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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did not put it quite like that. I said that in the context of the subject-matter of this debate it was not possible to do justice to the importance of farming. I did not say that farming was not important.

Earl Peel: My Lords, that was not how I understood the response of the noble Lord at the time, but I accept what the Minister has said.

The Minister can be under no illusion as to the strength of feeling, certainly on this side of the House, about the importance of field sports to tourism. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, said she believed that when the report of the inquiry chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, is produced, the economic importance of field sports will be recognised. However, I detected some reluctance in the tone of her voice. That is a pity because it is contrary to the views expressed by her right honourable friend Charles Kennedy when he addressed the Game Conservancy Trust at the Game Fair last year. I was rather encouraged by what he said then about field sports and their importance to the countryside. The theme which emerged in many speeches of noble Lords is that one is not concerned solely with the economic value of field sports, but with their contribution to the maintenance of the landscape.

The Minister said he believed that it was up to noble Lords opposite to ensure that field sports featured in the final paper on tourism. I believe that it is up to the Government, not us. We have presented the facts. We hope that the noble Lord will take note of what has been said and report to the relevant departments. Surely, the importance of field sports has been so clearly expressed from these Benches that the Government cannot but accept the importance of field sports to tourism, the landscape, and rural Britain. The Minister said that he did not wish to see any division between town and country; nobody wishes to see that. However, if the Government insist on forcing the wishes of one on the other, divisions are bound to develop. I hope that the Government will give very careful consideration to that matter in future. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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Central Africa

8.14 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what response they are making to the continuing conflict in Central Africa.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister and all those noble Lords who have stayed late this evening to participate in this debate which seeks to draw attention to the gravity of the conflict in Central Africa, especially in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Congo. The debate seeks a more positive and visible contribution from our own Government to the peace process, and to encourage the efforts of humanitarian agencies that work to improve the lives of ordinary people.

The conflict in the DRC is spread over a vast area of Africa which is much larger than Western Europe. It is difficult for us here to identify the localised causes of the conflict, which have a long pedigree, but it is much more than a three year-old struggle for power in the Congo, which has now sucked in at least nine other countries. Daily, the war claims lives and dissipates wealth which should support the local economy. As always, the victims are the marginal farmers and their families who depend on the various factions. About 960,000 people are displaced, with tens of thousands more in neighbouring countries. Half a million people in the east are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to the most recent UN Mission there. Even the named villains--fighting forces such as the Interahamwe, Banyamulenge Mai Mai and remnants of the old Rwandan army--include many innocent civilians caught up in their wake. "Rebels" are so-called by national governments and our media for convenience, but they represent large dispossessed minority groups who are desperate to avenge previous tragedies in the wake of the 1994 genocide.

Moreover, while the killers in this proxy war have their own local identity, they are also armed and subsidised by respected national leaders who themselves have been fighters alongside them. The people of Congo have been waiting for over three decades for their liberation; and they have also seen the steady collapse of their society, economy and mineral wealth. One can sympathise with the MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba when he says:

    "Who is surprised that after 40 years of independence, the economic and social development of Congo-Zaire has completely failed ... All of us witnessed, some as accomplices, others as spectators, a real apartheid exercised by black men against other black men ...

    Betrayed by promises which have not been fulfilled and repeated lies, the Congolese have once again been reduced to a form of slavery".

How can we help in this major conflict which saps the energy and resources of a whole region? We had high hopes of President Laurent Kabila when he swept to power in Kinshasa in 1997 with the promise of elections and a united country. At that time he owed his success to the Rwandan Patriotic Army under Paul Kagame, now Rwanda's acting-President, and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, both of whom had served

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in Uganda's liberation war. They have now turned against him, while his main ally Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has made the war a costly distraction from his own problems at home. The present drama of civil war with frequent calls for UN intervention are all too familiar to Congolese who still remember Katanga.

This time the UN has been too timid or ill-equipped to enter the Congo, let alone solve its conflicts. It still has to investigate the crimes against Hutu refugees from Rwanda in 1996, two years after the genocide which left about 800,000 dead. Many in the aid agencies suspect that half a million refugees were forcibly repatriated in three days from Mugunga and neighbouring camps with western connivance, leaving many thousands more to an unknown fate at the hands of the militia and foreign armies in eastern Congo. Meanwhile, the Rwandan and Ugandan armies are still free to roam around the area at will beyond the rule of any law except the gun. It is easy to criticise the UN, which is no more than a creature of governments, but perhaps our own Government can explain why the international community still gives massive support to Uganda and Rwanda, which is always justified by the terrible events of the past, while it neglects to improve, or even fully evaluate, the dire situation of the people of Congo, both refugees and displaced.

I was told by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, on 22nd February that we had to be cautious. The Lusaka accord was the best deal on the table and it was supported not only internationally by the African states involved, the UN and OAU, but it was also what the participants had actually agreed. MONUC, the UN Mission, is ready to expand under the terms of the accord. In February Resolution 1291 again extended the mandate until August and authorised an expansion of the mission up to 5,500 military personnel, including 500 observers. In theory, a joint military commission is responsible for peacekeeping until a UN force is established. But the news is not good. Attention has shifted towards the internal political dialogue, but the violence in Kivu and fighting in Kasai have stalled the whole process.

Much was expected of the former President Ketumile Masire who is meant to be the facilitator of the internal dialogue. Unfortunately he was shabbily treated in Kinshasa two weeks ago and unable to leave the capital to carry out his work. Presumably the Minister will confirm that European Union governments have protested vigorously about this treatment.

What about the latest UN report by M Bernard Miyet which points to continuing conflict and the imposition of unacceptable restrictions on peace keepers? The UN Human Rights Commission was also "gravely concerned" last year with the executions, disappearances and arbitrary arrests by the armed forces and militias, recommending that the crimes be investigated and the families compensated. We have seen all too often in our own peace process how hearts can be lifted at the prospect of reconciliation, only to be disappointed by the failure of the principal parties to implement any agreement. Others will speak about

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Zimbabwe, but perhaps I may express the hope that Britain, with its own agenda there, will not thereby raise the political temperature over the Congo.

