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"Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup. The main mechanisms to end conflicts between the central government and the peripheries-the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Darfur Peace Agreement and the East Sudan Peace Agreement-all suffer from lack of implementation, largely due to the intransigence of the National Congress Party (NCP). Less than thirteen months remain to ensure that national elections and the South Sudan self-determination referendum lead to democratic transformation and resolution of all the country's conflicts. Unless the international community, notably the US, the UN, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the Horn of Africa Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperate to support both CPA implementation and vital additional negotiations, return to North-South war and escalation of conflict in Darfur are likely".
At the core of the current political crisis are delays in implementing key benchmarks laid out in the CPA. The referendum on independence for the south is due in January 2011. Before then, Sudan must hold national elections. These are set for April 2010, but President Omar al-Bashir's Government have failed to pass key democratic reforms promised by the agreement, and without these, there is no way that the results of the elections can be accepted.
Tensions have been rising between the NCP in the north and the SPLM in the south. In October, the President of southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, for the first time openly called for the south to secede. Both sides are rearming. Another civil war would be devastating for the Sudanese people, as well as for the entire Horn of Africa and other neighbouring countries. The situation was exacerbated on 7 December, when the Khartoum Government arrested and maltreated SPLM leaders and other peaceful protesters who were angered by the NPC's use of its majority to impose amendments to the crucial referendum law which they deemed totally unacceptable.
But there are some signs of hope. On 29 December, the National Assembly finally adopted the referendum law, and the recent progress of negotiations on the Abyei area referendum and the popular consultations in south Kordofan and Blue Nile regions are positive steps. However, agreements still need to be found on many crucial issues before the referendum takes place, including border demarcation, demilitarisation of border areas and arrangements for security and wealth-sharing, including oil revenues. There is also concern that the donor community has not fulfilled its 2005 commitments. Only a small fraction of the $4.8 billion pledged has reached essential infrastructure projects, as humanitarian aid for Darfur has absorbed most of the money.
Consequently, many parts of southern Sudan and the marginalised areas have been off the radar screen for many major aid organisations and the international media, resulting in largely unreported humanitarian crises. For example, southern Sudan has the lowest immunisation rate in the world. In January last year we were told that only 17 per cent of children are
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The effects of an infrastructure devastated by war include the desperate need for rebuilding roads, without which people cannot move freely, especially in the rainy season, so people in rural areas cannot reach towns for healthcare or education, or polling stations to vote. Yesterday, I read a welcome announcement that Her Majesty's Government will be giving a very generous donation of £54 million, I think, to Sudan. Of course that is most welcome. However, is the money which the Government are providing through DfID being most effectively used in southern Sudan? One concern recently raised with us was the decision adopted by many aid agencies to change priorities from relief to development. That is understandable, but given the statistics of child and maternal mortality and morbidity, there is clearly still an urgent need for relief aid.
Perhaps I may offer a practical suggestion regarding voting. Will Her Majesty's Government and the EU press the authorities to arrange polling stations in a mobile form to reach remote rural areas? Otherwise, with no roads and the fear of attack from local militias in unstable areas, many people will effectively be disenfranchised. Can there also be an extension of voting over two days, to enable such mobile stations to reach all remote locations?
Problems of violence and insecurity claimed 2,500 lives last year and displaced 350,000 people. The notorious Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, which created havoc and horror in northern Uganda for 20 years, has now been responsible for many deaths, injuries and abductions in southern Sudan; intertribal fighting has been responsible for the rest. There is widespread concern that Khartoum is supporting the LRA and instigating the tribal clashes. Given Khartoum's support for it in previous years, when it allowed the LRA to operate its brutal military training camps for children abducted from Uganda in NIF-administered territory, suspicions of northern involvement in last year's deadly confrontations are not unreasonable. To date, no evidence has been found, but there is an urgent need for confidence-building measures if such conflicts are not to exacerbate instability and undermine the peace process.
For example, would Her Majesty's Government use their influence to encourage the United Nations Mission in Sudan to undertake a more proactive civilian protection role, in accordance with its mandate, and to define more clearly the circumstances under which it will provide protection with appropriate intervention rather than mere observation? Darfur remains cause for grave
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In other regions of Sudan, the people continue to suffer the after effects of war and continuing political challenges. Last year I visited southern Kordofan, formerly known as the Nuba mountains, a name which is still preferred by the local people. The area is now governed from Khartoum and the peoples in the SPLM-administered areas describe systematic discrimination. For example, they have a desperate need for education but claim that the resources being made available from Khartoum are limited to schools in the Islamic tradition. Even the Muslims who live in those areas are deeply unhappy, as they wish their children to receive the more broadly-based southern Sudan or east African curricula. There is also an acute shortage of healthcare and provision for vulnerable people such as war widows.
