House of COMMONS






Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect



Tuesday 8 November 2005





Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 54





This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.



The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.



Oral Evidence

Taken before the International Development Committee

on Tuesday 8 November 2005

Members present

Malcolm Bruce, in the Chair

John Barrett

John Battle

Hugh Bayley

Richard Burden

Mr Quentin Davies

Mr Jeremy Hunt

Ann McKechin

Joan Ruddock


Witnesses: Rt Hon Hilary Benn, a Member of the House, Secretary of State for International Development, Lord Triesman, a Member of the House of Lords, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ms Jessica Irvine, Head, and Mr James Thornton, Deputy Head, the joint FCO/DFID Sudan Unit, examined.

Q1 Chairman: Secretary of State, thank you very much for coming to see us. I am very pleased to see you here, given some of the rumours that were flying around last week!

Hilary Benn: I am pleased to be here!

Q2 Chairman: We are pleased to have you here. Perhaps you could, first of all, introduce your team and your colleagues to us?

Hilary Benn: Yes, indeed. I have Lord Triesman, the Minister from the FCO, on my right, and Jessica Irvine, Head of the Sudan Unit, and James Thornton on my far right.

Q3 Chairman: Thank you, also, for agreeing to give us a little bit of an update on the Pakistan situation before we take evidence on Darfur. Just briefly, the weekend news was that the death rate was heading towards 100,000, or seems to be getting close to that figure, and the point of concern was that the international agencies are saying they are actually short of money now to do things now. I know you have been following the situation closely, and I wondered if you could give us an indication, first of all, of what your current take on that is and, I suppose, specifically, what we, the UK Government, are doing? Also, in the Presidency of the EU, there seems to be a shortfall amongst some of our EU partners who could be doing more as the UK Presidency did to co-ordinate the EU response.

Hilary Benn: Thank you very much indeed. The current situation is indeed that the death toll continues to rise. I think it will be sometime yet before we finally know exactly how many people were killed and injured in this terrible catastrophe. We are, as many people have said, currently engaged in a race against time to bring, in particular, shelter and warmth to those who have lost everything - in particular their homes. Although the numbers who are coming down from the hillsides is reducing, there has been a very large operation, certainly in the first couple of weeks, to airlift the most seriously injured out to Islamabad and elsewhere to receive treatment. There have, sadly, been a considerable number of amputations, people had limbs that were damaged by the earthquake and then gangrene set in and medical care is now being provided for the less severely injured in areas that people can get access to. The task of trying to get access to all of the parts affected continues (you have the Jehlum Valley and the Neelum Valley), and the Government of Pakistan, and the military in particular, are trying to clear those roads and there is now this huge helicopter operation taking supplies up to the main towns. As the Select Committee will know, I was there two and a half weeks ago and went to Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot and I must say it really brings home to one just how difficult an operation it is because I saw with my own eyes just how difficult the terrain is. As far as shelter is concerned, it seems now as if there are enough tents in the pipeline, provided they can be got to people where they are. The UN and the aid agencies, the Government of Pakistan, are pursuing a number of different approaches. One is to provide winter tents. The other approach is to give people materials to enable them, if they are able - physically capable - and if they can be reached, either to rebuild their homes or to provide what is known as a "warm room" ie somewhere that families will be able to live in and keep warm in during the course of the very harsh winter which is on its way, or, if that is not possible, to bring people down to camps that are being provided at the lower levels, although because of the topography there is not a lot of flat space on which to build those camps, and there is also a problem of clearing the rubble of the houses in the towns, as I saw for myself in Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot. In Rawalakot almost every building has been destroyed; in Muzaffarabad less so, but a lot of the houses and buildings there have been severely damaged and people, understandably, are reluctant to go in. As far as funding is concerned, yes, I wish there was now more of a response. I briefed European Union Development Ministers on my return with Jan Egeland when we met in Leeds for the EU informal, and I am just in the process of writing again to EU ministers to say: "Come on, we need more funding in the international system in order to support the operation". Britain, we have, as you know, pledged 33 million and almost all of that is now committed in some shape or form and we will do more if that is required. When, not last Friday but the Friday before, the UN announced that their helicopters were at risk of stopping operating because of a shortage of funds, the following day I took a decision to provide 1.5 million for UNHAS (the UN Humanitarian Air Service) and that has been helping to keep the UN helicopters going. Frankly, if they run the risk of running out of money again then I will do the same again in the absence of anybody else in the international system providing funding to allow that vital support to continue. There are about just under 100 helicopters operating now, with some more in the pipeline, but some need to come out to be serviced because they are working very hard going up and down, and the weather conditions are extremely difficult. So there is more capacity on the ground now. We still need more money and we need to turn that into practical help. We need to get to people where they are and ensure that they do not die of cold and respiratory tract infections, and there is less and less time in which to do it. That is, in quick summary, where I think we are.

Q4 Chairman: The President of Pakistan made a fairly angry statement, really, that demonstrated some frustration - not at the United Kingdom but perhaps at the wider community in the European Union. He made a comparison with the Tsunami and said that of course that was a holiday resort for a lot of Europeans and maybe Pakistan was not. Do you feel that there is more that we can do to generate a better international response? I think what people are concerned about is the proximity of winter. International agencies say they need money now to get to people and yet the international community seems to be somewhat passive.

Hilary Benn: I heard the interview and, in fact, what President Musharraf said - although it was reported as criticising the overall response to the immediate crisis - was that on the relief side he said (from memory) something like "broadly satisfied", and what he was really talking about was support for reconstruction. There will be a conference in Islamabad in just over a week's time to talk about support for the reconstruction. My view is the immediate priority is the relief effort, frankly. Reconstruction will be hugely important. He has previously talked about a figure of $5 billion, as I recollect, being required for that but, frankly, if we do not save people's lives then people will not be alive to have their homes reconstructed. So, in my view, it really is a case of first things first. To be honest, I wish I understood why some in the international community have not responded in a more generous way, because I do not think anybody can be under any illusions about the scale of the challenge and the fact that we have a very short amount of time. When winter comes and those places are cut off and the temperature drops to below freezing, if people do not have somewhere warm out of the elements to live, then they are going to die. I think we have to continue to do what we have done, both as the Presidency supporting the UN's effort to raise the profile of this, and to tell it like it is, so that people realise what the stakes are and how they can contribute practically. It would be helpful, actually, if some of the non-European states which have contributed quite large sums of money for reconstruction were in a position - and this is something I was talking with the team about this morning and I intend to follow up - to provide some of that to support the on-going relief operation. When one looks at the total sums being committed you always have to distinguish between what is for relief and what is for reconstruction. The other thing, if I may just make the point, is that there has been a lot of focus on contributions in response to the UN flash appeal. We have given our money in three different places: in response to the UN flash appeal, to the Red Cross movement and to the NGOs - so when Oxfam recently very unfairly criticised Britain and said we have only given a little bit to the UN, they were not counting all that we have done; they were not counting what we have given to Oxfam, which I thought was rather strange.

Q5 Chairman: Is there more we can do to directly appeal to other Members of the EU?

Hilary Benn: I will continue to do all that I can. That is why I am writing around to them, again - I do not know whether the letters are going out today - saying this continues to be extremely serious. Any ideas, any suggestions or any support that anyone can give to try and persuade others that they need to contribute with the same generosity and speed - because it is now a matter of speed - as they did in response to the Tsunami would certainly be much appreciated.

Q6 Chairman: Thank you very much, Secretary of State. I think we are all just anxious to ensure that what is a bad situation does not become impenetrably worse in the next few weeks. You actually came before us initially and principally to take follow-up evidence on the situation in Darfur and the report that this Committee produced in the last Parliament[1]. I was not a Member of the Committee but a number of the Members of the Committee from that time are here today who participated in that report and the visit to Darfur, and they will clearly be pressing their experience home. I just wonder if I could perhaps start by saying that my only update on that was a meeting with Juan Mendez who was in London within the last couple of weeks. He indicated that the situation has deteriorated. El Geneina, he said, was effectively a no-go area and, to my concern, said that there were at least 200,000 people whose circumstances were almost unknown: they did not know where they were or how they could get to them. Perhaps the first question, really, is how do you see the situation, the deterioration, at the moment? Perhaps you could answer that question first.

Hilary Benn: If I go back to February, which is when I last appeared before the Select Committee on this subject, what has happened since then is that the security situation overall improved. I think there is no doubt about that. In terms of the clashes between the Government of Sudan and the rebels (the Arab militia and Janjaweed activity) there continued to be a level of banditry. Then as the year progressed the rebels became responsible for more violence and attacks. The African Union (AU) force (and of course we will no doubt come on to that), in my view and that was what I heard when I was last in Darfur in June of this year, had undoubtedly made a difference in improving the security situation. Then, however, in the last couple of months there has been a upsurge in violence and, in particular, there have been three incidents: the attack on the Aro Sharrow camp by militia, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) attack on Sheriya and the killing of the AU peacekeepers by persons unknown. In the last couple of weeks it has been slightly quieter but banditry continues. Clearly, this has had an impact on the humanitarian situation and, you are right, in West Darfur that is particularly acute and that has affected the ability of NGOs and others to get out and about, although the World Food Programme is now getting food to more people than was the case in the past and are using, if I recollect, private truckers in the west to get the food distribution out. If one looks at the latest World Health Organization (WHO) mortality survey, which has come out, the situation has improved compared to where it was when the last WHO survey was undertaken. So, in summary, it is a mixed picture. Now the question is whether the recent upsurge in violence is a spike associated with jockeying for position around the peace talks in Abuja? Is this the beginning of a return to an upward trend? Frankly, I do not know because I think it is rather early to say. Of course, David has been there even more recently.

Lord Triesman: Yes, in El Geneina. I had a meeting with all of the organisations based in El Geneina during the course of a two-day visit there and they were quite clear that they could not get out and about, in exactly the way that you have described, and were uncertain when they would be able to. That was plainly, in part, due to the general violence but the banditry was a key factor in that. I think that the last five or six weeks, with the possible exception of the last ten days to two weeks, have unquestionably shown a significant upsurge and West Darfur has probably been among the worst areas affected.

