate action by the Federal troops but because of the fact that the ordinary people in the towns and the villages are terrified of war, and when they hear the noises of war, the 968 guns and so forth, coming up the roads, they then flee into the bush until the trouble is over. It is whilst they are in the bush that they suffer both malnutrition and starvation. The difficulty is to get them out of the bush. The one thing that they are frightened of is soldiers, because they are the signs of war. Now, how do you get them out of the bush? If you send the soldiers in to get them out of the bush all you do is drive them further in; and I believe that that is where the problem of starvation really comes.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl would allow me to speak for a moment, I am perfectly sure the noble Earl is speaking with sincerity, but honestly I do not believe there is a single person who has been to Biafra within the last three months who would for one moment endorse the picture he has been giving. The danger of starvation there is not so much in the absence of proteins—which now the relief organisations are very largely bringing in—but in the exhaustion of locally-grown carbohydrates. While the situation is, as I said in my speech, far better now than it was two months ago, the very great danger in two or three months' time is that there will be greater hunger and starvation than ever before.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for putting that point of view, because I know he also speaks with great sincerity. The point I was trying to make was that I do not believe that the starvation that there is is a deliberate act of war policy but is the result of war. My information is that as the Federal troops have been moving along they have found very much more food than they had expected; that the real danger of starvation is the fear that these farmers and people who till the lands will stay in the bush for such long periods that they will not come out in time to sow the current season's crop, and that the time when starvation may become a real problem will be towards the latter part of the year. However, I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, would give some indication, when he comes to reply, of exactly what the position is, because we have very conflicting views, as indeed we have heard this evening; on the one hand of terrible starvation, and on the other hand 969 of the situation being not quite as bad as it is sometimes indicated to be.
The difficulty arises over the question how can Her Majesty's Government help in this matter. I believe it is wrong for them to be blackguarded for supporting the Federal Government against a rebellion. Over this I entirely disagee with the noble Lords opposite. I think the best way is to try to help to influence those who are in positions of authority out there. They are in the difficult position of, on the one hand, appearing to be the old colonial Power, trying to say the way that things ought to go, and on the other, finding themselves in the position of saying, "This is your problem, not ours. We must leave it to you."
My Lords, my noble friend says "out there". But ought not the business to start in Paris? That is the first place to make representations, because, surely, but for French support this war would have been over a long time ago.
My Lords, that is one place where they could have a shot at it, but I hope that they would not confine their efforts to Paris. I believe that, somehow or other, they have to find a way to get Colonel Ojukwu out of a very difficult position, because, clearly, the longer this war goes on the longer will he prolong the agony of the people. The use of mercy corridors should be encouraged. I believe that General Gowon has now agreed to allow mercy land corridors to be used, but I understand that Colonel Ojukwu is frightened of doing this for fear that the first lorry-load may be full of penicillin and the next full of war-like materials. If General Gowon has agreed to the use of these mercy corridors, I hope that it may be possible for some form of international inspection teams to be arranged, so that it can be clear to all sides that it is medical and food supplies, rather than materials of war, that are going through.
General Gowon has said more than once that he is prepared to negotiate on anything and everything except the precondition of a demand for secession. If it were possible to persuade Colonel Ojukwu to come to the table and discuss the whole problem, without his first say- 970 ing, "The only condition on which I will come is if I can be certain of an agreement on secession", then at least one would have achieved the objective of getting round the table and stopping the war. I do not believe that the problem is at all easy, and I greatly sympathise with Her Majesty's Government who are in a very difficult position. But I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will see that, in the end, patience and perseverance will prove to be successful.
§ 6.24 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I should like from these Benches to speak briefly, partly to acknowledge, with great gratitude, the gallant initiatives which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and others have taken, and have persisted in taking, on this issue, and partly also to say that such further initiative which our own Government can take should have behind it the fullest possible weight of public opinion and also, indeed, following upon the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, public criticism.
The terms of the Question put down by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, refer to the "massive relief of starvation" This is easily said but not so easily calculated upon. I should like briefly to remind the House of what can be done, and has been done, by voluntary imitative in terms of relief. Many of the relief societies in this country are too familiar for me to need to refer to them. The present crisis has brought to our knowledge societies which are operating on a far larger scale as Christian bodies—such as "Caritas", which is a Roman Catholic initiative; the Scandinavian initiative, Nor Church Aid, and the World Council of Churches, which has from an incredible number of different sources throughout the world channelled aid into this field, and other bodies which are undertaking work in Nigeria and Biafra. What is remarkable about this fine effort is its scale. The World Council of Churches in the current period has channelled through other £1½bodies million, which sum has come to it through its own giving.
It is still more remarkable to reflect that the provision of relief at present is not merely a question of procuring supplies, but also a matter of getting them there. There are immense communication 971 barriers and frontier resistance to be overcome. The noble Lord reminded us of the night flights carrying drugs and supplies of food to the bombed airstrip at Uli, and elsewhere and the kinds of dangers which are run by individual volunteers. To quote one example, the Christian relief body, Nor Church Aid has reckoned that by October last it had completed 500 flights in hazardous night journeys and had delivered over 4,800 tons of relief supplies. One is thankful to say that this year this process has been stepped up through the provision of larger aircraft partly due to the generosity of the United States. This has meant that in the month of January alone, 1,100 flights have taken place, and 7,000 tons of supplies have been delivered through Fernando Po and 10,000 tons through Sao Tome. This process has brought together a number of different societies who are now organised as one joint Church organisation so that there is no danger of overlapping and they can share together.
