§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what help they are giving to secure peace and good governance in Sudan.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, we debated Sudan three months ago on a Question by the intrepid and tireless noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Your Lordships may think that there are other great problems that demand our attention, rather than returning to the subject so soon. However, since that debate, the Sudanese government and the SPLA have signed a memorandum of understanding on the cessation of hostilities, which is now to be further developed into a comprehensive peace agreement. I sought a debate to review the progress made and consider what contribution the UK can make to reinforce a peaceful settlement of the war, described by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, as Africa's longest-running conflict.
§ There have been allegations of breaches of the ceasefire on both sides, with clashes occurring mainly in oil-producing areas. Provision was made for 80 complaints about violation to be made through a committee set up for the purpose in Machakos. Will the Minister say how the international community might help to reinforce that part of the deal? There was also to be an international team on the ground investigating alleged attacks on civilians. It would be useful to know whether the UK, with our considerable experience of peacekeeping, might offer to provide some of the observers.
§ As 15th January approached, there were problems with the agenda. Khartoum said that the constitutional position of the Blue Nile, Nuba mountains and Abyei could not be discussed until further progress had been made on the main question of the position of the south. However, the SPLA claimed a mandate from the people concerned to negotiate on their behalf. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that the meeting is on schedule and that the question of the agenda can be solved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
§ The parties have decided on the allocation of most functional areas of competence to different levels of government, but some key areas are still not covered. Colonel Garang has demanded, for instance, that the south should have the right to issue its own currency, although it is not clear whether he meant that it should be able to do that through a central bank or merely to print notes, as the Scottish banks do in the UK. In either case, a substantial level of banking expertise beyond the present capacity of the new southern entity would be required, and official observers, including Britain, might help to spell that out to the SPLM. They might also help to bridge the gap between parties on oil revenues. The SPLA is demanding 60 per cent, whereas the government have offered 10 per cent. Given that all the discoveries so far have been made in the south, Khartoum needs to be generous if it is to avoid handing an argument to secessionists.
§ The SPLA has gone a long way to meet the government by giving up demands for independence, while the government have made important concessions in offering autonomy to the south, and a referendum down the line. For both sides, however, the devil is in the detail. The observers could help to promote compromise on all the issues still outstanding.
§ Under the Machakos protocol, the parties are committed to the principle that the unity of Sudan is their priority and that the people of the south can meet their aspirations within that framework. They are also committed to making the unity of the state attractive to the people of the south. The government, or some of them, may believe like Mr Balfour that they can kill home rule by kindness. The SPLA will have control of the south, however, and may be even more dedicated to separation as their lot improves, as the Irish were 100 years ago. The contradiction can be resolved only by the people, with good governance allowing them freedom to debate the matter thoroughly and reach their own conclusions.
§ That is going to require greater input from the international community. At some point during the next six years there are to be democratic elections.81
§ That is a formidable operation in a country that is over one quarter of the size of the US, but with 4 million people internally displaced out of a population of 30 million. A UN interagency mission considered the additional demands that would arise from resettling those people, as well as returning combatants and the 430,000 refugees from abroad. They made recommendations that will themselves require substantial new resources.
§ So far, there seem to be no agreed timetables. One scenario under discussion is that the agreement will be initialled by the end of March and the government of national unity will be formed with the NDA and the SPLM on board by the end of May. In the same period, an equivalent broadly based administration would be set up in the south and there would be a full signature by all those players at the end of June. There would then be a "pre-interim period" of six months for the return of the refugees and the establishment of government structures in Khartoum and Juba, and the interim period itself would begin on 1st January 2004. I do not know that is a realistic time scale, but perhaps the Minister could say whether it is approved by the observers.
§ Will the Minister also say something about the role of the IIVIF and the World Bank in the transition? In November, the IMF reported on the progress made towards resolving Sudan's debt problem. Presumably, if the arrears are dealt with, Sudan will be eligible for new loans. A stable peace would release funds that are currently devoted to military purposes. The draft budget of 2003, which was notified to the IMF, provides for a 13.5 per cent reduction on military spending on last year. Oil revenues must also have increased, with crude now at 30 dollars a barrel, but in all these matters transparency would be an essential element of the agreement to share revenue and natural resources. It would be helpful to know whether the observer; can inject that principle into the resumed discussions.
§ The parties have agreed that human rights are to be covered in the final peace agreement. It would be a sign of good faith if they invited the UN Special Rapporteur, Gerhart Baum, to help them with the drafting. Sudanese institutions are needed that have the independence, capacity and resources to make a real impact on human rights violations. So far these do not exist For instance, the body that deals with the abduction of women and children now has a full-time chair and some resources, partly as a result of persuasion by the European Union, which has had a beneficial role, but it still operates as an organisation responsible to the government.
