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Along with better controls of the manufacture and sale of small arms, conflict resolution and the disarming of bands of lawless militia who prosecute these wars of attrition must surely be the single most important priority for progress and prosperity in Africa. One simply cannot sustain agriculture, industry, health and education programmes in the middle of a battlefield. On the other side of that coin, fratricide and blood letting drive people out of their homes and off their land into the often fatal status of refugees. I have seen first hand the situation in Darfur and the DRC, where the conflict in the east is reaching crisis point.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, when she comes to reply, will tell us the latest situation in Sake, where the United Nations forces are today in a state of virtual siege, the Government’s forces having been driven back by Laurent Nkunda’s troops. Four hundred thousand people are thought to have been displaced, many of them children, and violence against women is widespread.

Situations such as that in the DRC, southern Sudan, which I visited with the SPLA during the civil war, and the genocide sites which I have visited in Rwanda leave one with a sense of our impotence in failing to avert conflict. That sense was well expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in the Question that preceded this debate. Our failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda continues to be matched by our lamentable failure to prevent genocide in Darfur.

Two weeks ago, the Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, addressed the All-Party Group on Sudan. He described the Russian-made Antonov bombers that he had seen at El Fasha in Darfur and said that they represented,

He said that 2.2 million people had lost their homes, and that twice as many as that were reliant on food aid. He said that,

and that it had become,

Ninety per cent of Darfur’s villages have been razed to the ground while the international community has failed to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It has impotently watched as people have been corralled and concentrated into camps in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic.

At the same meeting, as I intimated during Questions a few moments ago, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, said that,

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Yet the Government of Sudan continue to undermine the deployment of the UNAMID peacekeeping force by trying to dictate who will and who will not be part of it. This is matched by the failure of the international community to guarantee the provision of helicopters to enable the deployment of the force. It is due to take over in January, not six months from now. As we heard at Question Time, the logistics have still not been resolved, although the conflict has been under way for four years.

Sudan is a textbook example of what happens when you appease a dictator or dictatorial system. Two million people died in southern Sudan, and there is a real danger that, after the 18-year civil war in the south, we will slump back into further conflict. The withdrawal of the south’s leaders from the national Government, the failure equitably to distribute the oil revenues, the questions left unresolved by the comprehensive peace agreement and the festering situation in the east of the country all underline the importance of credible peacemaking and enforcement.

The Government of Sudan, as the case of Gillian Gibbons illustrates, are past masters at manipulation. They have every good reason to assume that the world will be indifferent to their actions in Darfur; after all, they got away with butchery in southern Sudan. Why should it be any different in Darfur?

I will never forget travelling in the Torit diocese of southern Sudan with its bishop, Akio Johnson. In three raids on Ikotos, where he lived, 72 bombs obliterated his residence. The compound also housed a primary and secondary school, which were destroyed. Early years education for south Sudan’s children involves learning the difference between the engines of UN relief planes and the Antonov bombers, such as those which the Secretary of State saw in Darfur, and then running for your life. Where do the funds for these atrocities come from? As Sudan Divestment makes clear, our investments and purchase of oil provide the revenue for the purchase of arms and ammunition.

However, Sudan is by no means the only centre or victim of conflict. Between 1990 and 2005, 23 African nations were involved in conflict. According to research by these agencies, this is equal to the amount of money received in international aid during the same period. The study, Africa’s Missing Billions, shows that, on average, a war, civil war or insurgency shrinks an African economy by 15 per cent. For example, during Guinea-Bissau’s conflict, the projected growth rate from 1998 to 1999, without conflict, would have been 5.24 per cent, whereas the actual growth rate was a negative of 10.15 per cent.

In countries affected by war, the direct costs of violence, such as military expenditure or the destruction of the infrastructure, pale in comparison with the indirect costs of lost opportunities. These include inflation, debt and high unemployment. In Kinshasa I visited what was once one of the finest hospitals in Africa. Congo’s extraordinary wealth has been leached away by decades of fighting and corruption. As a result, there are no funds to repair crumbling facilities or to pay doctors and nurses. I saw incubators with

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premature babies in them; virtually none of the incubators worked. In the absence of beds, I saw patients lying on the floor and once pristine facilities in a catastrophic condition. I also saw many patients who were the victims of the conflict that has endlessly plagued the DRC. Rape is often used as a weapon of war and has been a major contributory factor in the spread of AIDS.