I refer to this matter because it relates to what must be a stage ahead of us, and that is the stage of reconstruction. This is easily said, but is it so easily achieved? The mounting aid which voluntary bodies have given is little enough in comparison with the need, but at least it represents a degree of international concern and co-operation which argues that behind anything that can transpire out of new initiatives will be a vast body of international support from people of good will. People cannot contribute as they have done and not want to see it brought to a proper conclusion. What is most disheartening in this effort is the thought that at this stage, in many cases, it is only averting, or at least postponing, disaster and is not itself paving the way to the kind of reconstruction that we want to see. At least there would be the assurance of great support for any massive programmes of reconstruction which could be made possible once the earliest stages have been surmounted.
There are two spectres which haunt those who are at present engaged in trying to alleviate existing suffering. The first is the scale of the suffering involved, and the fact that it inevitably falls hardest on women and children and non-combatants. We certainly need to know the facts, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, 972 has said. It is equally true that it is no good service to the community if the situation is exaggerated or if, in order to obtain immediate response or support, the picture is overpainted or statistics are quoted wrongly. That has happened in some cases, and the result is a reaction the other way. People are then tempted to say, "It is not half as bad as you think. The situation is getting better and we can relax again." We need the facts, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will give us what he can of them. I also hope that we shall be continually reminded of what is happening.
It is bad enough if we think that the deaths so far are to be reckoned in hundreds of thousands rather than in millions. A spectre which haunts the relief societies at present is the question of whether they can act soon enough whether, unless something can be achieved in the way of a break-through of supplies and, still more, of a ceasefire, so much of their work will be undone. Whatever may have been the alleviation at the end of last year, the next two or three months will be a very serious time indeed, with proteins and carbohydrates in short supply and no harvest yet to compensate for them. So we look for some sign of at least a little break-through to avert any further disaster.
The second spectre which might haunt those who are attempting to alleviate the present situation is the recognition that this is, in a sense, not a civil war as such but something for which humanity itself is to some extent on trial. When it comes to the point—and, pray God! it comes soon—when a cease-fire can be arranged, a long haul of reconciliation has to take place in Nigeria. It will not be a question of winning or losing, for in that case the tension will only be prolonged. There will have to be an effort to bring together peoples whom civil war has embittered, as all civil wars embitter in a way that nothing else does. I remember that last summer, when the Anglican Bishops met at Lambeth, we had together indigenous Bishops from Nigeria—from the Federal side and from Biafra. It was with the greatest difficulty indeed, for all their good will, that they could be brought to sit around the table 973 and even to draw up the simplest and most harmless statement commending the whole cause to the rest of the Church.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, mentioned earlier, we have to build upon people, individuals as well as groups of people, as well as make formal national agreements if some kind of reconciliation is to be built up. The settlement must conic from within and it must, indeed, be an African settlement. But that can happen only if nations round about are not endeavouring to project their own rivalries and animosities upon it. Some of the strictures are highly justified. The tragedy in Nigeria is largely a tragedy of our own contemporary world in which strife within countries, or between them, if not engendered by other nations is at least stimulated and prolonged by international rivalries, by the arms competition, or by economic or ideological tensions between them.
This is our situation and it is not just a situation in Nigeria. It may be that those who see the suffering at close hand see most clearly that, in a sense, our international community is on trial and not just one single group of nations in West Africa. It is for that reason above all that we press upon our Government these questions about what further initiatives they are prepared, or see it possible, to take. We have very special links with West Africa which give us an opportunity, and also bring us into a position of judgment before the world unless we are using those links to the full. To so many of us, this is not a political issue within Nigeria. It is a kind of moral issue with which we are all faced, and it will be a moral issue for our own country if any of our own considerations are allowed to go in front of any solution which could bring to an end this unhappy tragedy and give us our chance of remedying it.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I did not put my name down to speak in this debate, and I had no intention of speaking, because I feel that an Unstarred Question is not really a suitable peg on which to hang a debate which ranges over every conceivable aspect of a subject. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, really wants to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, 974 at the end of this debate, but he betrayed no symptoms of it, spending such a long time in enunciating his own views. Apparently what he wanted was to impose those views upon the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and I sincerely hope that he will have no success in that.
It is very easy, when you are discussing a question, to cover with waves of sentiment certain bedrock facts. It is only when a student watches until those waves of sentiment have subsided a little that he realises that those bedrock facts are still there and have not been affected by those waves in the slightest degree. I speak, unhandicapped, from considerable and intimate knowledge of Nigeria and its history over the last 25 years, and I am sure of one thing; that is, that the Government must be far better qualified than, say, I am, and they do not really need our advice in a very difficult situation.