§ Khartoum promised to ratify the convention against torture and the convention on elimination of discrimination against women. I hope those commitments will be reiterated in the final peace agreement. Sudan is already a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its report to the human rights committee, which had to be submitted by 7th November last, is now overdue. There are violations of the ICCPR by the special courts in Darfur, which have inflicted lashings 82 on women convicted of adultery after summary trials at which the defendants were not legally represented. That is undoubtedly a breach of Article 14, which provides for fair trials. The harassment and intimidation of journalists continues and newspapers have been arbitrarily closed with no legal process, contrary to Article 19. I hope that we can project into the discussions the need for an authoritative, permanent Sudanese court to which citizens can appeal against violations of human rights treaty obligations that affect them.
§ As the international crisis group has said, this is a time for historic decisions, compromises and political courage. It is also a time when the observer circle, IGAD, the AU and all other friends of peace, such as the EU, must use their maximum influence to bring the process to a successful conclusion. As we have heard before, the war has cost 2 million lives over the past three decades and has caused misery to many millions more of Sudan's population. An honourable peace, giving the people of Sudan the hope of democracy and human rights and giving the south the right to self-determination, is within their grasp. We should do our utmost to help them attain it.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lord Moynihan
My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to discuss events in Sudan since your Lordships' House last had the opportunity to do so in October. I warmly congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on securing the debate. Once again, the situation in Sudan is critically poised between the dream of real peace and the nightmare of continued war. Talks between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army stand at a crossroads, but there is increased hope that the signpost points more firmly in the direction of peace than that of war.
The Machakos protocol was a major breakthrough, which, once implemented, will allow southern Sudan to hold an independence referendum after a six-year power-sharing transition period. It exempts the mainly Christian south from Sharia law. The fragile peace process has since gathered strength, despite some serious setbacks, which included major military offensives launched by both sides around the town of Torit and the suspension of the talks last September. The second session of talks resumed in October and the successful outcome when they closed on 18th November meant that hope was not extinguished.
In October a ceasefire was agreed that covered the whole country. This first truce was a landmark and another forward step on the road to lasting peace. The subsequent extension of the ceasefire to 31st March this year was a remarkable achievement. Congratulations are due to Kenya's special envoy, Lieutenant General Sumbeiywo, the other envoys and all parties involved in this success. They have shown strong and courageous skills of mediation and diplomacy and deserve our support.
I understand that the third session of the latest round of talks is due to begin this week, possibly on 15th January. I hope that the Minister will take the 83 opportunity of this timely debate to confirm when the talks will resume. However, there is still a long way to go. The final protocol on power and wealth sharing that the mediators sought was not signed and difficult issues such as the sharing of oil wealth and the distribution of jobs in the federal civil service have yet to be resolved.
British Government support is critical to those in the Sudanese Government committed to a peaceful end to the conflict through the continued application of pressure on Khartoum until an agreement is reached. Those threatened by the process need to be reassured about their post-conflict status. Equally important is maintaining pressure on the SPLA to negotiate in good faith and publicly acknowledging the progress and compromises made by either side. The SPLA will also need support and advice. What action are the Government taking to help bring about the transformation of the SPLA into a political party and to promote good governance and economic development in the south?
In the few minutes I have available, I shall concentrate on human rights, as did the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. The Minister said on 7th October last year that the promotion of human rights in Sudan is one of the Government's priorities. I am sure she agrees that slavery is one of the gravest human rights problems facing the people of Sudan. I hope she is as disappointed as I am that the UN resolution on the human rights situation in Sudan, passed at the most recent session of the UN General Assembly, omitted stronger references to slavery and religious persecution. I am pleased that the resolution highlighted the Government of Sudan's continued abrogation of religious freedom, their deliberate attacks against civilians, their support for civilian-abducting militias and repeated denials of humanitarian access to their citizens in need. But a valuable opportunity to bring the despicable practice of slavery to international attention was missed. What is being done to ensure that the issue is addressed in future negotiations? What action is being taken to ensure that the disturbing prospect of a market is not created by the payment for the return of abductees? What progress is being made to ensure that a final peace agreement includes provisions to protect fundamental freedoms and human rights, particularly since the government have extended Sudan's state of emergency for another year.
With its major oil reserves, Sudan has the opportunity to be one of Africa's great success stories and an economic driver for the region. It is one of the paradoxes of that troubled country that its oil wealth is at present being used to impoverish Sudan's people when it could be enriching them.