Conflicts are costing African economies an average of $18 billion each year— desperately needed money, which could solve the HIV/AIDS crisis, prevent TB and malaria or provide clean water, sanitation and education. Save the Children tells me that more than half the 72 million children still out of primary schools live in countries affected by conflict: that is 36 million children. Save the Children says that international donors are reluctant to commit funds for education in conflict-affected countries and it describes this as a blind spot that it would like DfID to address. Hit by conflict and then denied education, children in situations of conflict deserve far greater commitment.

The shortage of education, healthcare, food and medicines is matched by an abundance of small arms. Kalashnikovs are the most common weapon in Africa’s conflicts, the most readily available of which is the AK47. These are weapons of mass destruction and you do not need international weapons inspectors to find them. You can see them everywhere you go, often brandished by young children. In too many parts of Africa there are too many children under arms. Ninety-five per cent of the Kalashnikov rifles used in these conflicts come from outside Africa. Until a global arms trade treaty is ratified, they will continue to do so. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us which countries continue to be the major suppliers of the arms used in Africa’s conflicts. Joseph Dube, IANSA’s Africa co-ordinator, said of its findings about the cost of conflict to Africa:

More people, especially women and children, die from the consequences of conflict than in the fighting itself. Paul Collier, professor of economics at Oxford, says that conflict is one of the “four traps” that lock the “bottom billion” into lives of grinding poverty and stagnant or shrinking economies. One study suggests that, in a seven-year period, the net losses to agriculture alone from armed violence in Africa was more than $25 billion. Compared to countries living in peace, African countries suffering from conflict, on average, have 50 per cent more infant mortality, 15 per cent more undernourished people, life expectancy reduced by five years, 20 per cent more adult illiteracy, 2.5 times fewer doctors per patient and 12.4 per cent less food per person. The proliferation of arms in countries in conflict, from Somalia to Sudan, from Eritrea to Congo, means that arms flow across borders into more peaceful countries such as Kenya and destabilise them. The Kenyan foreign minister recently said that,

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I end on a more hopeful note. From Ghana to Kenya, from Rwanda to South Africa, many African leaders are working to create stable, peaceful and democratic societies. We should applaud them. We should also underscore the crucial role played by customary institutions in conflict resolution. In managing inter-ethnic conflict, we need further to strengthen the role of customary institutions and traditional mechanisms and ensure that the African Union and the United Nations can deal effectively and rapidly with conflict when it does arise. I hope that the Government will take seriously our obligation to ratify an arms trade treaty in 2008 when it comes before the United Nations.

In the century before the birth of Christ, Cicero wrote:

Nothing much has changed. Conflict is inimical to the creation of a civil society and the ability to uphold the law. In many parts of Africa enlightened leaders have recognised the truth of that. I hope that this debate will serve to reinforce the message that, without resolution of conflict, without curbing the proliferation of arms and without sustained approaches to peacemaking and peacekeeping, Africa will continue to bleed and the prospects for building a civil society where law is respected will be endangered. I beg to move for Papers.


Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I was misinformed, which is my own fault. I thought I had 11 minutes to speak. I have just had to convert an 11-minute speech into a seven-minute speech, so it may not be very coherent. The whole House must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this issue to the Floor at a critical time, allowing us to consider the present dangerous situation and what might be done to alleviate it.

When a committee of this House was examining the strategic partnership between the EU and Africa in 2004, some terrible statistics were given on the cost to African countries of armed conflict: health costs, economic cost and the human cost of over 4 million refugees and over 13 million internally displaced people. In 2005, the same committee was very optimistic about the capacity and the will of the African Union to put things right, thanks to its new Constitutive Act, which gave it the right to intervene in member states’ affairs in the case of grave circumstances. The EU was encouraged by that to finance and support the African peace facility. That has not worked for Sudan; if there was intervention, it was ineffective.

