Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Cawsey.]
I welcome this debate. The situation in Sudan, and in Darfur in particular, is of immense concern to all of us in this House. More than that, it is a tragedy about which the people of this country and, indeed, people all over the world feel deeply and passionately. They expect—and have the right to expect—that the UK Government and the international community will rise to the challenge and that we will do all that we can to end the suffering of the Sudanese people.
I have no doubt that during today's debate most Members, quite understandably, will choose to focus upon Darfur. However, we cannot afford to neglect the rest of Sudan. The civil war between the north and south lasted 20 years and during that conflict up to 2 million people were killed. A fragile peace was put in place in 2005 with the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement. That agreement provided for a Government of National Unity in Khartoum and for the Government of Southern Sudan under President Salva Kiir in Juba. Since then, the peace has held—but we should not take it for granted, nor assume that we have yet achieved a genuine and lasting settlement.
If the comprehensive peace agreement were to fall apart, Sudan would risk slipping back into a maelstrom of violence and chaos more intense even than that which we see today. So while we focus on Darfur, we cannot forget our responsibility to work and to keep working with international partners to keep the comprehensive peace agreement on the international agenda.
The UN has described the situation in Darfur as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world—and there is hefty competition for that slot. Many thousands have been killed, raped or wounded, more than 2 million people are displaced, and as many as 4 million people—two thirds of the population—are dependent on international aid for food and basic needs. Stark statistics indeed, but they can convey only a little of the immense human misery that is being visited upon the people of Darfur.
We, the United Nations and the international community have to act. It was only last year that, for the first time, the concept of responsibility to protect was acknowledged in a country-specific UN resolution. That country was Sudan and that region was Darfur. If the concept of responsibility to protect is to mean anything, it must mean something in Darfur. The moral obligation upon the world community to find a way to protect the people of Darfur is heavy. It is both the foundation and the fulcrum of all our actions. However, there are questions of regional and international stability at stake, too. In its search for a way to fulfil that moral obligation, the international community needs the Government of Sudan to be an ally. We need to work together on issues of mutual importance such as migration and counter-terrorism, and we need a stable Sudan for a stable region.
The Secretary of State spoke of 20 years of civil war. Britain has some responsibility for originally drawing up the borders of Sudan, a country that contains a number of very different communities. Has the Secretary of State given any thought to a velvet revolution, allowing Sudan to fragment peacefully rather than through civil war?
Such issues come up for discussion from time to time, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that Sudan is only one of many parts of the world where Britain has a responsibility for border issues, which nowadays bedevil many countries. I take on board his point, but it might at present be a diversion to address it. There are higher priorities in tackling the existing situation than the means he suggests.
I commend my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development on the work that they are doing and on securing the first debate on this matter on the Floor of the House. She expressed frustration at the lack of action by the Government of Sudan, but does she share the frustration felt by me and others at what appears to be a lack of action by some African Governments and at the apparent impotence of the United Nations?
I do, and that is partly why I say that there is a heavy obligation on the international community. I accept that that responsibility has not yet been discharged with the vigour and effectiveness that we would wish.
The conflict in Sudan is already spilling over into Chad and the Central African Republic, and the conflict in Uganda spills into Sudan. If we cannot end the violence, we will not be able to address the underlying issues that must be resolved if there is to be long-term stability in the region. Those issues include resource pressures—which are made worse through climate change—poor governance and economic stagnation.
The UK has done much to help to address the problems of Darfur—not least through my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and my Foreign Office colleague Lord Triesman, to both of whom I pay tribute. Our goals are those supported by the United Nations and the African Union and set out in last year’s agreement in Addis Ababa: an immediate and strengthened ceasefire, a renewed political process and an effective hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the Government of Sudan’s actions in relation to that hybrid UN-African force?
Given that we have undertaken to train soldiers for the Sudanese peacekeeping effort and we have provided comfort for Sudanese Ministers requiring health treatment, if the Sudan Government have not honoured their obligations should we not make it clear that our agreements to support them cannot continue either?
We constantly search for ways to make our concerns clear to the Government of Sudan and also to make those concerns felt—although hitherto without as much success as might be wished.
In support of the goals that I have identified, we have taken specific and targeted action: we have committed more than £73 million of bilateral funds to the African Union peacekeeping force, which is a substantial proportion of its funding; we have contributed more than £250 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan; and we supported the implementation of an agreement between the Government of Sudan and the UN to allow full humanitarian access for non-governmental organisations operating in Darfur.
