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I will raise two topics and then turn my attention to two countries. I am very critical of successive Governments for repeatedly cutting our representation in Africa. We are now represented in only 23 out of 53 African states, and that is a shame. It need not be an extravagance. More than 10 years ago, I visited what were then called “mini-embassies” in French West Africa. I went to one in Brazzaville that consisted simply of a bungalow, one accredited diplomat—the ambassador—and his wife, who was his secretary. It can be done on a shoestring in those countries that are not politically important to us. However, the steady erosion of our representation in Africa is a mistake.

My second observation follows what the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said. We have been told in a parliamentary Answer that:

“the UK and China have initiated a dialogue covering a range of issues important to conflict prevention and development in Africa”,

and that the Government are,

whatever that may be. Will the Minister say how often the parties to this dialogue have met, and what progress has been made? The influence of China in Africa is an important issue.

I turn to two countries with which I have been actively involved. The first is Kenya, my second home. I was looking back at the Official Report. I asked a Question in January 2007, a year before the election, about the appointment of the new electoral commission, made unilaterally by President Kibaki without any

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representation from the opposition—the first time that had happened. I said that the outgoing chairman of the commission had been quoted in a Kenyan newspaper as saying that if the commission is constituted in a way that people are not happy with, they will not trust the election result. That is exactly what happened: they were not happy with the count and the result was the eruption of violence that we saw.

We welcome the initiative of Kofi Annan and the creation of the coalition, but I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who has, like me, been to Kenya recently, that the coalition has lost its way. First, it was too bloated. Instead of halving the number of Ministers from one party and appointing the same number from the other, the number of Ministers was doubled and each ministry was divided into two. The president presides over a Cabinet of some 40 people, which is ridiculous. According to a recent opinion poll in Kenya, 70 per cent of the population has lost confidence in the coalition.

It is not surprising. The noble Earl gave us a list of recent allegations of financial scandals. However, there are two major ones that have never been resolved: the Goldenberg scandal during the time of President Moi, and the Anglo Leasing scandal, which involved $100 million, during the time of President Kibaki. These issues must be tackled. I hope that Kofi Annan will accept the representation made to him to return to the scene and persuade the coalition to concentrate on the promised constitutional changes, and then lead the way towards fresh elections in Kenya.

The noble Earl mentioned the fact that the UN report talks about the police being out of control. The coalition Government seem not to have been able to do anything about that. More worrying is the recent legislation passed through the Parliament that resurrects the possibility of government intervention in the broadcasting media and newspapers. These are bad signs, and the coalition must be put back on the rails and brought quickly to an end once it has completed its task.

The second country that I draw attention to is Malawi, where elections are due in a few weeks’ time, and where the omens are not good. Learning the lesson from Kenya, we need to be alert before the event and not during it. Former President Muluzi has been arrested on charges of corruption. He is alleged to have siphoned off $7.7 million of donor money during his presidency. If he did, they should have arrested him four years ago. Why wait until the eve of an election in which he is a candidate? I do not believe the charges for a second. I know him quite well. I do not think he is above criticism. I remember one dialogue that I had with him about the way in which he funds his political party. He goes around collecting large donations and then shells out bicycles and motor cars to various party branches. I was there on behalf of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, giving some modest equipment to the party headquarters, and I said that this was not a suitable way to fund a political party. I am not saying that he is above criticism, but this is a trumped-up, last-minute charge, resurrected on the eve of the election. He is not the only person who has been arrested. Another party leader,

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Mr Chakuamba, has also been arrested. We need to say firmly to President Mutharika that Malawi is a poor country, heavily dependent on aid programmes, and we insist that there should be a proper, fair election, with everybody who wishes to stand being able to do so.

My last point is that when I was involved in the tail end of the life presidency of Dr Hastings Banda, what impressed me was the solidarity of the small diplomatic corps that we had in Lilongwe. Perhaps it was more effective because it was small. There were no more than half a dozen people and I remember going to their meetings. They spoke as one on behalf of the donor community, and that made their pressure effective, leading to the referendum and multipartyism in Malawi.

It is more difficult in a place like Nairobi, where there are more diplomats. However, if we are to avoid the charge of neo-colonialism that is always thrown at us, there must be concerted action by diplomats on the spot, to make sure that no one country tries to wave a big stick. We must also insist that, in return for our substantial aid programmes, the basic rule of law is adhered to, that the press and broadcasting media are free and that elections are fair. That is all. It is reasonable and we should do it together.