We may now see a new Congo mission on the East Timor model--although not exactly like it--emerging from the United Nations which would be welcome if it genuinely commanded international support and the full co-operation of President Kabila and the parties involved.

However, as Kofi Annan said recently, it is not all "unrelieved gloom". Nelson Mandela, the facilitator, and several heads of state have been involved in Arusha in a potential settlement for Burundi. Several of us heard Mr Mandela give an impressive speech this morning. There could hardly be a greater show of African determination today to settle African problems.

The FDD leader, Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, has now indicated his willingness to attend within "an appropriate framework". There is, for the time being, an alliance between the Tutsi-dominated PARENA Party and a wing of the mainly Hutu FRODEBA Party. The sticking points, I believe, are army reform, amnesty and the make-up of a transitional government.

A major issue in Burundi is the dismantling of the regroupment camps which have caused such dislocation in the rural economy. These must be dismantled as soon as possible. Mr Mandela said the same this morning. They are like concentration camps and should be removed. Aid agencies, Churches and human rights agencies are active, trying to speed up the legal process for the thousands accused of ethnic killings and bringing some humanitarian relief to those who are displaced or on the run. I hope that the Minister can say whether the Government plan to increase their own aid programme in Burundi.

There is an astonishing story of a Burundi orphan found hiding in the funnel of a British steamer in St Helena. His entire family, including 12 brothers and sisters, had apparently been killed by soldiers. He had fled through Zambia and Mozambique to South Africa. There must be many stories like that still untold.

As a board member of Christian Aid I know that there are many individuals working behind the scenes to achieve peace education, human rights, reconciliation and development in Burundi. In South Kivu, despite the lack of access and insecurity because of Interahamwe activity, emergency relief and development projects such as the provision of microcredit, especially for women's groups, in Bukavu can still co-exist. Oxfam and Save the Children are also active there. What sustains aid workers is the knowledge that the people themselves seem to put up with an intolerable degree of suffering and can get by with very little outside support or understanding.

Perhaps the Minister will put me right on this Government's commitment. I have been combing speeches to find Central Africa content. I believe that because of our new interest in Eastern Europe and the Balkans we have lost some of our capacity for African

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diplomacy. I do not doubt that expertise is there in the FCO--it gave me an excellent briefing last week--but I wonder whether we have real determination at the top.

We are only scratching the surface of the conflict. But I believe that we could be more active, and we may need to be, to prevent another genocide from occurring in this highly volatile part of the world.

8.24 p.m.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, on raising this important topic. It is of grave concern that we have had such serious conflict and such waste of life and opportunity. Once conflicts start, it seems almost impossible to restore stable peace.

Such conditions are not unique to Africa but--I hope that I am mistaken when I say this--there seems to be almost an air of indifference to the tragic situations in so many countries in Africa. Fortunately, the future is not entirely bleak. I had the pleasure this morning, as did the noble Earl and many others, of attending a briefing at the South African High Commission given by Mr Mandela on his mediation in Burundi. He said that it would be a very long time before anyone can be satisfied that the problems of the continent have been resolved. But as most noble Lords will know, Mr Mandela took up the invitation to follow the late Julius Nyerere in seeking to mediate and find a solution to the problems of Burundi.

There are currently 19 different organisations meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, trying to find solutions to the political and economic future of the country. Mr Mandela said that he was hopeful that there may soon be a breakthrough although formidable issues remain to be settled. An amnesty is being discussed. How does one differentiate between the acts carried out apparently in the pursuit of a political and even democratic objective from the slaughter of individuals? It is very difficult to separate them.

There needs to be discussions about the kind of democracy which is workable and necessary for a country like Burundi. One needs to balance the need of democracy with the necessity to provide effective protection of, and representation for, minorities. If we do not achieve that, we make no progress.

Mr Mandela made it clear that in order for the peace process to be effective, before he himself will visit Burundi officially, there has to be the release of all political prisoners; the media have to be able to function without impediment; and the so-called "regroupment camps" closed down. President Buyoya denies that there are political prisoners and that the regroupment camps are internment camps. But the fact that Mr Mandela is prepared to speak out as loudly and clearly as he does is of great significance.

The costs of negotiations are expensive. Although it is hoped to provide draft proposals soon, and that they will be quickly discussed and agreed upon, the parties in Arusha, as Mr Mandela said, do not necessarily have the incentive to come to quick decisions.

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They must be encouraged to do so. Some people have expressed concern that reconstruction and development aid for Burundi is being withheld until political solutions are in place. Is that the case? We need to know.

I know that the Minister has taken a close interest in this region. I raise two points. How will the Government respond to Mr Mandela's request for more funding to continue the peace process? He says that the money is running out. Clearly, we cannot allow the peace process to end simply because of that. Can my noble friend tell me what plans are in place for development assistance?

Mr Mandela made a powerful plea to the important nations of the world to work together and to speak with one voice in every area or region of the world where conflict needs to be resolved. I believe that that is especially true in Africa. We have left behind us, I hope, the Cold War position where each side had its client states and cared not one whit what happened within the country provided the leaders mouthed either the tenets of Marxism/Leninism or the said how much they believed in the free market capitalist economy, with little, if any, sincerity. Yet there remains a suspicion that powerful nations want to retain or even enhance their spheres of influence.

Geographically, it may be argued that Angola is not part of central Africa, but I believe that it is--certainly for the purposes of the debate. The whole issue of what is happening in central Africa and Angola is tied together with intertwining strands throughout. For decades, the people of Angola have suffered and they have continued to suffer even since the ending of the Cold War. It looks as though finally the United Nations is seriously addressing the problems facing Angola and looking at ways to end the influence of UNITA which has waged a bloody civil war even since the elections of 1992.