The UK has also been a leading voice in building an international consensus on Darfur. We sponsored the UN resolution in March 2005 that referred Darfur to the International Criminal Court, and on 2 May 2007 the ICC announced that it would issue arrest warrants in connection with alleged atrocities in Darfur. We have successfully encouraged China to play a more positive role in Sudan; indeed, that was one of the main themes of my visit to China two weeks ago. We have built up European support for tough measures and persuaded EU partners to give further funding for the African Union peacekeepers. Here, I should say that we are working particularly closely with the new French Government.
We have also made sure that Darfur remains in the international spotlight. During our presidency of the UN Security Council, for example, I hosted a meeting in New York designed to maintain the momentum towards political agreement. The meeting was attended by all the major players in both the African Union—including its chair, Dr. Konaré—and in the UN, including the Secretary-General and his staff and special representatives. Those efforts—and those of many others—have led to some progress in Darfur.
Does the Foreign Secretary think that China will now support a no-fly zone over Darfur? Some progress has been made with China, but the difficulty is that international law is dependent on the most obdurate member of the Security Council. Although progress has been made, it is still very slow.
No, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. As he knows, the idea of a no-fly zone has been mooted on many occasions, and there are concerns about, as well as support for, that. Whether the Government of China would support such a move I am not sure, but they certainly are—not for the first time, to be fair—taking more positive steps and have appointed, as the hon. Gentleman will know, a special representative.
I am following my right hon. Friend’s remarks with great interest. Does she accept that in this country, at least, there is very broad support for more effective international action? We realise the difficulties that the Government have in achieving that, because it depends on so many other countries, but even those who are critical of our role in certain other countries are very keen that we should play as positive a role as possible in promoting action here.
The Secretary of State has mentioned the European Union, China and the African Union, but what interaction has she had with the Arab League regarding Sudan? Sudan is, I believe, a member of the Arab League, and that body is obviously likely to be able to put more pressure on Sudan.
I can honestly say that all kinds of people have had interaction with the Arab League about this matter. It, too, has sought to be helpful and supportive and has been engaged in applying pressure, but none of these efforts has hitherto had as much effect as all of us would have wished and hoped. I think that one can honestly say that none of those potential players is indifferent to or opposed to this combination of actions; it is just that it has not yet been effective.
As I was saying, there has been some progress. The first United Nations peacekeeping personnel are already in the region and more are due to arrive shortly, acting in support of the current African Union mission. The next stage, as the House has said, is to build a functioning hybrid UN-AU force of up to 17,000 peacekeepers. Such a hybrid force has never been tried before, and the AU and the UN have been tasked with coming up with proposals on how it should work. We are now pressing those organisations to finalise and agree the details and to communicate them effectively to the Government of Sudan, so that that force can be deployed as quickly as possible.
There has also been some positive movement on the political front. That is important because only a viable political process and peace agreement can resolve the crisis. Envoys for the African Union and the United Nations are now leading a new political process that is designed to bring in all the rebel groups. That is vital because, as the House will recall, the Darfur peace agreement signed in May last year did not get the broad-based support from rebel groups and the Darfur population that it needed.
President Bush recently described the situation in Darfur as being akin to genocide. Is that a term that the Foreign Secretary would use for the situation? If it is genocide, surely we need to up our activity and push for the most robust set of international sanctions possible.
That is not the term that has been used internationally. There are always anxieties, sensitivities and disagreements about whether a set of events amounts to genocide, but whether or not we apply that label, there is no dispute that the course of action that the hon. Gentleman urges is the one that everyone supports and wants to be pursued.
The hon. Gentleman has had one go. If he will forgive me, I wish to make some progress.
We have been in regular contact with the envoys and we have engaged with the key regional players—Libya, Eritrea, Egypt and Chad—to ensure that they support the political process. The envoys have now presented a set of proposals—a draft roadmap—designed to allow all sides, including all the rebel groups, to engage in negotiations. It provides for mechanisms that will give the people of Darfur a say in what the final agreement will look like. However, as I have said already in response to interventions, although there has been some progress, there has not been nearly enough progress. That is what concerns the Government, the House and the people of this country.
