Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Government are contributing £400,000 to MONUC's DDRRR effort, part of which will be spent targeting the LRA. Can the Minister provide a breakdown of how this money will be used to target the LRA? Given the Security Council's recent statement that it would like to see a more unified, regional approach to combating the LRA, how do the Government intend to support UNMIS, as they have pledged to support MONUC, to target and apprehend LRA fighters and protect civilians?

The Government have committed to encouraging MONUC to increase its presence in LRA affected areas. Given the porous nature of the borders between

7 Jan 2010 : Column 221

the DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic, and the regional aspect that LRA movements have taken in recent years, it would seem necessary to adopt a similar approach with UN forces in southern Sudan. What plans do the Government have to support an increased civilian presence in Sudan?

DDRRR efforts led by MONUC in the DRC have been successful to an extent but have not prevented new LRA recruits from being either abducted or simply recruited from the civilian population. To be effective, DDRRR must be accompanied by a strategic and targeted military approach that will prevent LRA command structures operating effectively and will weaken co-ordination and recruitment. Do the Government recognise the need for a multipronged approach to the LRA problem, and if so what plans do they have to approach the problem from both military and DDRRR points of view? I hope that the noble Baroness can comment on how this policy might be affected by the £54 million that has just been pledged for the forthcoming elections.

According to the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in December 2009, evidence suggests that LRA actions during attacks in the early part of that year,

The high commissioner notes that under the statute of the International Criminal Court, murder, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape and sexual slavery are all considered to be crimes against humanity if carried out,

He calls for Governments in the region to co-operate with the ICC to apprehend the LRA leaders. What steps are the UK Government taking, as a member of the international community, to co-operate with the International Criminal Court and with Governments in the region to search for, arrest and surrender the LRA leaders accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes under the Rome statute?

The United Kingdom is a member of the troika of the UK, US and Norway, and is a guarantor of the comprehensive peace agreement. Therefore, what steps are the Government taking, and what have they taken so far, to ensure that the LRA is not allowed to become a threat to the peace process in Sudan by threatening local populations and therefore impacting on the implementation of the CPA?

A new International Crisis Group report, which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, mentioned, notes that the failure to stabilise Jonglei and other areas of concern risks seeing south Sudan become increasingly unstable ahead of next year's national elections and the planned 2011 self-determination referendum. Intertribal fighting has taken on a new and dangerously politicised character, with the worst violence in and around the vast, often impassable, state of Jonglei. The escalation of violence has deepened divisions among its communities and leaders, some of whom may be manipulating conflicts to their own ends.

Action is needed now to stop the LRA becoming stronger and more uncontrollable-a threat underlined by reports that the LRA is now being sponsored by

7 Jan 2010 : Column 222

the Government of northern Sudan in much the same way as the Janjaweed. In this context, the Government of southern Sudan need to tackle the inability or unwillingness of the police to address domestic security issues, of which the LRA must be a prime concern. Police reform must become a greater priority in southern Sudan. The United Nations mission in Sudan should undertake a more proactive civilian protection role, as set out in its mandate, and better define the circumstances under which it will provide protection. That apart, there are serious concerns about the integrity of the forthcoming election process. Notwithstanding the difficulties mentioned earlier by the noble Baroness about accessing polling stations, voter registration has been greatly delayed. It has proved extremely difficult to motivate and organise people to register, which does not augur well for the success of future elections and referenda.

Finally, there is a pressing need to ensure local stability to work towards regional recovery and development. Without an active peace process, a commitment to increasing accountability for crimes committed against civilians, a fully deployed, equipped and performing UN/AU peacekeeping force, and serious planning for regional recovery, the situation across southern Sudan will continue to fester, destabilising the country and the region.

12.26 pm

Lord Judd: My Lords, I am sure the House will be agreed on three points: first, our gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for having given us an opportunity to debate this important subject today and our respect for her personal experience and consistent interest in the people of Sudan; secondly, that we ought all to be sending a message of solidarity to the front-line workers in southern Sudan and Sudan as a whole who carry so many burdens on our behalf and do it so effectively, with so much commitment; and thirdly, how good it is to see my noble friend handling this issue on the Front Bench-nobody can question her long-standing commitment to the people of Africa. I understand that she may soon be going to visit southern Sudan. When she does, I hope she will take the opportunity to meet with and hear the insights of NGOs such as Oxfam and Saferworld-in which I declare an interest as a trustee-which are anxious to share with her what they are discovering.

