HL Deb 30 July 1997 vol 582 cc174-7

2.56 p.m.

Lord Steel of Aikwood

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy towards the continued refusal of the Government of Kenya to carry out constitutional reforms, as promised by President Moi in 1995, to create the essential conditions for fair and free democratic elections later this year.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, we have made clear to the Government of Kenya our views on the conditions that need to be established to ensure that the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections are free and fair. All those who wish to vote must be able to exercise their choice freely; all those who wish to stand must be able to do so; the electorate must have access to all the information needed to make an informed choice; and people must be free to come together in support of their preferred candidate.

Lord Steel of Aikwood

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. She will be aware that my Question was prompted by the appalling outrage earlier this month when the police invaded the Anglican cathedral in Nairobi and disrupted an ecumenical service. If I speak strongly on the matter it is because among those injured was the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, who is my father's direct linear successor in that office. Does she recognise that those who were present on that occasion, and indeed the nine people who died in particular, were asking for the most elementary and universally desirable constitutional reforms; namely, the appointment of an independent electoral commission, the independence of the judiciary, the independence of broadcasting from government control and the repeal of the Public Order Acts to allow freedom of public assembly? Will she accept that, sadly, no progress has been made on these issues since the last election in 1992?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, all parties in Kenya have a responsibility to refrain from confrontation and violence. We are urging all parties to resolve their differences by dialogue. We condemned the excessive force used by the Kenyan police when dispersing the pro-reform demonstrations. We and the other major aid donors share many concerns of those who have been campaigning within Kenya. However, we have stayed out of the constitutional debate because we have seen this very substantially as a matter for the Kenyans themselves.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, what dialogue are the noble Baroness and her colleagues pursuing with the Kenyan Council of Churches, which seems to be the only body that has really pushed forward for the very things the noble Lord, Lord Steel, mentioned just now? It seems to us that that would be the most profitable way forward. But they cannot do it alone. Will she ask her European Union colleagues to be as outspoken as we hope her colleague, Mr. Lloyd, was on his recent visit to Nairobi? Will she tell us more about what happened in Mr. Lloyd's talks with President Moi?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the noble Baroness has covered many points. We want to have dialogue with all those in Kenya who want to see the constitution working properly. We wish to use the auspices of the EU and the other aid donors to Kenya in order to take this important dialogue forward

The noble Baroness asked some specific questions about Mr. Lloyd's visit to Kenya between 25th and 28th June. When he was there Mr. Lloyd called for elections where all those who want to vote can exercise their choice freely and where those who want to stand are given the opportunity to do so; and he asked that the electorate has access through the media to all the information needed to make a free choice and that people can come together freely in order to support the candidate of their choice. Donors have made it clear to the Kenyan Government the measures that they believe are necessary to meet these conditions. We shall monitor closely developments in Kenya against that background, seeking, of course, concrete progress.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, I understand that the Kenyan Government have uttered some kind of apology for the attack on Christian clergymen in All Saints Anglican Cathedral in Nairobi, but no attempt has yet been made to bring the policemen involved to account. Can the Minister suggest any other ways in which Her Majesty's Government can bring pressure to bear on the Kenyan Government to respect basic civil liberties, particularly in relation to that outrageous event?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, we have welcomed President Moi's offer of dialogue on these matters, particularly on legislative and constitutional issues. We recognise the argument put forward by the Kenyan Opposition that the intention expressed by President Moi must be translated into action. We strongly believe that the early implementation of measures to ensure conditions for free and fair elections and to bring to justice those responsible for the outrage to which the right Reverend Prelate referred are also very important aspects of the problems. Mr. Lloyd has written again to the Kenyans urging that action be taken on these points.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, if the arrangements made for the forthcoming elections are manifestly incompatible with the Harare Declaration, will the Government undertake to raise the matter in CHOGM and Edinburgh this October?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the Harare principles of good governance will be an important question at CHOGM. The focus will be primarily on military governments, such as those of Nigeria and Sierra Leone. However, we will make use of the opportunity to seek concerted pressure, with our Commonwealth partners, for the Kenyan Government to ensure the full implementation of the Harare principles in the way which the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Steel of Aikwood

My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister just a little further—

The Duke of Norfolk

: My Lords, are the Government aware that many of us took part in the giving of independence to Kenya and set up an army, which is training here at this moment, with officers being exchanged? Is the Minister further aware that we left a fine police force in command? Are they disconcerted at the weakness of the Government's reply? Kenya is a member of the Commonwealth. We would like to know that the Government are exerting every possible effort to bring the present Kenyan Government—I shall not name it specifically—to book? We know that terrible things are happening. There is no law and order at the frontiers. Does the Minister agree that what happened in the cathedral is typical of what is liable to happen—perhaps even worse—unless more is done?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, of course we are aware of the deplorable position which the noble Duke has outlined. Jointly with our EU partners, the United States and other major partners we have been in dialogue with the Kenyan Government on the measures that should be taken to remedy the situation. Indeed, I outlined in some detail to the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, what had been said by my honourable friend Mr. Lloyd and the letter that he has sent following that up. So we are doing things bilaterally, through our partners in the EU and also with our partners who are aid donors. We also plan to do so at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting later this year.

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