Despite President Bashir’s repeated assurances to the international community that he would implement the conclusions of the Addis Ababa meeting, he has not done so. Indeed, he has sent more aircraft to bomb the people of Darfur. There have been continued attacks on civilians, peacekeepers and the humanitarian agencies, and those agencies are now warning that their basic ability to carry out their work is in jeopardy. It is fair to say that the Sudanese Government do not take the sole blame for the appalling situation. I am sorry to tell the House that all sides are violating the ceasefire. As the UN human rights mission to Sudan has reported, all sides are guilty of gross and systematic violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law.
In the face of a tragedy of such horror and complexity, the response of the international community must be to do more, not less—to redouble our efforts, not wash our hands. To that end, we in this country will continue to work in support of the humanitarian agencies so that they can do their vital job helping the people of Darfur. I welcome the recent launch of the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Darfur and Chad, and I commend the work of the agencies in what is possibly one of the most challenging environments they face. We will work with partners in the European Union to provide further funding for the African Union mission. At the same time we will keep up the pressure on the African Union and the United Nations—as requested several times in this debate already—to deliver an effective hybrid peacekeeping force. When such a force is agreed, we will help to fund it and encourage others to contribute money and troops. We will also push all sides to make progress on the political process. We will make it clear that there can be no impunity for the atrocities committed in Darfur and we will support the International Criminal Court. We will continue to pressure those who have influence in Sudan—many of whom have been mentioned in the debate today—to play a positive role in resolving the conflict. As I have said, China, Egypt and Libya are key.
In the final analysis, however, it is those involved in the conflict who can and must end it. Only they can ultimately bring peace and security to Darfur. The African Union and the United Nations have drawn up the outlines of a political process. The agreement in Addis Ababa has laid a framework for peacekeeping. Now, all sides in the conflict face a choice—commit to that process and support that framework or face the consequences. For the Government of Sudan, that will mean co-operating fully with the African Union and the United Nations. It means an end to the killing of innocent civilians and a clear signal that those who commit atrocities will be brought to justice. It means helping humanitarian workers to operate freely and securely so that they can bring effective relief to the Sudanese people. We should be clear with the Government of Sudan about what they have to gain if they choose that path. Sudan can be a part of the international community again. That would mean, as a start, an end to sanctions and more money for reconstruction and development. We will not lose interest in Sudan. We will go on doing everything that we can to help the Sudanese people build a better future.
However, we should be just as clear about what will happen if the Government of Sudan choose a different path—if they decide not to honour the agreements into which they have entered. In that case, the UK, with our partners, will seek to table a further sanctions resolution at the UN Security Council. Also, what goes for the Government of Sudan goes for the rebel groups. If they do not co-operate, if they are not willing to enter into a genuine ceasefire, then they, too, should and will be subjected to sanctions.
The question is what will those sanctions say? The Prime Minister in The Economist this week said:
“In the early 1990s we could not summon the will to act in Bosnia. It took 250,000 lives lost before we realised we had no option.”
The international community intervened in the Balkans. Has Darfur not reached a stage at which international intervention needs to be considered?
In a sense, that is what we are talking about. That is what we have been talking about throughout—the nature and form of intervention by the international community to bring these matters to a conclusion. As for what might be in a sanctions resolution, there is obviously a great deal of discussion about would be effective and what could be supported. It is important to maintain the unity of the international community in bringing pressure to bear, but, more important, to avoid having to pass a sanctions resolution if we can because we have moved forward on the hybrid force.
Bringing real and lasting peace to the people of Darfur will not be an easy process and it will not be quick, but it is still possible. The alternative—a continuation of the horrors that we have already witnessed—is no alternative at all. I will not disguise from the House the tragic fact that the international community is failing the people of Darfur. That is why I chaired a meeting of the Security Council in April on this issue. It is why we are funding the running costs of the African Mission in Sudan—AMIS—to ensure that its troops can continue to operate in Darfur, something that has several times almost been in jeopardy. It is why the UK is the second largest bilateral donor to the humanitarian effort in Darfur.
The African Union and the UN have only recently reached agreement on the detailed proposals for the hybrid force to be put to the Government of Sudan. As that Government were supposed to have accepted the principle of such a force many months ago, we are urging very speedy agreement and acceptance of those proposals and I hope that we will hear that that is the case very soon. However, if moves for peace are to succeed, all sides in Sudan and in the international community will need to show the courage to seize the opportunity that we now have and will need the commitment to follow it through for the long term. This Government, this country and, I think, this House will not flinch from that task.