We all regret the suffering in Nigeria, but that does not mean that when the Government are obviously engaged in a very delicate position and are endeavouring to use such influence as an outside State possesses over what is, after all, an independent and Sovereign State, we should constantly try to force them to make public statements on a subject. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has kept us in full possession of all that it is desirable or possible for him to communicate, and I suggest that it was really not necessary to ask him to go over all these matters again.
Having said that, there are just two matters that I cannot possibly pass without comment. One is in regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said about Biafra. After all, Biafra itself is a lie. It is an invented name to cover the fact that the Ibo leader there wants to embody the minority tribes—the 7 million Ibos, and the 5 million others who do not like the Ibos and do not wish to be dominated by them. I am not going into this question; I merely note it in passing. It has been suggested that this is a question for the United Nations, but its record is not very impressive, and when I look at the individual members of it I must ask: who are they to dictate to Nigeria about what it should do in its internal affairs, apart from the rules of their own Organisation?
975 There is one other point of which I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Willis. There are 20,000 Ibos living happily in Lagos to-day and working with the Federal Government. General Gowon has kept unmolested in Kaduna the houses of prominent Ibos. Many of them fled, but they were ordered by Ojukwu to go back when this rebellion started because he hoped to paralyse the Federal Government by withdrawing all of them from the other parts of Nigeria. But General Gowan is keeping those houses unmolested in case those people can be persuaded to return. My Lords, what is said is just not true. To begin with, the Ibos (or the Biafrans, as they call themselves, though there is no such nation) are a tribe of, as I have said, about 7 million people, and over the last thirty years many of them have desired to dominate the 50-odd millions of the rest of Nigeria.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? I do not want to rake up old history—one does not like doing so—but I really cannot let this pass. The whole tenor of the noble Lord's speech so far is that all is sweetness and light in regard to the Ibo people. Does he deny that there were, in fact, for whatever reasons—and I am not saying the Ibo people are entirely blameless—the most fearful massacres of Ibo people in the other regions?
§ LORD MILVERTON
I should deny the reckless use of that adjective. There were massacres, which are always fearful; but the noble Lord should study the history of Nigeria. Before there was any of these massacres it was the young Ibo officers of the Army who started the first rebellion and who murdered the Federal Prime Minister and various other leaders. I do not want to go into all that history, but the noble Lord really should not make these statements. If he wants to know about Nigeria, he should trace the origin of certain events and how they happened. But I do not want to waste the time of the House by going into that now.
There are a lot of things I could say that I have in the notes that I have made, but I will not delay the House any longer, other than to remind your Lord- 976 ships that recently the High Commissioner in London, Brigadier Ogundipe, informed us that about a year ago, when he was advised by various people here that he ought to do something about the flood of propaganda in favour of the so-called Biafrans and ought to engage some public relations firm of equal standing to take up the Federal cause, received from General Gowan in reply an emphatic negative. General Gowan said: "I was trained in the British tradition, and I believe that in the end the truth will prevail. I do not want any public relations firm to help me to do this." My Lords, events have moved in the direction of showing that, noble as those sentiments are, apparently in the wicked world as it is to-day if you want to battle with highly-skilled perversions of the truth you must engage people who are trained in that technique.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, I understand that most noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have paid tribute to the late Lady Asquith. May I therefore, very briefly and very modestly, add my own tribute by saying that although I did not know her personally. I always admired her speeches, and we all regret, I am sure, that she will no longer grace—and I use that word deliberately—the Benches of the Liberal Party. On some occasions in my youth I heard her distinguished father, and whenever she spoke I felt she was an echo of that great man. We all deplore her passing.
As to the subject we are discussing to-day, frankly, my Lords, when I saw the Motion down on the Order Paper I wondered whether to intervene or not and on the whole concluded that I could really serve no useful purpose, for we know all the facts and nothing that has been said to-day has really added to them. I was fearful lest anything I or others might say would involve us in recrimination and criticism, rather than the constructive proposals to which Lord Brockway quite rightly addressed himself in the major part of his speech. Unfortunately, we have had bits of criticism and recrimination, and I do not propose to add to them. I think it would be deplorable if, at this juncture, we indulged in such things; and I am indebted to Lord Brockway for spending 977 most of his time talking compassionately, objectively and constructively. I am sure it is the approach we desire and need at the present time.
We could spend a great deal of our time replying to one another and dealing with the various statements that have been made—modifying them, qualifying them or exposing them; for we are all sincere in this matter. When the noble Lord opposite recognised the sincerity of the opener of this debate, I am sure he at the same time realised that all who participate in this debate, even if they keep silent, ate just as sincere and compassionate. Sometimes we have to impose on ourselves a self-denying ordinance because we believe this is the best contribution we can make. But, if I may just briefly refer to Lord Willis, may I say that I could indeed analyse the situation very differently from the way he has done it this afternoon. I do not propose to develop that at all, but I just say it with some knowledge of the situation, having read all I could about it and having some appreciation of the historical background to which the noble Lord opposite referred just now and which I believe is very necessary if one is to understand the present situation.