This month sees the fifth anniversary of the comprehensive peace agreement. It is, therefore, sad that it is faltering so badly. There is an urgent need for the troika-the UK, the US and Norway-to re-energise it. The US, of course, has a lead role, but I believe that the UK must now become a catalyst and my noble friend is exactly the person to ensure that this happens. We have to learn from history. A re-energised comprehensive agreement must not be seen as an end in itself. What follows in terms of economic and social progress and human rights is what matters, and this will demand resources and sophisticated support from the international community.

Similarly, the result of the 2011 referendum on secession of the south must not be seen as an end in itself. Unless it is to contain the seeds of renewed

7 Jan 2010 : Column 223

bitter conflict, the context in which it takes place will be vital. For example, there will have to be absolute clarity about where exactly the north/south border lies and about arrangements for sharing and handling oil revenues, together with convincing arrangements for both north and south on dependence on Port Sudan as the exit point for exports.

I vividly recall that I was in south Sudan in 1983, on a visit as the director of VSO, when the garrison down the road from Juba rebelled. General Garang had been recalled from his PhD studies in the States to try to persuade the garrison to behave itself. I was staying at an FAO project. General Garang arrived when the rebellion took place. It was interesting then to see that he was actively debating with himself and those immediately around him whether to stay with the Government of Sudan or take the road that he did take of leading the SPLA and the independence movement.

That was almost 30 years ago, and it is more than 50 years since the bitter dispute began. It is difficult to envisage the pain, suffering, slaughter and bereavement which is the terrible reality of this dreadful saga. As we have been reminded, 2009 was the most violent year since the comprehensive peace agreement was signed, with 2,500 people killed and 350,000-I repeat, 350,000-people displaced. Meanwhile the poverty remains acute: one in seven pregnant women will die; one in seven children under five will die; less than 50 per cent of the population has access to safe water. We cannot compare the national neurosis about our current cold spell with challenges of that scale.

Against this background, it is troubling that the World Bank multidimensional fund is evidently not being dispersed as effectively as it might be. Front-line NGOs are seriously short of funds for the sustainable long-term work which they desperately want to do, as distinct from the short-term relief projects which come their way. As the noble Baroness stressed, roads are a critical element in this.

Yesterday afternoon I was able to have a personal briefing by Maya Mailer, the Oxfam policy adviser in Juba. She had returned on Tuesday from the searing heat of Juba to the snarled-up, frozen London for a brief working visit. It was a first-class but very challenging briefing. Later today, in Committee Room 4A, she, together with representatives of other organisations, will be presenting a report on the situation which they have just prepared.

The insights of those working on the front line lead me to make the following observations, which I hope my noble friend will take on board and respond to. While the Government of south Sudan are right to be concerned about the need to disarm the civil population, how realistic is it to overconcentrate on this in the total absence of effective human security? Surely the provision of convincing human security must be the first priority, although I recognise the chicken and egg dimensions of this. The situation is complex and confused. In Jonglei state alone, traditional cattle raiding has escalated into vicious attacks on whole communities and is made all the more devastating by the widespread presence of AK-47s, machine guns and grenades. The

7 Jan 2010 : Column 224

SPLA uniforms worn by some of the participants suggest that SPLA deserters have been opting to join their kin.

The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, referred to the Lord's Resistance Army, which is involved in sinister and far-reaching destabilisation across the region as a whole. Children who should be at school are instead joining the so-called Arrow Boys, endeavouring to resist the LRA and protect their communities. One thing is sure: if human security is to be achieved, the international community must act resolutely and fast on the control of arms trafficking and the flow of arms into conflict regions such as this. The objective of an arms trade treaty is highly relevant in this context. There is also an urgent need for a regional strategy in dealing with the cruel presence of the LRA, whose real motivation has so far escaped analysis.

More generally in Sudan as a whole, there are other issues on which the policy of my noble friend and HMG will be important. I shall list them briefly. There is a need for independent assessments to be conducted throughout-I emphasise throughout-northern Sudan. These are also badly needed along the north/south border in order to pinpoint gaps in humanitarian assistance and basic services. There are similar requirements in the east. Apparently the current joint communiqué and subsequent monitoring system in effect apply only to Darfur. Similar agreements are a necessity for the rest of northern Sudan. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the resident co-ordinator's support office should be strongly supported by the international community in achieving these.

There is a need for the high-level committee to hold the Government of Sudan to account for their commitments to remove bureaucratic impediments and for their responsibility to ensure that commitments made at the federal level are turned into realities at the state level. There is also the imperative of ensuring that humanitarian services in northern Sudan are delivered to their targeted beneficiaries in an independent, neutral and impartial manner. In this context it is important not to let rest the inexplicable expulsion of certain key international NGOs such as Oxfam UK and to insist that the Government of Sudan should stop their internal and external misinformation campaigns and negative propaganda, enabling such agencies to return. I always recall that, when I was director of Oxfam, we realised that what we called in one of our publications on Central America "the threat of a good example" was invariably one of the most difficult challenges for illiberal, authoritarian regimes.