As the Foreign Secretary said, today’s debate is a welcome opportunity to address the international response to the crisis in Darfur—a conflict that has brought such disaster to the people of that region and which is now, tragically, in its fourth year. In that time, the killings, forcible displacements and ethnic cleansing of the Darfurians have continued almost unabated. As a result, by our Government’s estimate, more than 4 million people have been displaced in Sudan and are now dependent on aid; for much of the time they are on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
During a visit to Darfur last year, with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), the shadow International Development Secretary, I heard at first hand tales of cruelty and suffering from victims in the refugee camps. Since then, the appalling circumstances and security situation in the region have only deteriorated, with the fragmentation of rebel groups, increased lawlessness around the camps and a heightened climate of danger for refugees and aid workers.
Aid workers and non-governmental organisations from around the world, particularly from Britain, have been engaged in a substantial humanitarian international relief effort. The Foreign Secretary rightly mentioned the latest appeal of the Disasters Emergency Committee, a coalition of 13 leading aid agencies, which has renewed its appeal for support, saying that malnutrition levels are reaching an emergency situation. The coming rainy season could bring an increase in disease as well as logistical difficulties in delivering aid.
Unfortunately, as the Foreign Secretary recognised in her speech, that resolute and determined humanitarian operation has not been matched by the international community as a whole with a diplomatic strategy that is equally resolute. As the Foreign Secretary has just said, the international community has failed the people of Darfur so far. The Opposition agree. For four years the international community, including our Government, have rightly attempted to influence the Sudanese Government with threats of “isolation” or “negative consequences”, but beyond the commitment to a future UN force there has not yet been a clear united strategy and there has been no decisive action. There have been no deadlines and no penalties.
Nine months have passed since the Security Council resolution authorising the deployment of a UN force to Sudan that Khartoum continues to reject—we shall see what the Sudanese response is to the latest agreement between the African Union and the UN, to which the Foreign Secretary referred. In some quarters, however, including at the UN, it seems that there are still calls for the Sudanese Government to be given “more time”, despite the fact that 80,000 people were driven from their homes in February alone, despite the fact that the Government of Sudan continue to conduct aerial bombing campaigns in Darfur and violate the UN arms embargo by using planes disguised in UN colours, and even though the conflict is spreading dangerously to Chad and the Central African Republic.
I am sure that we are agreed in the House about our great concern and about the failure so far of the international community. Let us be clear that Darfur cannot afford another round of toothless diplomacy. It does not appear to be possible to trust the Sudanese Government to keep their promises or to take concrete steps to end the killing. The UK Government have recognised that pattern of behaviour in the Government of Sudan, but have so far been unable, with their international partners, to break the cycle. Although the Opposition wholeheartedly support the Government’s efforts in the region, and acknowledge the immense difficulties surrounding the negotiations for a UN force and all the international negotiations, we believe it is certainly time for Britain, along with its international partners, to adopt a more determined approach to resolve the crisis. The Foreign Secretary says that our efforts must be redoubled and that the Government’s efforts will be redoubled. If that is the case, they will have the strong support of the Opposition.
Time and again, President Bashir has promised to co-operate with international efforts to end the conflict, in order to relieve the diplomatic and economic pressures on him, only to go back on his word and openly obstruct those efforts as soon as international pressure has abated. Those tactics have bought his Government time to conduct military offensives against rebels, to wreak carnage on the people of Darfur, to fund and incite rebellions in neighbouring countries and to impede the delivery of UN aid to internally displaced people. So the task of Britain and the international community must be to elicit a new set of responses by presenting the Sudanese Government with an entirely different political and economic reality.
Regrettably, the Sudanese Government have so far been able to rely on divisions in the international community to shield them from serious penalties. Two years ago, the Security Council ruled that anyone impeding the peace process in Darfur or committing atrocities against civilians would be subject to UN sanctions, including an assets freeze and a travel ban; but to date, only four individuals have been designated and none of them is a member of the Government of Sudan.
The approach of our own Government on one or two aspects—I say this in the context of the general support that we have given them—has appeared inconsistent. In July 2006, the Foreign Secretary said that it was UK policy to pursue an arms embargo for the whole of Sudan. In November 2006, she said in a subsequent written answer to me that there were no plans to extend the arms embargo, only to come full circle again in March this year by stating that the UK would be pushing for a countrywide arms embargo in Sudan. The Secretary of State for International Development shakes his head, and he might want to clear that up in the wind-up, if he disagrees with that analysis.