In conclusion, humanitarian relief, human rights and peace are the three critical keys to our Sudan policy. I hope the Minister agrees. We must work on all three simultaneously. Together with the United States and other allies, we must be prepared to ensure that progress is made on the many crucial questions that remain unresolved. The Sudanese conflict has 84 gone on too long. It is time for both sides to resolve their differences within a serious, comprehensive and lasting peace process.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Salisbury
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate. It may be only a few months since we last debated Sudan, but matters are always shifting there and, with our gaze constantly diverted to other parts of the world, it is all too easy to forget the intractable problems and the constant realignments that take place in Sudan. Her Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on the commitment they have shown to the pursuit of peace with justice for all the peoples of Sudan.
The Secretary of State for International Development has maintained her department's keen interest. The Government of Sudan's Speaker of Parliament has recently publicly criticised our special representative, Alan Goulty, for allegedly travelling around Sudan without permission. That criticism is likely to mean that he is attending effectively to the areas of the negotiations that the parties fear most. I want to encourage as strongly as possible our continuing commitment to standing alongside all the peoples of Sudan in their search for peace, justice and freedom from tyranny or exploitation.
Withdrawal from engagement with Sudan could cost its people heavily. Isolated, with little concern from outside its borders and without the checks and balances that such interest brings, the forces that threaten Sudan's prospects for peace and good governance could reign supreme and add unimaginably to the death toll that already stands at 2 million.
One threat to those processes is the activity of militia forces in the region. A recent instance has been an attack on Tam, disclaimed by the Government of Sudan and characterised by them as a "militia raid". That is not so. The commander who led the attack told a press conference that it was his intention to fight the SPLA and defend the oil fields. Such actions amount to a serious breach of the memorandum of understanding, and leave in their wake bloodshed and chaos and the further fragmentation of the civil society. Can the Minister say how Her Majesty's Government are responding to the use of such misinformation?
Addressing the question of militias is plainly a priority and was treated as such by the Entebbe conference convened by the New Sudan Council of Churches last October. That conference succeeded in bringing together both SPLA field commanders and militia leaders aligned with the Government of Sudan. Its discussions emphasised the need for peace and good governance, for human rights and democratic freedoms, for wealth sharing, restitution and reconstruction. It insisted on the creation of three constitutions for the country during the interim period, one for the central government and one each for the northern and the southern entities. It explicitly 85 ruled out the integration of armies, recognising that a strong and independent army in the south will be a sure guarantee of the peace process. It resolved that there should be a southern leadership consultation to resolve issues such as those. Archbishop Paulino Lokudu, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Juba, and Mulana Abel Alier are to convene that.
Nurturing a vibrant civil society will be a great challenge and yet a great safeguard for peace. So much will depend on the support we can offer in the formation and training of those engaged in the administration of justice and in teaching and training at college level. I know that that is a challenge with which my colleagues in the Episcopal Church of Sudan and her sister Churches are already engaged. In a small way, the kind of partnership developing between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches at episcopal level—they now have an annual conference and a period of renewal and study together—provides one small vignette of how trust can be built up between those from the north and the south, and between those of different tribal and racial origins.
The conference in Entebbe exemplifies the need for partners to guide and direct all the parties in this conflict. In this case it was the Churches who fulfilled that role, as they quite frequently have. And should all our hopes be realised and lasting peace be achieved, the need will continue, and it will grow. The havoc wreaked by deserters after the fall of Torit last autumn is a stark warning of the threat to stability posed by fighters after demobilisation. A whole generation of young Sudanese will have been traumatised by war and will have known nothing else. Recent suicides testify to the deep scars that conflict is leaving. Internally displaced people will have to grapple with the need to reclaim language, culture and identity.
Speaking in the House on 7th October last year, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said this:A just peace agreement in Sudan is long overdue. Once a peace agreement has been reached, the international community will be able to contribute as never before to the rehabilitation of Sudan—a goal that we all share."—[Official Report, 7/10/02; col. 106.]Yes, we all share that goal, and it will be good to be able to reaffirm that expression of concern directly when I make my next visit to the Sudan in just a few weeks time. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to affirm that resoundingly and tell us some of the ways in which our Government's commitment to the international community's seeking of peace will contribute to the rehabilitation of the Sudan in the future. Those might be very small, but enormously welcome. I hope we shall hear some of that tonight.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for this opportunity. We seem to be closer to peace, and we must all hope that the new memorandum will lead to a genuine settlement. Until recently, few of us believed that that would be possible under the IGAD process. A month ago, I was discussing multi-party democracy in a workshop in the Mozambique parliament, so I am 86 aware of the concerted effort by western donors and some host governments in Africa to link post-conflict aid with good governance and human rights.