There is also the need for the UN donors and diplomats in Khartoum, through both the high-level committee and bilateral discussions, to persuade the Government of Sudan to accept a clear definition of humanitarian assistance, which includes the vital task of protection. The urgency of recognising that UNAMID must have a greater capacity to protect civilians and increase security to ensure humanitarian access cannot be ignored. Quick-impact operations can blur the ongoing civil-military imperative. UNAMID has a key role in protecting humanitarian assets and personnel. In the total absence of alternatives, it also has to

7 Jan 2010 : Column 225

increase its role in the protection of civil populations by more patrolling of roads, towns and internally displaced camps. Its monitoring of human rights and human protection issues through its civilian and police elements is an essential part of this. However, if we will this, we have to will the resources for it to happen.

The UN mission in Sudan must be supported in putting its core mandate-namely, monitoring CPA security arrangements-more effectively into action. When the mandate of the UN mission is renewed this coming April, it would be unforgivable if the opportunity was not seized to reinforce its responsibility for civil protection. However, again, if we understand it and will it, the provision of adequate resources is an essential obligation. The situation on the ground is far too grim for playing intellectual, theoretical policy games on the international stage. Those involved internationally have, above all, strenuously to continue to seek and facilitate a cessation of hostilities, followed by an effective, monitored ceasefire which brings on board all major parties to the conflict. This is indispensable if human security and humanitarian access to people in need is to be ensured.

Finally, in all that we do we must constantly remember that, ultimately, sustained and enduring stability can be ensured only by the people of north and south Sudan, the wider region as a whole and their Governments. They have to own the solutions; the absence of such ownership contains the seed of inevitable failure. We must, therefore, constantly ensure that we are in the long run-and it will be a long run-enabling and not disempowering. One day we will all have to learn across the world that peace and security can only be painstakingly and patiently built; they cannot be imposed. We have all the time to remember that if we will the end, we must will the means. It is good that HMG take this point and are determined to pursue it.

12.40 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: It gives me great pleasure to join others in congratulating my noble friend Lady Cox on once again raising in your Lordships' House the long-standing suffering of the people of Sudan. I will speak about two issues: the situation-following the speeches of other noble Lords in this debate-in southern Sudan and the situation in Darfur. I remind the House of my non-financial interest as honorary secretary of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan.

This debate is a particularly timely curtain-raiser, as that group will next week begin a series of hearings that will provide an opportunity to examine the fragile comprehensive peace agreement. There will be written and oral evidence from all the major players, including the Governments of north and south Sudan, international agencies and the Department for International Development, whose biggest programme in the world is in Sudan. A report will subsequently be published, focusing on the key challenges facing Sudan. I know that the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, has welcomed this initiative, which will reinforce the distinctive British policy in Sudan. As my noble friend has said to the House, we should never underestimate

7 Jan 2010 : Column 226

the crucial role that Britain plays in Sudan, or the high regard in which Sudanese people hold the United Kingdom. The Minister has herself taken a long-standing interest in these issues-we collaborated while she was a Member of the European Parliament in highlighting the unfolding tragedy in Darfur. She and her predecessor as the Minister responsible for Africa, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, have shown tireless commitment to the continent.

Sudan has the largest landmass in Africa. I first visited southern Sudan during the civil war, when John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Movement took me to see some of the ravaged areas, devastated by 21 years of aerial bombardment, and which led to 2 million deaths and 4 million displaced people. I visited the Ilemi triangle and southern Sudan again last year. Following the January 2005 CPA and Garang's death, the SPLM has been led by Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of southern Sudan, and vice-president of Sudan. He has had to face the massive legacy of that war, with acute needs for most basic services, including, as we have heard, healthcare, agricultural production and education. He has also had to face the complexities of a society comprised of a population of around 15 million people, with more than 200 ethnic groups.

The challenges, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has reminded us, are daunting. Last year, the south's immunisation programme reached just one in five, while there are a mere 20 secondary schools serving the whole region. Less than half the population has access to safe drinking water, and, as my noble friend has told the House, pregnant women in southern Sudan have a greater chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications than a woman almost anywhere else in the world. One in seven children will die before their fifth birthday. Close to 90 per cent of southern Sudanese women cannot read or write. Humanitarian agencies lack the capacity to reach people in need. In a region that is around the size of France, there are less than 50 kilometres of tarmac roads, and those centre on the capital, Juba. In the long rainy seasons, many rural locations are unreachable by road or air for weeks at a time.