In April, the Foreign Secretary said:
“If we don’t see progress in days rather than weeks, we have to move ahead with a fresh sanctions resolution.”
Days have now turned into weeks. Of course, we are awaiting the agreement on the deployment of the AU-UN force, but people in refugee camps might be forgiven for finding ministerial words around the world increasingly empty.
In the meantime, hope of progress on an internal political solution has receded. With each week that passes, reaching a political settlement in Darfur seems to become more, not less, difficult, as increasing numbers of people have become displaced and further groups have been drawn into the conflict. According to the US special envoy to Darfur, as many as 15 rebel factions are now operating in Darfur, all of which will need to be coaxed into a peace agreement.
The Sudanese Government appear to believe that the international community lacks the will to make its threats a reality. They will continue to do so, unless the Security Council sends a clear message that there will be specific and escalating costs to their actions. We believe that it is therefore essential that the Security Council make it clear to the Government of Sudan that a clear package of penalties has been prepared and will be implemented if they do not allow a robust peacekeeping force in Darfur. That means swiftly agreeing and implementing, if necessary, a UN resolution that widens the assets freeze and travel ban to include members of the Sudanese leadership, imposes an arms embargo on the whole country, mandates the imposition of a no-fly zone in Darfur and sets a deadline for the Government of Sudan to allow the deployment of the UN forces, in co-operation with the AU. Pressure from the international community should be unrelenting, until the Sudanese Government permanently and verifiably stop all air and ground attacks and allow the deployment of those UN forces.
The right hon. Gentleman’s contribution is, as usual, very interesting. If the UN is unable to pass such a resolution, does he envisage a position where the UK Government, either by themselves or with one or two like-minded countries, take unilateral action without UN support?
I want to come on in a moment to what I think European Union nations can do, which is relevant to the hon. Gentleman’s point. Of course, as the Foreign Secretary has said, the emphasis must be on maintaining international agreement in the Security Council as far as possible, although it is incumbent on us, particularly in opposition, to call for what we believe the Security Council should be doing. That is, of course, what I am setting out in this debate, but if that does not happen and if the situation in Darfur continues, there are other things that we can do, and if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will come to those things in a few minutes’ time.
My right hon. Friend made reference to a no-fly zone. Is there not a danger with the Security Council that, all too often, what has been put before the Security Council are resolutions that it has believed will attract the support of China and Russia? Hence no resolution on a no-fly zone has been proposed, whereas we ought to be proposing those resolutions that we think will work.
One of the most obscene sights that I have seen in my life is that of airfields in Darfur where on one side UN planes are going around to take relief and on the other side helicopter gunships are there to murder people. That is crazy.
I share my hon. Friend’s feelings and I, like him, was utterly appalled to see that. I am setting out what we believe it would be right to do. That is not to say that tactical calculations are not sometimes made in the Security Council about what can practically be achieved. However, if Britain, France and the United States can speak with a strong voice that makes clear what we believe would be right, it will be an important element of getting the UN Security Council to do the right things. The aim of such a policy should be to ensure that the Government of Sudan, the Janjaweed militia and non-signatory Darfur rebels return to negotiations.
The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have confirmed repeatedly that it is UK policy to seek a new Security Council resolution in New York to impose further targeted sanctions and to extend the arms embargo to the whole country—some statements have referred to the whole country. However, no resolution has yet materialised, despite the hopes that were raised during the UK’s presidency of the Security Council in April. I know that the Foreign Secretary chaired a specific meeting about the situation. When the International Development Secretary winds up the debate, I hope that he will give the House greater detail about the reasons for the failure to agree a new resolution and the terms of any resolution that we might seek. In particular, if pressure is to be put on Khartoum, is there not a pressing need for any resolution to include a deadline for Sudan to accept the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers? I am grateful that the Foreign Secretary seems to be indicating assent to that.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the Government of Sudan’s agreement in principle to the heavy support package phase, which was undoubtedly a welcome development. While, in theory, that means that Sudan will finally allow the UN to send personnel and equipment to facilitate a combined UN and African deployment of 20,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, there is still no guarantee that that Government will agree to the deployment itself. This is the time not to relax the pressure on Sudan, but to increase the pressure on its Ministers.