The situation is very different in Sudan, because the political parties have very little power. The Umma and the NDA are not even participants in the peace negotiations. The country is under emergency rule. The government remain unelected in any recognised democratic sense and, although there has been talk of multi-party elections, there is no urgency about that in Khartoum. With larger issues such as control of the oil fields, I wonder whether democracy in the north or south is not simply another current fashion to please the international community.
The Government of Sudan need a lot more encouragement. They are at least showing flexibility and are apparently open to change on important issues such as the Sharia. But until real political changes come in, there can be no undergirding of human rights law as we understand it in Europe. Gerhart Baum's report, mentioned by the noble Lord, to the General Assembly last October shows how much remains to be done. He believes that national reconciliation can succeed only if human rights become part of the peace process itself. He said:There is no alternative to rule by civil society … founded on respect for minorities … strengthening tolerance, which is able to build up trust and confidence and a process of reconciliation.That is a strong statement in favour of civil society, even by a UN official.
I declare an interest as a board member of Christian Aid. NGOs—non-governmental organisations—have been fundamental in establishing innovative programmes throughout the period when Sudan was diplomatically isolated, laying foundations in peace-building and human rights that have only recently been taken up by governments. I will not now go into the peace process in the south mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, but the New Sudan Council of Churches has been one of the most persistent players there, and Christian Aid is involved in rebuilding civil society and the judiciary.
Save the Children has an equally long record in education and child protection. In Khartoum, it belongs to the rather feeble committee set up to eradicate abduction that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. The committee is a key test of the government's commitment to human rights, and it is a good example of the gap between diplomacy and actual achievement.
I was in Khartoum at the time when women's organisations received an unexpected boost from the decree by the Wali of Khartoum forbidding women to work in cafes, garages and other public places. The decree was soon reversed, and the Wali later replaced, but the issue of human rights had been usefully highlighted. Another order at that time forbade southern women from brewing and selling tradition al liquor, for which they were regularly flung into Omdurman jail until the NGOs could campaign for their release.
87 Many effective human rights initiatives operate on a very small scale or are highly localised. Contrary to belief, they often emphasise education and training in the existing law rather than activism or campaigning to change it. I will give just one example of a women's programme that has had a lot of impact, supported by Christian Aid and now our own Foreign Office through its human rights fund. It is a legal awareness programme run by a group known as Mutawinat, which means "women co-operating".
Mutawinat is well known in Khartoum, but it now plans to reach more isolated groups through workshops in regional centres such as Kassala, Kosti and El Obeid. Its objective is to empower women to use the law. The workshops are a means of passing on basic legal information to communities that have lacked such information in the past. The focus is on vulnerable groups such as women and children in conflict situations, prisoners, the displaced, refugees and women in low-paid casual work. The target groups include trade unionists, community leaders, NGOs and community organisations. That is exactly the kind programme that Sudan needs and to which Gerhart Baum referred.
With the new peace agreement—assuming that it brings with it a stronger legal framework and the possibility of democratic rule—will come a new atmosphere of openness and a greater involvement of civil society in national and local government. That may be a lot to hope for, but Sudan needs justice more than it needs aid. Large numbers of Sudanese, especially women who have lost family members during the war, have had enough of fighting.
According to one report, some women in the Upper Nile feel so strongly about peace that they are even prepared to withdraw favours from their husbands, like the heroines of the Lysistrata. Whether under Islam or Christianity, that may be a daring form of liberation, but those women must not be underestimated. There is a strong tradition in today's world—it is growing—of the effectiveness of women's movements. It is quite likely that the women in Sudan, as elsewhere, will have a decisive influence in their own future.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on enabling us to discuss this very important subject and giving such a comprehensive overview. However, I regret that my concerns are legion. The first is the NIF's continuing violation of the Machakos protocol. On 9th January, Professor Eric Reeves reported numerous violations of the memorandum of understanding concerning the cessation of offensive military actions. I draw extensively from his assessment.
A flow of barges down the White Nile has brought a huge augmentation of military equipment and manpower to Juba, clearly threatening Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria, and Yei in Western Equatoria. Very large offensive deployments have moved to Wau 88 in Bahr-El-Ghazal and to Kassala in the east. In recent days, fighting has broken out in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile, along the oil road south of Bentiu and the new oil development in Concession Block 4. Estimates suggest thousands of people newly displaced by this fighting.
