Home > Uncategorized > Sudan: Framework Agreement Question in the House of Lords

Sudan: Framework Agreement Question in the House of Lords

Question

2.57 pm

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in advance of Southern Sudan’s independence on 9 July, what is their assessment of the likely impact of the Framework Agreement signed at Addis Ababa on 28 June on securing peace and security in the region.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we fully support the ongoing discussions in Addis Ababa led by President Mbeki. We assess that for it to secure peace and security in the region, the framework agreement must be used by both sides as a basis for the immediate cessation of hostilities.

We continue to urge north and south to negotiate to resolve all outstanding comprehensive peace agreement issues.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he accept that for any of us who travelled in Southern Sudan during the war there, when some 2 million people died and 4 million others were displaced, any celebration of Southern Sudan’s landmark independence this coming weekend is tempered by the terrible atrocities which have been committed in recent days – committed on the basis of ethnicity and political affiliation, and by the dire failure of the ceasefire to stop the violence or displacements?

As the comprehensive peace agreement expires this weekend, and given the United Kingdom’s role as guarantor and as one of the brokers of that agreement, will the Minister say whether we have raised, in the UN Security Council, the importance of sustaining, rather than withdrawing, a continuing UN peacekeeping presence in the area, and the importance of a robust Chapter 6 mandate? Will the Minister also comment on the bleak warning given by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury last weekend that he could see another Darfur beginning to unfold in southern Kordofan, Abyei, and the areas to which I have alluded?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Naturally, on the last point, we hope that this warning, which no doubt is justified by the long history of atrocities, is not fulfilled.

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As to the noble Lord’s question on the comprehensive peace agreement, in theory it ends on 9 July with the independence of Southern Sudan, but it has been recognised that key issues are yet to be resolved and must be talked about.

As for our role with the United Nations, the UN Security Council, as the noble Lord knows, has extended the remit of UNMIS until 9 July and has signalled that it wants the remit to continue beyond then despite the continued strong opposition of Khartoum, which says that UNMIS must remove itself. As well as that, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1990 empowers the Ethiopians to move into Abyei. They are on their way, although they have not yet arrived. Those are the activities of the United Nations and we continue to play a full and central part in them.

Lord Chidgey: Is my noble friend aware that the chair of the Sudan Disarmament Immobilisation and Reintegration Committee has estimated that with the current level of resources, when the conflict ends it will take at least six years to assimilate 150,000 surplus soldiers back into civilian life? What assistance do the Government plan to provide to speed up this DDR process and reduce the risk of what is a major security threat to the region?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Clearly, this is one more problem on top of the problems of refugees, resettlement, basic development and provision of infrastructure in the two countries; notably, in Southern Sudan, which is a very poor country, and in the north. I can give my noble friend only the general answer that my right honourable friend the DfID Secretary of State has indicated that our substantial and detailed programmes to meet these and future problems will continue and will be administered in a very detailed and hands-on way.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, the Minister will be well aware of the enormous needs of the new country soon to become a reality on Saturday. Those needs include health, education, infrastructure and huge gender disparities-92 per cent of women in Southern Sudan are illiterate. Will the Minister comment on the heavy criticism now regularly made of the slow disbursement of aid through the pooled donor fund which is being used? Will he further comment on the need for long-term, predictable funding, rather than the unpredictable, short-term financing that is currently happening?

Other post-conflict countries, such as Mozambique, Rwanda and Sierra Leone received long-term funding after the conflict ended, and Afghanistan still receives long-term predictable funding. Will the UK push for a five or 10-year commitment to funding for essential services, such as health and education, in the new Southern Sudan?

Lord Howell of Guildford: All that the noble Baroness says is correct. The model followed elsewhere is that which should be followed in the division of Sudan. It is very difficult. A lot of the activities are unco-ordinated

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and need better co-ordination. However, it is very hard to see beyond the present pattern of continuing an ugly conflict. As soon as we can see beyond it, these post-conflict arrangements should be put in place. For the moment, I can only say that these are the right ideas. We are moving towards them but there are some ugly, immediate problems that have got to be overcome in order for peace to break out and for these very poor countries to begin to move on the long-term pattern to development with suitably arranged financial funding behind them.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the efforts made by the former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, in brokering the framework agreement demonstrate the viability and stability of both states of the Sudan, will to a large extent remain dependent on the continued support and assistance of the international community in helping both sides to resolve the outstanding issues? In the light of the report of the European Union Committee of this House, what steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking with their European partners to hold the Khartoum Government to the agreement?

Lord Howell of Guildford: For a start, as the right reverent Prelate surely knows, we are backing and funding to a substantial degree the African Union implementation panel, over which President Mbeki presides and into which he is putting enormous efforts. That is our expression of support for the continuing work of the panel and of the products of the panel, including the framework agreement signed on 28 June, to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has already referred. We hope that will stay in place and will secure the beginnings of some order, particularly in South Kordofan where a whole confused range of Arab and non-Arab forces-some allegedly belonging to the south but in the north, and some in the north but belonging to the south-are fighting each other. We are backing the Mbeki implementation panel and, through that, many African Union people think that the best solutions will come.

There is an argument, which I only put before your Lordships, that while we must support the humanitarian efforts and do everything we can to support peace, the African Union itself is anxious that it and not outside powers should solve its problems.

Lord Luce: My Lords, since Southern Sudan is proceeding this week towards independence-in what we all agree is a very dangerous and very precarious situation which could lead to further disasters-may I reinforce the point made by my noble friend Lord Alton that, as a sponsor of the comprehensive peace agreement and with all our responsibilities over 60 years with the Sudan, we should pull out all the stops to persuade the international community, particularly the African community, to help hold the ring in that part of the world?

Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord will recognise, I am sure, that we are doing so. Enormous efforts are being made on the diplomatic front, both in

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the UN and with the African Union and with all other parties involved. On top of that, the UK is one of the chief funders and backers of development-medium, short and long-term-in both Khartoum Sudan and Southern Sudan. We are not merely talking and making pleas for the ceasefire, of course we have to do that, but we are putting our money where our mouth is and making very substantial and solid commitments to a better future for these countries, which we hope will begin after 9 July.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, the Minister will know that, sadly, oil reserves play a very great part in the troubles of Southern Sudan and indeed in the government of Sudan generally. The Chinese are very involved with oil extraction in Sudan. Will the Minister tell us whether our Government had any conversations about the Sudan with the Chinese when they visited?

Lord Howell of Guildford: I am very glad that my noble friend raised that issue. We tend to overlook the fact that the Chinese nowadays not only have a commercial involvement in many regions-particularly this region-but need to match their commercial involvement with some diplomatic responsibility. I am happy to say in the Sudan situation that is beginning to be evident. Our own envoy has had contact with the Chinese envoy and the Chinese have made some extremely helpful statements in support of calming the situation and overcoming the difficulties in the disputed areas of Abyei and South Kordofan. We are finding that Beijing’s old stance of not wanting anything to do with anybody else’s foreign policy is in this area beginning to give way to a more realistic and responsible attitude. That can only be helpful and we intend to work with it.

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