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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I shall conclude with one last story. It is not funny, but it is relevant. Robert Gardiner was a very great Ghanaian who ended his career as the chairman of the Economic Commission for Africa. He was also in charge of UN operations in the Congo for a while. The UN in the Congo at that time was the biggest disaster one could imagine.
I often wonder what would have happened if, after initially agreeing, the UN had not prevented us from training officers for Lumumba. Immediately after the mutiny, when 6,000 Belgians had fled overnight and the country was in turmoil, Lumumba sent Mobutu to me to ask whether the British would train some officers for their army, which was totally out of control. The British government agreed and we cleared it with the United Nations. But, by September, when the army officers were due to go to Britain, a new head of UN operations, Rajeshwar Dayal, had been appointed. He
Robert Gardiner once said to a group of young Africans who were about to become diplomats that the British gave two great things to Africathe English language and the rule of law. The sad thing is that the Belgians left neither the rule of law nor any kind of infrastructure. The reason for all the trials and tribulations that we are now discussing, and the reason that the Congoa rich country which is bursting with life, people and vitalityis in such a terrible state, is that it was left with no infrastructure and no rule of law. I hope that somehow, sometime, we will be able to help to restore them. That will be one of the UN's major tasks eventually.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Park, who it is always a privilege to follow on these occasions because of her immense knowledge of southern Africa, in the hope that we shall get our act together and do something positive for the people of the DRC in their hour of need, and help them to take advantage of the opportunity arising from the peace agreement which has recently been signed in Sun City.
I join in the thanks that the noble Baroness expressed to the right reverend Prelate. He has given us the first opportunity we have had, in either House, to look at the report of the United Nations panel. In my opinion, it has done an excellent job in exposing the criminal networks that operate under the protection and sponsorship of the various armed groups and of the many countries which have been mentioned, in particular, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda.
As has been said by both the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, the DRC is potentially an immensely rich country, but the sums of money which are being syphoned off by the gangs which operate under the protection of its neighbours are enormous. In the government-controlled area, for instance, the report states that 5 billion US dollars-worth of assets have been transferred from the state-owned mining sector to the joint Zimbabwe-DRC kleptocracy in the past three years, and that the ZDF was planning to deploy a private military company, under its control, to protect its investment after its troops had withdrawn.
As we have heard before, the key players at the Zimbabwe end of the network are Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Speaker, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, the commander of the ZDF and executive chairman of COSLEG, the joint venture formed between Zimbabwe and the DRC to steal the people's assets, and Air Marshal Perence Shiri, who is said to be engaged in illicit diamond trading in Harare.
The panel makes a number of detailed allegations about this company, and recommends placing financial restrictions on it. The company, in turn, has denied all the allegationsas it wouldbut the panel has given some evidence, particularly in support of the allegation that the 49 per cent interest in Sengamines, which operates a 720 kilometre square mining concession south of Mbuji-Mayi, is held on behalf of OSLEG, the ZDF investment vehicle. According to the Sengamines' website, the state mining company, MIBA, contributed its mining concessions, the DRC a regime favourable to investment, and Oryx the finance and expertise. On this one venture alone, the state has given away a concession said to be worth more than £2 billion, as company officials have told the UN, and received back a shareholding of only 33 per cent.
The problem in getting a comprehensive and transparent investigation of the allegations against Oryx or, indeed, any of the other 12 companies that are named in the report as being in breach of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, is that the UN panel has legal privilege, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, has told us, but discussion outside the framework could attract legal proceedings. Oryx has challenged the UN panel to repeat its allegations in some public forum, but at the same time the company says that it is looking for a jurisdiction where the allegations could be tested by legal action taken by the company itself.
I asked the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, on 28th May last year, at col. 1143 of Hansard, whether it was the intention of the Security Council to publish the evidence on which the panel based its findings. I repeat that suggestion now; I gave the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, notice that I would do so. If the documents were made available, either on the UN website or in some other form, together with any comments that the companies and individuals might care to submit, the general public would be able to evaluate the allegations for themselves. I mean by that not the public in this country particularly but in the countries concerned, primarily in the DRC, whose assets are being stolen.
In the case of the UK companies said to have violated the OECD guidelines, I hope the noble Baroness will have time, on some other occasion if not today, to study the suggestions that are made in the paper I sent her on rights and accountability in development. It gives some extremely practical proposals as to how the panel's allegations should be pursued, which would form a suitable model for the next steps to be taken.