It has finally been accepted that UNITA is culpable in this matter and the UN has at last begun to examine the way in which sanctions against UNITA have not been fully and properly implemented. The report of the panel of experts on violations of UN Security Council sanctions on UNITA, commonly known as the Fowler report, made known its findings on 15th March this year after a six-month investigation.

The Fowler report studied breaches of sanctions in armaments supply, petroleum deliveries, diamond smuggling and UNITA finances and assets. That report is extremely hard hitting. It names individuals, countries and politicians who have been involved directly and by collusion, and involved indirectly by omission.

The Fowler report proposes extremely tough measures against those who have given succour to UNITA, whether they be individuals, organisations or countries. Some already have denied the charges made against them and have cast doubt on the veracity of the evidence garnered by the panel of experts.

It has been said, for example, that too much reliance is given to the evidence of UNITA defectors and that the evidence has not been properly checked. It has also

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been said that French officials have complained that too much emphasis is placed on the role of the Francophone countries. However, Ambassador Fowler clearly stated that the standards of evidence used by the panel were more stringent than would be required in a court of law.

On 18th April, a couple of weeks from now, the UN Security Council is due to meet to draw up a resolution on the findings of the expert panel report. I hope that the UN will live up to its responsibilities in full and in a manner which it has singularly failed to do up to now.

I am pleased that the most vocal and strongest proponent of accepting the Fowler report and its recommendations has been my honourable friend Peter Hain, Minister of State at the Foreign Office. On 15th March at the Security Council, he stated:

    "The time has come for the international community to face up to its obligations. It is no good putting our hands up in the UN for sanctions against UNITA and then take no action while citizens in our countries make money out of misery. That is simply hypocrisy".

He went on to say:

    "Britain looks forward to a series of mandatory UN resolutions to implement the report's key recommendations. The Security Council next month [a fortnight from now] must make decisive action. There must be no delay and no equivocation. The credibility of the Security Council is at stake".

I hope that that remains the Government's position.

If the UN acts seriously on 18th April and subsequently, I believe that that will be an immense help not only to Angola but to the UN in its quest for peace and stability in other parts of Africa. People have looked at the UN and at what has happened in Angola and have said that the UN and its powerful members have not been serious about peace and stability. Now they must surely be serious about peace and stability because, as was said by the noble Earl and no doubt will be repeated by others with an interest in different parts of the region, we are witnessing tragedy upon tragedy upon tragedy. Somehow, we must act and we must act soon.

8.44 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, I have an immediate and personal interest in the affairs of another Central African country; the Sudan. The problems of these African countries spread over their borders and I am aware that the problems of the Sudan refugees have spread over the border into Uganda and Kenya. The problems cannot easily be contained within national boundaries.

I was last in the Sudan in early December and met with its Church leaders in Nairobi in February. I list among the problems of the Sudan the following. First, the civil war that has run since the 1960s between the northern and southern parts of the country. Secondly, the consequent large number of displaced persons from both north and south who have spread over the borders. Thirdly, little economic development in the south, but the recent discovery and exploitation of oil, in which the government in the northern part of the country are taking the lead and controlling. Fourthly, a breakdown of community in the south, with men as

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young as 11 or 12 away at the war and the consequent alteration of social patterns that that brings. Fifthly, the consequence of all of that is the severe malnutrition of many, the lack of medical care for almost all, and the fact that there is virtually no education for the future. All that brings about a continuous maelstrom in a crucible that might ignite at any moment to produce even more severe results.

What is it possible to do in order to forward the process of peace? The IGAD talks are due to restart this week, but I want to make clear to the House the Churches' commitment to bring reconciliation to the area wherever that can work. That is an important role. The Churches are the only institution in the Sudan which are able to step across the boundaries between north and south. Last year, it was most encouraging to learn that Bishop Joseph Merowe, now the Archbishop elect, was given free conduct as a southerner to go to Khartoum and to execute the duties of his office from there. He has been twice to Juba, up to Port Sudan and is now back in the north having visited the south.

That is a welcome sign, but are we able to bring pressure on the government of Sudan to extend that to other people, not just Church leaders? If the agencies working for peace and reconciliation are to be taken seriously, it is important that they can step across the boundaries. We hope that the Government will want to support us and all others working in the Sudan to make such crossings of boundaries possible.

How might we achieve the next step in reconciliation and what support can we give to both sides who are weary of war but cannot find a way out on their own? At the end of April, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury will be in Juba for the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Sudan. Who else can be drawn to share in an act of worship at that time so that the practice of reconciliation can begin and not just be talked about? Will other people be allowed to go to Juba? Will there be a possibility of persuading both sides in the conflict to suspend war and in a cease-fire open land routes so that people from Merowe, Bishop Joseph's old area, can go to Juba? It is only 60 miles by road, but if you want to go there from Merowe, you must fly to Kenya or Uganda, back to Khartoum and from there down to Juba--and then all the way back again. That is not only an enormous expense, but it is extraordinary when a 60-mile road journey can be made.

What other opportunities could such a visit by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury help to unlock? What will the Government encourage the most reverend Primate to do along with others whom he may be able to invite to join with him in supporting the new Archbishop of Sudan as he starts his ministry? Can we persuade other Bishops from the Sudan to attend and persuade members of the SPLM there also? Would the enthronement of an Archbishop be a possible occasion on which that could take place?

I move to the question of displaced persons; that is, displaced within the Sudan, where southerners in the north and northerners in the south are moved out into

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camps. I visited a camp at Jebel Aulia outside Khartoum. Within recent years it has been moved further out of Khartoum into completely barren desert and it is very difficult to see how those who must live there--some 25,000 people--can have any hope. They cannot grow a thing; there is no source of water; there is extremely exiguous medical aid; yet, they are still under pressure to live a human life. How can others from the north who are in refugee camps in the south--at Aruna or over the borders into Kenya and Kakuma--live a human life that is worth living?