Some have held that "engagement" at Machakos was always seen as an expedient measure by Khartoum, and that self-determination would later be abandoned; others, however, have believed that though painful compromises on both sides would be needed, the singular nature of the opportunity at Machakos would allow a just peace to emerge.
However, the build-up near Juba clearly has offensive military implications, requiring a reassessment. The open violation of the agreement, which has elicited no significant international response, must influence Khartoum's assessment of what Machakos represents. Every day without a forceful response to its egregious violations signals to Khartoum that this agreement, like countless others, can be violated with impunity. No more dangerous signal could be sent. Despite the abundance of optimism in the international community and in your Lordships' House, the mood in the south is grim. There is a deep and passionate hope for peace, but grave and increasingly justified scepticism.
Secondly, the NIF has become increasingly repressive to the people in northern Sudan, with continuing reports of violations of human rights in the north. Machakos has yet to make any guarantee of human rights.
My third concern relates to the international dimension of the NIF's commitment to extend its policy of Islamisation beyond Sudan. In Nigeria last week, I visited areas afflicted by violent conflicts associated with the implementation of Sharia law, including Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and Jos. Sudan's involvement from the start is indicated by its participation in the ceremony to celebrate the introduction of Sharia in Samfara State—the first to be affected. Subsequently, 11 states have accepted Sharia and there have been widespread killings, destruction of property and the destabilisation of communities. Diverse sources informed us that these developments are part of a policy to achieve the Islamisation of the whole of Nigeria, with far-reaching implications for West Africa.
Many leaders of Nigeria's militant Islamist groups were, and still are, being trained in Sudan; and many Nigerians are reportedly receiving training in Abusa, near Khartoum and in a military training camp in Darfur. These developments follow from the Sudanese Islamist leader El-Turabi's "comprehensive negotiations" in early 1992 with leaders of Nigeria's Islamic movement—which is committed to transforming Nigeria into an Islamic nation, either through peaceful means or by an Islamic revolution. Moreover, I understand that Mohammed Ali Al-Haj is:The Chairman of the Bureau of Federal Rule",and that it is he who is in charge of the peace process in southern Sudan; he is also in charge of supporting the furthering of the Islamic revolution in Africa, with 89 Nigeria as a priority target. As of 3rd January, he is still ranked number four in the official hierarchy of the NIF regime.
I therefore ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the agendas of the kinds of people with whom they are having "peace talks" and whether they are taking into account the far-reaching implications of Sudan's policies beyond Sudan for other parts of Africa. Certainly the majority of Nigerians do not want Nigeria to become an Islamic state, but Sudan's involvement currently is helping to destabilise the nation dangerously.
Moreover, the NIF continues to be involved with international terrorism. Some prominent NIF leaders are known Al'Qaeda supporters; and those involved with the terrorist attacks in Mombasa may have been allowed to take refuge in Somalia and Sudan. If the NIF is so closely involved with spreading militant Islam in West Africa and with terrorist atrocities in East Africa and if some of its most prominent leaders are closely linked with Al'Qaeda, is it really in the interests of the people of Sudan for the British Government to be supporting a peace that appears to be peace at any price, including widespread and continuing violations of human rights—especially in the north—and the continuing bloodshed of its people in many parts of Sudan?
I therefore ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government will: put pressure on the NIF to desist from its build-up of military offensives; indicate what measures they propose to take if the regime continues to violate the Machakos protocol; and urge all concerned to ensure that human rights are included in Machakos discussions as a matter of urgency. I also ask the noble Baroness whether she is aware of the NIF's involvement with the implementation of Sharia law in Nigeria, with resulting conflicts responsible for widespread death and destruction in Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi aid Plateau states. Are investigations under way into the association of Somalia and Sudan with the perpetrators of the recent terrorist atrocities in Mombasa? If so, what do Her Majesty's Government see as the implications for trusting the NIF regime's sincerity of commitment to a genuine peace?
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Lord Alton of Liverpool
My Lords, the speeches already made vindicate the decision of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to return us to this subject of the Sudan.
When the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred to the recapture of Torit by the forces of the Government of Sudan, it reminded me of my experience there, to which I referred in our previous debate on this subject in October. I had been in the diocese of Torit in September and I saw at first hand some of the depredations that had occurred in the course of this terrible conflict.
90 As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, some 2 million people have lost their lives in the past 19 years, and between 4 million and 5 million people have been displaced. I saw in the diocese of Torit churches that had been desecrated, forced Islamicisation, the bombing of schools and clinics, and children who, whenever they heard a plane approaching overhead, would dive for the foxholes that had been provided by British aid agencies in fear that there would be another bombing raid. They have even learnt to recognise the difference between the Russian-made bombers used by the Sudanese Government and the aid planes used by the United Nations.