The mantra set out by NePAD, the African peer review mechanism, decrees on the contrary that no change may be required of a country if it does not itself initiate a peer review of good governance. The AU has succeeded in using its bloc in the UN to prevent any discussion of Zimbabwe, even in the Human Rights Commission, and in preventing any discussion of Zimbabwe in Commonwealth forums, despite the precedent set in the case of South Africa, which the Commonwealth continued to put on its agenda after the apartheid Government took the country out of the Commonwealth on the grounds that the people of South Africa had not voted to leave. That precedent was recognised in the Harare Commonwealth declaration

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and the Millbrook programme. The African members have also frustrated any action by the Commonwealth even to place Zimbabwe on the agenda, just as they have done in the UN.

We are never going to solve conflict in Africa by the use of troops—with small exceptions, such as Sierra Leone—or even by attempts to control the inflow of arms. The Russians have always made a lot of money selling small arms; they will continue to do so. They and the Chinese will continue to sell military aircraft and arms because of their interest in African oil and minerals.

The UN is to provide troops to back the African force in Sudan, but I have not the slightest doubt that their mandate will be to observe and not to intervene. If they had a mandate for intervention, that might be something, but it will not be. The Sudanese Government will continue to murder, rape and destroy, and we to wring our hands. Was anything said, I wonder, to the Sudanese head of state in Lisbon?

In a notable debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in this House in 2005, we discussed the eminently sensible Brahimi report. That made clear the serious limitations of the UN’s actual capacity to be militarily effective, its lack of trained troops or institutions fit for effective action, and the need for stronger policies in the case of state failure. I do not believe the UN has moved far to create that necessary effective force. Indeed, I cannot really see how it can.

The UN may do its best, although apart from the admirable Anna Tibaijuka, who reported with devastating honesty on the Murambatsvina, it has not distinguished itself in Zimbabwe. Much of the money that DfID has channelled to the Zimbabwean people through UN agencies—we and the Americans are very generous givers—has gone straight to the Mugabe Government. In the last analysis, ways must be found to make the African Union, and SADC in particular, use its strength constructively rather than being an obstructive dog in the manger.

We have meekly accepted NePAD’s insistence that aid must be accompanied by absolute acceptance of AU policy, on the grounds that conditionality is colonialist imperialism. Why? Desmond Tutu said that there are no African rights; there are human rights. At least some of our problems in this area arise from our readiness to accept the thesis that conditionality equals political intervention.

However, I was greatly encouraged by the sturdy decision of the last Secretary of State to cut off immediately the £50 million of direct budget support a year that we were giving to the Ethiopian Prime Minister when his security forces killed 88 people in demonstrations during the elections. We continued to subsidise work through the aid agencies, but he received no more direct funding. If we could do it then, without, so far as I know, suffering any consequences in our relations with Ethiopia, we can surely do it again.

After the woeful failure of the EU-AU summit in Lisbon to send any message of hope to the despairing and beleaguered people of Zimbabwe, I hope that we shall challenge the SADC countries to stand by the AU’s own Constitutive Act and their own human rights commission, which reported honestly but has

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never been allowed to publish its report and act to save the people of Zimbabwe—and their own economic skins—by intervening before it is too late. They can no longer fail to act because of a wholly dishonest policy of not listening to us—and it is generally the West whose help will be needed—on the ludicrous grounds that they are striking a blow for liberation.

We have been given a lead by the admirable most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. Let us tell the African Union that committees and quiet diplomacy and, sadly, even an African force, are not enough if they are used to obstruct any action to save a suffering people. We should recognise the limitations of such bodies as the EU and the UN which often by their acts or failures to act obscure awkward facts and take away the individual responsibility of nations to do something. The presence of a number of UN agencies in Zimbabwe, for instance, encourages the illusion that through them the world is acting to care for people suffering under tyranny. DfID, which is one of the two major world givers of aid, does it through the UN agencies, yet those agencies, with those funds at their disposal, actually feared to act to support the victims of Murambatsvina as one of them admitted to Anna Tibaijuka and was so recorded in her report.

We have been complicit for too long in allowing food aid to be handed out only to ZANU-PF supporters, with the knowledge of the UN. The UNHCR, when urged to set up refugee camps for Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa, or at least to intervene on their behalf, claimed as recently as this year that they were not refugees in the accepted UN sense; they were economic migrants.