1.58 pm

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Earl Sandwich for introducing us to this important and topical debate. I will devote my comments to developments in southern Africa, specifically in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

I addressed a conference yesterday on realising Africa’s investment potential. A core theme of almost all the speakers was that the precondition for investing in Africa was the achievement of good governance and respect for the rule of law. Good governance has several dimensions. It does not mean just political stability and respect for the rule of law, but also accountability, effectiveness of national and local government, regulatory quality and—just as important—the control of corruption, which has been mentioned by almost every speaker today.

The common denominator of many violent conflicts in Africa is unequal access to land and other natural resources. I welcome the inquiry by the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group, which is looking at land reform in Zimbabwe. Land reform in South Africa is also an important point that will be one of the core issues that the next president will address. Increasingly, agricultural development is becoming a core objective of many African Governments in their quest to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, which is one of the millennium development goals. One of my concerns is that many African Governments are not sufficiently focused on either addressing or tackling the eight key goals set out in that document. Fresh impetus needs to be given to NePAD. I certainly hope that it will not be the case, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said, that we are seeing the death knell of NePAD.

Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, Zimbabwe has remained a key topical issue in your Lordships’ House. There have been many false dawns and some high expectations. Sadly, the situation in that great

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country has gone from bad to worse. I have always advocated the view in your Lordships’ House that there should be African solutions for African problems, and that South Africa holds the key to achieving a sustainable solution for Zimbabwe. I have erred on the side of being overoptimistic, but I believe that now, at long last, we are seeing the first green shoots of a potential recovery, following the establishment of a Government of national unity. Just yesterday, I met a delegation of businessmen from Zimbabwe. Beforehand, they mentioned the speech of Morgan Tsvangirai in his inaugural address to Parliament in Harare. Morgan Tsvangirai called for an end to “brutal suppression” to allow the country to gain international aid. I refer to two quotes from his speech:

“Brutal suppression, wanton arrests and political persecution impede our ability to rebuild our economy”.

He also said:

“I therefore urge the international community to recognise our efforts and to note progress in this regard, and to match our progress by moving towards the removal of restrictive measures”.

I also noted that the new Government would form a national economic council that would include private business and civil society and which would take steps to revitalise the mining industry and stop the “wanton disruption” of productive farming. He also promised that security laws would be amended.

One of the points that I was quite taken with which was made by the delegation was that the supermarket shelves are being filled with produce at long last. Yes, it is expensive, but at least it is some start to the recovery. Petrol is also freely available. There is a real determination by the peoples of Zimbabwe to revitalise the domestic economy and be the masters of their own destiny, not allowing the “gang of six”, as they call them, to continue to destroy their lives and their future any more.

Even though the judiciary has allowed itself to be corrupted in the past to survive, it was encouraging that a judge has now ordered the release on bail of Roy Bennett, after he spent nearly three weeks in prison on trumped-up charges.

The delegation’s concern was that many of the new members of the Government of national unity from the MDC lacked political expertise and experience, and they were keen that Her Majesty’s Government should assist in giving more guidance. I am delighted that my noble friend the Convenor has taken the initiative to try to get a group of Members of both Houses of Parliament to assist in this process.

Many of the mines in Zimbabwe stopped production last year, as they were forced to sell all their gold and other mining produce to the Reserve Bank, for which many of them were not paid. They accused the Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono, of massive corruption. Despite stopping production, the owners of many of the mines continued to pay their workers and provide them with food and medicines. Restrictions have now been lifted on gold mines having to sell their products through the Reserve Bank, resulting in the mines recommencing production.

Will the Minister consider a policy of retaining strict sanctions against the perpetrators of corruption, while supporting those companies and businesses in

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Zimbabwe that have consistently complied with good governance and accountability and which have supported the local community through the dark times? Despite the recent attempts of ZANU-PF war vets and activists trying to derail the Government of national unity by taking over 40 white farms, it is clear that the people and the leadership of the MDC are using their best endeavours not to rise to the bait.

This is a momentous year for election watchers in southern Africa, with elections in Angola, Malawi—as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said—Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and, on 22 April, South Africa. With Jacob Zuma, in all likelihood, being the next President of South Africa, many are questioning whether this will lead to a major shift in the country’s economic and political strategy. Having met Jacob Zuma on several occasions in the past year, I believe that he has the character to build on the remarkable transformation and reconciliation of South Africa that even the most optimistic of observers did not anticipate 15 years ago. He is one of the few people who can reconcile the diverse elements of the ANC. Despite his somewhat chequered past, the first test of his leadership will be the appointment of his key Ministers in the new Government.