I am, I think, the only person in the UK to have formally made a submission to the UK national contact point for observation of the OECD guidelines. I would be very happy to act as intermediary if the panel wishes to have its charges against UK companies
The UN panel makes it clear that most of the problems in the east and north of the DRC are caused by foreign intervention, particularly by the evil coalitions of senior military pirates from Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda, with Russian and Lebanese businessmen. All the well known villains of the previous report star in these pages as well: John Bredenkamp, the Zimbabwe sanctions-breaker who continues to enjoy his millions here in Britain, in Sunningdale; Victor Bout, to whose gun-running activities the authorities in the UAE turned a blind eye; and Major General James Kazimi, who committed perjury before the Porter Commission in Uganda. These people, and their militia allies on the ground, have created a machine systematically to plunder the resources of the country, and to use the local administrations as a further means of extracting wealth from the people while denying them basic services. The Red Cross and other international humanitarian agencies have had to step in and provide clean water in Kisangani, for instance, at the same time as billions of dollars are being siphoned abroad to line the pockets of an evil multinational mafia.
The UN panel makes a number of recommendations, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet been considered by the UN Security Council. The latest resolution, of 20th March, contrasts the progress made at the meeting of Congolese parties in Pretoria on 6th March towards a transitional government for the whole country, and the frightful atrocities in the Ituri areawhich we have heard about alreadygraphically described by Amnesty International in a report published the week before last, to which the right reverend Prelate referred. Bunia, the regional capital, is under the control of the UPC, which, of course, is not a signatory of the Pretoria Agreement.
The Security Council did not address the unanimous demand made by the Pretoria meeting for a UN force to help to guarantee the security of the population during the two-year transition to democratic elections. It asked the Secretary-General to increase MONUC's human rights personnel, but I wonder whether that is likely to be effective if nothing is done about the causes. If Kosovo was a threatened major humanitarian catastrophe, the DRC is an actual catastrophe, and a few more human rights monitors are not going to be the answer. It is reported that the Ugandan army has returned to Bunia and intends to stay there until 24th Aprilthe latest date for the coming into operation of an Ituri pacification commission. But the AU's Third Party Verification Mission says that Uganda is in breach of the Lusaka agreement and must withdraw its troops. I think that should be the firm demand of the United Nations and of all the countries which are concerned with the position in the region.
What was billed as the final session of talks to adopt peace and power-sharing arrangements in the DRC came to an end yesterday with the signing of an agreement by rebel and government leaders on a two-year transitional government leading to democratic elections. Although all the rebel movements were said to have accepted the deal, the Mayi-Mayi immediately voiced objections to it, and at the very same time MONUC premises were being attacked. We echo the UN Secretary-General in thanking President Thabo Mbeki and Sir Ketumile Masire, the facilitator, for the work that they have done so far, but we also agree with him that much the hardest part is yet to come.
It is debates like this that return our attention to some of the most insuperable problems in the world today. It is, indeed, too easy, when there are such pressing events as the war in Iraq, to focus on that alone and forget all the other areas that should demand our attention.
In his profound and wide-ranging account, with great clarity the right reverend Prelate described a desperate situation in which tribal warfare has been fanned and encouraged so that the country can be plundered. As he says, it is an uncontrolled human rights disaster. And yet the UN is playing a key role in exposing that. But, as he says, the UN findings must be followed up and implemented, and this is the challenge that must be put to the Government tonight.
The DRC could hardly be in a worse situation. Genocide reigns supreme, not international law. Contributing to and exploiting that situation are individuals and governments whose real reason for involvement in the country is, as we have heard, to plunder its rich resources.
As we have also heard, yesterday a peace deal was signed in South Africa which includes a new constitution and a power-sharing administration which is supposed to oversee in two years' time the DRC's first democratic elections since 1960. But neither President Joseph Kabila nor the MLC rebel leader personally signed the peace deal. As Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, said, the most difficult times lie ahead. He went on to say that:
The DRC shares many of the problems of other African countries: extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, high levels of diseaseat the moment it is afflicted by an Ebola fever epidemicpoor sanitation, inadequate drinking water supplies, lack of infrastructure and huge levels of ethnic conflict. But it has its special burden. As the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention put it in its report in November 2002, the DRC is "cursed by riches".
The DRC is rich in mineral reserves. That wealth should lay the foundations for its people's prosperity, but it has had the opposite effect. It has been at the root of many of the country's problems. It has meant enormous strife as other countries and other groups have tried to lay their hands on the DRC's gold, diamonds and other resources. Thus there have been armies in the DRC from Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Burundi. Child soldiers have been used on all sides. In some areas, aid workers report that children form the bulk of the armies. The conflict has left 3 million people dead, while disease and abuse are widespread. There are reports of cannibalism.