Q7 Chairman: One of the things that comes across pretty regularly from reading both our own report and other reports is, frankly, the downright obstructiveness of the Government of Sudan who seem to be putting all kinds of obstacles in the way - never mind the role they may be playing in some areas: insisting on a variety of conditions that make it difficult or impossible to function on the ground. What can and should be done to bring the Government of Sudan into a co-operative frame of mind? In other words, to accept their responsibilities, if they cannot co-operate, at least not to obstruct the activities of the international forces to create a situation where displaced persons might begin to think about the possibility of going back to their land, which at the moment seems to be not in prospect.

Hilary Benn: It certainly is not in prospect, with two very small exceptions. One was the returns that took place, as I recollect, to Labado and Kor Abeche, after there had been a problem in the past and the AU had gone in to provide security there. There have been very small amounts of returns in parts of the west. However, overall, no the bulk of the 1.8 million in the camps are not going to move until they think it is safe to do so. In direct answer to your question, Chairman, the answer is by keeping up the pressure, because the evidence so far demonstrates that it is only by persistent pressure from the international community that one is able to see progress. One of the issues that we discussed in December 2004 was the demand that had been made by the international community that the Government of Sudan would cease to use its military aircraft in offensive attacks. They have ceased doing so and there has been one incident, I think, recently which is still under investigation, but when I was in El Fasher in June and met commanders of both the SLA and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) I put that question to them and said: "Is the Government of Sudan honouring the commitment they had entered into eventually, after a lot of pressure, to cease air attacks?" and they said yes, that was the case. I just give that as a for instance. I think our immediate concern at the moment, in terms of obstruction, relates to the armoured personnel carriers which the AU are waiting to arrive (and we can go into that if you like) and the problems they have had with fuel. That is organisational and we are trying to take some steps - I think the Canadians are helping to deal with that. It is pressure that makes the difference. I am sure, David, you will have discussed these things when you were there most recently.

Lord Triesman: We did. We saw both the first and second vice-presidents and the foreign minister during the final day of the period that I was there, in a meeting between the EU Troika and the Government of Sudan. Javier Solana was there on behalf of the European Commission. The critical things, in my view, from what I saw, were that if people are to be protected effectively, whether it is civilians who might one day go home and plant their own fields - and Hilary is absolutely right, nobody at the camps had any intention of doing that - or whether it is protecting the NGOs and the UN people in distributing food, the African Union are trying to do the very best they can. I felt for them. They unquestionably need the equipment to fulfil their mandate. The 105 Canadian armoured personnel carriers are critical; I doubt (though it is hard to tell) that the African Union troops would have been killed if they had been in hardened vehicles rather than soft vehicles. There were two civilians killed, incidentally, as well in that attack - at least two, I heard three at one stage. They unquestionably need to be able to get around an area which has no real roads - not in any sense that we understand. They need to be able to get around that area, which means flying helicopters and being able to fly them, not being obstructed on the flight plans, having the fuel to put in the tanks and getting to places quickly. I think it is a very hard to know just how effective a force they could be in the absence of the equipment to be a really effective force. The Government of Sudan can unlock those doors. We told them in terms that that was the requirement of them and that their obligation to the international community, having invited the AU in, was to do what they pledged themselves to do. We must just keep up that pressure, as we did indeed try on the occasion when I was there.

Q8 Hugh Bayley: There are something like 11,000 unarmed humanitarian workers in Darfur, and Jan Egeland has warned that if the violence continues to grow they may find themselves unable to do the job they are there to do. He has even drawn a parallel between the safe areas approach in Bosnia and what is happening currently in Darfur. How real is the danger that humanitarian workers will not be able to provide protection to those in the camps, and what can be done to guarantee their safety?

Hilary Benn: If I may answer first, clearly it depends very much on what happens to the level of violence from here on. The AU force had undoubtedly made a real difference. I remember in Nyala meeting the representatives of all of the NGOs and the UN, and without exception they said the AU had made a real difference. It was very striking. This was back in June. Both because there is greater presence now, they had more bases, they were beginning to provide protection in some of the camps where there had been difficulties; in some cases they were providing patrols to help women in going out to collect firewood outside of the camps and that had helped, in cases where they were able to do so, reduce the number of attacks on women, because the women I spoke to in the camps I visited were obviously very frightened about going outside because they knew from experience and from what they had heard from elsewhere that they could fall prey to those who would harm them and attack them in a number of ways, including rape. There had been a number of reports of that. So it really does depend on what the rebels, the militia and the Government of Sudan choose to do in those circumstances. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the AU had made a real difference.

Lord Triesman: I think there is some variation between the different sectors. Sector commanders, when you talk to them, obviously spoke of it being more dangerous in some areas than others. El Geneina was particularly dangerous at that time and probably still is. There were any number of heavily armed people wandering around; quite who they were or what they were doing was never wholly clear. What I do think is true is that the AU forces where their bases are close to camps are able to produce a pretty good level of protection. The police in the areas are having a real impact inside the camps as well. The recruitment of a number of Ghanaian women in the police is also giving confidence to some of the women in the camps that they have got somebody who they can feel they can talk to. Those are all very important. Of course, the more remote you are, as a force, from the camp the less that protection is there. If there is to be any disarming of all these people who are wandering around with weapons, or any attempt to do that, which is, after all, what the Government of Sudan has undertaken to do, then the AU force - to repeat the point I was making a little earlier - has got to be equipped to be able to fulfil its mandate so that the confidence increases in a significant way and the next steps, which are going to be much more hazardous steps, can potentially be taken.

Q9 Hugh Bayley: What needs to be done, both in terms of broadening the mandate and in terms of the number of troops and equipment available to the AU mission, in order to be able to enable them to fulfil their role and protect civilians in the camps?

Hilary Benn: Can I say this on the mandate, because we have discussed previously this very question: was the mandate sufficient? When I went in June I asked the question in my discussions with the Brigadier General Kazura, the AU Deputy Force Commander. By and large, the answer I got from those I asked (and I also asked others that I met) was that the mandate was sufficient. The answer to the question, in the end, is the AU sets its own mandate and if the AU feels it is necessary to change the mandate then they are free to do so. My perception is that (and I think I made this point previously) the AU, certainly in places, was prepared to put themselves about, but what Brigadier General Kazura said to me was: "If we are going to continue to do that I need to make sure that our troops are protected." That is why the armoured personnel carriers are so important, and that is why the obstruction of their entry into the country by the Government of Sudan - because that is what has been going on - is unacceptable and that is why I welcome the fact that the Canadians have said most recently, as I understand it, that we are planning to bring them in because we do not want to put up with this obstruction any more. I think that is a real test for the Government of Sudan. You cannot say you are co-operating with the AU force - and that was one of the five points which the Prime Minister put to President Bashir when he visited in October of last year. For me, for us, this is a real test of the willingness of the Government of Sudan to demonstrate its co-operation with the AU peacekeeping force: is it going to stop now obstructing the AU troops getting the protection that they need to be able to carry on doing their job?

Q10 Hugh Bayley: Secretary of State, who, in your assessment, within the AU is blocking an extension of the mandate, and who supports it?

Hilary Benn: I do not think that is the case. As I understand, they have discussed this in time. I do not think there is an issue of anybody blocking it. The AU has set the mandate itself, if the AU wanted to change it - all I am doing is to report back the answer to the question that I asked when I was there in June, both of the AU force and of others that I spoke to: "Do you think the mandate is the problem?" I went with a genuinely open mind and I did not know what answer I was going to get and I report back to you the answer that I did get, which was, from those I spoke to: "The mandate is not actually the burning issue".

Lord Triesman: I certainly ran into local commanders who believed that they would benefit from being able to chase after people who had attacked them and to engage them, and they were not certain about whether an extension of the mandate would support their need to do that, although they certainly said they thought it was a possibility. Let us be very clear about that: they thought it was a possibility. What they have not been able to test out was whether they could fully use the mandate they had currently got. That was the unknown. They need the hardened vehicles, they need the helicopters and they need the fuel for the helicopters. They need some quite basic things which we talked about whilst I was there, and I am going to see what might be done, which is more reliable base radio stations rather than the small hand-held kits which meant you could not really run the risk of operating in the hours of darkness. There were some very significant problems, particularly with the militias. So there were some very practical things that were tested out and in every single case getting the import permissions from the Government of Sudan is necessary, and that is why pressure on them had to be very, very strong. I must say I think we told them in no uncertain terms what the expectations of the international community would be in each of those areas.

Q11 Hugh Bayley: Finally, Lord Triesman, you said that where you had an African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) base close to a camp you had a better level of protection than where they were more remote from those who they were seeking to protect. What are the current troop numbers? What are the build-up plans? What troop numbers are expected by early next year? Do you think those troop numbers are going to be met and do you think they are adequate? Jan Egeland has talked about a need for 15,000 troops to protect the civilian workers in the camps.

Lord Triesman: There are about 7,700 at the moment deployed. People have talked about various numbers above that, and one figure I know was discussed in some detail was about 13,500. It is quite difficult to see where the extra troops are going to come from, at the moment. There is a battalion of South African troops they were hoping to add to the force to be deployed rapidly, and those are very good quality troops as well, which is of great significance. The South Africans, who have been very willing to look at that, are also now considering whether that battalion would best be deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ensure that the elections take place there and they disarm marauding forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. So there is a question there. I do not know if there is a dignified word for it and I do not mean to demean it, but there is a "trawl" going on to try and find another force that might replace the South Africans in the event that they go to the DRC. We are keeping very closely up-to-date with that. We have obviously provided very considerable financial support for those troops who are there so that, even if the numbers have not reached the numbers we want, their capacity and their deployment is as effective as it can possibly be.