Other marginalised peoples continue to suffer humanitarian crises. For example, the plight of the Beja people in eastern Sudan remains so serious that the southern Sudanese, whose own predicament is dire, undertook an investigation and claimed that the Beja people's plight is even worse than their own. Can the Minister say whether EU and DfID funding therefore includes appropriate weighting to provide essential assistance to those all-too-often forgotten people in the marginalised areas?
Finally, I turn to the still unresolved problem of the systematic abduction of tens of thousands of African civilians, mainly from Bahr-el-Ghazal and the Nuba mountains, during the 1980s and 1990s. For some years, many major international organisations denied the existence of slavery in Sudan. However, Gaspar Biro, the UN special rapporteur, confirmed the reality and subsequently many reports, books and documentary films, including a BBC "Everyman" programme, have testified to that inhuman and large-scale practice of slavery, supported by Khartoum. The slave raids, the after effects of which I witnessed many times, were perpetrated by combined forces of government soldiers, mujaheddin jihad warriors and the murahaleen local tribesmen, who swept through the countryside, generally killing the men and abducting women and children.
My first encounter was typical. In Nyamlell in Bahr-el-Ghazal in the early 1990s, 82 men had been killed and their bodies thrown into a mass grave and 282 women and children had been abducted. We were able to assist with the rescue of many hundreds of women and children and their stories were heartbreaking. Some are recorded in a book on modern day slavery which I wrote with my colleague Professor Marks. I shall put a copy in your Lordships' Library in case any of your Lordships would be interested to read the evidence. Eventually an organisation was established in Khartoum, CEWAC, to identify and repatriate those enslaved. But it is estimated that there are still tens of thousands in captivity. In the past few months, I have met two people, one an Anglican priest, who know they have relatives still enslaved in the north. But, as the priest said with infinite sadness:
When I had the privilege last year of meeting the President of southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, and other southern leaders, they acknowledged this tragic situation, but with so many problems related to the CPA, this is an "issue too far" for them to raise. However, they did ask us to urge the international community to press Khartoum to ensure the urgent identification, repatriation and rehabilitation of all still in captivity in the north. I ask the Minister to raise this issue.
I greatly look forward to the Minister's reply. Along with other noble Lords, I have great respect for her commitment to justice, peace and freedom in Africa and beyond that great continent. I believe that she may be visiting Sudan in the near future and I hope that this debate will be helpful in the important discussions which she will be holding with the leaders there.
The Sudanese people always look to the United Kingdom to play a special leadership role, given our historic involvement and responsibility. I hope that this debate will demonstrate our commitment to provide that help and that it will be a source of encouragement; a sign of true friendship; and a support for all in Sudan who are seeking to achieve the peace, freedom and justice which they so urgently need and so richly deserve. I beg to move.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for initiating this debate. Achieving peace and stability in any region that has been ravaged by war and has a wealth of cultural differences is always a challenge. In this region of Africa, the task is that much greater as these variations are coupled with intense poverty and tribal intolerance. Since independence from Britain in 1956 and the subsequent civil war, Sudanese politics has been characterised by violence, ethnic and religious prejudice. Sudan's vast area, 133 languages and mineral wealth should have given it great responsibility and influence. It has yet to rise to this challenge.
National elections in Sudan are scheduled to take place in April this year. The continent's longest civil war formally ceased with the ratification in Kenya of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement. The CPA has been successful in returning thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons to southern Sudan. The agreement has enjoyed further success with the creation of the Abyei Boundary Commission. The comprehensive peace agreement will expire in July 2011.