The UN panel of experts referred to by other speakers in the debate was established in June 2000 to consider the illegal exploitation of natural resources and to consider in particular the link between that exploitation and the continuation of the conflict. The panel concluded that foreign armies were using the conflict as an excuse to continue exploiting resources and that this was taking place, "at an alarming rate". Army commanders, businessmen and governments were all exploiting the situation. It recommended sanctions against both countries and individuals. In October last year, the panel concluded that there had been a multi-billion dollar corporate theft of the country's mineral assets. It pointed to a network of senior military people, businessmen and government officials in the various foreign governments and in the Government of the DRC, acting together to continue that exploitation.
Those groups have not disbanded as the armies withdraw, so that the peace processes still leave in place terrible exploitation. As my honourable friend and colleague in another place, Norman Lamb, asked on 5th March in the debate he led on Rwanda and the Great Lakes region: what is the UK Government's response to that UN report? The right reverend Prelate echoed the question in his remarks.
The UN report recommends travel bans, asset freezing and banking restrictions on those they have identified. Again, as my colleague Norman Lamb asked, and as my noble friend Lord Avebury has expanded on, given the extensive business connections
Whatever the role of the British military, it is clearly essential that the United Nations has sufficient resources so that it can play a peacekeeping role. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, gave us in many ways a very pessimistic account based on great experience of the DRC. However, she too would seem to credit the UN as offering the only ray of hope that seems to be on the horizon at the moment. Only with some form of order will it be possible even to begin on the reconstruction of the country, building its infrastructure and setting in place programmes aimed at creating jobs and improving conditions for local populations, especially in relation to education, health and sanitation. That seems far distant in terms of the situation in the DRC at the moment.
At a time when the UN itself is under much attack and seems almost rent asunder, that the ray of light in the DRC is the result of the UN's actions shows how important it is that we value what the UN can do, and that we ensure that it is further strengthened. The debate is a very sobering reminder of the key role that international law and international bodies must now play.
My noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth also knows the Congo very well. She spoke with great authority on the background to the present-day problems and on what life is like today in what was once a very rich country. I always listen very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on such matters. The examples that he gave of how and by whom enormous sums of money are siphoned off were truly shocking. I look forward to the Minister's reply to his important question.
I have been concerned for some time about the apparent failure of Her Majesty's Government to take any serious action in response to the report by the expert panel. The right reverend Prelate said that the dreadful situation is of a scale and urgency that requires much more action than the Government have yet committed themselves to deliver.
According to the UN report, as several noble Lords have pointed out, the humanitarian consequences of what is essentially a financially driven conflict in the Great Lakes region have been horrific. The panel says that in the five eastern provinces of the DRC alone, the number of deaths directly attributable to the war up to September 2002 was estimated to be between 3 million and 3.5 million people.
In view of recent world events, it is important to bear in mind that the panel was commissioned to carry out its work by no less a body than the Security Council of the United Nations. At this juncture, Her Majesty's Government cannot afford to dismiss lightly recommendations and resolutions that emanate from that council. To be seen to drag their heels, or to take action only unwillingly, weakens the position of the UK when the time comes to criticise the tardy response of other countries to our resolutions. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, that the UN is playing a key role in drawing attention to the full horror of the situation in the DRC.
While that resolution is dated January 2003, the panel's process of investigation has been under way since 2000. However, on 4th March, as the noble Baroness said, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, could claim only:
While Her Majesty's Government appear to have been dithering, the response of some other countries to the report has been admirable. The president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, suspended several key government officials named in the report, including some of the most powerful figures in his government as long ago as November 2002. He also recalled his envoy in Harare, who had been implicated.
In Uganda, as the right reverend Prelate said, the government commissioned a judge, David Porter, to investigate Ugandan nationals named in the report. His findings were presented to the Ugandan Cabinet in February this year.
By contrast, Her Majesty's Government have apparently not even instigated any serious investigation into the allegations made, still less taken any punitive action. One area that is of very special concern to me is the connection between the illegal activities in the DRC and the ringleaders of the brutal repression that is occurring further south in Zimbabwe. Several noble Lords touched on that. Companies alleged in the report to be involved in underhand deals include Oryx Natural Resources and OSLEG, which have close links to the Zimbabwe national army.
The report demonstrates a very clear involvement by the corrupt regime of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the plunder of the DRC's natural resources. Time and again Ministers have tried to give the impression of despair and that there is so little they can do to influence events in connection with Zimbabwe. But here is an opportunity handed to them on a plate and they have failed to take it.
