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As has been pointed out, North Kivu is a very big area. At the moment, it has 3,500 troops, which is a huge enhancement of what it had before. With the intended enlargement, that will go up to 6,500. However, there is a real reluctance to pull troops out of southern Kivu, Katanga or other areas of the eastern Congo where they are deployed, precisely because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, suggested, there is a risk that those areas might again destabilise and conflict might flare up.

As General Gaye put it to me, the issue is not just troop numbers, it is that there still is a nine to five, Monday to Friday, civilian logistics backbone, which was designed when MONUC was a monitoring mission. Very typically, as MONUC’s role has become that of a Chapter 7 mission intended to undertake peace enforcement functions, it has not been given the kind of logistics, mobility or hardened military capabilities to undertake that role sufficiently robustly.

If that is General Gaye’s point, the second point is one that I would not associate with him. He is a forceful Senegalese general, surrounded by a number of very good national force commanders or contingent commanders. I met with a very able Indian brigadier-general, and the Indian forces are well regarded for the role that they are playing. However, other forces are performing in an entirely pathetic and desultory way. They barely leave their bases and do not engage to protect civilians with anything like the vigour that we would wish to see. Clearly, that needs to change. We need to make sure that all the deployed forces understand their mission and live up to the responsibilities of a Chapter 7 mandate.

For me, the third issue is the most difficult in terms of the effectiveness of MONUC; namely, its partnership with a national army which has been defeated by a militia and which itself is a source of at least 50 per cent of the incidents in North Kivu. Let me confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. The FARDC is, frankly, more than alleged—because there is compelling evidence—to be selling weapons to the FDLR and, through the weakness of its military behaviour, to be having weapons captured from it by the CNDP. Essentially, it is the armoury to the militias of the region. It is, at least in North Kivu, a defeated, failed force, but, worse than that, it shows all the ill discipline and spontaneous military actions of a militia.

I was briefed by MONUC on how many of the incidents it has faced in recent weeks, which began with the FARDC lobbing shells at the CNDP across civilians who lay between them, thus provoking a CNDP response and, usually, its occupation of land as it drove the FARDC back.

Complicated though this is, it is hard to imagine that even a European force going in would be willing to say that it would treat the national army of the host country as just another combatant to be directly confronted and, if necessary, fought. That is a very hard proposition because it is then not peace enforcement but becomes invasion by almost any other name. There is this real problem of the weak partner we have in the Congo in the form of the national army.

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A major DfID and MoD-supported investment worth £80 million over five years is being made into security sector reform. While I was in the country I opened a rehabilitated officer training school, where Sandhurst officers were busy training soldiers in issues of discipline and response to civilian emergencies, with a bias towards training in combating sexually based violence and other key issues that an army in this kind of country faces. But we have to work with other donors to achieve a much more effective and co-ordinated effort, to reconstitute a smaller, better paid national army able to undertake properly its responsibilities to protect its own civilians. We will never reach a final solution unless that is achieved.

I turn to the issue of the political process. Most noble Lords pointed out that there is an absence of trust between the different sides. Only yesterday, President Kabila again declared that he would not talk to General Nkunda, and the question was raised that if he was limiting himself to talking within the Goma Accord, surely it meant that he was not serious. There is a very important point here. President Kabila asserts that he is the democratically elected president of the country—that is absolutely correct, and is the result of an election that Her Majesty’s Government strongly supported—and that he will therefore limit himself to giving General Nkunda a role within the existing democratic Government, either reintegrated into the armed forces or in some other institutional role in the country, and will provide security to those who do reintegrate. But President Kabila is not willing to negotiate away political power that he has won at the ballot box against force of arms by General Nkunda and his militia. General Nkunda confirmed to President Obasanjo that his demands were of a reintegration character and he was not demanding suzerainty over eastern Congo or some other grandiose political objective. This is a perfectly reasonable position for the two sides to be in, but the issue is to move quickly to secure that kind of reintegration and demobilisation.