Q12 Mr Hunt: Secretary of State, you have rightly got stuck into the detail of what is happening on the ground in Darfur, but can I ask you to step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture? I think the perception of a lot of members of the public, and it is one that I share as a new Member of this Committee, is that with respect to Darfur the West has fiddled while Rome has burned. I just wonder whether you could respond to that and tell me in particular, if you were to go back to 2003 when the whole situation started, should we have been more willing to intervene directly? Was it over-bold to go for an African solution to an African problem? Are there any things you would have done differently and, if a similar situation arose in the future, are there any ways that you would want the international community to respond differently to the way it has?

Hilary Benn: Clearly, if we had known then what we know now, of course we would have done some things differently. I think, in particular, the slow way in which the international community, as a whole, responded to what was going on has meant that the people of Darfur have suffered a great deal as a result of what has happened. I think it demonstrates precisely why what was being discussing at the Millennium Summit a couple of months ago - the concept of a responsibility to protect - matters. However, I think Darfur also exemplifies the practical difficulties that the international community faces in trying to do something about it. As I am fond of saying, you first of all need to take a decision to do something but then you need to have people who are prepared to go and do the work. That is why I have been, from the very start, such a strong supporter of the African contribution to try and find a solution to this because it is adding to the world's capacity to do something. I welcome it unreservedly, it is why Britain was the first country in the world to provide support to the AU force, why we have been such a strong supporter and why we have contributed, so far, I think it is about 32 million in financial support, which is providing 450 vehicles and so on. They are prepared to put the troops in. The second thing I would say is that there was a period of time when the Government of Sudan worked very hard to make sure that the international community could not see what was going on. I think the third lesson I would draw is that the humanitarian system can work more effectively than it has worked in this case, and that the proposals I have made for reform of the international humanitarian system were originally generated by my experience in Darfur, because I saw what was working, what was not and where the gaps where; the slowness with which we were deploying as an international community and I came to the conclusion that if we changed the way we went about it we could change things. I think the final message is we have come belatedly, through UN resolutions, sanctions, the reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but I think that is hugely significant. There were many people, and we discussed this last time, who thought: "Are we going to get ICC referral through the UN Security Council?" "Is Britain really going to push for it?" I simply point out: look what happened. Britain played a very important part in getting that referral in. I think that has had an impact because it does, at last, demonstrate that those who have been responsible for what has gone on are not going to be able to hide from justice as provided for by the international community. This was very significant because it is what has happened in Darfur that has led to the first referral to the ICC, and I think when we come to look back at this in many years to come we will see this as a very important moment. Overall, the international community could and should have done more, is the honest answer to your very direct question.

Q13 Chairman: On the point about the Canadian armoured vehicles, they have said they are going in, which is in direct contrast to what the Government of Sudan says is acceptable. How do you think the Government of Sudan will react? It is an interesting test.

Hilary Benn: It is an interesting test. I was informed of this yesterday when we were talking about this, and they are having a meeting with the Government of Sudan today or tomorrow in order to talk about this. We wait to see what the outcome is, but I think those armoured personnel carriers will be ----

Q14 Chairman: Will there be Canadian troops in them?

Hilary Benn: No, it is a question of flying. It is transport, so that they can be used by the AU force to protect them. If I could add one other thing in response to Mr Hunt's question, having said all of that I think, not to be defensive, that the part the UK has played both in supporting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was the right thing to do, and the part we played in the humanitarian relief - the speed with which we have done that, because we were on the case pretty early - and the effort that we have put in to try, both through the UN and through visits to Sudan and Darfur, because there has been a very large number of visits from Ministers from the UK, I think demonstrates that we have taken this seriously and we have tried very hard. It is a very, very complex problem and, in the end, the fundamental problem is that people continue to fight each other and are not prepared to use politics and dialogue to find a way forward. That is the problem we are having to deal with.

Q15 Ann McKechin: Lord Triesman, you have obviously talked about the need for better quality equipment, and various agencies working in Darfur together with the UN Secretary General have identified that there are still problems with funding the EU Mission there. What are the problems with funding the AU force? Where are the problems coming from?

Lord Triesman: Just before I answer that question directly, can I just correct a figure that I provided for the Committee? I mistakenly added the police on, so the total should be 6,700 not 7,700. I do apologise. I counted the police separately and should have counted them together. So far the funding that the Secretary of State has referred to has been one of the key sources of funding. There has been a European Union funding and whilst we were there in early October the European Union was looking at and, I think, has subsequently come up with something in the order of 70 million euros in additional funding to support the force that is there. That will get them through the immediate period. However, that is not long-term funding. If the AU forces stay there for any length of time there will have to be new sources of funding identified, and as yet they have not been. I would only add one point to that, and that is that our discussions and the AU discussions certainly have been very open to trying to find that funding, but no one has been able to commit budgets that have not yet been voted.

Q16 Ann McKechin: Given how fragile the situation is, do you think the international community has been complacent in not tackling the issue of funding now, given that we could face an escalation of violence in the immediate future?

Lord Triesman: I suppose it would always be better if everybody could tell where, long term, the funding was going to come from for an operation of this kind, but I do not think it is complacency and I do not think the current lack of security of that force is because of a current lack of funding. There have been some issues about getting things like helicopter fuel very rapidly, largely because a donation of that did not come through exactly when everybody was expecting, but generally speaking I think it is true to say the whole of the funding has been available when everybody said it would be. The genuine problems in security, I believe, are the inability to get hold of equipment which is available, which has been donated, which has been funded but which cannot be got, at the moment, to the African Union troops - unless the Canadians and others do exactly what they have said and that is just bring it in and make it happen.

Q17 Ann McKechin: I think that comes neatly into my next question, because I think people are worried that if the current EU Mission is unable to contain the violence and it escalates, what is the Plan B for the international community, and when is it going to be put into operation? You have mentioned the fact about Canadian forces bringing the equipment direct as a possibility. Is there any possibility of NATO taking a part if need be, to boost AU forces if we need to have an immediate response?

Lord Triesman: I am going to start with the last bit first, if I may. I think the Government of Sudan would react very, very sharply to a NATO intervention. They might regard it as being an act of war, I think. There are strong possibilities that it would be resisted very strongly. It is, however, true that moving some of the heavy lifting equipment from the African brigades into Darfur has been undertaken with help, and that has been significant and that has been allowable because it is under the terms of the AU mandate and the invitation to AMIS to come in and do the job. There are real reasons, because this is the first AU operation of its kind, to try to make sure that it succeeds. If the AU can provide the rapid response in Africa to problems in Africa then the problems are owned in Africa and the chances of success are a huge amount higher. So we do want, really do want, them to be successful. In the long term I am sure there will be discussions about whether other additions to command control logistics may be desirable but I think that that is only really likely to succeed if the AU itself can show that it has an appreciable level of success. That has got to be our first aim.

Q18 Ann McKechin: I think most of us would agree that having the AU mission as the front leader is important, but given, as you have indicated, that the South African military is having to consider whether it goes to the DRC or Sudan and given the scale of both these potential conflicts happening at the same time, my concern is that if there is an escalation in both for different reasons the capacity of African troops and their ability to cope is going to be very, very severely tested and it will mean an effective solution can be found only if other international troops are available.

Lord Triesman: There is a very serious point in that, and I acknowledge it. We have not been talking about the south of the country because we are concentrating on Darfur, but it is certainly true that the deployment of international forces in the south of the country along with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has brought a very, very much larger degree of settlement to the south of Sudan. That has been one of the great gains over the last period. It may be that that gain would have been driven through to an even better point had John Garang lived, but, nonetheless, it is certainly true now. I think it is early to talk about this, but there are reasons to think that if the stability in the south can be sustained and the resistance army do not become more of a problem (certainly if it is containable) then there may well be African nations who feel that they have forces on the ground and relatively near where those forces might be available. That is not, I assure you, fanciful thinking or an unrealistic hope; it is a real reflection of the successes that have been achieved in the south.

Hilary Benn: If I may add, what your question puts a finger on is this question of capacity: take a decision to do something, who is going to do the work? There is increasing demand because we recognise, from a development point of view, that unless you have got peace and stability it is very hard to get going. That is why there is such a large MONUC [UN Mission in DR Congo] force in the DRC, helping to bring some stability so that, hopefully, the political process, the elections and the 20 million people registered can make progress. There are, I think, 2,500 UN peacekeepers as part of UNMIS in Southern Sudan, and they are due to get up to 10,000. If you end up with 10,000 UN peacekeepers in Southern Sudan - and David is absolutely right, they are an important part to guaranteeing the peace but it is relatively peaceful there if the politics holds - and you have got, hopefully, 7,700 if the final brigade can be found from somewhere, depending on whether South Africa decides to come or they can find someone else, in a part of the country where security is worse, it seems to me a question that very quickly would be asked is: have we quite got the balance right? There needs to be an open and, frankly, an honest debate about this. On financing, which was your original question, I agree with David; I do not think that the way in which the financing has been spatchcocked together has got in the way of the AU's capacity because the EU has been very generous (we have given a lot); it has been the practical questions of finding the troop-contributing nations, building the accommodation, getting the equipment, radios that work, deploying around difficult territory and this is the first big operation of its kind - in fact it is the first, apart from what the AU did in Burundi - and it takes time and experience. Part of the support that we have offered has been trying to help them to do this so they can actually make a success of it. They have undoubtedly had an impact - there is no question in my mind about that whatsoever.

Q19 Joan Ruddock: Obviously the Secretary of State has been dealing with the problem up to the present time. I wonder, going forward, whether it is your view that the pledges made by the international community will be long-term commitments, both in terms of Southern Sudan, the UN peacekeeping requirements and the AU, and the funding of all of those operations, especially if they have to increase and provide better materials and so on and so forth. If I can just ask you to respond to that and then I want to look at the issue of the Government of Sudan itself and what it is up to with money.