The time has come for Her Majesty's Government to take these matters seriously. We cannot lecture African nations on the need to deal with corruption and illegal business deals if we are not prepared even to investigate well founded allegations that are made against those who operate from within our own
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am very grateful for this stimulating and constructive debate and thank noble Lords for their contributions. I will ensure that any answers to noble Lords' questions that I do not cover tonight are sent in written form. I also thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester for giving us the opportunity to discuss these topics, and for his important contribution to the very positive role the Churches are playing in the DRC.
The debate has covered not only the important subject of the final report of the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it has also given us an opportunity to debate recent events there that are of concern to noble Lords.
The Lusaka agreement in 1999 effectively brought to an end the conventional fighting between the various Congolese armed groups and their foreign backers. But the foreign armies stayed in the DRC. The no-peace no-war stalemate that ensued, and which has been referred to by many noble Lords, benefited no one except those able to exploit the situation. Many did, including the foreign armies and almost all of the Congolese participants in the conflict. So, too, did the "criminal elites" referred to in the last report of the UN expert panel. Despite the stern strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, to us, in an otherwise excellent contribution, I assure noble Lords that the Government fully support the UN expert panel in its work on the illegal exploitation of the many and varied natural resources which the Democratic Republic of Congo possesses. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, from her great experience of the Congo, mentioned in particular the shameful role of Zimbabwe in that exploitation.
It highlights the need for proper and transparent regulation of the extractive industries of the DRC, which holds the key to the regeneration of the country's economy. The UN expert panel report highlights mismanagement and corruption in the DRC's largest mining operation, Gecamines, which has resulted in a huge slump in the contribution the company has made to the economy.
From once earning some 70 per cent of the DRC's hard currency export earnings, Gecamines' production, so the panel report states, is now at only one-tenth of its former capacity. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also spoke in his powerful contribution about corruption in the mining industry. It beggars belief.
Without that income and with the added cost of a seemingly interminable conflict the DRC could face an enormous economic crisis, even worse than it is at present. So we take very seriously the allegations in the panel's report against the 12 UK-registered companies. The report claims that those companies have been non-compliant with voluntary OECD guidelines on multinational enterprise. We asked for
The panel's mandate expired when it submitted its report and it was therefore unable to restart work to produce the information requested until it had been granted a new mandate. With our strong support, the Security Council Resolution 1457 of 24th January 2003 extended the mandate of the panel for a further six months. I am pleased to report that the panel reconvened on 3rd March. We have again asked for information linking British companies and individuals named in the report with illegal exploitation of natural resources. We look forward to receiving the information that we have requested and will then consider taking appropriate action where there is clear evidence of wrongdoing. The UK Government have to act objectively in this matter, but cannot do so without more robust evidence.
This debate is also about the UK Government's reaction to recent events in the DRC. I therefore turn to the situation in the Ituri region in eastern Congo, on which the right reverend Prelate spoke at some length and which has featured in the newspapers recently, and to the peace process more generally. The eastern DRC remains violent and volatile. It is a cause of deep concern. The abuse of human rights in all its aspects, described as a disaster by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, whether it is brutal rape, the use of child soldiers or resource exploitation, is totally unacceptable.
Some of the violence has its own genesis and momentum deeply rooted in the historical, social and ethnic mix of the region. That is particularly true in Ituri, as the right reverend Prelate so strongly described, but also in the Kivus. However, it is fuelled by short-term military and economic interests of local warlords and both Congolese and foreign outsiders. In that respect, the recent outbreak of fighting in the Ituri region between the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force and the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC), the newest armed group, is very worrying.
Last year when the Ugandans withdrew their forces from the DRC, we understood that they were asked by the Kinshasa government to stay in Ituri to keep the peace. However, since then, fighting and human rights abuses have continued. We were encouraged in February when President Kabila of the DRC and President Museveni of Uganda signed an agreement under which the remaining Ugandan forces would be withdrawn by 20th March. My noble friend Lady Amos, together with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, urged President Museveni to stick to his part of the bargain. But the most recent outbreak of fighting could not have been more badly timed. The subsequent reinforcement of Ugandan forces suggested that President Museveni would go back on his commitment. We therefore pressed him to honour his commitment. The Security Council Resolution 1468 of 20th March 2003 called on Uganda to withdraw "without delay". We continue to reiterate that message.
We are also giving urgent attention to a viable and neutral security force for the region. Several noble Lords referred to that. A variety of alternatives are under consideration and we are working closely with our partners in the European Union and UN to agree on the best option. We have also pressed Rwanda to show restraint and not to carry out its threat to re-enter the DRC. Law and order must be restored to Ituri, and to the Kivus.