I also welcome the emergence of Cope as another official opposition party in South Africa. This augurs well as a check and balance to ensure good governance and accountability. Clearly, Jacob Zuma will have some major challenges to tackle, including job creation, improvement in education, reduction of crime and taking a much stronger line on trying to ensure a sustainable solution in Zimbabwe. I believe that he has the qualities of strength of character and strength of leadership and the ability to execute his agenda.

There is no doubt that Africa faces many challenges, many of which have been articulated today. Time restricts me from speaking about the important role of women in the governance of Africa. I wholeheartedly support the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which was adopted by the African Union in 2007. I shall end as my noble friend Lord Sandwich started his excellent speech: Africa is indeed a continent of hope and opportunity.

2.07 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, and I thank him for giving us some signs of hope, or green shoots, as the noble Lord just said. I intend to speak a little about the contribution of Parliaments to good governance, particularly looking at the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. First, I have some random reflections.

As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said, Africa is so often marginalised. Few of our newspapers nowadays take any notice of Africa; in respect of South Africa, perhaps only some sniping comments. There are few experts in our newspapers on Africa generally. The FCO strategy, as published in April 2008, states:

“We will continue to shift our resources to Asia and the Middle East”.

When there is news, it tends to be bad news, of natural disasters, human disasters and failed states. Good

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news is often disregarded, for example the good news of Ghana, as the noble Lord said, or the good news of Liberia.

Yet there is much cause for concern. The old excuses or scapegoats of colonialism, neo-colonialism and apartheid have gone. The terms of trade, certainly with commodities, until recently have improved, although agricultural protectionism still reigns. There is corruption, and there is too much milking of assets. This week, we have been reminded by what one ECOWAS spokesman called, “the assassination of democracy”—the fate of the President of Guinea-Bissau—of what happened in Mauritania last summer and the problems of Guinea-Conakry at the end of last year.

There are indeed many self-inflicted wounds. The African Union reached its compact with the rich world in NePAD, to promote good governance. Of course, there have been many failures. The peer-review mechanism has not been as good as we had hoped. On Zimbabwe, equally it has shown pusillanimity. As the Minister will be aware, since he was there, last month the African Union elected Colonel Gaddafi as its president, which is not the best signal of democracy and good governance. Yet the African Union is there and it needs our support. It needs the help of everyone with its capacity-building. Some claim that the problems of Africa are likely to worsen because the cuts in public expenditure are likely to encourage coups; and that Western aid, the millennium development goals, will be under pressure. The US National Intelligence Commission’s report published last November suggested there would be increasing vulnerability in Africa. One asks, given the failures, how one can expect to attract the FDI, which is so relevant. Yes, Africans need our help as partners, and there is much support obviously and a constituency for aid in the West. It should be both a moral imperative for us and clearly in our interest in our globalised world, because if we ignore their plight their problems will come to us, in the form of migration, drugs, and crime.

The challenges of Africa are contained in many reports, some gathering dust; for example, the Brandt report. The scale of the task was well documented in the Commission for Africa’s report in 2005, in which the head of the commission secretariat said that governance was the main stumbling block to development. Effectively he was saying that the build-up of capacity, the rooting out of corruption and improving the way that Governments can deliver are absolutely vital for the well-being of Africa. This point was well made in an article by our high commissioner in Ghana in the current edition of The World Today, in which he stressed accountability, transparency and balance, as he called it, as essential elements.

How, then, do we best help in remedying the weaknesses of governance? Only recently, in my judgment, has the importance of the parliamentary dimension been recognised. This perhaps is the value-added aspect of us as parliamentarians, in that previously the aid agencies concentrated only on the executive branch: making tax inspectors more efficient and so on. As an example of this, between 2003 and 2006, DfID spent just over £1 million annually on parliamentary strengthening, out of a

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budget of over £5 billion. The changes in DfID came perhaps with the 2006 White Paper, emphasising the important role of parliaments in delivering good governance, while acknowledging that parliaments in many countries tended to be weak and ineffective. The 2007 DfID White Paper Governance, Development and Democratic Politics, and the excellent ODI report of the same year, Parliamentary Strengthening in Developing Countries, emphasised this same theme. The APPG report, which the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, contributed to, on strengthening parliaments in Africa, was in my judgment also an excellent contribution to the debate. The ODI recommended that the Foreign Office and DfID should engage more with UK-based institutions such as the CPA, the IPU, the overseas clerks association and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in parliamentary capacity-building.