My own conclusions are not identical with those of the noble Lord behind me. I say that very briefly and, I hope, non-provocatively. For instance, when reference was made to the fact that Nigeria was not a nation, or words to that effect, I would say that at one time it was not a nation—of course it was not. As I have said before in this House, we owe it largely to Lord Lugard, who made that nation. The noble Lord opposite referred to the fact that "Biafra" is an invented name. That is perfectly true; but, then, "Nigeria" was also. So I do not take that to be of any great importance. The names of all new nations are more or less invented. "Pakistan" is a case in point—an entirely artificial name formed from the initials of predominantly Moslem States. So I will let that go by.
All I will say, however, is that Lord Lugard helped to make the nation, as the noble Lord opposite knows full well—and all credit to him, because there was no nation before then. At some point the various nomadic or settled tribes—and there were many of them—would 978 have had to come to the point where they tried to composite themselves into a nation, as they have tried to do elsewhere. But the significant fact about Nigeria is that Ibos, Fulanis, Ibibios, Efiks, Hausas and Yorubas all together accepted the national unit of Nigeria. It was on that basis that they accepted independence: it was on that basis that they acclaimed, in the independence celebrations and afterwards, that they would build up an exemplary nation for the whole of Africa and the whole of the world to see.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Would he add that in 1960, when they became independent, this question of secession arose, and all the representatives of the whole of Nigeria agreed, without any exception—and among the signatories was Dr. Azikwe—that there should be no right of secession?
§ LORD SORENSEN
Yes, That was implicit in my statement, and I entirely agree with the noble Lord. Some of us are a little familiar with past history, although I am very glad that we have been reminded of the fact to which the noble Lord has alluded. All I am trying to say now is that here is one issue on which we could debate for a long time, as to whether Nigeria is a valid nation or not. All I can say is that there are points on both sides, but it is a nation, and we ought to be doing all we possibly can to integrate that nation. That, I am sure, is the desire of all who have taken part in the debate to-day.
The second thing I should like to say is this. On all these issues one could, of course, take one side and make out that the other side is all black while the side we support is all white; or say that there are greys and shades of grey in between. Or we might try, rather evasively, to withdraw from the situation and say desperately that there are faults on both sides; that it is six of one and half a dozen of another. I do not attempt to do that. In many situations it is not as simple as that. Sometimes it is a case of nine of one and three of another, or vice versa; but I do not want to be involved in that argument now because. I think it would be of no particular value. I would remind the House again that a very powerful case can be built up for 979 each side and that we could this afternoon spend a great deal of time expounding the reasons why we take one side or the other; but I think it would be futile, and worse than futile, at this juncture.
The third factor is that undoubtedly there has been grave malnutrition in Nigeria. But whose fault is it? Whatever criticism one may apply to the Federal Government, one cannot blame the Federal Government for it. The malnutrition among children, many of whom unfortunately have died, has been due to the fact that for a time there was a contraction of the area called Biafra and that certain kinds of food were not getting in. There was a rush into the bush of many of the tribes; so to some extent there was very grave malnutrition, amounting almost to starvation. But this, my Lords, is one of the consequences of war. I am sure that Colonel Ojukwu himself appreciated the dangers in this respect when he advanced so near to Lagos. Had he reached there, it might have been possible for him to seize power and the whole story would have been different.
But, apart from that. I should like the House to realise at this juncture that we must have confidence that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and others like him, have been doing all they can, with as much sincerity and passion as anyone else in this House, to try to bring the dissident groups together. I have absolute confidence in him, not because I am a supporter of the Government but because I know that his nature is as compassionate as my own and that he grieves over the plight of the African children and of their parents. He is appalled by the hatred that is growing up on either side. For, my Lords, there is hatred; which makes it all the more difficult. That is why I agree with the plea of my noble friend, Lord Brockway, that there should be a cooling-off period, if only we can get both sides to agree to it. Hatred is an emotion, as much as love and affection, which can blind us to the facts. My noble friend Lord Willis referred interestingly to the fact that when, in his youth, he was asked if he would meet someone of another Party, he, with his deep class-consciousness, refused to see him. Perhaps he did so afterwards. But I instance that as an illustration of the 980 degree of intense enmity that can possess all of us. We may disagree with other Parties and the other side and do so without having that degree of enmity. Some of us can get so possessed by it that we cannot appreciate the possibility of human contact with those with whom we disagree.
My Lords, this hatred has developed in Nigeria. Africans on both sides of this tragic line have been conditioned to hatred. I, like other Members of this House, was deluged with propaganda from one side for several weeks. Suddenly—I do not know why—this ceased. It may be because I did not show myself completely identified with Biafra. Whatever the explanation, from a certain time onwards I had no further propaganda from that side. Undoubtedly, if the propaganda had an emotional effect, it led many people to assume that here was a tiny nation fighting for life—an incorrect presentation of the situation, whatever we might think of the conflict; that gross starvation and misery was being imposed upon them by a more powerful part of Nigeria called the Federal Government; and that we ourselves were adding to it. Again, this is a distortion of the real situation; but undoubtedly it had some effect. Possibly that induced some of the youths in Berlin recently to attack our Prime Minister by throwing at him packets of imitation blood. They no doubt thought that they were thus rendering good service to the cause of peace between these two peoples.
