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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who are to participate in the debate as the situation in Sudan is becoming ever more serious and as the people of Sudan are anxiously waiting to hear whether Her Majesty's Government will offer them more substantive support than their largely ineffective policy of critical dialogue. With up to 2 million dead and 5 million displaced in recent years from war-related causes, the toll of man-made suffering exceeds that of Rwanda, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia combined.
Yet this huge tragedy goes largely unreported by the media and is effectively condoned by western governments. The National Islamic Front (NIF), the so-called "Government of Sudan", has declared jihad in its most militaristic form against all who oppose it, Muslims as well as Christians and traditional believers. The weapons of jihad include massive military offensives against innocent civilians, enslavement of many abducted women and children and the manipulation of aid, with the regime regularly denying access by UN Operation Lifeline Sudan to vast areas of that huge country.
In addition to the military jihad against the African peoples of the south and the Beja Muslim people in the east, the regime has consistently violated the human rights of Arab Muslims living in the north, with imprisonment, torture and extra-judicial killings. Recent reports from Darfur indicate an escalation of NIF brutality there.
The suffering has to be seen to be believed. That is why the regime declares regularly "no go" areas where it attacks locations with low-flying helicopter gunships and high-flying Antonovs dropping 500 kilogram bombs on to civilian targets such as schools and feeding centres. Then ground troops carry out a scorched earth policy, killing men, women and
I recently visited one of the regime's "no go" areas in eastern Upper Nile, where children were dying from whooping cough; 89 had already perished as local health workers had no medication. We took Erythromycin to treat those afflicted and halt the epidemic. But while there, we met many other civilians who had walked for 13 days, forced to flee from their villages which had been attacked by NIF troops. Women with babies were so exhausted and malnourished that their breast milk had dried up and they were holding their dying babies in their arms.
Such is the reality behind the signing of the Machakos agreement on 20th July between the NIF regime and the main opposition group engaged in conflict, the SPLA. This supposed peace agreement hit the headlines and raised hopes. But less than a week later the NIF launched another massive offensive in western Upper Nile with reports of several hundred civilians killed and thousands displaced.
The second round of talks at Machakos were preceded by intensified attacks by the NIF on civilian targets in the south, including bombing raids on the diocese of Torit, targeting schools and a camp for the displaced. One raid occurred on 19th August, the very day the talks resumed, and NIF bombings persisted during the negotiations, which continued despite these flagrant violations. But when, on 1st September, the SPLA retaliated by retaking the town of Torit, the NIF withdrew with shameless hypocrisy, accusing the SPLA of violating the agreement.
Of course in a war two sides fight and the SPLA is party to the conflict, with all that that implies. But to suggest, as the British Government typically do, symmetry of aggression and violations of human rights between the NIF and the SPLA or NDA is outrageously misleading; for example, only the NIF uses aerial bombardment against civilians; and in all the locations that I have visited under SPLM/A or other forms of NDA administration, I have seen more effective establishment of civil society and respect for human rights than the NIF has ever attempted. For example, we are told by Arab traders from the north who come south to trade that they feel safer with the SPLM/A than with the NIF's rule of terror in the north.
On 27th September, in an escalation of their policy of denying aid to many parts of Sudan, the NIF stopped all aid flights into southern Sudan, denying three million people medical and food aid. This action led the chairman of the Committee of Conscience of the US-based Holocaust Museum to "strongly reiterate" the organisation's genocide warning on Sudan, adding that,
The fact that this total ban has just been lifted is no cause for commendation. It should never have been imposed. The regime should he required now to stop all restrictions, opening up all of Sudan to aid, wherever needed.
The NIF is using oil revenues to buy weapons such as helicopter gunships to kill its own people and has adopted a policy of systematic ethnic cleansing of all the communities who live near the oil fields. When I visited Gumriak in western Upper Nile, NIF troops had just attacked with low-flying helicopter gunships, shooting at women and children, Antonovs dropping 500 kilogram bombs, and ground troops which burnt approximately 6,000 homes. 11 churches, seven mosques, three animist shrines, the school and the clinic. That is just one example of huge swathes of Sudan cleared to accommodate oil exploitation. The NGO International Crisis Group has confirmed the use of oil revenues by the NIF to buy sophisticated weaponry, including a reported 120 million US dollars-worth of new Mig-29 fighter aircraft, already used to bomb the hospital town of Lui on 21st September, killing 13 people, including four children.
There are other causes for concern which the British Government seem to be ignoringreports of the re-establishment of terrorist training camps; the transfer of Al'Qaeda gold to Khartoum; and membership in Al'Qaeda of several of its prominent leaders.
The NIF may have bought immunity by providing some information on international terrorism and on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, but many believe that there will be a high price to pay for allowing this Islamist ruthless regime to become even more entrenched; to pursue its brutal ruthless policies of ethnic cleansing; and to engage in international terrorism.
I have visited Mr Alan Goulty, the Government's special representative for Sudan, to discuss our first-hand evidence. I also wrote on 16th September to express acute concern over recent developments. In a reply dated 26th September, Mr Goulty dismissed the significance of this briefing as "second or third-hand advocacy".