The Prime Minister said in November 2006 that it was “important” to consider imposing a no-fly zone over Darfur, which is a point that has already come up in the debate. In a written answer to me on 10 May, the Foreign Secretary said:
“We continue to consider the possibility of imposing a no fly zone.”—[Official Report, 10 May 2007; Vol. 460, c. 400W.]
When the International Development Secretary makes his winding-up speech, will he tell us the outcome of those considerations and what could be done to implement a no-fly zone?
Until the UN force is deployed, it remains the case that the African Union forces that are tasked with keeping the peace in Darfur are severely under-resourced and that its soldiers face a rising threat from militia and rebel groups operating with relative impunity. Increased support for the AU should thus be an urgent priority of the international community and we hope that the Government will always give serious consideration to its requests. I know that Ministers will agree that of equal importance is the revitalisation of the moribund peace process and that AU-UN mediation teams should prepare for the next round of talks by building an international consensus, working with rebel movements, broadening participation from key Darfur constituencies and modelling the mediation process on the comprehensive peace agreement.
The conflict has shown an alarming tendency to transmit itself through the different tribal groups that span Sudan’s national boundaries, thus bringing the same instabilities into neighbouring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic. Worryingly, there is an increasingly pessimistic outlook for the horn of Africa region as a whole. Against that terrible background, more effort is clearly required—the Foreign Secretary talked of more effort—to convince our international partners to increase pressure on President Bashir. Like the Foreign Secretary, we welcome signs of China playing a more positive role to bring its influence to bear in the right direction. However, it is fair to point out that a recent report by Amnesty International alleged that China was selling arms to Darfur in direct contravention of the UN arms embargo. We will all need to continue to remind China of the fact that its interests in the region are best protected by united action and bringing a swift end to conflict in the region. The same applies to any other countries that are accused of breaking the embargo.
More disappointing—this relates to the question of what else can be done that was raised by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan)—is the failure of the EU and its member states to join the United States in compiling a more comprehensive set of measures. Financial restrictions against the Sudanese Government have been imposed by the United States since 1990, but Sudan has successfully circumvented them by using its trading relationships with China, India, various Arab states, Japan and the European Union. Britain should work with its European allies to consider the imposition of further sanctions through the EU framework, if those objectives cannot be achieved through the United Nations, such as extending the travel ban and asset freeze to cover all individuals named in the UN commission of inquiry and the panel of experts reports, and targeting certain companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese Government. The 19 concluding Council statements on the Darfur situation that were made on behalf of EU Foreign Ministers were inadequate demonstrations to the Khartoum regime of European resolve to address the crisis.
The Foreign Secretary referred to France. We should welcome the position taken by President Sarkozy in his election campaign. He urged action so that
“Darfur does not remain a shameful page on our history”.
He has appointed a long-standing champion of human rights as the Foreign Minister of France. The Foreign Secretary said that she was working closely with the new French Government. Given the new Administration in France, as we look for stronger action by EU nations, surely the time has come for Britain and France to demonstrate real leadership together in Europe on this issue. We look to the Foreign Secretary to do so with her French counterpart.
What needs to be done? We need the implementation of peacekeeping measures to protect the millions of displaced refugees. All parties need to be brought together to establish a lasting and secure peace, without which the Darfuris people will continue to be imprisoned in their own land. We need to prevent tensions from escalating in the area across south Sudan and in Chad and the Central African Republic. A no-fly zone needs to be imposed by way of a UN mandate over the whole of the region.
We should also seek to do more through stronger EU action. Britain should encourage and support the work of Sudan Divestment UK and thereby take a further step in carefully targeting companies that help to support the position of the Sudanese Government, while ensuring that development goals are not harmed. We believe that the time has come for the UK to make a formal policy of encouraging companies with financial ties with the Sudanese Government, or government-related projects, to reconsider those links.
We should not forget that the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb following investigations that concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that they were responsible for murder, rape, torture, the forced displacement of entire villages, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. As the territorial state, the Government of Sudan have a legal duty to arrest those men. However, given their record of co-operation with the international community, it is reasonable to expect that they will not comply. That strengthens the case for sanctions to put pressure on the Government of Sudan. We hope that the UK Government will confirm that any new Security Council resolution that they would seek would include an obligation for Sudan to hand over those people.
We should bear it in mind that a long-term solution to the crisis in Darfur will not be achieved without a comprehensive settlement of all Sudan’s regional tensions. Despite the Government’s efforts in recent years, the international diplomatic response to the many crises in Sudan has too often been not co-ordinated, reactive and ineffective. When a crisis erupts in one part of the country that hits the headlines, politicians in the western world react and then the world’s attention moves on. Yesterday it was the north-south conflict and today it is Darfur. Tomorrow, it might be the simmering eastern region.