The hatreds clearly run deep and bringing about any kind of reconciliation and dialogue will be an enormously difficult and painstaking task. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and my noble friend Lord Sandwich were right to remind us, as did the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, of the importance of building a civil society, though it will be a painstaking approach, and the importance of helping organisations like the SPLA and using the voluntary organisations, the women's movements and others to help create the kind of civil society which will give Sudan the chance of a lasting peace.
I travelled to Sudan with the Jubilee campaign, which I helped to found in Parliament 15 years ago. Jubilee is one of the human rights groups that believes that genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed by the Government of Sudan over those years. In our last debate I remarked on the widespread suffering caused by horrific aerial bombardment and the extraordinary courage and fortitude of the people I met there.
In October there was just a flicker of hope that the Machakos talks, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred, might at last lead to a ceasefire without which no political progress can be made. Of course I am glad, as is everyone else in your Lordships' House, that that tentative progress has been made. Movements like the SPLA, which, in the course of 19 years has seen the dispossession of so many of its people, will not be hounded into submission. Nor will they find it easy to reach agreement with the Government of Sudan if the violence continues while they sit at the conference table. As we are well aware from our experience in Northern Ireland, little progress is possible while bombing and killing persists on a systematic and daily basis.
Nor should we make the mistake of believing that a ceasefire is itself the final objective. A ceasefire is not a substitute for either democracy or justice; and we should also be aware that a ceasefire may be used as a smokescreen. Since September some progress has been made at a political level, but that has been impeded by the continuing violence. The breach of the ceasefire by the Government of Sudan by its attack on Tam in Western Upper Nile is but one example. The Government of Sudan should not be allowed to get away by claiming that it was independent militia who were responsible. That attack also raises questions about the need for more effective monitoring.
91 Generally I have been admiring of the role played by the United States Administration in Sudan. However, the US-led monitoring team's report on the September 2002 bombing was disappointing in its lateness as well as in its content.
It also needs to be understood that the ceasefire benefits the Government of Sudan militarily and that they have been using the ceasefire to make military preparations to resume war if the peace process does not go as they wish. I am sorry that Her Majesty's Government, in reply to parliamentary Questions that I tabled last year, were unable to counter the many fears in southern Sudan that the sale of the Alenia Marconi radar systems to the Government of Sudan will contribute to the accretion of great military strength. That may be an issue to which the Minister could respond in her reply.
Our failure to turn off the tap of western oil receipts means that we are directly contributing to that process. As the Reverend Akio Johnson, Bishop of Torit with whom I travelled when I went into that part of southern Sudan, put it to me, "Every barrel of oil bought by the west is half full of oil and half full of the blood of our people. You should remember that when you pull your car into garage forecourts".
Sudan's modern history is littered with temporary peace agreements which were eventually broken. To ensure a permanent peace within Sudan it is essential that the gross human rights violations and blatant injustices such as the slavery referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and others, the forced conversion to Islam referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the slaughter of civilians be stopped once and for all. It is also absolutely crucial for the Government of Sudan to practise religious moderation and tolerance since a sizeable proportion of its population—around 35 per cent—are not Muslims. Religion is a major fault line in Sudan.
In conclusion, if the parties to the conflict fail to reach a peace agreement and the Machakos talks fail, the British Government should then use their permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council to lobby for a universal embargo on arms and investment to be imposed on Sudan. Investment in Sudan's oil fields and the Government of Sudan's oil revenues are fuelling the conflict. Those investments enable the Sudanese Government's military to purchase ever more lethal weapons of destruction such as helicopter gunships. The UN embargo on arms and investment would therefore go a long way toward de-escalating the civil war described by some as the "deadliest phase" in the history of this conflict in Sudan.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Lord Astor of Hever
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for this opportunity to speak on the Sudan peace talks. All noble Lords who have spoken are tireless observers of events in that country. That ensures that Sudan, so often overlooked in the headlines, is never forgotten in this House.
92 I am sorry that the noble Lord has received no support from his own Benches. We on these Benches take the problems of Sudan seriously. Indeed, my right honourable friend Michael Ancram and my honourable friend Caroline Spelman will be visiting Sudan in early March.