I give as an example the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, internationally and in the UK, relating to legislatures in sub-Saharan Africa. The bilateral programmes are important: seminars, workshops and exchanges. Last month, for example, there was the outward delegation to Zambia, which involved discussions on a partnership basis, with scrutiny and accountability as the key themes. In February there was the parliamentary strengthening seminar in Uganda, which the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, mentioned in our debate last Thursday, and in which he participated. Currently at Westminster we have the 58th parliamentary seminar, with 16 parliamentarians from sub-Saharan Africa and six Clerks from Africa. This is an exciting new development, as is of course the Westminster Consortium, a five-year programme involving CPA UK, FCO, DfID, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Overseas Office of the House of Commons, the NAO, the International Bar Association, Cardiff and Essex universities and the Reuters Foundation. They are targeting several countries, including two African countries, Mozambique and Uganda. I look also at the way that the partnership between the European Union and the African Union, which was agreed in Lisbon a year ago, is making progress, on a partnership basis, in many key sectors. My only plea is perhaps over the greater need for co-ordination among the several bodies which are involved in this field.

I make one final reflection, on the linkage between development, governance and security. I was saddened to learn of the Government’s decision to withdraw the vast majority of police seconded for reconstruction projects abroad, and possibly next year to slash our contribution to civilian conflict resolution. Where, where is joined-up government, between DfID and the FCO? I accept that these matters, the reconstruction, are easy targets because much of it is discretionary, not compulsory as with other sectors. But there is a key linkage between the basic need for security and development. Can there be additional support for DfID for this work? I would urge my noble friend and the Government—although I suspect he is on side in any event—to think again about this. I join with others who feel very strongly about this matter, including the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Jay, in urging the Government fundamentally to rethink this failed and wrong decision.

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Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sandwich is to be congratulated on obtaining this debate at a time when it is much needed. As news floods in of continued financial crisis and of sharper economic retreat worldwide, it is all too easy to allow it to drown out the needs of Africa and our own responsibility in helping to meet them—all too easy, but, I would argue, all too wrong. Short-sighted, too, in terms of our own medium and long-term prosperity and security, not to speak of the moral repugnance of turning our backs on a major part of that bottom billion of the world’s population who live in Africa.

Nor do self-serving arguments about coming back to Africa’s problems once we have sorted out our own economic and financial difficulties make much sense. Africa will not sit patiently by as we do that—urgent challenges will go unmet, individual country situations will slide out of control, and as we have seen in the case of piracy off the horn of Africa, the continent has the capacity to nip our ankles quite painfully and damagingly if we neglect its problems.

In addressing these problems today I suggest we need to avoid two traps. The first of these is to see the whole continent through the prism of Zimbabwe. It is inevitable that we in this country should, for historical reasons, focus strongly on developments in that unhappy country. It is right for the Government to pursue a “wait and see” policy for everything except humanitarian aid, while events in Zimbabwe demonstrate whether the coalition Government represent real change, and a move away from the tyranny of Mugabe, or just tragically more of the same. But we should not regard Zimbabwe as some awful paradigm of Africa as a whole; it is not. There are plenty of African countries that have, with strong international support, made the transition, or are making the transition, from conflict and tyranny to stability and better governance. Look at Namibia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and look at two countries such as Botswana and South Africa, which have achieved stability by their own largely unaided efforts.

The second trap is to generalise too much about Africa, and to neglect the fact that the continent is composed of more than 50 independent countries, each with its own problems and each with its own need for its own solutions. This is a trap into which even the title of this debate risks leading us but which surely needs to be avoided.

It is hard to avoid beginning any analysis of what needs to be done to strengthen governance and the rule of law in Africa by addressing the problem of conflict. Where conflicts are raging, or are barely suppressed, as they are in Darfur, the Congo and Somalia, among others, it is pretty academic to talk about good governance and the rule of law, just as it is pretty academic to hope that you can achieve economic development and prosperity in such countries. So we need to strengthen international efforts to prevent or resolve conflicts.

The whole burden of that cannot simply be thrust on the UN, which is already reaching the limits of the number and scale of conflicts it can handle at one time. Therefore, Africa’s own peacekeeping and

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peacemaking capacities will need to be expanded and supported far more purposefully and far more effectively than has been achieved so far. That cannot just be done by Africans themselves, important though their contribution and that of their regional and sub-regional organisations will be; it will need finance, logistical back-up, training, specialist military and civilian capacities, and unswerving political support from outside.

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