Hilary Benn: The great benefit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is that for most of Sudan, but not all and certainly not Darfur, it opens up the new political arrangements, the formation of the national government, the government of Southern Sudan, people beginning to return to the South. I went to the South for the first time in the course of my visit in June and went to Rumbek. If you just look around you can see (a) the consequences of 25 years of civil war and (b) how desperately needed the support from the international community and others is. As far as our humanitarian programme is concerned, we are giving 75 million to Sudan, including Darfur and including eastern Chad this year. This includes 45 million for the UN Work Plan of which around 25 million will be sent to the South. We are trying, through some of that, to test out one of the proposals I made in my speech on humanitarian reform, namely giving the money to the UN co-ordinator so that they can distribute it amongst the different agencies having regard to the needs. We have got that pilot in Sudan and we are working on one in the DRC to test out, in particular countries the proposal I originally made. I hope that the international community will continue to provide support. The UN work plan is about 50 per cent funded, so far, but I tell you what would really, really help: an end to the conflict in Darfur. If people felt that right across Sudan everybody was now committed to the path of peace - and they have done it to end the civil war - the real answer to all of the things we have discussed so far this afternoon is: are the parties to the conflict at Abuja prepared to use debate, dialogue and politics to reach an agreement, because that is the only real solution. In the end, the parties to the North/South conflict in Sudan realised that and through a very painful and difficult process - which Britain played a hugely important part, when history comes to be written, in supporting - it happened. The final thing I would say to the Government of Sudan is not all the benefits of the peace deal and, in particular, debt relief are going to flow until Darfur is sorted out.

Q20 Joan Ruddock: We will come, I think, to the peace talks in a moment. Just on the point of the Government of Sudan, I think the estimate is between $7 and $11 billion for the value of Sudan's oil production. What is happening to those oil revenues and how does the oil revenue profit that that country is making compare with the amount of money that the international community is having to put in?

Lord Triesman: I think that links with the last question as well, because the amount of aid that goes particularly to the South is going, to some extent, to be affected by the other sources of revenues that can be got to the South. Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement the agreement is to split the oil revenues 70 per cent to the South and 30 per cent to the North.[2] I will check that that is what Salva Kiir said and there were similar arrangements over timber and other minerals. The big difficulty when we were there was that one of the commissions that was to be established under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the petroleum commission, had not been set up, although I now understand that it has been. Whilst it was not established nobody knew how much oil was being pumped or bunkered, or anything else, so you never knew what 70 per cent of anything was because you did not know what the baseline sum was. The petroleum commission ought to be able to provide objective evidence and we offered objective help in doing that. The measurement of these things is not a mystery; it is done all over the world and in all sorts of environments. If it comes off then the prospects of there being significant revenue flows to the South, I think, improve very considerably. They need to feel confident they are getting what they are due. That is very important as well, otherwise tension would increase. The other vital thing that then becomes very important, and Hilary has been mentioning it in talking about some of the other forms of dealing with assistance, is the capacity in the South to absorb that kind of income and use it to the greatest possible effect. You need to be able to step up its capacity. I was in Juba - it is a big country but relatively close to where we were - and as you go round it is very clear that they are very threadbare in governmental resources, let alone other resources, to be able to absorb significant changes in their income flows, whether it is from aid or anything else.

Hilary Benn: Can I just add, in terms of transparency about the budget, I discussed this, I think, on my first visit to Sudan with the Finance Minister, and that is something that the international community is looking for and will continue to look for because that provides the answer to your question: what is happening to the money? We will want to know that, in particular, in making progress on debt relief that there is not going to be any promise (I made that very clear as far as the UK is concerned - we offered to chair a group to progress it) until Darfur is sorted.

Q21 Joan Ruddock: Do you know what the Government is actually spending on the military to pursue its fighting?

Hilary Benn: I think the honest answer is we do not really, because, as sometimes happens in these circumstances, there is expenditure on the budget and there is other expenditure which it is very hard to know how much and what. Hence the point I made about transparency.

Q22 Richard Burden: Most of what I would like to ask you continues on the same line as the North/South issue, but before moving on to that, if I could just take you back to what you were saying about the possible use of forces in the South, if things were relatively quiet in the South and there were real problems in Darfur, could there be an adjustment there to provide a better use of resources, which seems to me to be quite sensible? Does that, in your view, have any implications for the questions we were asking earlier about the AU mandate and how far that would need to change?

Hilary Benn: I pose the question because it seems to me, at some point someone is going to ask: "Hang on a minute". That is the first thing. The second reason is because Kofi Annan himself has talked about whether in time there is a way in which the UN might be able to provide support and, frankly, there is discussion and debate going on about this because the questions that we are discussing this afternoon have also been debated by the AU and others in the international community. In the end, because this is an AU operation, the point that David has made is really important; they have invested a great deal in this practically in terms of troops, some of whom have been killed, and in terms of the reputation of the AU I think they have done a very, very good job in very, very testing circumstances and in circumstances where no one else was prepared to come in and do something. They deserve a huge amount of credit for that. We have been pressing to do a further assessment mission, which goes back to the original question that Mr Bayley asked about numbers because the plan always was when you got to the 7,700 and you then said "Should we go further? Should we be looking at another way of dealing with the problem?" and, in those circumstances, I think the AU and the rest of us should be open to looking at all the potential options, frankly, which might provide a solution to the problems of insecurity in Darfur. What the AU thinks about this is going to be hugely important.

Q23 Richard Burden: On the question of the Government of National Unity (GNU) and the significance of getting the petroleum issues sorted out, that certainly links with some of the evidence we have had from elsewhere, could you perhaps tell us a bit more on how you think the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is moving forward - the process itself - and how much of a blow is the death of John Garang?

Hilary Benn: Can I just add, on public expenditure, that the World Bank is currently undertaking a public expenditure review, which might provide part of the answer to the question that Mrs Ruddock asked. What about the GNU? It was formed on 20 September, so it is now one of the most representative governments Sudan has had for 50 years, and the Government of Southern Sudan was formed on 22 September. Clearly, John Garang's death was a huge blow because he had led the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), he had led the negotiations, and with him on the SPLM side and Vice President Taha on the Government of Sudan side, the relationship they had established and their willingness in the end to negotiate their way through these very tricky, difficult questions, it was that with support and encouragement that delivered the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. To be honest, there was enormous nervousness when this tragedy occurred about what would then happen to the political process. I have to say that Salva Kiir has stepped into his new responsibilities with great effectiveness, and the worries that some people had that it might all fall apart have not come to pass. That is the first point. The second is that we have seen some progress very recently with the formation of the assessment and evaluation committee, and that was agreed on 30 October. There had been concern that it was taking time because that plays a particularly key role in the process to get that up and running, and that is now in place and Tom Vraalsen will chair it. We are providing support to a number of the key national commissions. So there is that, there is the Government of Southern Sudan getting itself in place and the first tranche, as I understand it, of money to the Government of Southern Sudan, under the wealth-sharing agreement that formed part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, has now come. As I say, it has taken a bit longer than people hoped but I say so far so good, but people have to demonstrate they are going to continue to use these new mechanisms and work together. I think one of the big tests for the new government is: how does it then hope to deal with the problem of Darfur?

Q24 Richard Burden: What you said about Salva Kiir and the seriousness with which he is taking this role is encouraging. Is there an issue, though, about, in a sense, his authority and, in a sense, the SPLM's authority in the absence of John Garang, in terms of exercising leverage over some of the rebel groups in the South?

Hilary Benn: David met him during his visit, so is in a very good position to answer.

Lord Triesman: I have to say I was impressed by his approach to all the questions. Given that he perhaps seemed to have less of an argument for a united Sudan than John Garang had it was very important to see how he was going to respond to the Government of National Unity and what level of responsibility he felt he would have for influencing former allies or associates in Darfur. He made several points which I think were important. The first was that he had to give a huge amount of his energy to the formation of the Government of National Unity to make sure that ministerial portfolios were fairly distributed, they were operating and, as Hilary said, that the commissions that were going to be set up were set up and that they function. The second point that he made, and we heard it also in Juba in the South, was that because he had spent so much time, following John Garang's death, doing that he had not had as much time to deal with the issues of forming a government in the South. That was, consequently, taking rather longer. Regrettable or not, that was where the priorities lay and he then got on with the formation, as he said he would, of the government in the South. The third point he made, which was really the one to do with allies, was that he was completely willing to take part in discussions with any of rebel the groups in order to try to bring about a sensible negotiating position at Abuja. But he was insistent that it was the Government of Sudan, the new Government of National Unity's position that he was not somehow out on a limb doing something wholly separate from everybody else, and he was still in the formation period when he was being brought into that. But he was quite clear that as soon as he had clarity as first Vice-President for those responsibilities he would get into that with some real enthusiasm and energy. I will not say that he was totally optimistic about outcomes, but he was going to try.

Q25 John Barrett: Secretary of State, I am sure that you, along with the Committee, share a deep sense of frustration at the lack of progress that there has been over the last year in Sudan and in Darfur. While there have clearly been some successes since the Committee was out there at the beginning of this year, coming to the end of this year one of the key problems is the lack of cooperation of the Government of Sudan. That is one of the key problems. They seem to be continuing things as they are - and there is also conflict in regions of the country in getting the oil revenues. If this continues well into next year and we all get contacted by our constituents and that sense of frustration continues, how do we change the relationship with the Government of Sudan, to say that we have tried the carrot and the stick and the carrot has not been effective? What sticks can be used to make sure that things do not continue as they are, because my fear is that we go into 2006 and then we say that the AU Presidency is not nearly as strong as it could be, and possibly we are waiting on more logistical support and the mandate cannot be strengthened until we have that at the beginning. How long can we sit and say that the current dealings with the Government of Sudan have to be on the same basis as they have been for the last year, or do we change gear at some time?

