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4 Nov 2009 : Column GC51

Grand Committee

Wednesday, 4 November 2009.

3.45 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel): My Lords, it has been agreed that should any of the Questions for Short Debate not run for their allotted hour this afternoon, the Committee will adjourn during pleasure until the end of the allotted hour. Therefore, each of the Questions for Short Debate will start at 45 minutes past the hour. If there is a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes and the next debate will start 10 minutes later; so each debate will get injury time.


Question for Short Debate

Tabled By The Lord Bishop of Salisbury

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, first, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships, for I have very little voice. I hope that by the electronic wizardry before us noble Lords will be able to hear what I have to say on this important matter.

The comprehensive peace agreement signed in 2005 between the north and south put an end to the civil war that had left nearly 2 million dead since 1983. It gave the Sudanese nation an opportunity for what was referred to as "attractive unity". The CPA laid out an interim period between 9 July 2005 and 8 July 2011 during which all citizens of the Sudan, both northerners and southerners, were to be afforded equal rights politically, legally, economically and religiously.

In the comprehensive peace agreement, there are six protocols: a protocol setting out a transition process; a security arrangement agreement; a wealth sharing agreement; a power sharing agreement; a resolution process for the conflict in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and a resolution process for the conflict in Abyei area.

If the CPA had been fully implemented from the outset, a peaceful, attractive unity might have had a chance in Sudan. But what has happened is that not one protocol has been fully implemented; and some are under discussion for less than full implementation. This stalling in the process means that unity between north and south is no longer an attractive goal-even if it were believed to be possible-especially to southern Sudanese.

Crucial to the implementation of the CPA is the national census. On its basis constituencies will be decided, the internal border drawn, and any referendum about secession taken. Yet this census was conducted a year late in 2008 and the results, released in June this

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year, were rejected outright by the Government of Southern Sudan, all the state governors and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, following its claims that south Sudanese make up only 21 per cent of the population. SPLM officials have said that they estimate Southern Sudan to account for a third of Sudan's population and that they will not accept figures less than that. The 92 per cent increase in south Darfur's population is also considered fraudulent.

The national general elections, which were to give Sudan a chance to see what a democratic and united Sudan could look like, were to have been conducted by the end of 2008. These have now been postponed twice and are due to be held in April 2010. If the elections fail to occur in a manner acceptable to all parties, the possibility of a peaceful referendum process becomes even more unlikely.

The referendum Bill, which will govern the process whereby southern Sudanese are to exercise their right of self-determination under the CPA, was supposed to be enacted by 9 July last year, along with those to govern the popular consultations in the Nuba mountains and southern Blue Nile, as well as the Abyei area referendum. But these Bills have not been promulgated to date and indeed agreement has still not been reached over the major referendum, with the south now rejecting the two-thirds quorum agreed with the north by its own negotiator on the grounds that that is too high a percentage to expect for such an underdeveloped region. If no deal is reached before the parliament closes its current and last session before Christmas, there will be no legal basis for the referendum until after the elections next year, when a differently constituted parliament in Khartoum may come to a different decision.

A further source of deterioration of trust between the north and south is that the northern Government have not been transparent with the national oil revenue figures, of which a vast amount has gone to the northern Sudan.

Consequently, there is a widespread lack of confidence, signalled by the SPLM parliamentary bloc walking out of parliament for an indefinite period. It is now evident, according to a statement last month by the leaders of all the churches in Sudan, that the vast majority of the southern Sudanese people no longer trust any talk of confederation or attractive unity and want an independent Southern Sudan. The six years given to prepare for the referendum have now been whittled down to just 14 months. The time to make unity attractive is fast running out.

Meanwhile there are significant crises in Southern Sudan: a surge of ethnic clashes in the south have killed more than 1,200 people this year, many of them women and children. According to the UN, the rate of violent deaths in the south now surpasses that in Darfur. Recently, the UN deputy resident co-ordinator in Southern Sudan said that more than 2,000 people had died and 250,000 had been displaced by inter-ethnic violence across the region this year alone. Much of the recent violence has taken place in Jonglei, Unity and Lakes states, which are on what the south sees as its border with the north, if voters were to choose independence in 2011. The Archdeacon of Wernyol was shot dead during a church service and Archbishop

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Daniel visited a village an hour out of Bor on Good Friday this year to pray where 40 people had been shot on Palm Sunday, five days previously.