In conclusion, I would ask for two things. First, in respect of all this propaganda—poured out mainly from one side but with a trickle from the other—would it not be possible periodically for someone in this country or the Government or the United Nations to send us an objective account, say, weekly or fortnightly, so that we might know the facts? I pay tribute to some newspapers who are endeavouring to do this. The B.B.C. helps in this direction to some extent—although I remember that there was a very long portrayal of the sufferings of Biafra with only the briefest time allowed for a reply. That may have been quite accidental. I am sure it was not deliberate. I ask that from some source we may be informed about these matters objectively so that we can retreat from the atmosphere of heated passion one way or the 981 other and see for ourselves what is happening.
The only thing I would suggest is this. I have already said that I know that the Government and others have been doing their utmost. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Brockway and Mr. James Griffiths have already gone there, and others have gone, or would like to go, in an effort to bring together the peoples of this unhappy land. Reference was made to the Church. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, whether any attempt has been made to secure the more pertinent assistance of the ecclesiastical bodies? I am glad that the right reverend Prelate spoke to us to-night. I know and appreciate the great work that the Churches have done, and are doing, in Nigeria and Biafra, but I should like the right reverend Prelate also to consider this suggestion.
Nigeria and Biafra (as it is called) have a large number of Christian missions. In the North, in the Hausa country, they are still overwhelmingly Muslim; but There are Christian missions of various denominations in the Western Region; and there are, of course, Christian missions in the Eastern Region which are mainly, I think, Catholic. There are also a certain number of pagan people who have not yet been converted. Colonel Ojukwu calls himself a Christian. I have heard him state on television that he is sure that "by the Grace of God" and "guided by Him" Biafra will pull through. I have heard much the same thing from General Gowon. They are both earnest Christians. If they be earnest Christians, and if in the Eastern Region the main Christian body is Catholic, then in these days of ecumenical opportunity would it not be possible for the right reverend Prelate and his colleagues to approach the Catholic ecclesiastics so that they in their region (where if they do not predominate, they are certainly numerous) could bring together, it may be, Colonel Ojukwu and others to consider what is from their own standpoint the Christian path of reconciliation? And could that not be done also in the Western Region?
I put this point to the right reverend Prelate without wishing to detract from the great human service the Churches have inspired and continue to inspire. May I suggest that they take the initiative 982 and find ways and means by which, from their own religious standpoint, they could go to co-religionists to see whether they should not realise that the Prince of Peace whom they all follow as Spirit and guidance for them can bring them to the stage where they would talk to one another as fellow Christians. This I would suggest to the right reverend Prelate. I am sure his colleagues will consider it.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I should like to say that in fact at the present time, to start with, the different Churches in Biafra are joining together in relief organisation, and they have met with their colleagues at other times in the Federal Government. I am certain that they will take any initiative they can to further this process of reconciliation.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, may I express my appreciation of the implicit acceptance of my proposal not only to go on with the excellent relief work but also perhaps to find ways and means of taking the initiative with regard to prospects of peace between that section of Nigeria called Biafra and the rest? I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, may I make a very brief intervention? I am delighted that from both sides of the House tributes have been paid to my noble friend Lord Brockway. It is of course almost impossible to believe in his very great age, and it is therefore particularly creditable of him to have made these difficult, and indeed highly dangerous, journeys as he has. It reflects tremendous credit on him and also on your Lordships' House, and I am very glad that so many people have paid a tribute to him.
I want to raise one point, which I hope is a constructive one, with Her Majesty's Government. For many of us it is quite impossible to condone the sale of arms, but we recognise the very grave political difficulties which face the Government. Nobody who knows my noble friend Lord Shepherd could possibly doubt for one moment his deep concern for the suffering that is taking place and the total compassion in his approach to these problems. I should 983 like to follow the right reverend Prelate in his remarks on relieving the suffering and, above all, on rehabilitation. There is no doubt that skilled personnel will be necessary now, while the war is still continuing, and afterwards, to alleviate suffering and to help with rehabilitation. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made special reference (it was one of the points in his speech with which I could agree) to the difficulties of getting personnel into the bush where these people are hiding, frightened and needing help, to bring them out.
My Lords, there are in this country now a great number of skilled personnel from both areas who have been affected by the war. There are potential doctors, agriculturists, veterinary surgeons and engineers who will be unable, if they cannot continue their studies for a few more months, to use the knowledge they have acquired. The Government have rightly been extremely generous in their donations towards Czech students in distress as the result of their political difficulties. But so far they have not been able to contribute towards helping these highly skilled people who will be ready to go, and will go, back as soon as they can but who will not be able to qualify in their professions because they cannot get the help which previously they were getting from home. I should like to put in a plea to my noble friend to consult his colleagues to see whether, as a practical means towards reconstruction and the provision of help, some donation could be made to the students who are unable, through no fault of their own, to continue their studies.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, in a debate of this character on a subject such as Nigeria I am bound to say that I feel the words I have prepared are inadequate. I should prefer, as my Quaker friends would say, to speak as the spirit moves, but clearly that is not a luxury to which a Minister is entitled, particularly when speaking on what is so clearly a delicate subject.