Peace talks are due to resume in Kenya in two days' time. I agree with my noble friend Lord Moynihan that those in Kenya who have worked so hard to broker the talks deserve great credit. The participants will be confronted with serious political decisions. However, the Sudanese Government have cast doubt on whether they will appear. At first, they said that they had not received their invitation; then they objected to the fact that the future of Abyei, Nuba and Blue Nile, in central Sudan, was to be given prominence during this round of talks.
The Sudanese Government have a history of going from one peace negotiation to another, jumping ship whenever a real peace agreement is imminent. Today they appear to be reactivating the Nigerian peace initiative, just as the Machakos protocol is reaching the point of significant breakthrough. That must not be allowed to happen. International pressure, which drove that government to the negotiating table, should be maintained to ensure a true breakthrough in negotiations.
The fact that the talks are resuming at all is a relief, although in the past such resumption has not led to the cessation of military operations. Last September the Sudanese Government walked out of the negotiations after the SPLA recaptured Torit. Humanitarian aid flights to the south of the country were cancelled at the same time. As my noble friend Lady Cox pointed out, there are reports of an ongoing military campaign in the oilfields and a military build-up in Juba, in defiance of the Machakos cease-fire agreements. That is unacceptable; it is important that Her Majesty's Government condemn such actions in the strongest terms.
A genuine cease-fire must be established before the mechanics of secession can be worked out fully. The war in Sudan is highly complex and a good deal of the fighting is factional. Technical military advice will need to be employed to ensure that a cease-fire is workable on the ground as well as in the political arena. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency before the south can even consider setting up autonomous institutions of its own.
The peace plan, which we hope will form the basis of good governance in Sudan, is vital. Restructuring will be a great task. I ask the Minister how far preparations have come and what assistance Her Majesty's Government have offered to make the talks successful.
Many of the issues to be discussed over the coming months concern power-sharing and wealth-sharing. An internationally monitored mechanism for wealth-sharing will need to be implemented to ensure that all relevant stakeholders benefit from the peace agreement. A technical committee will be required, for example, on the issue of a census for southern Sudan. If the south is one day to become independent of the 93 north, at some point government forces will be required to withdraw. I am interested to know whether IGAD has made arrangements for disarmament. If, as we hope, talks progress satisfactorily over the coming months, the long haul to reconstruct the country must get under way as quickly as possible.
Finally, I ask the Minister whether the Government have received any reports on the continuation of the slave trade, and particularly, of any follow-up of the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group that investigated the issue of slavery in Sudan, and whether the international community is any nearer to establishing a permanent mechanism to monitor the Sudanese warring parties as they attempt to address slavery, abduction and forced servitude.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for initiating this timely debate, which demonstrates the continued interest in Sudan in this House.
Last year saw a new opportunity for peace in Sudan. War-weariness and international pressure finally brought the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement back to the negotiating table in June 2002. The peace talks held under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development—IGAD—at Machakos in Kenya have been revitalised under the leadership of Kenya's Special Envoy, Lt-General Sumbeiywo. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, rightly paid tribute to his work and to Kenya's role.
The Machakos protocol, signed at the end of the first session on 20th July, represented a significant breakthrough on key issues—state and religion, and self-determination for southern Sudan—within a framework of national unity.
A second session of talks, ending on 18th November last year, produced a Memorandum of Understanding on a cessation of hostilities until the end of March 2003, and agreement on aspects of power and wealth-sharing, as well as human rights.
The talks are due to resume later this week to discuss the marginalised areas of Southern Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains and Abyei. These discussions will take place outside the auspices of IGAD although they will involve many of the same participants. We expect the IGAD talks to resume in the near future. These will consider outstanding aspects of power and wealth-sharing, cease-fire and security issues and guarantees of an agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, asked about the United Kingdom Government's contribution to the talks. To maintain the impetus for peace in the adjournment period, we organised successful workshops on cease-fire and security issues with the US and Norway in both north and south Sudan in December. The US Government hosted workshops on aspects of power and wealth-sharing in Washington which we also attended. This will of course impact on 94 militias, a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. There may be a requirement to strengthen policing after peace has been agreed.
So we are playing a full part in the peace efforts and we will continue to offer the parties and mediators our full support and advice and remain actively involved in helping them reach a comprehensive peace agreement.
A number of noble Lords raised the issue of human rights, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. We continue to be concerned about tie human rights of all in Sudan regardless of their ethnic or religious background. The promotion of human rights remains one of our priorities. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, raised specifically the issue of slavery and abduction. The abduction of women and children is a serious and distressing issue to which we pay particular attention. We continue to work closely with the Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children, which is working with UNICEF and Save the Children UK.