The Church leaders of all denominations believe that these are not isolated incidents, but a co-ordinated campaign to destabilise the south in the run-up to the elections and the referendum. Nor has the UN peacekeeping force been effective: during the violence in Ezo, there were calls for UNMIS troops to be sent. The response was to send a planeload of Bangladeshi troops from Juba to Yambio, a day's journey from Ezo, and back again the same day, according to the UNHAS-WFP manifest.

In the first half of this year in Ezo, Western Equatorial State, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) attacked the town and the county commissioner's headquarters, killing tens and displacing thousands. None the less, John, the Bishop of Ezo, has pushed ahead with his school-building programme, gaining with the DfID funders a significant reputation for the Episcopal Church in Sudan, as almost the only body that sticks with people when other NGOs have pulled back to Yambio.

On 20 September, Duk Padiet village in Twich was attacked and at least 167 people were killed, and many more wounded. In Bentiu, fighting has recently broken out between rival factions of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and between rival factions of the Joint Integrated Unit in Malakal. UNMIS, the Government of Southern Sudan and the SPLA are seemingly unable to protect their own population from attacks by other southern Sudanese. Indeed the SPLA has recently attacked UN peacekeepers.

The escalation of this destabilising violence, specifically targeting civilians and the Government, will make registration and voting in the elections and referendum very difficult if not impossible. There are also grave UN-African Union concerns at the build-up of rebel and government forces in north Darfur, which might signal a new cycle of fighting in that area also.

Military forces in north and south Sudan are engaged in an arms race that risks plunging the nation back into civil war. Church leaders and the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey report significant rearming of northern and southern troops and militias. The report said that China and Iran continued to be the main source of weapons, adding that the SPLA had been stockpiling light and heavy weapons, mostly from Ukraine, for the past two years, including Soviet-era T-72 tanks and BM-21 multiple rocket launch systems.

The situation in Sudan is very grave, yet there is no alternative on the table to the comprehensive peace agreement. In this brief debate, I call for further efforts by Her Majesty's Government as a guarantor of the CPA to avert an unimaginable disaster among our friends and neighbours.

3.55 pm

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for bringing this important issue before the Committee. It was a remarkable achievement when, with the assistance of the international community and IGAD, the comprehensive peace agreement was signed between the warring parties with time given to

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allow a certain amount of healing and reconciliation to take place. As the right reverend Prelate has mentioned, very little of this has progressed. It is essential at this stage that a clear picture is maintained of how vital issues need to be resolved. The first remaining deadline occurs in five months when the postponed nationwide elections are due to take place. At this point, the Governments of both parts of Sudan should be seeking a new mandate.

Noble Lords will be aware that the governing National Congress Party in the north is in serious constitutional dispute with the opposition parties, such as the Umma, who have withdrawn, perhaps temporarily, from the national parliament. We must hope that these issues in the north can be resolved as the election approaches, as well as all the others. Even more comes one's way in the news emanating from the south, of which the right reverend Prelate has given a fairly extensive example. I have heard it said that the northern Government, through their intelligence arm, are sending weapons to opposing tribal leaders in the south. Then again, the military commanders in the south are supposedly illegally passing weapons to their relatives who are in conflict with rival clans of their own tribe. I have been told about the Dinka people of Warab state. It gives the appearance of a lack of leadership. Will the Minister tell us the Government's evaluation of whether those responsible in Southern Sudan have the resolve or resources to establish a better level of law and order, and what could be done to encourage or assist them in this?

The CPA brought to an end 22 years of civil and inter-regional war. It is always easier to play on people's fears and promote hostility than it is to create unity. Here in Europe, 50 years after a five-year war, today's headlines tell us that we are still hesitant to say that we can or should adopt all the philosophies of our European neighbours. How much more difficult it is when quantities of people in an area are unaccountable and armed to the teeth.

For those watching the faltering way in which the CPA is progressing there was great encouragement to see that one issue of agreement had been reached between the two vice-presidents representing the different ethnic interests. As the right reverend Prelate has just informed us, this has been rejected. The proposal of a simple majority of two-thirds would have given some reassurance that the referendum would be acceptable. Can the Government tell the House what steps are still required to complete the framework for the referendum which has, as the right reverend Prelate has mentioned, not been agreed?