It is just possible that there are signs of hope. During my visit to Juba in December, I met people from four different displaced camps, each with their own tribal identity, who were ready to work together. One thing that bedevils life in this part of Africa is the extreme tribalism. Any sign that people are ready to cross those boundaries seems to me to be worth supporting and trumpeting: four tribal units in Juba are ready to work with one church leader; there is a Nuer-Dinka agreement; and a WUNLIT agreement just continues to hold. How can we show our support for those kinds of agreement that cross tribal boundaries and which are so often the cause of internecine warfare?

Of course, many camps suffer severe conditions. There is malnutrition, medical shortage and educational deprivation. In that regard, many aid agencies have left Sudan because the SPLM agreement has broken down. The agencies have wanted to control where aid should be targeted. If the SPLM controlled where aid went, would that prolong the war? I believe that that is a serious question which we need to ask--and press--both of the SPLM and of the aid agencies.

I also observe the way that local community breaks down and, with all men at war, the important role of women develops. The sub-structure of civil community for the future depends very much on the educational opportunities that women can receive: education in leadership, in the administration of justice and in peace issues. I am reminded that there may be parallels here with Northern Ireland when a women's peace initiative made such a breakthrough.

In addition, there is the business of freeing land so that it can be worked. One UN estimate is that approximately between 0.5 million and 2 million landmines exist in the south. A former SPLA engineer and 38 people working with him have been on the clearance programme which has opened 572 miles of roads for relief convoys. However, what about opening up the land so that it can be used to grow food? Education to persuade soldiers to fight for a homeland, not a mineland, is the battle-cry of that former SPLA soldier.

Then there are questions about who controls economic development, and serious questions about the use to which the revenue is being put which is derived from the oil now flowing. Can any pressure be put by the Government on the Government of Sudan to use the currency gained for rebuilding the infrastructure for education and for health and not on war? The Government of Sudan are still bombing civilian targets, hospitals and schools in the south.

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Recently, the Samaritan's Purse Hospital in Lui was bombed twice in one week and more than 40 bombs fell. I believe that we need a tide of public opinion to condemn those barbaric acts.

It will be helpful if the Minister can let us know whether Sudan's plight was discussed at the EU/Africa Summit in Cairo last weekend. What action can we take, apart from raising the matter there, in order to put pressure on other governments? Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, mentioned at the end of his speech, we need to put pressure on the United Nations to continue to engage seriously with those matters. If the United Nations does not act and does not put any teeth into its actions but continues to mouth words, I do not believe that we shall see any credibility given to it in the future.

I want to say to the Minister that the Church is ready to step over the boundaries to assist in putting the gospel of reconciliation into practice. The visit of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of April provides us with such an opportunity. I hope that the Minister will give us an indication of how that visit, too, may help to broker peace in this troubled region. If we can do it there, it might provide a good example for other parts of Africa as well.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Rea: My Lords, the noble Earl has done millions of ordinary African people a great service by asking this Unstarred Question. He is continuing a very good tradition which is being established in your Lordships' House: to keep Africa on the agenda. This is the third debate in one month which centres on Africa. Education and economic development respectively were the topics of my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. However, both of those roads to progress will remain closed while there is war or civil conflict, and Africa has had more than its share.

Development cannot take place while civil society is disrupted. Much needed development assistance has to be diverted to urgent humanitarian aid, and too often that cannot be delivered to the people who need it because of the danger involved. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, spoke at the EU/Africa Summit about the elements of building a free society. However, I am sure that he would agree that, before we can even start down that road, we must find ways of ending conflict.

The noble Earl and other noble Lords have described the complex situation in the DRC with no fewer than 10 countries--11 if UNITA is counted separately--having been involved at some time or another in the conflict or conflicts. Although there are, loosely speaking, two sides to the conflict--that is, pro and anti-Kabila--some countries are opposed to others only in World War I style; that is, because "my enemy's friend is my enemy". I do not believe, for example, that there is a real axe to grind between Uganda and Angola or great friendship either between Rwanda and UNITA, although there is reputed to be profitable gun-running between them.

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The visit of former President Nelson Mandela this week is very timely for our debate. My noble friend and other noble Lords met him this morning. Unfortunately, I could not because I had a Science and Technology Select Committee visit in my diary. What he said then and in today's Guardian interview with Anthony Sampson is very cogent. As facilitator of the Arusha peace talks in Burundi, in succession to Mualimu (Julius Nyerere), he is presiding over complex negotiations. The sub-committee structure of the talks in which different aspects of the internal conflict and their resolution are being discussed by those directly involved is a useful model, I suggest, for the Lusaka negotiations on the large and even more complex conflict in the Congo. I gather that former President Mandela feels encouraged by the progress in Arusha and even talks of a possible breakthrough being achieved quite soon. If Burundi, as one of the countries involved in the wider conflict, can achieve stability, that would be an example to the powers who are signed up to the Lusaka agreement, which is "the only show in town", to use the words of Kofi Annan.

But that process is still a long way from success, not least because leading figures in the DRC, Zimbabwe and UNITA--to name only three--are making tidy fortunes in diamonds and arms trafficking. I expect that my noble friend knows about whom I am speaking and I could invite her to name them, but perhaps that would not be very helpful in the current diplomatic climate.

I am sure that President Mandela is right in saying that all five foreign armies now in the Congo should withdraw as a first stage of the peace process after a ceasefire. That withdrawal must be simultaneous and under the aegis of the proposed United Nations force. The figure of 5,000 troops has been suggested. That seems to me to be far too small a force in view of the vast area concerned. No such force should be deployed until a ceasefire is agreed. But even then that force must be prepared to defend itself and be powerful enough to ensure that the agreed withdrawal takes place. The lessons of the United Nations in Angola--I echo the words of my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside--must be learnt and the mistakes not repeated.