It is clear that the FDLR must be quickly demobilised and either voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda or relocated to other parts of the Congo. If, as is thought likely, a group of them refuses to move, they must be dismantled by military means. That will be another tough and difficult military challenge, one probably beyond even an enhanced MONUC’s capacity and perhaps requiring military action concerted either by Governments of the region or of SADC, but we will not be able to leave the issue unresolved.

Almost every noble Lord who spoke also referred to the economic sources of this conflict. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out, the violence and chaos in the DRC mean that the country is no longer an economic source of coltan, the mysterious metal to be found in our cell phones. Indeed the coltan in our cell phones, particularly the newer models, is unlikely to have been sourced in the DRC. But what remains very active is trading in tin and other semi-precious and precious metals. It is important to understand the nature of the mining sector in eastern Congo, which is not so much one of large and powerful mining multinationals, but of extortion rackets run by the FDLR and the other militias. They tax individual miners who dig the stuff out of the ground and go to

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Bukavu and other regional centres to sell it to traders. That trade is now being disrupted and the miners are forced to sell at a 50 per cent discount to these Mafia-like militias. We need to break that.

Something else that we need to break—an issue which has not been adequately raised today—is the practice of the FDLR, the Hutu genocide militia, still raising money in Europe and its leadership still living in Europe. There are long legal explanations for it that I do not have time to go into, but we need to address that issue. To Rwandans, the sheer unfairness of a prominent Rwandan individual being arrested at an airport in Germany and turned over to France for trial when, two weeks earlier, a convicted genocidaire, the secretary-general of the FDLR, was not deported to serve a prison sentence in Rwanda because of concerns about the condition of Rwandan gaols, is an unacceptable double standard that has highly complicated our handling of this issue with the Rwandan Government.

It is not only the American Government who deeply admire Rwanda; both sides of the House admire Rwanda as well. It has become a favourite Tory summer vacation spot, of which I strongly approve. It was remarkable to see many Tory MPs and party workers go there last summer and I hope the same thing happens this summer. I utterly support the education of the party opposite in international development and welcome its strong support, as a consequence, for the UK Government’s policies on development. We do not come second to that side of the House in our support for its Government as an effective development partner.

On the question of Rwandan complicity, or not, with the CNDP, I had this issue out with President Kagame in very frank terms. It is enormously important that we are satisfied that there is not active support of the CNDP and General Nkunda. President Kagame assured me that he has never met General Nkunda. He acknowledges that there are strong kith and kin connections and that he has appointed a senior member of his Administration to liaise with General Nkunda, but he insists that it is for the purpose of persuading Nkunda not to attack civilian targets such as Goma. He committed to me that he will continue to use that influence to stay Nkunda from further military operations. He said that he was committed to the CNDP negotiating with the Government of Congo through the good offices of Mr Obasanjo and that, in that sense, he intended to play a positive role. I believe that President Kagame is a good partner of ours and I feel obliged to take his word that that is the role he is playing and intends to continue to play.

Noble Lords have been very patient; they have raised many issues and I regret that I have not been able to respond to all of them. There will be an opportunity to return to this subject next week in the Queen’s Speech debate, as has been mentioned. However, through the APPG and other vehicles I will do my best to keep noble Lords informed of developments around an issue of common concern that unites us all on each side of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.15 pm to await the Royal Commission.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Pensions Bill

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the Lords amendments agreed to.

Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the Lords amendments agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 5.29 to 8.15 pm.]

Royal Commission

8.15 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, it not being convenient for Her Majesty personally to be present here this day, she has been pleased to cause a Commission under the Great Seal to be prepared for proroguing this present Parliament.

Then the Lords Commissioners (being the Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon), the Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman), Lord Strathclyde, Lord McNally and Lord Williamson of Horton) being present and the Commons being at the Bar, the Lord President said:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, Her Majesty, not thinking fit personally to be present here at this time, has been pleased to cause a Commission to be issued under the Great Seal, and thereby given Her Royal Assent to divers Acts, the Titles whereof are particularly mentioned, and by the said Commission has commanded us to declare and notify Her Royal Assent to the said several Acts, in the presence of you the Lords and Commons assembled for that purpose; and has also assigned to us and other Lords directed full power and authority in Her Majesty’s name to prorogue this present Parliament, which Commission you will now hear read.