Hilary Benn: The first thing I want to say in answer to that is that we do need to recognise the progress that has occurred because we only have to go back a year, 18 months, with real concern that we were looking at a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, continuing attacks, people continuing to flee their homes. And what we have seen in the last year - and the WHO mortality survey shows it, the increasing number of people who are being fed by the WFP shows it - the decline in one type of violence, i.e. attacks on people in their homes and the ending of aerial bombardment and the use of helicopters for offensive purposes. It is a complex story but we need to recognise that all of those things have happened during the course of last year and that represents unquestionable progress. Why have those things happened? Because of a lot of effort, money, international pressure and so on. If one looks back at the five points which the Prime Minister put to the Government of Sudan during the visit just over a year ago: cooperation with the AU force, I would say is pretty mixed and we have discussed this afternoon the recent example of lack of cooperation; revealing the location of their troops, yes, they have done that; confining them to barracks, no; concluding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement by the end of 2004, yes, that was done; implementing the humanitarian protocol, I would say a kind of mixed report. That is how I would summarise their progress on those fronts. The frustration is actually about the political process. My sense is that I think the Government of Sudan is willing to negotiate. The real problem actually has been the rebels because the rebels have been responsible for an increasing proportion of the attacks and insecurity. The rebels are divided and, to be blunt, unless the rebels get their acts together in the negotiations, know what it is they are trying to achieve, and use the political opportunity which the Comprehensive Peace Agreement provides - and that is why it is so important to get it through to completion. And it was a false argument to say that that was at the expense of what we were doing in Darfur because having the Comprehensive Peace Agreement gives those, if they want to use it, politically the best opportunity to find a political solution to the problems of Darfur because all the elements are in there, sharing power, sharing wealth and so on and so forth, and I think my biggest frustration is about the failure of the political process. The question: what can we all do to get the parties to those talks, to take them seriously and actually to do the business because that is the only long-term solution to this? My continuing frustration in relation to the Government of Sudan is particularly about the things we have already discussed, obstructing the AU getting, frankly, the tools they need to do the job.

Q26 Joan Ruddock: I would like to ask the Secretary of State to answer his own question. What can we do to help the rebels to get their act together? To come up with a coherent programme, a set of demands, to end their leadership struggles; is there anything that you believe can be done?

Hilary Benn: We have a Special Representative at the talks. There has been a process of taking people away to sit away from the talks to think about what their position might be; encouraging all of the parties to turn up to the talks; encouragement to the SLM in particular to sort out themselves out so that it is clear who is actually representing the movement, because when you have different people both claiming to be the leaders, in different places, some coming and some not coming to the talks, 40 people turning up, having to ring somebody who is living in Europe to find out what the line is and what they should be doing, you have a bit of a problem on your hands. We have done all of those things but so far the talks proceed pretty slowly and with difficulty.

Lord Triesman: I think that is absolutely right. The only that I would add to it at the moment is this. The rebel groups are plainly fragmented, they do not stay as cohesive groups and, as Hilary says, it is very far from clear that people who turn up at any talks when they do turn up actually represent the people on the ground. There is no cabling between the leader at one end and whatever is at the other end, and that is a significant problem and we are trying to work on that as has just been described.

Q27 Joan Ruddock: When you say, "We are trying to work on that", who is "we" and how is it being done?

Lord Triesman: The Special Representative who we have there is trying to build the links and to make sure that we are talking to people who are capable of taking part in a meaningful negotiation. We have specific people doing that work. The only other thing I wanted to add in general is this. There is some evidence - not conclusive but some - that there is an upturn in violence every time any discussions take place in Abuja; that there are people who believe that shooting each other is more of a way of achieving leverage than talking. That is why I come back to the effectiveness of the AU troops. If it were to be much less likely that committing acts of violence was likely to yield any kind of political progress, when compared with talks, I suspect that those people who have not resolved the question about who is talking for them would begin to resolve that question because it would be the only thing that would be of any use to them.

Hilary Benn: Mr Thornton has been involved in this and might like to add something.

Mr Thornton: I have attended parts of both the last two rounds of talks in Abuja along with the UK Special Representative for Darfur and another colleague in the Sudan Unit. It has been slow. I think we have seen a slight picking up of the pace in the last round with negotiations proceeding steadily, if not especially rapidly on one of the three clusters that have been identified as one of the three sets of the topics that will form part of the final peace settlement: that is the political line, power sharing. The parties have been negotiating for upwards of eight hours a day on those issues and the two rebel groups have been acting relatively well together. Having said that, there is still a long way to go and we need to find ways, if we can, of accelerating the process. One thing we could do is to ensure that when the talks restart in November that they go into permanent session and they do not break after three weeks or a month, which has become the pattern. To date there have been sessions of a month or so followed by a break. We do need to try and bring the two wings of the main rebel movement, the SLM, together, and one of the things that is happening on that is that today in Nairobi there is a meeting brokered by the Americans but with our strong support, and with the attendance of the UK Special Representative to try to get the two main leaders of the rebel group, the SLM, talking to each other and on a path to resolve their differences, because so far only one of the SLM factions has been attending talks in Abuja and they both need to be there and they both need to give their active support to the crisis.

Q28 Joan Ruddock: That is a very interesting answer. I notice it is the US and Europeans again who are trying to do this. Is there no African country that has any leverage in this situation and could influence their thinking?

Mr Thornton: The Nigerians step in from time to time. Obasanjo has turned up to the talks in Abuja from time to time to talk to the rebels in particular. I think we need to encourage them to be more active; we need to encourage the countries which are providing material assistance to the rebels to weigh in and to bang their heads together. But so far the West has been very much taking the lead on this.

Q29 Joan Ruddock: Do you think there is any prospect of those who are helping them in the military sense doing the task that is clearly necessary to make them become diplomats and not aggressors?

Mr Thornton: We have to try. I do not think we are going to convert those countries overnight; they are not necessarily countries with whom we had strong links.

Q30 Joan Ruddock: Do they include Libya?

Mr Thornton: The Libyans and the Eritreans, but particularly the Libyans. In general they are on side but they are not very actively on side, and we need to push them to take rather more robust action with the rebels.

Q31 John Battle: I think while appreciating the patient and positive efforts of the peace process, it strikes me that there is a larger political context. An actor we have not really talked much about is the UN Security Council, which sometimes strikes me that it tends to be a spectator at the massacre. I say that because in the Secretary General's July report there is a reference to the fact of the Government of Sudan's efforts to rein in the Janjaweed, and it says, "Government officials have recently made it known that the disarming of the militias will commence only after a political settlement is reached," putting conditions on it, which were not agreed at the Security Council. The Secretary General's August Report, "The Government still shows no intention of disarming these militia and is yet to hold a significant number of them accountable for the atrocities in earlier months." The Crisis Group comment on the AU Mission in Darfur, "UN Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1564 also demanded that the government disarm the Janjaweed militias. It has fulfilled none of these commitments." Are the UN Security Council resolutions making no impression whatsoever?

Hilary Benn: I would not say that. I do not demure from the passages you have read out from the Secretary General, but we have had five in all - 1556, 1564, 1574, 1591 and 1593. I think the first lot of resolutions undoubtedly upped the pressure on the Government of Sudan and I go back to the earlier answer that I gave, that in my experience it is only by consistent international pressure that you see progress, and I think the UN Security Council has played a part in that. I would say that the adoption of the resolution on sanctions was important. We wait to see the final report of the Sanctions Committee. It is very important that those who are on the ground - and it really falls to the UN and to the AU, who are closest on the ground - to put names into the Sanctions Committee so that those sanctions can be applied. We would like to see the arms embargo, for example, extended to cover the whole of the country. I think the ICC referral was important, for the reasons I gave earlier, and I think it has had an effect. So the UN's contribution has been to demonstrate the international concern to up the pressure but we are sitting here having this discussion about Darfur precisely because although while some things have improved some things have not changed.

Q32 John Battle: So you would say that the ICC reference, for example, has had a deterrent effect and you think that the arms embargo is going to bite?

Hilary Benn: The reason we are in favour of an arms embargo to cover the whole of the country is because it is quite difficult to operate an arms embargo as it is currently constituted and it would be sensible and logical to go the whole way. The ICC referral, I think there is no doubt that when the 51 sealed names were produced by the International Commission of Inquiry they were passed to the ICC prosecutors, and they are investigating. I do not know who is on the list. I think it was said when I was in Sudan in the summer that there are 51 names on the list and there about 400 people who think they are on the list. I think that does have an effect and in the end if people realise that they are not going to escape and if the evidence can be found they will be called to account, then I think that must have some impact in relation to this particular problem. I think in the longer-term it also has a much bigger impact because it shows that this thing we created, the ICC, which Britain has been such a strong supporter of, can actually be used to deal with crises like this.

Q33 John Battle: When will the Sanctions Committee report be ready?

Hilary Benn: Early December, I understand.

Q34 Chairman: Just on that particular point, given that the President of China is in town and given that China have been blocking initiatives of the Security Council, has anybody raised this matter with the Chinese President?

Hilary Benn: Today, or while he is here?

Lord Triesman: I do not know if it is going to be raised today, although there is a possibility. I have had detailed discussions with the Chinese Ambassador on these issues about two days ago now, and it was a more open and fruitful discussion than perhaps one might have expected because I think he accepted that the levels of their trade with Sudan, particularly about 40 per cent of the oil business that is conducted with the Chinese, does give them some possibilities of being influential, if they are willing to be influential. I put the argument to them that they are a major player in the country, as they are in several African countries, and if they chose to have a more dynamic impact they could achieve that. He said that he was willing to discuss ways of doing that.

Q35 Chairman: That sounds like a very inscrutable Chinese answer.

Lord Triesman: Probably so.

Q36 Mr Davies: Lord Triesman, I think you said to the Committee a few moments ago that there is a tendency for people taking part in the Abuja talks to think that they will get some leverage in those talks if there is violence on the ground in Darfur. Is that not a bit nave? Is it not the case that the only reason why anybody is invited to these talks in Abuja or any other peace talks is because they are engaged in violence? Had it not occurred to you that the major driver of violence in Darfur is that violence was obviously successful after about 20 years in Southern Sudan in getting the Naivasha Agreement and achieving autonomy and the prospect of statehood?