That will be only the start of a much wider settlement in the Congo Basin which, in the long term, might involve, for example, voluntary population movements and even--dare I say it?--some alteration of the sacred colonial borders. But that would be for the populations concerned to decide if and when democratic government can be restored.

I warned my noble friend that I should use this opportunity to mention the parallel conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea about which I know more, having visited both countries in the past eight months. I am aware that that is a few kilometres north of the Congo but at least Ethiopia and Eritrea have a common border with the Sudan, which, at one point, was involved in the central African conflict.

It is relevant also because the framework peace agreement, which has been drawn up by the OAU, to resolve the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea

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could be considered a model of its kind. It is tantalising that the final part of the agreement--the technical arrangements for implementation--which would enable both sides to withdraw to their previous positions, to the status quo ante, after a ceasefire, is unacceptable to Ethiopia in its detail. That is despite the fact that in the agreement Eritrea made an important concession in agreeing to redeploy its forces two weeks before Ethiopia does the same. It is clear to me that for reasons best known to itself, Ethiopia is dragging out the peace process and prolonging the damaging economic effect of sustaining two large armies, armed to the teeth, facing each other along a 600-kilometre front with periodic, quite severe, eruptions of conflict.

I was taken to the front in Eritrea, to the place on the border which is nearest to Asmara. There we saw the remnants of a very severe battle in which the Ethiopians had tried to break through a defended Eritrean position with three rows of trenches. Some tanks had got through, but they had been destroyed. Most of them did not manage to make it. We saw 27 destroyed tanks and the Eritreans told us that the mass grave that was in front of us contained 10,000 bodies, many of whom had been used as human minesweepers. Therefore, it is not a small conflict. That battle took place almost a year ago.

Added to that is the current famine in the Ogaden and parts of northern Ethiopia. Eritrea has been asked by USAID to let food aid pass through Assab to Ethiopia, which is the port nearest to Ogaden. Djibouti is now being used to capacity. But that offer of Eritrea is not acceptable to Ethiopia.

Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, said that,

    "Valuable resources in Ethiopia are being diverted to perpetuate the conflict".

Is it not time for the United Kingdom, through the European Union and the United Nations, possibly the Security Council, to put gentle but firm diplomatic and economic pressure on Ethiopia to sign up to the OAU peace agreement and end this senseless conflict? At the same time, we should be greatly increasing our humanitarian aid.

8.54 p.m.

Lord Joffe: My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Sandwich for introducing this debate. At the outset, I express the hope that the Government's current and welcome focus on the disturbing events in Zimbabwe will not distract attention from the conflicts in central Africa in which, of course, Zimbabwe is also involved.

Likewise, international pressure for progress on implementing the Lusaka Agreement to bring an end to the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a major priority. But at the same time, the UK, with its responsibilities as a Security Council member and major aid donor, needs an explicit and coherent policy for the countries and the conflicts which surround the Congo.

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The impact and durability of the war in the Congo is compounded by its regional nature. Crisis in one country has the potential to create crisis across central Africa. The failure to have a coherent and comprehensive strategy across the whole area leads to what are seemingly curious decisions. For example, only a few months ago, the United Kingdom was selling spare parts for military equipment to Zimbabwe, which is one of the main protagonists on one side of the Congo war; and yet at the same time it was providing bilateral budgetary support of £10 million per annum to Rwanda, which is deeply engaged on the other side of the Congo war.

The scale and complexity of the conflict in central Africa are immense and measured in terms of human suffering devastating. No fewer than 15 countries are involved in conflict of different intensities in that area. Millions of human beings have been affected directly as refugees or displaced people. And that is to say nothing of the tens of thousands of innocent civilians massacred, maimed and raped in those wars. Moreover, there are all the indirect effects as the economies of the countries concerned are damaged or in some cases destroyed.

Behind that complexity there seem to be four points, each of which should have a bearing on the United Kingdom's policy towards central Africa. The first is conflict prevention. In developing long-term strategies to deal with conflicts, prevention must be at the top of the agenda.

Secondly, there is peacekeeping. There are 1.3 million people in the Congo who are the victims of a vicious circle. The Security Council does not deploy peacekeepers because it says there is no peace to keep. Yet if there were a significant number of peacekeepers, many on the ground believe that they could make a significant contribution to building the confidence necessary for meaningful peace to develop.

Thirdly, there is the cycle of poverty and conflict. As in so many regions, poverty and hardship are parts of the cause as well as the consequences of conflict. In Burundi, economic collapse has contributed to the siege mentality which helps to raise tensions. In the Congo, 2.1 million people have only a precarious access to food. Although there are dilemmas in providing humanitarian aid in conflicts, it is sad that donors seem to be awaiting the successful conclusion of the peace process in Burundi and greater progress towards peace in the Congo before more actively engaging. More could be done now, on which I shall touch later.

Fourthly, there is the question of arms. There have been disturbing recent reports of substantial arms shipments brokered by UK citizens from, for example, Bulgaria to Zimbabwe for probable use in the Congo. It is intolerable that, while the Government try to tighten up the UK's regular arms exports, that kind of brokering, which would be regulated in the United States, can still go on, making the United Kingdom an international centre of that sleazy trade.

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As was demonstrably clear when some of us--it has been mentioned by other noble Lords--listened to Nelson Mandela at South Africa House this morning, leadership of the peace process in central Africa must be driven by the leaders of the African countries involved. But that does not mean that there is not an important role for the rest of the world, which must also be part of the solution. What more could Britain do? I suggest that there is a great deal more: first, there is conflict prevention. The Government should be investing massively in conflict prevention. Apart from the human suffering that would be avoided if such investment succeeded, it is far more cost-effective to invest in preventing conflict than in dealing with its consequences.