As the question of actual numbers voting rises up the agenda, could we get some idea of how the registration of voters is progressing? Further, when the referendum comes, how will the wishes of southerners living in the north of Sudan be assessed? Without a certifiable process, there could be an unfortunate polarisation between ethnic elements, and even a mass return of those in the north who wish to emphasise their new allegiance to the south, which will serve only to drive the different elements further apart. Whichever way the 2011 referendum goes-presuming that it takes place-Arabs and Africans will have to learn to co-operate just as much as the Russians, Poles, Germans, French,

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British and other European nations still need to do to work out a common destiny. What other steps are the Government prepared to take as guarantors of the CPA?

4 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, may I say how much I appreciate the opportunity to take part-with my noble friend Lady Tonge, who is far better versed in the affairs of Sudan than I am-in this debate this afternoon?

The coming elections in Sudan have been very uncertain because of the census return and so on over the past two years. Some 20 political parties are threatening a new boycott of next year's elections. The elections were supposed to be a milestone in the democratic transformation of Sudan, but the considerable challenges that it faces could very well destabilise the country and further undermine an already shaky peace deal between the north and the south.

The London-based African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said that there had been an,

The 20 discontented parties are demanding changes to laws on civil liberties, press freedom, democracy and transparency. The prime problem is the unfairness of the distribution of the oil revenue. Some 95 per cent of the oil revenue comes from the south, while 65 per cent comes from the Khartoum area. Some 50 per cent is supposed to go to the south; yet today's news is that Southern Sudan's semi-autonomous Government have received nearly £4.2 billion in oil revenue since they took over after the 2005 peace deal. The question is whether they are doing enough with the revenue for the people there.

A report issued this morning tells us that in a village half-way up a steep mountain slope in Southern Sudan, a woman is grinding up leaves plucked from a tree. The drab green powder added to some water will have to do for her lunch. She says, "Every day we eat these leaves"-they are convinced that this very unhealthy diet might at least serve for the present. We have known of this dreadful situation in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan for many years, and the present distribution of income is doing nothing at all to alleviate it. The corruption in Khartoum-indeed, the whole situation-is very uncertain indeed.

Signatories to the Juba declaration include the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, which governs semi-autonomous Southern Sudan and has been a partner in the fragile national Government since 2005. The comprehensive peace agreement put an end to 20 years of the north-south war. In the Juba declaration, the parties have said that they will stay away from presidential, parliamentary and local polls unless the row over the results of the census, which affects electoral constituencies, is resolved. The President says:

"I believe that the general elections, if properly conducted, shall be a critical impetus for change and empowerment of our people to choose their political leaders and elect their democratic institutions".

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But his concern is that the results of the population census are,

He added:

"Without the resolution of this issue ... the election process, despite our preparedness for it, may be put in jeopardy".

Most of the people facing a poll have never voted in their lives. It is a very complex poll and it is in jeopardy because of the flaky census results. The stakes are very high. If the election should lack credibility, it is hard to see how the comprehensive peace agreement can survive.

4.05 pm

Lord Luce: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has done a great service in raising the Sudan prior to the election and the referendum. My interest goes back a very long time, to 1947. I was the son of a British civil servant in the Sudan and I recall witnessing the 1953 elections which led to internal self-government in the Sudan. Those elections were very successful and were backed up by a good governance system in the Sudan in those days. I retain a picture of very decent people in both the north and south. But since then they have faced two prolonged civil wars, which have caused absolute devastation, enormous loss of life-2.5 million people-and the displacement of more than 4 million people. The Sudanese deserve better than that. Sudan is now on the verge of disintegration and faces interrelated issues, the north/south issue being the central one; the Darfur issue and other issues in the Blue Nile province and the Abyei area.

Our hope has to lie in the comprehensive peace agreement. There is no option, it seems to me. I look forward to hearing the Minister's assessment of the prospects for making at least some progress in that area. There needs to be confidence in this process on the part of all the parties if this whole venture is to succeed. The right reverend Prelate and others have mentioned the conditions that need to be satisfied if this problem is to be resolved; for example, as regards boundary demarcation in areas such as Abyei, which will become like Kashmir in the future if that is not resolved and the questions of security, the militias, the training of the police and dealing with displaced people. There needs to be adequate governance and the rule of law. Previous speakers have referred to the sharing of wealth, particularly that derived from oil. The census question needs to be addressed, as do the electoral arrangements. At the moment, they are very complex and people have to vote several times, employing several voting methods, in both the north and the south. We need to put aside preconceived views because only one thing matters; namely, that the people of Sudan are confident that the arrangements are trustworthy and will be honoured. If that does not happen, the whole thing will disintegrate and there will be violence all over again.