Lord Triesman: I understand the argument that people have got to the negotiating table because they conducted a war of violence. But I think my point is slightly different, with respect; it is that some people think that violence is an alternative to getting to the negotiating table, that they would prefer to see a result from that rather than from coming along and talking. We have to dissuade them from thinking that.

Q37 Mr Davies: What you are saying is that we have to change the rules of the game so as to make sure that in the future the balance and advantage to them is not engaging in violence, that I very much agree with you. I also wondered whether you are not being a bit nave about the Chinese. The Chinese are only in the Sudan because they need the oil, that is why they are getting involved in so many African countries with primary resources that they want. So the idea that they would be willing to forego the oil in order to achieve some political changes in the Sudan, again, I fear is a little nave. You may not be able to comment on that.

Lord Triesman: Mr Davies, one of the things that I do not think I suggested was that they would forego the oil. I am just saying that as a major partner in the area it would be good to be able to engage them in discussions about how that country can come out of war in all parts of that country. They may also have some interests in there being greater security and greater and more durable peace. I do not know until that discussion proceeds a bit further whether that will be the case. I do not think it is a matter of foregoing anything; it is a matter of them potentially a becoming partner and a major international player with significant influence if they want to avert it.

Q38 Mr Davies: You said that China is involved in the obtaining of 40 per cent of the oil in Sudan and that might give them a special influence. The only way in which that will give them a special influence is if they were prepared to forego that oil if some quid pro quo was not secured, but I think you have agreed with me that that would not be a sensible or a realistic way of looking at the matter, whatever the Chinese Ambassador diplomatically may feel that he wants to tell you to keep you happy. I wonder, Mr Benn, if I could just take up a little of your relative optimism which you have expressed this afternoon. You said that there had been good news this year, that some types of violence have declined, and particularly violence against people in their homes. Is that not because so many more people in the Sudan, or particularly in Darfur, do not live in their homes; they have been driven into these camps? There has been de facto success in the Sudanese Government's policy of ethnic cleansing. They have been removed, there is no prospect of them coming back, so therefore inevitably there is going to be less violence against people in their homes.

Hilary Benn: Undoubtedly that is the case. But it is not about optimism. I have tried to describe the situation as I see it, and there was real concern about the continuing levels of attacks on people. It was partly because a lot of people have left their homes, that is true; it is partly because there has been more effective protection of people in the camps than was the case in the past, and that is because of the AU presence and because of the patrols that they are undertaking.

Q39 Mr Davies: It does not relate to the point you made about less violence against people in their homes. If it is because they are all in the camps we agree it is just a statistical result of the fact that there are fewer people in their homes, and you should not therefore take comfort from that.

Hilary Benn: Overall, whether people are in their homes or in the camps there has been less violence against people during the course of this year than the case previously.

Q40 Mr Davies: That was true until August; it has not been true in the last two months, has it?

Hilary Benn: There have been the three particular incidents that I referred to: the attack on the IDP camp, which was extremely worrying because that was the first for some time; the attack on Sheriya that the SLA was themselves responsible for, and of course then the five AU peacekeepers who were killed. That is right, that is why we are all of us concerned about the recent increase in violence that has taken place.

Q41 Mr Davies: I am afraid I draw the conclusion from this exchange that you are inclined to put a lot of emphasis on the apparently good news that comes out, even if the news is more apparent than we realise in the case of people being removed from their homes and therefore less violence occurring in the home. I am afraid I am more struck by the lack of progress, the fact that we appear in the last two months to be going backwards. You have just been talking about strengthening the AU capability on the ground, and we all support that. I can tell you that when I was myself there on the ground in February and March and talking to African Union commanders it was quite clear to me that they did not have some of the essential tools to do the job. It is misconceived, I think, to talk about the numbers they would have; the fact is that how many thousand men they have there they will not be effective or efficient unless they have the tools to do the job. But if they are given the tools a relatively small number can have substantial effect. They did not have the armoured infantry vehicles, the warrior type vehicles, the APCs we have talked about this afternoon; they did not have any heavy-lift helicopters, Chinook helicopters at all, and they clearly badly need them. It is absurd to think that you can intervene across those distances and in those conditions by road; you can only intervene quickly if you have the heavy-lift helicopters and they do not have them. They still do not have them now, some seven or eight months later. It was also clear to me that they had no access whatever to satellite surveillance or to electronic intelligence, which I would have thought were obvious pre-requirements for that kind of intervention.

Chairman: Can you get to the question?

Q42 Mr Davies: The question is, Mr Chairman, why is it only now that the government is focusing on these shortcomings? They have been apparent to most of us who have tried to familiarise ourselves with the situation on the ground for quite a long time.

Hilary Benn: It is not the case, Mr Davies, that the government is only now focusing on these shortcomings. That is the first point, because we have been working with the AU and others for a considerable period of time to try to ensure that they have the capacity to do the job that they have been given, and we have offered our support in extremely practical ways, not least the provision of vehicles, so that they can get around and do their job.

Q43 Mr Davies: The Canadians are now providing some armoured vehicles, thank goodness. Are you suggesting or proposing providing, for example, satellite surveillance or electronic intelligence capabilities, which we have available to us?

Hilary Benn: No, I am not proposing that, and, yes, you are right that the Canadians have since June, if not earlier, been willing to provide the armoured personnel carriers.

Q44 Mr Davies: Why are you not proposing those things, Mr Benn, if I may ask you?

Hilary Benn: It is not an issue that was certainly raised with me in the conversation I had with the AU; I do not know if it has been raised with David. Can I just go back to the first point that you made because, with respect, I would not accept that we are trying to be unduly optimistic, I am trying to give the Committee an honest answer to the questions that have been asked about the situation. It was the AU themselves who said to me in June that there had been a significant reduction in violence against civilians; that is what they said.

Q45 Mr Davies: In June that was true.

Hilary Benn: It was. So going back to the original premise to your question, that we are being optimistic about what happened, the fact is that there has been a considerable reduction in violence, the fact is that there has been a reduction in mortality in the camps because of the improved humanitarian operation. I think it is fair to point that out because otherwise people listening might draw the conclusion that nothing had changed as a result of the international effort. I share the concern that you expressed about what has happened in the last month or so. Question: is this going to be a one-off increase, are things going to settle down or not, or will it be a continuing rise in violence? If it is a continuing rise in violence then we are all of us going to have to think about what we are going to do to do something about it. I am trying to give a balanced picture. I think there has been some progress but there are some other things that have not been dealt with.

Q46 Hugh Bayley: The UN World Summit approved the Responsibility to Protect. Is that responsibility obligatory on the UN Member States, or just advisory? And does its existence now mean that Russia and China will feel obliged to cease threatening to veto military intervention or to consider seriously oil sanctions?

Lord Triesman: My understanding is that it has become a charter obligation and it should be binding on all Member States.[3] There is obviously going to be some early testing out of how strongly all Member States make use of the new provision but the intention was - and Kofi Annan was explicit about it in the course of the summit - that a number of key issues would have to be revisited in the light of the new provision and to try to make sure that it was used properly and used effectively as it was intended to be used.

Q47 Hugh Bayley: Will our government use Darfur as a test bed?

Lord Triesman: I do not whether Hilary has a specific answer but I would certainly be willing, from a foreign policy point of view, to look at that because it was clear to me in New York that Darfur was one of the issues that there was a good deal of resonance with the Secretary General and others and it may well be that discussion could be engaged in. It is so new that no one has yet tried to use it, but it is certainly a possibility.

Hilary Benn: I think what the summit acknowledged by adopting that was that we have a responsibility to do something, but as the discussion this afternoon has demonstrated the question is: how you are going to do it, who is going to provide the support, the funding, the material, the men and the equipment on the ground and the humanitarian support, in order to make the difference? The truth is that the world is feeling its way towards a way of dealing with these situations, and Darfur is a very difficult one, and there are others that we have discussed previously and will no doubt do so again. So political will is one thing because without political will it is not going to happen, but you have to have the capacity and we do not yet have sufficient of the right capacity to make a difference, and that is why we have to ensure that we do build that over time including supporting, in this case, Africa's efforts to provide some of that capacity, without which I would not be able to sit here today and say there have been less attacks on civilians during the course of the year or there has been improved security from about February until the recent increase in attacks.

Chairman: Secretary of State, Minister, thank you very much. I think you will have gathered that the Committee is concerned about two fundamental things. One is that we are watching a very difficult situation and are alarmed that it might deteriorate very rapidly and concerned that the international community does not have the capacity to respond. Secondly, that at some point or another we are to break the logjam and give people the opportunity to return to their homes. I thank you and your colleagues for coming here and giving us your time. I think I can speak for the whole Committee - and, by the way, Mr Bercow would have been here but his wife had a baby in the early hours of the morning, and everything is fine but that is the reason why he is not here. I can assure you that the Committee will continue to watch the situation closely.

Examination of Witnesses


Witnesses: Dr James Smith, Executive Director, The Aegis Trust and Dr Suliman Baldo, Africa Program Director, Crisis Group, examined.

Q48 Chairman: Mr Smith and Dr Baldo, you have been sitting in on the evidence we have been taking from the two Ministers and their colleagues and perhaps just to start this slightly brief session, as we have overrun, in a sense I will give you the floor because what we would ask each of you to do is to pick up on what has been said and to highlight a couple of the key points that arise out of that. If you would like to put it in terms of positive recommendations or comments. Dr Baldo, would you like to go first?