It is encouraging to see that the vice-president of Sudan and his counterpart in southern Sudan have reached an agreement on increasing the allocation of seats in the National Assembly for southern Sudan. The recent approvals of the southern Sudanese referendum law and legislation that will determine the future of the Abyei region are also positive developments. Both Governments must now agree to accept the results of these imminent elections. Southern Sudan will vote in January 2011 on secession. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement has expressed its concern about a clause in the Bill that would allow the use of absentee ballots for southerners who live outside the territory. A census produced by the Sudanese Government suggests that
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The Government of southern Sudan have welcomed the Abyei Referendum Bill. Residents of the Abyei region, which has significant mineral wealth, will be able to decide whether to continue as part of northern Sudan in the southern Korfordan state or to revert back to being part of southern Sudan. This decision has not been welcomed by all southerners. Representatives from the Misseriya tribe of Abyei have asked President al-Bashir not to ratify the Abyei referendum law. The Misseriya group in the National Assembly left the Parliament in protest before the Bill was announced, as the Bill does not give the Misseriya people the right to vote. Some members of the tribe see this as discrimination and have pledged to disrupt the result of the vote if the Bill is not amended in their favour. The Speaker of the Assembly has stated that the Bill would not be amended and participation in the Abyei vote is the decision of the commission, which will be chosen by the National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Members of the SPLM have argued that the comprehensive peace agreement only grants the Misseriya people access to water and grazing for their cattle.
This dispute reflects the extent to which Sudan is a fractured state. The complex nature of this disagreement should serve as a reminder to the international community that Sudanese politics should not be viewed in simplistic regional terms. Tribal divisions within the SPLM have also contributed to the volatile situation in southern Sudan. Violence in the region resulted in 1,200 deaths last year. Most of the unrest has occurred in Jonglei, which is the biggest state in the south, and hostilities among southerners could cause the election in 2011 to be postponed. The Government of southern Sudan must take steps to improve security in the region to avoid the outbreak of a civil war. The current climate in the region suggests that more efforts should be made to bring extra security to southern Sudan. Does the Minister agree that the African Union could play a vital role in bringing peace to the region? If so, what steps will the Government take to support an enhanced role for the union?
I welcome the decision taken last month by Chad and Sudan to renew discussions about promoting peace on their mutual border after years of tense relations. I am optimistic that the meeting scheduled to take place in Chad today will result in a significant breakthrough for the security of the region. The historic context of diplomatic difficulties between Chad and Sudan has its foundations in the Darfuri conflict and ethnic identity. Tribal identity is at the heart of the unrest that has devastated this region. The obvious lack of confidence of the citizens in the state and the constant struggle for food, land and resources have caused some people to seek militia groups rather than the Government for protection. The Janjaweed in particular bypasses national divisions to recruit members along tribal lines. An improvement in relations between Chad and Sudan will contribute to achieving peace in Darfur, where approximately 300,000 people have died
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The instability in the region also has implications for the elephant population in Chad. Janjaweed militiamen have been raiding Zakouma National Park and areas surrounding the shared border, killing elephants for their ivory. As a consequence, the elephant population in the park has been significantly reduced. The profits gained from selling ivory have helped the Janjaweed and other militias to purchase weapons and to finance their operations in Chad and Sudan.
The activities of the Lord's Resistance Army in the region have caused a number of refugees to seek asylum in both Chad and Sudan. The terror unleashed by the LRA is one of the main stumbling blocks to peace in the region. The United Nations was forced to suspend humanitarian work in Sudan near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo as a result of sustained attacks from the Ugandan LRA rebels. The LRA and other militias in that region have unashamedly abused women and children in their quest for power. The international community must put greater pressure on the Sudanese Government to implement the recommendations made as a result of the Doha peace process and the Sudan People's Initiative. A successful resolution of violence in Darfur will become a reality only if regional dialogue among the neighbouring countries is implemented. There are humanitarian implications, with widespread malnutrition among infants and a scarcity of resources as a whole.
The progress that Sudan has made in the last few weeks is to be commended. Greater challenges lie ahead over the next 12 months. We have a duty as part of the international community to assist both Sudanese Governments in making sure that all elections held over the next year are free and fair. The Abyei dispute must be monitored to ensure that it does not result in violence between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya tribes. Tribalism is viewed as far superior to nationalism in this region. We must therefore respect this outlook in our dealings with all groups in Sudan.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa. We have a historic connection with Sudan. We need to continue to work towards resolving the political, tribal and humanitarian problems in order to achieve peace and prosperity not only in Sudan but in Africa as a whole. With regard to humanitarian issues, I declare that I am the chairman of the Sheikh Abdullah Foundation and that my charity has undertaken humanitarian work in Sudan. The Muslim charities in the United Kingdom have now agreed to work in harmony when carrying out aid work in Sudan and I hope that we can all undertake good work there.
Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, on introducing this debate, and on the comprehensive manner in which she has given us an overview of the situation. I hope that I can reinforce many of the points that she has made.
Peace in Sudan remains very fragile. In 2009 alone, violent conflict claimed some 2,500 lives in southern Sudan and displaced more than 350,000 people, almost
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As the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, mentioned, the Ugandan LRA rebels are a key threat to the relative calm established by the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement. The collapse of the CPA, should it happen, would likely revitalise the LRA as a force that could easily destabilise both Sudan and the whole region. The re-emergence of the LRA in different parts of southern Sudan may force the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to consider an appropriate riposte, according to some military sources in southern Sudan. In that regard, there are growing concerns over reports that a number of LRA splinter groups are continuing to move unchecked across the region, terrorising civilians in northern DRC, parts of the Central African Republic and Sudan.
It is of course important that the door be kept open for the diplomatic approach, but attempts by the UN special envoy to the LRA-affected areas, Joaquim Chissano, to effectively engage the LRA high command have apparently failed so far. With the final refusal of Joseph Kony to sign the Juba peace agreement, there is now a greater acceptance that a targeted and strategic military approach may be the best of a bad set of options, although always preferably combined with a diplomatic approach.
Much more needs to be done to apprehend the key LRA leaders and, in doing so, weaken the command and control and leadership of that movement. In October 2009 the European Council issued a statement calling for the LRA to honour its commitment to sign the final peace agreement and stressing the necessity of a comprehensive approach to defining a solution to LRA-related problems. On 17 November 2009 the UN Security Council, of which the UK is a permanent member, called for a better co-ordinated strategy between UN forces in the DRC, in the Central African Republic and in Sudan to protect civilians against further LRA attacks.
The Government have stated that they support legislation currently going through the US Congress, the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which in part aims to target and apprehend Joseph Kony and LRA top commanders. Informed sources have confirmed that military intelligence is available within the international community to pinpoint his location. While the failure to acknowledge that facility may neatly avoid any commitment to the Security Council and, on the ground, to the resources needed to secure his apprehension, failure to act is allowing the LRA to regroup and flourish.
Will the Government commit to comprehensively reviewing how they could contribute intelligence and logistical support to a careful and credible apprehension strategy? How could they better bring pressure to bear on the LRA to accept a peaceful solution? Will the Government then work for a unified military approach to tackling the LRA, working with other EU member
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Simply commending regional states that are targeting the LRA is not sufficient. What is required is targeted and strategic action. Recent successes-for example, the death, reportedly at the hands of Ugandan forces, of the second-in-command of the LRA, Bok Abudema, and the surrender of "Captain" Ocen-are positive signs, but continued and increasing acts of violence against civilians in Sudan, the DRC and the Central African Republic are proof that removing just one or two key individuals is not enough.
The report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in December records that in the three months to March 2009 a series of 27 confirmed attacks were carried out by LRA elements in Western and Central Equatoria, including attacks on 19 villages and four vehicle ambushes. More than 80 villagers were killed, with many others injured, mutilated, raped, abducted and forced to work as child soldiers and sex slaves. Villages were destroyed and more than 38,000 people displaced near the border with the DRC. LRA groups entered southern Sudan after a joint military offensive against them by the Ugandan and Congolese armies in December 2008. In recent months LRA attacks have resulted in a further 135 deaths and 67,000 people driven from their homes. Attacks are now extending to looting food distribution points, where the LRA is also abducting children and young women.
The cross-border nature of the LRA is a clear threat to international peace and security in the region. There is a growing concern among NGOs such as the Enough Project that the UN Security Council has yet to take seriously its responsibility to protect civilians from the LRA, and to put in place an effective counterinsurgency strategy. There is a growing call for the UN Security Council to authorise, and for member states to resource, a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians in LRA-affected areas, to identify and sever external lines of support, to increase opportunities for rank-and-file fighters to defect and to end the insurgency once and for all through more effective military pressure on LRA leader Joseph Kony and his high command. Through what means do the Government plan to target and sensitise LRA fighters in order to encourage them to disarm, demobilise, repatriate, resettle and reintegrate, commonly known as DDRRR?
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