We should press the United Nations Security Council harder for an immediate deployment of an adequate number of peace keepers. Such a stark contrast between the international community's determination in Kosovo and Timor and, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently put it, its "timid and piecemeal" approach in Africa gives the dangerous message to the Congo combatants that the world is not that much concerned about seeking peace in Africa. At the same time, there is a need to build support for peace internally. Wars are fought in the name of people who are never consulted. By way of example, all Burundians must be informed about the external process, including the vital efforts of ex-President Mandela. The UK Government, along with other donors, could support the process, as well as providing support to strengthen civil society.

Some more generous aid cannot wait until there is secure peace. There needs to be more substantial humanitarian aid to the Congo now. There are currently funds to reach only one seventh of those in need of food and who are accessible to the aid agencies. In Burundi, the United Kingdom should continue to give creative support to local initiatives which could both contribute to the success of the peace process and begin to reverse the economic collapse. Perhaps most dramatically, if the United Kingdom and other donors committed themselves now to the carrot of swift and substantial support for demobilisation once a peace deal is finalised, that might itself help to bring that deal closer.

Then there is the issue of arms, a subject in which, tragically, British brokers have a bizarre advantage. The comments of the Prime Minister and the Minister of State, Peter Hain, earlier this year are to be welcomed, that, post-Zimbabwe and the export of Hawk parts to Zimbabwe, there would in future be an extremely strict look at export licences for arms to all countries bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is vital that that pledge is now strictly enforced. Controlling direct arms sales, however, is not enough. The Government's forthcoming Bill on strategic export controls must also regulate selling and brokering to all destinations, not just those currently under embargo. Central Africa glaringly shows up that arms to non-embargoed countries find their way to embargoed ones.

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Another question that arises from the current experience of conflicts in central Africa, as it has from so many other theatres of conflict in the past, is the pernicious effect of the militarisation of refugee camps. Camps in the region serve not only as recruiting bases for armed groups but also as transit points for arms and supplies. That syndrome will continue to bedevil peace efforts not only in central Africa but elsewhere in the world unless it is tackled comprehensively by the Security Council and the UN system. The UK Government could also play a role here by influencing the Security Council to take action.

In conclusion, I renew my encouragement to the Government to develop a more comprehensive strategy across the areas of foreign policy and aid and conflict resolution policy for central Africa as a whole. The multiple conflicts across the region are so closely interwoven that the pulling of any single thread can have unexpected and contradictory consequences. The canvas must be studied as a whole.

9.6 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, to take up one point of great importance on which the noble Lord has just touched--the question of strategic export controls of arms--I believe that the Government have already decided that they will include brokering in their new legislation. It would be useful to have confirmation from the Minister, when she comes to wind up, that that is the case. I know about the individuals in this country engaged in procuring arms for Eastern Europe and selling them to Zimbabwe and other countries in the regional neighbourhood. The gentleman to whom the noble Lord referred is probably Mr John Bredenkamp, who lives in Sunningdale and who has been referred to recently in Africa Confidential.

The main question posed by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, at the beginning of his speech was whether there was real determination at the top to deal with the problem of conflict in Central Africa. The signs are that we see Ministers exhibiting real determination. I remind your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has already mentioned the speech made by the Foreign Secretary at the EU-Africa summit in Cairo. Before that, a contribution was made at the end of February in Nairobi by the honourable gentleman, Mr Peter Hain. He hosted an international conference to see what more can be done to secure peace in that region.

Mr Hain and the participants agreed that they were solidly behind the Lusaka peace agreement, that a UN mission should be deployed as soon as possible to monitor progress in the DRC and that we would support the regional peace-makers and oppose those who chose the path of war. Mr Hain addressed all the DRC's neighbours who are involved in the conflict--Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Angola and Namibia--calling on them to stick by the Lusaka agreement, to stop fighting, and to help to secure peace and stability now. He also mentioned the unholy links between neighbouring governments and commercial interests

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allowing them to profit from human misery and plundering the natural wealth that belongs to the people of the DRC, a point I shall return to later.

Mr Hain said that the war in the DRC is Africa's biggest crisis, and as he put it, it is a litmus test of the UN, Africa and the international community's resolve. I respectfully agree with that. How do we turn the general principles that were laid down in Nairobi into practical measures that will stop the fighting and allow democratic political processes to kick in?

The Kenyan initiative to convene a regional conference on ways of stopping the circulation of small arms is a useful step, but a great deal of work has been done on that subject already. I hope that it will not go over the same ground as others have already covered--for instance, the useful work that was presented to the CHOGM by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Over a Barrel: Light Weapons and Human Rights in the Commonwealth; the work by Human Rights Watch, Arsenals on the Cheap: NATO expansion and the Arms Cascade; and the work published by SaferWorld are three recent examples of initiatives that have been taken on the proliferation of small arms and what can be done about it.

I particularly like the recommendation in the Human Rights Watch report that the results of the OSCE survey on arms trade controls should be published, including the names of member countries that have not replied. Perhaps the Kenyan meeting could take a broad look at the proposals that have already been made at other international conferences and see how many of them have been implemented or even considered by governments.

We have heard that there are symptoms of a new level of instability in the Great Lakes region. I cite the sudden resignation of the Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, after the departure of the Prime Minister Pierre-Celestin Rwigyema and the Speaker Joseph Sebarenezi. Such signs are not good. In Rwanda there have been desertions from the army, the military police and intelligence and several independent journalists have fled the country.

As we have already heard, in Burundi, the rebel leader Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurikiye, of the FDD, has said that he would attend peace talks only if certain preconditions are met--I believe the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, called it an appropriate framework. They want the dismantling of the regroupment camps and the release of political prisoners. The facilitator, former President Mandela, has said that he will do his best to deliver those conditions, but President Pierre Buyoya has said that he will not close the camps unless security returns. Five Tutsi groups have rejected the Arusha process because, they say, it means that Burundi would be led by the perpetrators of genocide.

Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group, who recently toured the Great Lakes region, says that apart from the immediate concern of a cease-fire, three large problems have to be solved before any lasting agreement can be reached: reintegration of rebel forces into the army and civil society, accountability of war criminals, and the management of the political transition.

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Mention has been made of the expiry of the funding for the initiative of President Mandela. The noble Lords, Lord Hughes and Lord Joffe, both asked whether the British Government will agree to top up that money, a suggestion with which I agree. Not only do I hope that the UK will agree to do that, but I also hope that we shall attempt to secure the process of funding with our partners in the European Union so that we can keep it going for that much longer.

In the DRC itself, President Chiluba of Zambia says that there are no more skirmishes, but in certain areas there is full-scale war. The facilitator of the peace process, former Botswana President Sir Ketumile Masire, has said that his efforts are being frustrated by the Kabila Government's refusal to let him visit the interior of the country. The UN Secretary General's Special Representative for the DRC, Mr Kamel Morjane, has been to Lusaka to confer with President Chiluba on what is called "the deteriorating situation in the DRC".

The Joint Military Commission ends its meeting in Kampala today, to be followed by a ministerial level political committee that will take place between tomorrow and Saturday. That meeting will discuss cease-fire violations, co-operation of the belligerents with the UN Mission and the financing of the cease-fire supervision. Can the Minister say something about the JMC and whether there are results that can be reported to the political committee or whether the process is still confidential? The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, quoted the report made by the Secretary-General in January 2000 in which he stated that 960,000 people are internally displaced in the DRC as well as 300,000 refugees in six neighbouring countries. Those figures are not as large as the numbers who were displaced in Rwanda following the genocide, and the number of deaths probably has not reached the level of over 800,000 who were killed in Rwanda. Nevertheless, there are warning signs of a large increase in the fighting, in particular in South Kivu.

The Secretary-General has stated that reports from South Kivu strongly suggest the danger of large-scale violence among the different ethnic groups. The Banyamulenge, who are native Congolese Tutsis, say that the Mayi-Mayi, armed by Kabila but said to be under Zimbabwean command, are planning to exterminate them. At the beginning of the year 700 families escaped to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, while a further 200 families reached Bwagera in the Rusizi plain of South Kivu. However, an estimated 150,000 people are now surrounded on the Moyen Plateau. In a message to the Secretary-General last week, their organisation warned that the stage was set for the genocide of the Banyamulenge.

Noble Lords will recall that the genocide in Rwanda was preceded by equally clear warnings. As the Secretary-General commented afterwards, when asked about the message he had received from General Dallaire telling him what was about to happen, the fundamental failure was lack of political will, not lack of information. I hope that we shall not see a repetition of that case where warnings were issued and were

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received by the international community--including the United Nations--but we failed to act. Unfortunately it looks as though the Democratic Republic of Congo could become the scene of human tragedies that, collectively, will equal the loss of life in Rwanda.

It has already been mentioned that when the camps in DRC were closed and the people living in them returned to Rwanda and Burundi, over half a million people went missing. They were mainly of Hutu origin. It was a catastrophe that has never been properly investigated because President Kabila refused to allow any UN missions to travel to the region. Now Kabila's forces have teamed up with former members of the Rwandese armed forces responsible for the genocide, and the Interahamwe, to exterminate the Tutsi in eastern DRC. Furthermore, hundreds of Tutsis have been murdered in and around Kinshasa following hate speech broadcasts by government officials. According to Amnesty International, people suspected of belonging to the rebels or in any way associated with them have been summarily executed, including at least one case where a number of alleged RCD members were burned alive.

In the Ituri region, on the border with Uganda, there have been major clashes between the Hema and the Landu peoples, resulting, over the past month or so, in the deaths of between 4,000 and 7,000 people and the displacement of a further 150,000.

Britain can do only so much to stop the carnage in DRC. The general approach adopted by the Foreign Secretary in his speech at the EU/Africa meeting in Cairo may have useful results for the future. However, the Government's review of their work on conflict prevention in Africa is not likely to make any immediate impact in Goma or Kisangani. We need to use any leverage we have to persuade neighbouring countries to withdraw their troops, to stop Kabila from collaborating with the perpetrators of genocide and to end the hate broadcasts.

9.17 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords,

    "I speak of Africa and golden joys".

Shakespeare's description of the continent in "Henry IV, Part II" is a far cry from what we have heard in today's debate, eloquently introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who is so knowledgeable on the subject. Both in this debate and in that held in your Lordships' House on 15th March on education in developing countries, we have heard litanies of disaster. I mention this because a lack of education, the abundance of corruption and poor governance are possibly the three roots of the problems confronting central Africa today.

Africa is one of the world's most important repositories of raw materials. It produces around 98 per cent of the world's diamonds, 55 per cent of its gold and 20 per cent of its copper, as well as large quantities of various strategic minerals such as manganese, chromium and uranium. Africa produces two-thirds of the world's cocoa and three-fifths of its

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palm oil and has immense reserves of water power. It could grow virtually every crop on earth. Why has this potential been wasted?

Nothing is endemic about conflict in Africa, a point so rightly stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. There is no more reason that the suffering in Africa should be any worse than anywhere else in the world. Lame excuses have been put forward that refer to the carve-up of Africa, but fundamentally the present disastrous situation stems from the exploitation of the poor by the corrupt rich.

At the risk of over-simplifying a complex subject, from Biafra to Ethiopia, to the vast Congo regions, the fighting is basically all about control of natural resources and wealth. To achieve a modicum of economic growth, most people would agree that Africa needs institution-building, a crack-down on corruption and transparency in government. The real curse of central Africa today is the governments themselves. Africa's elite seem to rule for themselves. Few of the countries are democratic. One shining exception is Senegal, with the newly democratically elected president--a rare model of transfer of power. In a grandiose speech he offered little comfort to those fellow African heads of state present whose regimes have either refused to relinquish power or won it via the gun.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's government and rebels have lately been stepping up the propaganda war and there are mounting allegations of ceasefire violations. The Lusaka peace accord was set up to prevent a return to war. The agreement on a ceasefire in the DRC was signed by the DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda on 10th July 1999 in an effort to end what is a regional war being played out in the DRC.