Dr Baldo: Thank you for inviting me. I will start by saying that yes, there are indications of concrete improvements in the interior situation for the first two-thirds of the year, mainly due to improved access to humanitarian assistance and services and camp conditions. The trend is now changing in a negative fashion because of the ongoing increase in violence and the trend towards escalation of that violence. Let me start by saying that the worst violence done to the population in Darfur is the fact that today there are 1.8 million people in camps for the internally displaced by no choice of theirs. This is a disruption of their traditional livelihood and this is the worst thing that you could do to a traditional subsistence community. It is a situation we have had in Northern Uganda for the last 20 years - it is turning into a normality there because of the detail of the humanitarian assistance that is developing, and the crisis is therefore now basically forgotten. But there are also two million people there who are in refugee camps and who are "in relatively safer conditions". So this is the real risk facing the population. In Darfur, the disruption of traditional livelihood is affecting everyone, those inside the camps and those communities outside the camps, including groups of Arab background; and definitely not all of these groups are "Janjaweed". There are only very sub clans of certain Arab groups who have joined the Janjaweed militia for reasons that relate to their entitlement to land usage. So that is a problem. The trends that are of concern for us, the split within the rebel movement between Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nour, the President of the Sudan Liberation Movement, the largest Darfur group, and the group's Secretary Minni Minawi, is basically for all purposes consumed. The Minni faction held its conference and elected Minni as President from 4 November. The interesting thing is that neither of the two factions are challenging the unity of the movement; they are just challenging the legitimacy of the other faction. There have been attempts to reunify these two factions because of the risk of a split for personal disputes over leadership that can lead to an ethnic split between the two factions. As we know, Chad, with the backing of France, tried to convene a unity conference for all the top leaders of the SLA last week. That did not work, none of them showed up in Ndjamina, but they showed up for the meeting today, this morning, in Nairobi and the SLM faction was represented. Minni did not come, he sent a delegation though, and I understand that both the Under Secretary of State and Charles Snyder and other US officials were there, and other facilitators of the political process in Darfur have been appealing to the leaders to really avoid the worst, which is really the split of the movement. So this trend is causing a deterioration of the situation on the ground. There is fighting between the Minni faction and the smaller of the two rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, over control of territory. Minni's faction is also attacking some SLA factions, Sudan Liberation Army factions, that are counted as pro the Abdel Wahed group, and this includes a group from southern Darfur, the Rezeigat cattle herders of southern Darfur. The tensions between these two sub-groups of the SLA is leading to increased tension due to the blockage of migratory routes of the cattle from south Darfur in the search for pastures up north and the risk again is that this will create greater violence. There is also an increase in violence due to the regional ramifications of the Darfur rebellion. We are all aware of the recent mutiny in Chad of forces very close to President Idriss Deby. These forces say they are 600, the government say that they are closer to 200, but in any case they are predominantly Zaghawa from the same ethnic group of the President and which is in control in Chad. The trouble is they blame the President for not having clearly backed the rebellion in Darfur. One reason they are unhappy is the distribution of oil revenues in Chad and about incidents of corruption. They are crossing the border with arms and munitions and some, according to reports we are receiving, are joining forces with the Minni faction. The Government of Sudan is claiming that it has arrested some of them, 20 to be specific, and handed their arms and munitions over to the Chadian government. Khartoum also said it was considering giving those forces political asylum. The trend is really one of mutual destabilisation; Darfur destabilising Chad and Chad contributing to the further destabilisation in Darfur. This is not very encouraging; it could really feed the escalation of violence. The Janjaweed groups have been raised, trained, armed by the government of Khartoum, as I said, because of a very specific agenda to the sub-clans. But now they are increasingly concerned about their own future; they feel that Khartoum has not delivered its promise of giving them land for contributing to its insurgency campaign of 2003 and 2004. Therefore we are witnessing incidents of flexing of muscle by some Janjaweed against the Government of Sudan forces, as appeared in western Darfur. Factors of deterioration of security in western Darfur are basically relating to these dynamics of the Janjaweed and the sub-groups and we have a situation where they become entangled in violence against the government forces or intra-Janjaweed fighting. So all the indicators are pointing towards a deteriorating security situation and I would not be under the impression that because of the improved humanitarian indicators that the situation is improving; on the contrary, it is about to take a really alarming turn for the worse.

Q49 Chairman: Mr Smith?

Mr Smith: Just in response to the previous session, a comment on the humanitarian situation. It does not give me pleasure to say today that a year ago this month Aegis predicted that if there was not a more concerted effort to provide enough protection for these internally displaced people to go back to their villages so that they could plant crops, that unless there was an accompanying huge humanitarian effort, that it would precipitate a famine in the region. The reason there has not been such huge starvation and an increase in mortality over the past six months is because of the humanitarian intervention of the provision of food. The Secretary of State explained part of the picture with the World Health Organisation report, which has shown a reduction in crude mortality since last November. But the other part of the picture is drawn from the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, which shows that there has been an increase in affected peoples in Darfur, and those under risk and dependent on aid, and there are a million more people requiring aid now than there was this time last year. So despite the apparent improvement that is being painted it is a picture of great vulnerability. Just to emphasise that, in November 2004 34 per cent of the population - that is 2.2 million people - were dependent affected, according to the UN's figures. By September of this year that had risen to 51 per cent to this 3.39 million, so over a million more people are affected. When this affected population is extrapolated against the World Health Organisation's figures it implies in fact there has been an increase in death rate of overall total deaths because whereas the crude death rate has gone down the population size that is vulnerable has gone up, so there are in fact increased deaths and not decreased[4]. What dismayed me further, listening to the Secretary of State and to Lord Triesman, was that there does not seem to be any kind of vision about what are we going to do reverse the ethnic cleansing that Mr Davies clearly described. There seems to be an acceptance of the current status quo, that we can protect people, look after them provided they are in the internally displaced camps. As we have seen, in September even the IDP camps were being attacked for the first time, and this is a very worrying trend. These are not small excursions into the IDP camps that are happening. On 29 September in a Tawilha camp it was 41 trucks and seven land cruisers of the Government of Sudan, not the Janjaweed that attacked these camps. Thousands fled, quite a number were killed and had to take refuge in the African Union camp while their own camp was on fire. So I think that a final point that I would want to make in response is that all of this is giving a signal to the Government of Sudan that there is not a seriousness to see through the reversal of the ethnic cleansing and it is that, I believe, that is blocking the political settlement. The Secretary of State made it clear that what is required is an end to the conflict, a political resolution. I do not think there can be a political solution, and I have spoken to representatives of rebel groups since the last round at Abuja. I do not think there can be while the women and their children are remaining in these camps. It is not just a simple civil war, there has been ethnic cleansing taking place. And despite the Responsibility to Protect at the World Summit we seem to be abdicating our responsibility and devolving all of this and giving all the wrong signals to the Government of Sudan.

Q50 Chairman: On that last point, what pressures do you think have been or could be effective on the Government of Sudan and the rebels, because it is not clear from what both of you have said what works and what does not work? What would you think has been effective and proved as effective on both the Government of Sudan and the rebels to be less obstructive and fulfil their responsibilities?

Mr Smith: It is very difficult to evaluate what pressure has been effective because there has been so little pressure to evaluate. The referral to the International Criminal Court of the situation in Darfur was helpful; it did rattle cages in Khartoum. However, however important accountability is it is not the answer, as we can see, to resolve the situation. It is an important component; it is probably the most effective pressure. I think the problem that exists is that the demands that have been made by the Security Council to disarm the Janjaweed in resolution 1556 and further demands to stop offensive flights over Darfur have not been backed up with any kind of consequence if those demands are not met, and the more that time goes by the greater the signal is that these demands will be made by the Security Council and they can just ignore them and flout them and violate them.

Q51 Chairman: So what do you make of the Sudanese government saying, "We are curtailed in what we are allowed to do anyway, so how can we disarm them"?

Mr Smith: Of course they are not because they signed an agreement on 8 April 2004 that they would disarm them, and the demand has been made by the Security Council in resolution 1556 that they should disarm them. So they are not curtailed, they have been empowered with all that they need to do that. I think that had those resolutions and those demands been backed up with, "If you do not disarm them as a consequence will be targeted sanctions," or "If you do not stop offensive flights that action will be taken to enforce a no-fly zone," then I think the pressure would be different. But it was not backed up and so I think the pressure was quite negligible.

Dr Baldo: I think we need to distinguish between two sets of priorities. The security track, which the protection of civilians on the ground is a priority, and the political track, the process of the negotiations by the AU for a peaceful resolution. With reference to the security track, the Government of Sudan is now admitting that it is not in a position or it is unable to disarm the Janjaweed and therefore there is a trend to let them off the hook. The Government of Sudan has committed to disarming the Janjaweed in at least six binding documents, and none of these have been observed. The government has not even tried to disarm the Janjaweed. This is an area where there needs to be pressure applied. Simply making Khartoum meet the commitments that it has undertaken under all these international instruments, this is not the case so far. On the contrary, there are indications that the government is absorbing some of these forces of the Janjaweed into its regular forces, for example as policemen, and they are still roaming around outside the camps. The effect is that those who are inside the camps cannot simply leave. It is a space which is a big prison. Therefore, to improve the security situation, pressure has to be applied on the government. The rebels, the clashes between the different groups, they need to be accountable for maintaining discipline, regardless of what faction it is. We do not know the outcome on these negotiations to encourage them to reunite, but in the event that they separate this may lead effectively to a positive outcome with groups that are more cohesive and more disciplined. Or on the other side, the worse case scenario, a more chaotic situation of local commanders acting on their own. So we need to be prepared in the international community. Therefore the rebels have to be held accountable for disciplining the commanders on the ground. Both governmental rebels need to be held accountable for their conduct at the negotiating table. Here, let me say, there is a big question mark whether the delegation representing the Government of Sudan today is representative of the Government of National Unity. The SPLA, the other partner of the Government of National Unity is not represented in that delegation. Why? Because their position, as it has been explained to us, is that they need to agree with the government partner, the National Congress Party, on a position that is common to both, which is that of the Government of National Unity. The National Congress Party is refusing this to the SPLA, the SPLA is saying, "We do not go to the negotiations." The rebels are negotiating with the same partner, a ruling party that has been responsible for engineering the death and pain of ethnic cleansing. There is total lack of trust because of this and lack of trust in the international community. International pressure needs to be put on the Government of National Unity of Sudan to have a common position between the SPLA and the National Congress Party, which is when that could be said of the Government of National Unity of Sudan. Unless that is done this will be another delaying tactic by the National Congress Party and distinguishing between the ruling and the dominant party and the Government of Sudan, but the government has changed - it is a new beginning today - and nobody appears to be taking that into account. How do we get there? One appreciates that pressure appears to have been taken off the table, that the situation is improving, there is security and stability, and all is well and fine, but the Government of Khartoum has not been confronted on the issue of its representation at the Abuja talks. They need to be pressured; the Government of National Unity needs to be pressured on a joint position, not only with Darfur but even for eastern Sudan, which is coming up as a similar emergency and possible armed insurgency, and to present this at the government.