My Lords, may I join with other noble Lords who have paid tribute to Lady Asquith of Yarnbury? I suppose that in recent months I have been more at the sharp end of her tongue than otherwise, but I have always been conscious of the 984 fire and fervour with which she approached all her subjects. I did not have the privilege of knowing her in her younger days and I find it hard to imagine her at the height of her magic and power in the political field.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Brockway has yet again raised the question of Nigeria, and has again urged Her Majesty's Government to take the initiative to secure peace. Next week my noble friend Lord Sorensen is to ask a Parliamentary Question on what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking on a Governmental basis to stop the supply of arms, and whether there is a chance of reaching agreement between ourselves and France jointly to cease to supply arms. Concern over events in Nigeria is natural. There can be no one who would not wish to see peace brought about as quickly as possible. Yet I would say—I have not done so before—that I doubt, as I have always doubted, whether debates in your Lordships' House, or in Parliament, however well meaning, can improve the prospects for peace for Nigeria.
My noble friend Lord Brockway spoke with great care and moderation; in fact, passion arose only for a very brief interval. He sought to lay what he thinks are the proposals that might provide a basis for bringing the two sides together. As I knew, my Lords, and as I guess my noble friend also knew, there was a risk that that tone in the debate could not last; and if I may—and I feel that I should say this—I would very much deplore the partisan speech made by my noble friend Lord Willis. Not only was it partisan, but I fear that what he said was divorced from the true facts that have existed in Nigeria in the past and the situation today. I had intended to say to my noble friend Lord Brockway that having listened to his speech I would send it to the High Commissioner in Lagos and ask him to submit it to General Gowon. But then we had the partisan speech of Lord Willis, and at the very end he commended Lord Brockway's proposals. I cannot believe that General Gowon would therefore accept that the proposals of Lord Brockway were impartial. But this is the problem and the danger of this kind of debate.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt 985 him, may I say that surely General Gowon, and everybody else, knows that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is not responsible for what I say in this House or anywhere else.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, perhaps I may add that there is undoubtedly a growing resentment in Nigeria and in West Africa against what many consider to be an unwarranted interference in their affairs. My noble friend Lord Brockway himself drew attention to it, and to the need for the right approach. It may well be that General Gowon will know that Lord Brockway is not responsible for Lord Willis, but I fear that the pressures that have been placed upon Her Majesty's Government by the pro-Biafran lobby in this country have undoubtedly weakened the position of the Government in seeking to negotiate with the Federal Government; because the Federal Government, I think unfairly, believe that we are reacting only because of the internal pressures within our own political Party and in this country.
My Lords, naturally every one of us would wish to see an early and an agreed cease-fire and the bringing of relief to the hapless civilians in Nigeria. But I believe that of greater importance is the need to achieve a lasting peace in Nigeria which would allow for the creation of a society in which the full potential of Nigeria can be properly developed to the advantage of all Nigerians. My noble friend Lord Brockway was right when he said that we should be deluding ourselves if we believed that peace could be imposed from outside. The inescapable fact is that a lasting peace will be achieved only by the Nigerians themselves, and then—and only then—when both sides in this tragic war are willing to create that peace. What Her Majesty's Government must do meanwhile is to keep open our offer to help in any way if and when the stage is reached when meaningful negotiations are possible.
When the House discussed Nigeria on August 27 last, I gave a full account of the attempts made by those outside the conflict to assist the two sides to reconcile their differences, and it will be recalled that negotiations took place between the two sides at Aburi, in Ghana, 986 before secession, and afterwards at Kampala, at Niamey and at Addis Ababa last year. Only the first of these meetings, at Aburi, produced a substantive agreement and that was unable to survive because of subsequent wrangles between the two sides about its interpretation.
My Lords, we have tried, and the Commonwealth Secretariat has tried, to bring about peace. But this dispute, deeply as it disturbs all of us in the Commonwealth, is by its nature an African dispute, and we must recognise that the organisation able to achieve a settlement is most likely to be an African organisation, notably the Organisation of African Unity, under whose auspices the meetings at Niamey and Addis Ababa took place. The Emperor of Ethiopia, who is Chairman of the O.A.U's Consultative Committee on Nigeria, has sought tirelessly to pave the way to a settlement. I know that his efforts continue and they have, as they always have had, the full support of Her Majesty's Government. There are reports of further moves to get an early meeting of the O.A.U. Committee and of further exchanges between the two sides. Let us all hope that something may come of these. It was in order to explore the possibility of this country being able to assist in the search for peace, despite the activities of O.A.U., that I paid a third visit in some five months to Lagos to discuss the possibility with General Gowon, and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary visited Addis Ababa to consult with the Emperor.
May I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, that while it is true that no Ministers have been to Biafra, we have had many conversations and consultations with Biafran leaders in London. These have been very useful, but I fear that so far they have not been able to give us the real opening which would encourage us to see negotiations being brought into being with Lagos in the near future. My noble friend Lord Brockway has made his own contribution to the search for peace by his visits to see Colonel Ojukwu and General Gowon, to which I have already paid tribute but not, I fear, in the same generous way as the noble Baroness has just done. He failed. So far, we have all failed to break the barrier to peace, 987 although there were times when we felt that we had it within our grasp.