It seems to me that we have to take a view of the two main parties-the National Congress Party in the north and the SPLM in the south. Both sides must feel that they have a self-interest in the success of the elections. If one party feels cornered, it will lash out, as we are seeing now in Zimbabwe. There is a lesson to

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be learnt from that. Therefore, to reassure people, there needs to be contingency planning for not only the electoral period and the referendum but for what happens after the referendum. That seems to be the key thing. People need to know that there will be a stable transition. Whether people vote for complete independence, a confederal arrangement, or whatever, they need to be assured that they can trust that arrangement and that adequate reconstruction plans in which many international Governments and multilateral bodies will participate are in place.

Britain's role is limited compared with our position 50 years ago. Nevertheless, we have a position. We have an envoy to Sudan. We have a role as a guarantor of the 2005 agreement. We must work with our colleagues in Egypt, China and the United States as closely as possible to try to move this forward satisfactorily.

Sudan is at yet another crossroads. Failure would lead to disaster, disintegration and military conflict. Our interest is to do whatever we can, however limited our influence, to help the long-suffering people of Sudan.

4.10 pm

The Lord Bishop of Bradford: My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble colleague for introducing the debate. His diocese and the diocese of Bradford have shared links with the Episcopal Church of Sudan over many years, and we have many friends in that vast and troubled country.

I was privileged to be in Juba 18 months ago for the enthronement of Daniel Deng as the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church. It seemed to me that it was a case of "cometh the hour, cometh the man". At his enthronement, the archbishop committed the Church to work for peace both in the north and south. Other denominations share that commitment. The archbishop is living by his word. He has been criss-crossing the country since his enthronement, witnessing at first hand the suffering that the people are experiencing, especially in the south. At Easter he visited the Nuer area of Ayod. He was one of a group of Dinkas. He spoke of love and peace between the tribes and discovered, after he had returned to Juba, that the trouble between the two tribes-the cattle rustling and the violence-had stopped.

Across Sudan, the Church is determined to work for peace. The archbishop said:

"The church is one of the most effective ground-level players in the peace process, and is proof that our message of love and reconciliation is one that is most effective in the peace building among the tribes of southern Sudan".

The Church is present in nearly every small village in Southern Sudan. Its presence is unmatched by either the military or government. The Church does not run away when the NGOs run away. My noble colleague has already referred to the Lord's Resistance Army attacking over the border. Whereas all the NGOs fled, the Church has remained there, doing its work in schools.

There is a concerted effort to undermine the peace agreement. People in Sudan need to believe that peace is in the best interests of all of them, whatever part of

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Sudan they come from. I worry that sometimes we might imagine that there could be a neat tear across Sudan from Darfur to the Red Sea. It would not be a neat tear at all. Some of our links are with the diocese of Kadugli in the Nuba mountains. That is right on the boundary-the area is technically in the north, but its heart is in the south. During most of the country's life, Muslims and Christians have got on happily side by side. That is not the case now. Many people from the region, along with others, have fled to Khartoum. There are something like 3 million internally displaced people, many of them from the south. Some of them are now fairly well established, but others are living in desperate poverty.

It is a hopeless situation. I visited Jabarona. The people there had been forcibly moved from the desert on one side of Khartoum to the desert on the other. They named their new settlement "Jabarona", which means, "We were forced". That illustrates how so many people in Sudan feel at the moment-forced hither and thither, with no say over their destiny. Our Government, as has been said, are one of the guarantors of the peace agreement.

I believe for myself that the elections should not take place until after the referendum, but it seems that no one can dare say that because they would be accused of undermining democracy and it was used as an argument by their opponents. But it is necessary to have the referendum and then to work beyond it, whether in one state or two states.

On behalf of the Church in Sudan and its friends in this country, I offer the Government our wholehearted support in working for peace, whether it be the Church on the ground over there or the Church here represented by the two right reverend Prelates.

4.15 pm

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury for securing this debate. The political situation in Sudan is a major cause for concern both to its citizens and those in the African diaspora. There is an obvious and persistent threat that the unrest in Sudan will permeate its borders.

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