In addressing these considerable needs, southern Sudan has been relying not just on aid from countries such as our own-I join others in welcoming the support that Her Majesty's Government give-but also on oil revenues to assist in its efforts to build its infrastructure. However, in a report last September, Fuelling Mistrust, Global Witness found that oil figures published by the Khartoum Government do not match those from other sources, and concluded that there is insufficient oversight of oil revenues. Another report suggested that $266 million of oil arrears was outstanding. Perhaps today the Minister can tell us the current position in respect of these desperately needed resources.

The House may be aware that earlier today 10 major non-governmental organisations-including Oxfam, Christian Aid, Tearfund, Caritas, World Vision, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee-issued a briefing paper entitled Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan. The House will look forward to hearing from the Minister about the Government's response to the recommendations and

7 Jan 2010 : Column 227

conclusions of those NGOs. They describe the situation in the south as "fragile", and they warn:

"The next 12 months will be critical for the future of Sudan ... With landmark elections and a referendum on the horizon, the peace deal is fragile and the violence likely to escalate even further unless there is urgent international engagement".

Already there are worrying signs that Khartoum will seek to deny Sudanese people a chance to take part in fair and free elections. Only yesterday the political secretary of the National Congress, Professor Ibrahim Ghandour, said that the United Nations has "no right"-I stress that-to observe the coming elections. It would be helpful if the Minister would say something about independent monitoring of the elections and the provision of facilities such as the mobile election units that my noble friend referred to earlier; she might also mention the provision of a United Nations-sponsored radio station that could broadcast to the whole of Sudan during the run-up to the elections, disseminating much-needed information.

Despite the enormous challenges that Sudan faces, the political leadership in the south must be commended for its efforts to safeguard autonomy and to develop models of good governance and in particular for the improvements made in the treatment of minorities. This is all in stark contrast with the persecution and systemic abuses of human rights that characterise the policies of the Government of Omar al-Bashir in the north. Earlier this week, the Open Society Institute raised the cases of Sudanese human rights campaigners forced to flee Khartoum. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that they are meeting their obligations to implement the 2008 EU guidelines on human rights defenders.

Despite all of these significant issues, it is worth noting that the 10 NGOs that I mentioned suggest that although,

Surely the greatest of those challenges remains, as so many of your Lordships have said, the problem of conflict and insecurity. Instability and violence in the south has been fuelled by a number of contributory factors. The promised peace dividends have been slow to materialise and this is breeding disillusionment, which has replaced the initial post-war euphoria. In this climate, warlords and sectarian leaders have emerged. This inflammatory situation, in which 2,500 people have been killed and 350,000 displaced during 2009, has been ruthlessly exploited by Khartoum and its agents.

In a briefing for today's debate, the international agency, Saferworld, says that the Government of southern Sudan,

Saferworld points to the other danger to Sudan's peace process: escalating violence and insecurity among the south's diverse inhabitants. When the Minister comes to reply, perhaps she could say what is being done to develop southern Sudan's security and civil institutions.

7 Jan 2010 : Column 228

Khartoum's hand is frequently found stirring tension and rivalry and inciting violence via its proxies. The north's belligerence and in particular its collaboration with the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, about which we have heard so much, and which has been turned into a significant actor within the region, have continued to result in horrific violence in Sudan, northern Uganda and other neighbouring countries. This notoriously vicious rebel group continues to wreak havoc-since the end of 2008 alone, the LRA has displaced close to 70,000 southern Sudanese in Western and Central Equatoria states and led to an influx of some 18,000 refugees from the neighbouring DRC.

Within the last few weeks the LRA have carried out gruesome attacks in Ezo, Nzara, Yambio, Tambura, Nagero and Ibba counties. The attacks are always characterised by abductions, killings and looting. Let me refer to an extract from the joint NGO report published today:

"The unpredictable nature and brutality of the LRA attacks has sent waves of fear through Western Equatoria, the most badly hit area. With its fertile soils and relatively educated population, this should have been one of the first states in southern Sudan to thrive after the CPA. Instead, some communities are too frightened to stay in their villages or venture into the fields to cultivate. As a result, rural school enrolment has declined, and normally productive farming families are going hungry. To defend themselves against LRA attacks, communities have formed voluntary youth militia armed with traditional weapons. According to community accounts, the presence of these 'Arrow Boys' has provided a sense of security. But the reliance on a militia, which includes children among its ranks, is extremely worrying and is a sign of the inability of the GoSS security forces and the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) to protect civilians".

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page