The main provisions agreed at Lusaka included the immediate cessation of hostilities. The ceasefire was due to come into being within 24 hours of the signing of the agreement, which diplomatic sources interpret as 31st August, when the RDC signed, as we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. However, there have been continuous claims and counterclaims of ceasefire violations by both sides, including military attacks, territorial advances, troop deployments and reinforcements within and across the borders.

What is the current state of play? The UN's first phase involvement under the peace deal was to establish an observer mission to the DRC called MONUC. MONUC has been trying to establish contact with the relevant players at their headquarters and gathering intelligence but has been unable to do so as a result of inadequate security guarantees from the DRC Government. MONUC also has a humanitarian mandate and humanitarian officials have expressed frustration that military activities appear to be the only focus of MONUC's efforts, despite the seriousness of the situation, in which the United Nations recently reported that more than 800,000 Congolese are internally displaced--a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury--and 10 million people are suffering from food insecurity.

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However, in extending MONUC's mandate last week to 15th January 2001, the Security Council made no move on approving the military observers or humanitarian support personnel. They are fighting again in the Congo, but that is about all that is clear. After weeks of skirmishing between the Congolese Government and the Congolese rebels, a full-scale battle broke out in northern Congo early last month. That has been followed by battles in six or seven other places in rebel-held areas. Outsiders have virtually no independent means of finding out what is going on. The rebels blame the government; the government blame the rebels. The United Nations, which was asked to send military observers to monitor the truce, is considering sending up to 5,000.

Angola's civil war is spilling across all its borders. Angola takes pride of place; after oil and diamonds its main export is violence. The civil war between the government and the UNITA rebels has already spilt into three of the four neighbours--Congo, Congo-Brazzaville and Namibia. Now Zambia, which has managed until now to keep Angola's fighters out of its territory, is reported to be dispatching soldiers to reinforce its eastern borders. Relations between the two have long been strained.

That appalling scenario of conflict reflects the effect of two basic factors, to which I referred in my introduction. Central Africa's regional troubles stem from the fighting for its wealth and the state of its institutions. Africa's current leaders in this area pay scant attention to the long-term needs to put their countries on a sustainable growth path. Instead, they neglect their basic needs, particularly education. They use the country's budgets, made up of the people's tax revenues and foreign aid, to arm their forces and to perpetuate conflict--moreover, rape and pillage--in a search for control of others' natural resources. The idea that any of these plunderers might revert to obeying public laws rather than private profiteering makes the situation even more despicable, if that were possible.

Sadly, the performance of the Government in helping this magnificent continent back on its feet has proved to be dismal. For example, Mr Hain, when questioned recently in the other place by Mrs Gillan on the scope of military advisers working in Zimbabwe, answered that there were five military advisers providing peacekeeping training, including modules on human rights, rights of the child and democratic control of the armed sources. Are military advisers really what is needed to advise on breast-feeding?

In a recent public statement Mr Hain also offered a home to 20,000 British citizens who live in Zimbabwe, plus thousands of others. I ask, is this the kind of policy we look to from a Minister?

Here is a country after 13 years under Mugabe's rule, as reported in the Herald Tribune this week, which has a fuel shortage so severe that the streets are jammed by queues of cars waiting in line for hours for petrol; a currency that crashed last year, reducing the exchange value of the Zimbabwean dollar from the US dollar's level in the year of independence to less than a

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nickel today; a quarter of its population infected with AIDS; and nearly half the workforce jobless. Thousands of rioters have illegally occupied more than 700 farms since February demanding that the white commercial farmers quit; yet the governing party appears not to care and has not withdrawn a single soldier from the Congo.

Our Foreign Secretary at the African-EU meeting in Cairo was photographed kow-towing to Mr Mugabe instead of putting pressure on him. While Mr Mugabe continues his spendthrift ways, the Foreign Secretary refuses to take the three focused actions which would limit his room to frighten his opponents and fire up his ragged army of supporters.

First, he must take steps to agree that EU aid to the Zimbabwean Government is frozen forthwith. Secondly, he must act now to freeze Mr Mugabe's assets. Thirdly, he must take a decision to stop sending the spare parts and providing the military advice which partly enable Zimbabwe to continue to fight in the Congo, as mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Joffe and Lord Avebury.

The Foreign Secretary must make it clear that the world is watching. We should suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth and make its return to the fold conditional on the ability to hold fair and proper elections, even though the mechanisms for doing this are quite arcane. British policy should surely be tied to the democratic process and to good governance to strengthen transparency.

Forgive me if I repeat this, but I feel that I cannot say it enough; perhaps one day it may not fall on deaf ears. The Government should be supporting on a larger scale the British Council and the BBC World Service. These most highly respected worldwide institutions are recognised as being the fairest and most unbiased by all listeners. These two magnificent organisations, instead of having their budgets cut, should be encouraged and given a far larger remit. I trust that the Government will also be sending representation to the meeting in Dakar.

Finally, John Gunther in his book Inside Africa, written in 1955, said that an African had told him that their most important need was more education and economic opportunity. Alas, there has been precious little progress since then.

9.29 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I must begin by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for opening this debate so eloquently. I also thank all noble Lords who spoke so poignantly this evening. I am aware of the noble Earl's interest in Africa and the importance that he attaches to it being kept high on the international agenda.

However, I was a little surprised to hear the comments of the noble Baroness about democracy in a number of countries. As we know, there are many struggling countries in Africa today which are doing well so far as concerns the democratic process; South

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Africa, Nigeria and many others, to mention but a few. We were heartened today when many of us heard from the former President Mandela of South Africa about all the good work that is being done throughout the region by the African leaders--

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