Recently we have heard of an initiative by another African organization—OCAm—which has decided to send delegations of Heads of States to both sides. We welcome this initiative, and if it should modify the present deadlock, again we should stand ready to play a part if we are requested to do so.
It must also be clear, surely, that the principal obstacle to a settlement at present is not the lack of a mediator, or the lack of friends or of facilities to engage in negotiations which other countries of good will are anxious to provide, but the inability of the two sides to reconcile their positions; and particularly in the position adopted by Colonel Ojukwu, who has not suggested negotiations on any basis other than one which his opponents believe would merely allow him to consolidate and replenish his position. This was clearly shown during the period of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, when representatives of Colonel Ojukwu present in London refused to meet the Head of the Nigerian delegation, Chief Awolowo, even for informal talks without any pre-conditions at all. We tried many times to bring about a meeting. I think it is tragic that we did not succeed.
The Federal Nigerian Government have repeatedly made plain that they have only one pre-condition for an end to the fighting and a negotiated settlement—that is, that secession should be abandoned and that negotiations should be on the basis of Nigeria's unity being maintained. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton quoted Dr. Azikwe's phrase, "One Nigeria"—for it was he who coined the phrase. If this were accepted, then I am absolutely convinced that all other issues are negotiable. It has yet to be demonstrated that secession would be in the interests of the Ibo people, who have contributed so much to Nigeria in the past and whose energies and abilities should surely not be contained within the narrow compass of their existing territory. We still feel that the opportunity should be seized to negotiate a just settlement within Nigeria, where large numbers of Ibo people continue to live safety in Federal areas and even to occupy positions of high responsibility. The Organisation of African Unity is 988 anxious to pave the way to a settlement on the basis of Nigeria's unity being preserved and we, for our part, are ready to assist in any way we can.
If I may, I would come back to the particular question which my noble friend Lord Brockway has asked. He wants to know what we are doing to bring together the two sides. On the aims he has listed, there is no disagreement among us. An end of the war, massive relief, a political settlement—these are all the things we wish to see. If some kind of international presence were agreed upon, we have made it clear that we should be ready to provide one battalion of soldiers, if we were requested to do so by both sides.
My Lords, I will not again give a recital of the things we have done and continue to try to do over negotiations. I think it must be clear to all of us who have any knowledge of this problem that the difficulty is not the lack of mediators, not the lack of friends and not the lack of proposals—and I read with great interest the speech delivered the other day by Dr. Azikwe. All this is before us, but the difficulty is in bringing the two sides together consciously to work for peace. I will he frank with the House. I regret that at this moment of time I do not see any sign from Colonel Ojukwu and his friends to meet the one essential criteria for a cease-fire and for peace that is required by the Federal Government and is the one thing which brought this war into being. I believe that it would be possible to find some phrase which Colonel Ojukwu might he brought to accept. I well remember the Federal Government saying to me on one of my visits that it was not their desire or intention to humiliate or destroy the Biafran people. If Colonel Ojukwu could bring himself to say that he was prepared, for example, to consider renewed association of all the peoples of Nigeria within the frontiers of Nigeria (and I believe this was one of the ideas put forward by my noble friend Lord Brockway), then one might hope that it would be open to negotiation which had a chance of an agreed outcome in the end.
As I have said, I do not myself have much hope as I see the state of play to-day. I would hope that those good friends of Nigeria on all sides would seek to put the fullest pressure, not just on 989 one side, but on both sides, to come to the table. Here I disagree with Dr. Azikwe; I think a committee of 19 is too many. My own personal feeling is that if there is to be a real chance of success, it lies in a small room, in a small house, in secret, away from all the public pressures of television and the Press. I believe that this sort of place has the greatest hope for reaching a settlement.
I understand the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, when she says that there are large numbers of good friends in Nigeria who might find a solution if they were to talk. I think there is something in this, because when I was in Nigeria the one thing that struck me most of all was that there was no hatred, but only regret, in the war. But in the end, of course, those who negotiate will have to be responsible to the leaders of these two separated and warring peoples. In the end, I think that if both leaders wish to find a settlement, and wish to adopt such a procedure, it is for them to decide. I do not myself believe that there is any hope in trying to bring odd people together from either side unless they have the authority of their own leaders to negotiate.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, spoke about the question of starvation in Nigeria; and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, spoke of malnutrition and starvation in Biafra, in particular, and wished to know what the true position is. The information that we have to-day is that in Federal held Nigeria 1 million people are being fed by the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
No. I said in the Federal held areas of Nigeria. This is the recaptured areas of Nigeria, in the East.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
. As I was trying to point out to my noble friend Lord Willis, in this Eastern State the Ibos are only a part. From my own evidence when I was out there, the refugees I saw were not Ibos, but mainly of the smaller tribes that came from the River States, and some from around Port Harcourt. But in the rebel areas, in the Biafran areas, some 1¾ million people receive the full daily protein ration from the Inter- 990 national Committee of the Red Cross and the Joint Church Aid. This is provided from a total of some 6,500 tons of supplies, imported mainly by air.