The UN is being exploited by the AU to prevent any discussion in that forum and to flout even the UN's own mechanism to protect human rights. The AU has replicated its success in these bullying tactics in its only-too-effective moves to keep Zimbabwe off the CHOGM agenda. I hope that a number of decent nations, including especially the Scandinavians, who of course ruthlessly colonised us in their day, will work together with the many right-minded Africans such as Moeletsi Mbeki, Pius Ncube and Anna Tibaijuka to broker and secure press freedom in Zimbabwe and promote a series of life-saving missions to help the sick and the starving at once while a truly free political climate is created by Zimbabwe's own civil society— still a potentially effective instrument to restore the rule of law. What we must not do is require the people of Zimbabwe to accept as valid the elections that have already been comprehensively rigged and in which, in any event, the millions now in the diaspora driven from their country would not be able to vote.

12.08 pm

Lord Judd: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former director of Oxfam and before that of VSO. I am currently a serving trustee of Saferworld.

We all want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his powerful contribution today and for having given us the opportunity to review this subject. The distressing agony of this reality of conflict is that the overwhelming majority of deaths and casualties are civilian and not military. What is the true cost of

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conflict and of armed violence? Quite apart from the almost £18 billion a year estimated by a wide cross-section of experienced NGOs, there is the grim human consequence, the psychological trauma and lasting mental damage, the widespread rape, acceleration of AIDS and the bereavement. But how is the £18 billion itself calculated?

There is the military expenditure; medical and rehabilitation costs; the burden on policing, private security and justice systems; care and protection of refugees and displaced people, often in neighbouring countries; damage and destruction of infrastructure and livelihood assets; reduced economic activity and adverse economic effects on adjacent countries; capital flight; damage to the tourist industry; inflation; reduced savings and investment and exports; increased debt; loss of development aid; rampant corruption and wealth transfers to the illicit economy; and damage to the education system and to public services in general.

As the noble Lord said, it is essential to address prevention of conflict; in that, as he emphasised, conflict resolution and potential conflict resolution have to be given attention, as does the generation of economic and social hope and the engagement of the population as a whole in security sector reform. It will not be easy, as the pressures of population and land issues are compounded by water shortages and climate change. What is striking about the collective experience of a wide cross-section of frontline NGOs is their concern about the opportunist arms trade that fuels conflict and armed violence. Those responsible for that irresponsible trade should be seen and identified for what they are: greedy and cruelly cynical merchants of death.

The UK Government and the European Union are to be commended for their stand on the issue. The European code of practice is a good start; but it is only a start. The Prime Minister’s recent support for the extension of arms export laws to control extra-territorial brokering and trafficking in small arms is encouraging; but it, too, needs to go further and support the extension of controls to cover such brokering of all conventional weapons.

There is a pressing need to ensure that in the context of the Government’s review of the Export Control Act, remaining loopholes in our export controls are closed, not only to deal with the extraterritorial brokering, but also to introduce effective monitoring of the end use of UK exports and to regulate the increasingly globalised nature of the UK arms industry. More resources are therefore required for proper investigation and enforcement of all possible breaches of existing and future controls. Of course, African Governments themselves have to shoulder their share of responsibility and the 2004 Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons, covering the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, is an example of good intent. I hope that the Government will do all they can to support, strengthen and actively encourage such initiatives.

China’s engagement in Africa can bring many benefits, but it has not been without disturbingly negative dimensions, not least the support of oppressive regimes

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and the blocking of UN resolutions on Darfur, as well as its arms transfers to conflict centres. Our Government favour positive relations with China. They must use any influence this provides to win China’s support for long-term stability and the reduction of conflict in the African continent.

A global arms trade treaty, effectively implemented, is an imperative for the promotion of stability and the containment of violence in Africa and beyond. The Government have done well in their work and consistent commitment to that at the United Nations and elsewhere. The unwillingness so far of our US allies to come on board must be bitterly disappointing and frustrating. The emotional belief in the right to own, buy and sell guns runs deep in the psyche of too many of our American cousins. When that is extended into the international community, it can have literally devastating consequences. I fervently hope that our Government will not lose heart—they must not. Everything possible should be done to win the US to the cause and to build and strengthen the resolve of the rest of the international community.

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