Q52 Mr Davies: Thank you, Chairman. I think the Committee will be very grateful both to Dr Baldo and for Mr Smith for coming along this afternoon. I am only sorry that we did not hear their evidence before we saw the Secretary of State because the Secretary of State would have had the opportunity to listen himself to their very interesting evidence. If I could summarise the case you are putting to us, very briefly - and you tell me if I am summarising it unfairly? One, we must reverse the de facto ethnic cleansing in Darfur, for the sake of the people of Darfur, and I would add - and you did not say this but you would not necessarily disagree with it - also so that we do not allow a signal to be sent to the rest of Africa or to the rest of humanity that people can get away with impunity with this kind of behaviour. Second, you cannot rely on the AU force to do that, you need a force of hundreds of thousands if you are going to protect people in their villages; it is just not practicable. Thirdly, therefore, the only way you can do it is to get rid of the aggressors, to disarm the Janjaweed. Fourthly, the only people who can do that are the Government of Sudan; they promised to do it, they have not done it and therefore they must be pressured into doing it. Is that a fair summary? If that is the case we are talking about sanctions. We know that the Chinese are likely to veto a lot of potential sanctions. What are you suggesting? Are you suggesting that the EU or NATO actually go in there and carry out flights, to actually shoot the Sudanese air force out of the sky if they breach the no-fly zone, as they did in Iraq? What concretely are you suggesting, because I share what I understand is the logic of your argument, but I think we are still trying to feel what the conclusion of that argument has to be.

Mr Smith: It would have been extremely helpful if last year we had threatened and had the political will to follow through with enforcing a no-fly zone. There are violations of the no-fly zone now, as you saw last month. I think that the key at the moment is to demonstrate that there is a will to reverse that ethnic cleansing, the first stage of which needs to be expansion of the African Union Mission. Originally the Joint Assessment Mission had planned to increase the number of African Union troops to 12,300. There has been difficulty in deploying the last battalion of this second part of the shipment, so we do need to be clear whether the Member States of the African Union can provide more troops.

Q53 Mr Davies: The African Union does not have the capability to enforce a no-fly zone; only sophisticated air forces like the EU and NATO forces could do that.

Mr Smith: Certainly, and the EU or NATO need to be committed to working with the African Union closely on this to provide the logistical support and capacity that they would think likely to undertake their work, even to undertake their work at this second phase, providing a degree of protection to the IDP camps. I think we should be more proactive. Despite us hearing earlier today how the EU have been so supportive of the African Union Mission they were hardly able to run a payroll in September; they had run out of fuel for their helicopters. They had an extra 17 million Euros which is going to last until the end of November. This does not give any command to the confidence that they can increase their mission, their mandate or fulfil what they are doing because we are not proactively supporting; we are constantly waiting for the African Union to come back and say, "We are about to run out of fuel, we are about to run out of money for our payroll," and we could be working in much greater hardship. If there was either a partnership that the African Union requests or that the UN Security Council establish so that the mission is under the UN - and I know you are shaking your head, Mr Davies, and it is unlikely it is going to happen - in that scenario the resources, the capacity, the logistics will follow. At the moment we have an argument that there should be an African solution to African problems but then we are constraining the African solution, and this is not in any way to undermine what they have accomplished there. The countries have contributed troops and there are some experienced commanders out there and they have done a good job in providing protection, but they need a partnership with the EU or NATO to fulfil the ultimate vision of reversing the ethnic cleansing.

Dr Baldo: In response to this very pertinent question, I believe that we have definitely to change tactics and approaches; the security and political tracks need to be combined and we need to be preoccupied by both at the same time and therefore set a strategy for the international community that places those priorities at the same time. The issue of what pressures would be most effective, I have tried to outline them and what intervention needs to be taken. One had in mind the support of the International Community to the IGAD process - the negotiations between the SPLM and the government in Khartoum. There was a very robust coordinated approach by the Troika, US, UK and Norway, to back that process, to provide logistics, expertise and political pressures so that the process moved forward. We do not see any of these behind the Abuja talks. As I said, the pressures have been taken off the table from the government side and each of the key international players have their own special envoy for the peace process in Darfur sitting at Abuja. There is some level of coordination taking place but not anything similar to the Troika's organic integration with the mediators in this case of IGAD. This is the level of coordination and consultation that we need. We need a similar Troika, expanded in the case of the Abuja process, to include the European Union and probably France because of their presence in Chad and their capabilities in terms of electronic intelligence surveillance. They have been discreetly involved because of their strategic interest, both in Chad and in Sudan, and in May 2004 the French deployed forces along the border to stop incursion by the Janjaweed inside Chad; they have surveillance along the border so that they made sure they sent a strong message to the Janjaweed, a red line for them to stop raiding in Chad. They have also backed Chadian efforts to reconcile Abdel Wahed and Minni. Therefore a joint strategy would need to take all these aspects into account, namely: greater coordination among all the international players to back up the logistics, coordination, intelligence capacities of the AU Mission in ways that would enhance the mission's effectiveness and capabilities; apply coordinated and well-concerted pressures on both parties to improve the situation. The Government of National Unity has to get the message that we do not have the time while two million people are in IDP camps. This pressure on the Government of National Unity will force the SPLM also to be more concerned and give a sense of urgency for them to sort out this joint policy for the Government of National Unity at the talks. But without pressures applied on the new government in Khartoum I do not think that situation would improve either on the security on the ground or at the political talks in Abuja.

Q54 John Battle: I share my colleague's welcome for your comments this afternoon and maybe it would have been better if we had heard them before and I think you have given us a focus on the people in the camps. I think all too readily in lots of international situations the international community accepts as a permanent reality IDP camps, whether it is in Palestine, and you mentioned Uganda, or indeed in Indonesia with the Timor conflict, with which I was involved at one time. I think what they tend to do is to make them safe havens as best they can and then keep food aid going. I wondered if I could ask for clarification because I lost it in the speed of the presentation and because you put a focus on the people in the camps. I thought there were 1.8 million but you gave us a figure of 2.2 million and up to 3.39 million. Were they people dependent on food aid, were you suggesting? And a further part of the equation I did not quite understand. I understand that if people are driven out of their villages and a subsistence farmer's traditional livelihood is on the land and they are in the camps so they cannot grow things, that that is not a usual pattern. But did you suggest at one point - and I only half-heard it really - that there was a prospect, because they could not grow, of famine later on? I wonder if you could say a bit more about that?

Mr Smith: The figures that I was referring to in terms of those that are dependent on the international community for humanitarian assistance were combined figures for those in the IDP camps and those that are outside the IDP camps also dependent on aid. So that figure of 3.39 million as of September 2005 included 1.8 million within the camps and whatever the rest remains being outside the camps. In terms of the danger or threat of famine in the region, this year was the third year that many people in Darfur were unable to plant their crops. If they are unable to return by the middle of 2006 it will be the fourth year and the fourth planting season that they have lost and, yes, without humanitarian assistance there would have been a famine. This is a huge number of people, 3.39 million people entirely dependent on food aid. That is particularly worrying, and given that you will recall that the Committee made it very clear in your report of March how the Government of Sudan had blocked the humanitarian assistance in the middle of the crisis, if that kind of blocking were to resume at that level there are many more people under threat than there were this time last year.

Dr Baldo: I want to support what Mr Smith has just said. We do not want people to be living on handouts. If the farmers are not producing everyone else is affected. The entire population of Darfur is now affected because of this.

Chairman: Thank you for that. It is perhaps a reverse process to hear the Minister first. Obviously this Committee produced its report earlier in the year and visited Darfur and produced a strong report. I think as a matter of policy we are anxious to ensure that you do not just put a report on the shelf. We clearly cannot do another report as such but this evidence session is on the record. Certainly there are points of concern and what I think all of us are concerned about is that it is not acceptable that two or three million people should be in a permanently displaced situation, and if that is the international community settlement then it is unacceptable. Secondly, we are all apprehensive because we keep getting little snippets here and there that something more serious is going to happen, a massacre or a serious famine because you cannot reach a remote area and aid does not get through. That is where the Committee is very anxious to ensure that we keep shining a light on this, and we very much appreciate that first of all you, Dr Baldo, have come here specifically to give us evidence and that you and your organisation, Mr Smith, will keep tabs on it to keep the focus on that. The Committee is pleased to be able to do what we can to provide support for your continuing efforts because there is a clear difference of view between your evidence and - it would be unfair to say the optimistic or even complacent view - of the Minister, but a slightly more low key presentation when you are presenting these fairly stark realities on the ground. Thank you for coming to give us your evidence.

[1] Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect, Fifth Report of Session 2004-05, HC 67-I and II

[2] Witness correction: Under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), following payments to an Oil Revenue Stabilisation Account and to the oil producing states, 50 per cent of revenues derived from oil produced in Southern Sudan will be paid to the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), and 50 per cent to the National Government and States in Northern Sudan.

[3] Note by witness: The primary responsibility for the protection of vulnerable populations lies with that population's government. But where that government is unwilling or unable to exercise their responsibility, the international community should act to prevent or stop the worst atrocities (genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity). The 2005 UN World Summit endorsed this concept, and for the first time world leaders agreed that they were prepared to take collective action. This includes using political and diplomatic pressure, sanctions, and, should peaceful means be inadequate, military action through the Security Council. Endorsement of the responsibility to protect does not amount to a legal obligation under the UN Charter to act in a specific case. But it provides the international community with another tool for tackling these gross human rights violations.

[4] Ev