As to the future, I think it is difficult to give a true assessment of the size of the problem. The International Committee of the Red Cross are planning—and I think rightly so—for something in the region of 2¼ million in the federal areas, and some 3½ million in Biafran areas, as the stocks of home grown food become exhausted. I am bound to say that I would treat these particular figures with caution. I think they are deliberately planning for the worst. On the evidence that I have seen, I question very much what is the present size of the population within the Biafran territory. I have heard it said that it is some 10 million. I personally should put it closer to 3½ million. As I say, it is difficult to give a true assessment. If one took the figures given for daily deaths from starvation during last year, even the highest figures on the electoral register of Biafra, there would be nobody left in the area. It is difficult to get the true figures, and therefore I think it is right that the International Committee of the Red Cross should plan on a bigger scale.
In terms of food, there are large quantities of food to-day in Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt, and Fernando Po, and there are already quantities of food on their way into Nigeria. The real problem, as it has always been, is the manner in which the food can be taken into Biafra. The night flights have become difficult because of the bombing operations on the Ilu airstrip. There are some who condemn the Federal Government because they bomb this airstrip; but this airstrip is used night after night for bringing arms and ammunition into Biafra. I have always believed—and your Lordships know that I have spoken on this matter very forcibly on many occasions—that there is only one solution for the relief problem in Biafra, and that is the opening of the mercy corridors, the land corridors, into Biafra. The House will know that in December I asked the Lagos Government whether, if such a corridor could be opened, they would agree for it to be supervised and guaranteed by international observers. I got that agreement. We still have not been able to get those main corridors open.
991 My Lords, this to me is one of the great tragedies. I do not myself understand why Colonel Ojukwu, who as my noble friend Lord Sorensen has said is a Christian, can allow his people, and particularly his children, to starve when his enemies and his friends overseas are prepared to bring the food through their own territories with international observers in order that his children and his women can be fed. I do not know of any other war in history where an enemy has agreed so willingly to see that food should go through to its opponents. To me it is inconceivable that a country that is in such dire need should refuse this aid. There may be special reasons connected with foreign exchange.
As to a daylight airlift, this again would make a major impact on the protein shortage in Biafra. We have had negotiation with the Federal Government; we cannot get the right and firm agreement for daylight airlifts to commence into the Biafran territories. I therefore hope, as I have said on many occasions before, that just as we have put pressure, have taken the initiative with the Federal Government to take steps to help, particularly in the field of relief, so those who take an equally strong view of support for the Biafrans will for all humanity's sake put similar pressure upon those authorities not only to open the corridors through which food and medical supplies can go but also to bring Colonel Ojukwu to a table, whether it be big or whether it be small.
My Lords, I would conclude with this comment. There is no lack of mediators; there is no lack of friends who would respond to any approach that was made. Of this I am absolutely convinced. For our part, we think that the present initiatives being taken by the Organisation of African Unity—and now OCAM—have the brightest chance of finding a settlement. We for our part will stand ready; and if, as I have said on many other occasions, there is a mere glimmer of a light we shall follow it and be of assistance to all those other friends of both sides who wish to see this war brought to an end. But, in the end, despite all the help that is available, it is for the two parties involved to come to the conference table. There are some who think that time is on the side of one or on the side of the other. My 992 Lords, for the young Nigerians tonight I do not believe that time is very much on their side.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down may I put this point to him? I tried to be very objective and impartial. My noble friend has said that he had considered sending my proposals to Lagos. Could he also send them to the United Nations, to the O.A.U., if I will undertake that they will also be presented to the Ojukwu side?—because the formula which he mentioned was very near the formula which I suggested might become a solution.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he would reply to just the two points I raised towards the end of my speech? I know that the matter was not in his brief, and I am sorry that I did not mention beforehand that I proposed to raise these points, but I was not certain that I should speak. The two points are: first, whether the C.O.I. or some other Department could not furnish the public with an objective statement from time to time regarding the situation; and secondly, would he try to assist in securing facilities through the religious leaders who corporately might attempt to intervene?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, in regard to the latter question, of course there have been discussions from time to time by Her Majesty's Government with the various Church bodies. I have received in my Office Bishops, not only from this country but also from Nigeria. We are also in contact with the Holy Father in Rome. I think all are well aware of the need for a settlement. In regard to the noble Lord's first point about the provision of an objective report, I think this would be difficult. Clearly we have our own information. Some of it, of course, is secret; we could not disclose it because it would merely open the question as to its source. You have, on the other hand, the propaganda from Markpress; you have the propaganda that clearly emanates in our national papers. It is very difficult, I think, to produce a neutral, objective paper. In view of some of the speeches I have heard, in this House and another, I question whether in fact if we produced a genuine neutral paper anyone would genuinely believe it to be
§ LORD BROCKWAY
No, my Lords; I asked the Minister a question. I intervened first. Would the Minister reply to the point that I made?