I hope that the evidence presented tonight will not receive the same cursory dismissal from the Government, whose special representative does not visit the areas directly affected by the war and where continuing flight bans leave civilians suffering and dying unreached, unhelped and unheard. The evidence underpinning the concerns I have expressed comes from many and well-respected sources, too voluminous to be compressed into the time allowed, but I shall place a fuller briefing in the Library of the House.
The British Government maintain they are helping the situation through "critical dialogue". But the evidence shows that while the regime talks, it kills. The time has come to ask whether this "critical dialogue" just gives the regime credibility while it commits murder behind closed borders. The people of Sudan are looking to Britain for effective help, not just talks and words. I hope that the Government will not disappoint them because I heard today that the US Congress is considering the Sudan Peace Act while we speak, which would put significant pressure on the NIF.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am sure that I speak for many noble Lords on all sides of your Lordships' House in expressing admiration for the sustained way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has tirelessly sought to bring the suffering of the people of Sudan to the attention of your Lordships' House. She has performed another great service today, highlighting the suffering in Sudan and bringing it to the attention of the international community. I join with her in hoping that the list of proposals that she has laid before your Lordships and the Minister will be implemented and acted upon.
Two weeks ago, on behalf of the humanitarian charity Jubilee Action, whose progenitor, Jubilee Campaign, I co-founded 17 years ago, I visited southern Sudan and travelled into the Sudan People's Liberation Army-administered areas in the diocese of Torit, which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, mentioned a few moments ago. I was with the auxiliary Bishop of Torit, Bishop Akio Johnson. There have been nine attempts on his life. He is scarred by bullet
Even as the negotiators were hammering out the detail of the Machakos protocol, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Bishop Akio's home and compound were being blitzed by the Sudanese military. In three raids on Ikitos on 26th and 29th June and 12th July, 72 bombs were dropped on his residence. It was obliterated. If the occupants had not scrambled into shelters, there would have been a massacre. The compound also houses a primary and secondary school at which more than 200 children are being educated. Both schools were destroyed but, miraculously, the prudent provision of bomb shelters saved the lives of the children. Bishop Akio told me that many were vomiting and crying and were deeply traumatised.
Many refugees inside Sudan are dying from hunger and thirst. Cholera and other virulent diseases rage. The effects of daily aerial bombardment and the indiscriminate laying of anti-personnel landmines can be seen in the countless torn limbs and broken bodies. One Red Cross surgeon working at Lokichoggio, the last Kenyan outpost before the border, told me that he had undertaken about 300 operations during the past month, and that two other surgeons had done the same.
Of course, Machakos did not deliver a ceasefire and it is difficult to see how real progress can be made without one. When the SPLA liberated Torit on 1st September, the scale of the destruction there became apparent. The cathedral church of St. Peter and Paul is desecrated. The smaller church of Our Lady of the Assumption has been razed to the ground; only one small wall remains. The foundations of the church have been turned into a military bunker and the bricks taken to build a mosque. The town itself has been forcibly Islamicised; the road signs turned to Arabic and water and medicine given only to people who have changed their identities to Islamic names. One group of 180 children had been taken to Khartoum and radically indoctrinated, encouraging a hatred of their parents and turning them into child soldiers.
Bishop Akio would like strenuous efforts to be made to create a process of reconciliation. Indeed, after the capture of Yei, he personally intervened to stop the killing of Sudanese troops whom he fed, clothed and had repatriated. But he says that an end to the bombing is a prerequisite before any kind of reconciliation can begin. He says:
I went to Narus, where the dispensary has been completely destroyed. The buildings are a mangled ruin. One local inhabitant, Moses March, showed me where a family of sevenincluding five children and also an unborn child died in a direct hit on their hut. In addition to the massacre of Martin Lowie's family, 23 people were killed in raids on Narus. I saw live munitions lying in the school play area.
In recent months, the Sudanese Government have been intensifying their raids on areas around oilfields, with the aim of depopulating those districts. Since the oil began to flow in Sudan, the Khartoum Government have been able to increase their military spending from £110 million to £220 million. Bishop Akio is scornful of the morality of western oil companies. He says that
The Government of Sudan should also be held much more closely accountable by the international community for their deliberate bombing of civilians and the widespread and systematic enslavement of Christians and people of traditional religions and their forced conversion. Those atrocities clearly constitute war crimes. Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilians in times of war. The Sudanese Government are targeting civilians through air raids and, with their allies, deliberately and systematically enslaving thousands of non-Muslims. Those atrocities, due to their extensive, serious and systematic nature, can be considered as crimes against humanity and those responsible should be held to account.
The war in Sudan is a war that the West frequently ignores. It is a client war whose roots lie in the same conflict that led to the carnage of New York's twin towers. It is a war that, far from being contained, is having a ripple effect throughout the regionas far away as Chadand it is a war whose line of engagement has become Africa's Maginot line. The blood-letting has its roots in racism and fundamentalism; it is a blood-letting exacerbated by
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