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Lord Warner: My Lords, as I have said, we do not have any cases of avian flu in this country. A lot of attention has been given to primary care work and advice on the influenza conditions that we do have in this country during the winter. Doctors are well advised on that. Where there is a need to advise primary care trusts and doctors on public health grounds, the Chief Medical Officer will provide an alert in the normal way.
What measures they are taking to respond to the recent call from the United Nations Secretary-General for member states to give greater support to the African Union Mission in Darfur and to address the situation there.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the United Kingdom fully supports the African Union's efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur. We have allocated over £40 million to support the mission, from which we have provided significant logistical support, including 143 vehicles. We have also seconded a UK military officer to the AU to provide technical support.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, does the noble Baroness the Leader of the House agree that, with international focus inevitably now on events in and around the Indian Ocean, and on the signing of the north-south peace accord, we must remain focused on the continuing atrocities in Darfur? Will she confirm the UN estimates that some 70,000 fatalities have occurred there, 1.7 million people are displaced, 2.2 million are now dependent on aid and therefore at great risk should starvation begin to occur, and some 400 villages have been razed to the ground? Did the noble Baroness see the comments of Kofi Annan just four days ago that the situation in Darfur remains horrific? He said:
Does the noble Baroness therefore agree that the very small number of African Union troopsperhaps she can confirm the actual number, in an area the size of Franceis not adequate to deal with the threat? Does she further agree that the need for the imposition of a no-fly zone remains very urgent to stop the rearming of the Janjaweed, which has been responsible for the terrorising of these communities, the fatalities and the wholesale rape and massacre of vast numbers of people?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is right to say that we need to continue to focus on Darfur. The signing of the comprehensive peace agreement offers up some opportunities but we must ensure that what is happening in Darfur is consistent with the peace agreement.
On the AU deployment, as of 9 January the AU mission comprised 1,162 personnel. I understand that a further 200 Nigerian troops have arrived since then. The noble Lord will know that the plan is to deploy some 3,000 troops to Darfur. In the report from the UN special envoy Jan Pronk to the Security Council yesterday, he said:
"The strengthening of the AU force on the ground has proved to be effective not only in performing monitoring tasks, but also . . . in protecting the civilian population by a combination of deterrence, mediation and good offices".
Lord Avebury: My Lords, what has been the difficulty in bringing up the AU force from the level that it has
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achieved so far, which as I understand from the noble Baroness is 1,256 people, to its agreed strength of 3,320 which was decided on by the African Union Peace and Security Council on 20 October? Initially the troops began to arrive and then there was a hiatus. Is that anything to do with the refusal by the Sudanese authorities to allow US planes to land on their territory? Does the Minister recall that, after the genocide in Rwanda, the UN commission of independent inquiry found that the fundamental failure was a lack of resources and political commitment? Are we not in danger of repeating the same mistakes? What steps are we taking in the Security Council to inject a much greater sense of urgency into this matter?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, a major part of the problem has been logistical. This is the first such mission on this scale undertaken by the AU under its new peace and security mandate, which is partly why we have given so much logistical support, including 143 vehicles and support on the management side.
The noble Lord will know that we are one of the countries that have been pressing within the Security Council for a much stronger UN Security Council resolution. He will also know that the last resolution was at least unanimously agreed by the Security Council. There has been some movement in that respect. I anticipate that, following last night's report by Jan Pronk to the Security Council, the Security Council will need to review its current position and think about the next steps.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, does the noble Baroness the Leader of the House agree that the problems of the overstretched African Union mission are being exacerbated by the increasing hostility shown by the government of Sudan to international aid organisations, resulting for example in the murder of one worker from Médecins Sans Frontières and the reluctant withdrawal of Save the Children Fund from Darfur?
Despite those actions by the regime which are increasing the appalling projected death rate of 100,000 per month in the next few months, can the noble Baroness confirm that when the Prime Minister visited Khartoum recently he offered every support possible to the National Islamic Front regime in order for it to survive? How do the British Government square their support for a regime that has had, and which continues to have, so much blood on its hands?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that we have said consistently that the government of Sudan have to take very seriously indeed the issue of providing security to the citizens of Darfur. When my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was in Sudan, one of the things he did was to press the government of Sudan not only on wider human rights issues but on these issues of access and security. We have been monitoring very closely the commitments made by the government of Sudan not only in response to that visit but also in response to visits by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Foreign Secretary.
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The noble Baroness is quite right. The humanitarian situation remains fragile. Like her, I share concerns about the impact that that has had on aid organisations and the deaths that we have seen with Save the Children and MSF. Save the Children reluctantly came out of Sudan towards the end of last year. Other NGOs remain there. We must ensure that they remain as safe and secure as possible.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we welcome the additional support that the Government have sent to the expanded African Union mission. Of course we welcome that mission itself, which as the noble Baroness rightly says is unprecedented and greatly to be supported. We also, of course, welcome the Naivasha agreement ending Sudan's other war and any knock-on benefits that that may have for Darfur. But meanwhile the killing goes on and the atrocities continue.
Are we really going to press not merely for a revision of the Security Council's view but for a tough new resolution to the UN Security Council sanctioning the government of Sudan effectively and specifically and preventing the over-flying of the Darfur region by government of Sudan aeroplanes? The noble Baroness says that that is difficult because of monitoring, but frankly that sounds rather a feeble reason. It did not prevent over-flying in another area, over Kurdistan, and it should not prevent it over Darfur. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has reminded us, the atrocities go on. We must press very firmly for them to stop. Are we going to be tough enough?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, recognises as a result of what I and others have said across the Dispatch Box that we have been very tough indeed. He will know from his own experience that part of what we are doing is negotiating with other nations through the Security Council. A number of members of the Security Council are, for example, concerned about moving to the imposition of sanctions. The EU has had an arms embargo against Sudan for many years. We should like to see that extended to a UN embargo. That has not been achieved yet, but, in his report last night to the Security Council, Jan Pronk made a number of recommendations with respect to taking it forward.
Of course we will continue to work robustly within the Security Council. Of course we will continue to press our international allies on this. But we must also ensure that the government of Sudan and the rebels do what they have promised with respect to the ceasefire and with respect to ensuring humanitarian access and the protection of the vulnerable people in Darfur.
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