A Commission for Royal Assent and Prorogation was read.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: In obedience to Her Majesty’s commands, and by virtue of the Commission which has been now read, We do declare and notify to you, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, that Her Majesty has given Her Royal Assent to the several Acts in the Commission mentioned; and the Clerks are required to pass the same in the usual form and words.

Royal Assent

The following received the Royal Assent:

Education and Skills Act 2008

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Local Transport Act 2008Climate Change Act 2008Counter-Terrorism Act 2008Planning Act 2008Pensions Act 2008Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008Energy Act 2008

Prorogation: Her Majesty’s Speech

Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech was then delivered to both Houses of Parliament by the Lord President (in pursuance of Her Majesty’s Command) as follows:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government has pursued policies to ensure economic stability, to respond to the rising aspirations of the people of the United Kingdom and to ensure security for all.

Legislation has been brought forward to protect depositors and to ensure confidence in the banking system.

An Act has been passed to enable unclaimed money in dormant bank accounts to be used for youth facilities, financial inclusion and social investment, while ensuring customers retain the right to reclaim their money.

An Act has been passed to reduce the regulatory burdens on businesses.

Legislation has been enacted to provide for long-term reform of pensions and place a duty on every employer to contribute to workplace pensions for their employees.

An Act has been passed to provide better protection for vulnerable workers and to reduce burdens on employers.

My Government has taken further action to meet people’s aspirations for better education, housing and healthcare.

An Act has been passed to ensure that young people stay in education or training until the age of 18, and to provide new rights for adults to receive skills training.

A draft bill has been published to reform apprenticeships.

Legislation has been enacted to create a stronger health and adult social care regulator, with a remit to assure the safety and quality of care for patients and users of services.

An Act has been passed to reform the regulation of human embryology and to ensure that the United Kingdom remains at the forefront of medical research.

Legislation has been enacted to create a new Homes and Communities Agency that will deliver more social and affordable housing. It will promote regeneration and create a new Tenant Services Authority which will give tenants more choice and influence over how their homes are managed.

Legislation has been enacted to reform the planning system, providing for quicker and more transparent decision making, and to enable the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy.

My Government has worked to protect the environment and to tackle climate change, both at home and abroad.

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Legislation has been enacted to make the United Kingdom the first country in the world to introduce a legally binding framework to reduce carbon emissions, by 80 per cent of the 1990 levels by 2050.

Legislation has also been enacted to provide clean and secure supplies of energy.

An Act has been passed to tackle congestion and improve public transport.

My Government brought forward legislation to grant the powers to secure land, to build and to maintain the Crossrail scheme in the South East of England.

Legislation has been enacted to reform the criminal justice system with the aim of protecting the public and reducing offending.

An Act has been passed to protect the public from terrorism by improving powers to gather and share information and to ensure the effective prosecution of suspects.

A draft bill has been published on Citizenship and Immigration.

Legislation has been brought forward on the regulation of party finance and expenditure and to ensure the effective administration of elections.

Members of the House of Commons, I thank you for the provision you have made for the work and dignity of the Crown and for the public service.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government continues to work closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

My Government has worked to secure a prosperous and secure European Union, better able to respond to the challenges of globalisation.

Legislation has been enacted which enabled the ratification of the European Union Lisbon Treaty.

My Government has continued to work with the United Nations, the G8 and the European Union to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to address international concerns on nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

The Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to pay State visits to Uganda in November 2007 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, to Turkey in May and to Slovenia and Slovakia in October. We were also pleased to receive President Sarkozy during his State visit to the United Kingdom in March.

My Government remains committed to peace in the Middle East. It has continued to support the Governments of Iraq and Afghanistan to deliver security, political reconciliation and economic reconstruction.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons: I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

After which the Lord President said:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, by virtue of Her Majesty’s Commission which has been now read We do, in Her Majesty’s name, and in obedience to Her Majesty’s Commands, prorogue this Parliament to the 3rd day of December, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Wednesday, the 3rd day of December.

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