The Government of Sudan have made clear publicly that they are committed to the success of the committee and have said that they see abduction as totally unacceptable and contrary to both Islam and Christianity. We share the concerns of many working on this issue about the paying for the return of abductees in that it could actually encourage abduction by developing a market. It rewards the abductors financially. The civilian protection team will investigate reports of abduction.
We regularly lobby the Government of Sudan, for example to ratify the convention—
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. From her experience, is she satisfied with the progress of the committee to which she has referred?
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, we are concerned that sometimes movement on the committee appears to be slow. But we feel that its work is very important indeed and that there is a commitment by the committee to take forward these issues. That is why we continue to work with it very closely. But I can understand that behind the noble Earl's question lies a degree of frustration about the length of time it sometimes takes to get these issues considered and taken through quickly.
To continue with human rights. We continue to lobby the Government of Sudan, for example, to ratify the convention against torture. We actively criticise the government on human rights issues bilaterally and through the EU/Sudan dialogue. The dialogue assesses progress against benchmarks on democracy, the rule of law, freedom of religion, human rights and the peace process. The dialogue is reviewed on an annual basis—most recently, by an EU troika mission to Khartoum on 9th and 10 December last year.
95 The EU also sponsored a resolution at this year's UN Commission on Human Rights, and at the UN General Assembly we set out our concerns and criticised both the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A.
The long-term answer to improving the human rights situation in Sudan is an IGAD peace settlement. The noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Astor, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about the attack that happened during the interim period. It is a great encouragement that by and large the cessation of hostilities is being respected. Recently, we received unconfirmed reports of tribal conflict in Darfur and fighting in the western Upper Nile. We will shortly be sending representatives to investigate the situation in Darfur.
The US had approached Lt-General Sumbeiywo to activate the investigations committee. The civilian protection monitoring team's aircraft could be made available to the Government of Sudan and the SPLM if needed. In any case, the civilian protection monitoring team is investigating allegations of attacks against civilians during the recent fighting in western Upper Nile.
The peace process offers the best chance of bringing an end to the civil war through a negotiated settlement between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A. But, as was said by the right reverend Prelate and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, there is an important role for civil society and it is desirable that other voices are heard. The noble Earl spoke particularly about the importance of women in the process. They have an important role to plax in Sudan's future and attend the peace negotiations.
The right reverend Prelate focused on the important role of the Churches. They too have a key role to play. We funded a civil society conference on the Nuba mountains and southern Blue Nile in Kampala in November through Justice Africa. We will continue to support peace activities through civil society groups—an important part of the wider peace process—through our embassy peacebuilding fund.
Questions were raised about international community support for Sudan—particularly by the right reverend Prelate. The war in Sudan has prevented many donors, including the UK, from carrying out a development programme over the past decade. More than 500 million dollars of development funding will become available from the international community when there is peace. That is a huge incentive for the warring parties to reach a comprehensive agreement. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that we are working to engage the IFIs—which share our desire to see peace in Sudan.
The noble Lord, Lord Astor, asked particularly about the UK contribution. If there is a peace, UK funding for Sudan in 2003–04 is likely to be around £20 million—double our programme this financial year. We are planning an immediate peace dividend in the education sector when there is comprehensive agreement. We will also consider how we can best 96 support transitional needs—such as the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, demobilisation of the armed forces and landmine clearance.
Until there is a peace agreement, we will continue to support life-saving humanitarian work and peacebuilding activities—such as personnel to monitor the ceasefire in the Nuba mountains and support for anti-slavery work and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development secretariat.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about timing. We are aiming at a comprehensive agreement in the first half of this year. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, specifically asked about Alenia Marconi. Sudan has a requirement for a modern air traffic control system, not least because the vast majority of humanitarian assistance is transported by air. All export licence applications are considered against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. The United Kingdom continues to observe these criteria as well as implement vigorously the EU arms embargo against Sudan.
The noble Lord also asked about oil revenues. We have pressed for revenues to be used for development projects and for transparency in the oil account. The Government of Sudan have made public assurances to that effect. We shall look to them to honour those assurances and shall remain focused on this issue as evidence becomes available.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked whether we are looking at the situation in Sudan in the context of our wider policy in Africa. The short answer is yes. We cannot look at development policy through the Department for International Development or, indeed, our diplomacy through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, without taking an integrated and comprehensive approach. We have an overall strategy and we are well aware of the need to look at all countries in Africa in their global context which includes the issue of failed and failing states and the war against terrorism.
There is still much to be done but the prospects for peace which will bring an end to the suffering of the people of Sudan are good.
§ Baroness Crawley
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.34 p.m.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 8.32 to 8.34 p.m.]