We need a co-ordinated diplomatic approach to Sudan through which the west, China and key regional players can work on a long-term strategy towards that country. That must include a clear vision of where we want Sudan to be in 10 years: peaceful, stable, democratic and secure. It must include a clear scale of incentives and disincentives for Khartoum, with rewards for progress and sanctions for unconstructive steps. When the international community has had a clear goal, and has acted as one, it has made a real difference. Concerted international pressure was crucial to the signing of the north-south comprehensive peace agreement in 2005, but on Darfur, where the international community has sometimes been divided, and where it has had diverse goals and limited leverage, it has proved much less effective.
We call on the Government to intensify their efforts to promote a long-term, co-ordinated international strategy. Indeed, they should redouble those efforts, as the Foreign Secretary has pledged to do today. The choice is clear: we can continue as we have done, and face a series of continuing crises in the next decade with a haphazard, reactive, international firefighting response, or we can have a serious, well thought-through strategy for putting Sudan on the path to peace and democratisation. That path is obviously the one that we should take.
As always, it is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). I agree with much of what he said about the European Union. What he said about China was extremely important, and I hope to return to that subject later. I also welcome the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. As the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks will understand, we on the Back Benches can be much more robust in our comments on the role of the Sudanese Government than the Foreign Secretary can be expected to be, as she is necessarily involved in delicate negotiations in the European Union, China and other places. However, I do not think he will be disappointed with the points I shall make. The British people are not unaware of the indolence, at the very least, of the Sudanese Government in the face of one of the gravest crises in our lifetime—and it is a crisis that was entirely avoidable.
My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development have spent a great deal of time on the important issues that we are considering, and their activities reflect the repugnance of the British people when, day after day, they see on television the killings, the misplaced people, the emaciated children, and people with sheer fear in their eyes. In this age, people do not consider Darfur a far-off region about which we know little; the British people want and expect Parliament to respond to their concerns. We Back Benchers have considerable support for what we say on the subject. The United Nations has said that 200,000 people have died, and that at least 2 million people have been driven from their homes. We hear of people, euphemistically described as “internally displaced persons”, in camps and we can only imagine the squalor in which they have to live. They are without the humanitarian assistance that I know the Department for International Development wants to deliver and that the House would support. However, although we see the deprivation and squalor, the aid agencies, for which of course we have enormous regard and respect, are not in a position to speak openly about the evidence that is before their eyes.
I congratulate the aid agencies on what they are seeking to do in a difficult situation, but the fact is that they remain hampered by aerial bombings, by visa restrictions, including restrictions on essential personnel, by the absence of open dialogue, which would enable us to identify the problems and to seek to support the agencies, and by the veil of silence on the subject of their relationship with the Government of Sudan and the support that the agencies are entitled to expect.
It gives me no pleasure to refer the House to a recent survey by Reuters AlertNet, which interviewed 46 international aid agencies. Before I set out the responses, I repeat that I have enormous regard for the non-governmental organisations and aid agencies involved, and none of what I have to say implies any criticism of them. The survey found that 65 per cent. of the agencies could not speak openly about the humanitarian situation, and 78 per cent. could not talk about what was behind the attacks. Some 59 per cent. said that they could not speak about restrictions on the work that they were trying to do, and 70 per cent. could not comment on the incidence of rape. That is clearly a wholly repugnant situation. Today, we want to give the people working on the front line the message that they have the support of the House, that we are committed to humanitarian assistance, and that we will not tolerate the kind of impediments that they are experiencing.
On the strategy of the international community, to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks referred, I accept that there has to be a clear humanitarian strategy alongside a diplomatic one. There is considerable support for our call for the matter to be considered urgent. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, spoke clearly about demanding an end to aerial bombardments by the Sudanese Government; there were no reservations in what he had to say. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in condemning the killings of hundreds of people, pointed out that even schoolchildren had been wounded in attacks. That is something that the international community will rightly refuse to accept.
Two weeks ago, a devastating report was published by Amnesty International, and I shall highlight two important points that it makes. First, it said:
“Rapes of women by Janjaweed militias in Darfur remained systematic…The perpetrators benefited from almost complete impunity…Authorities routinely took no effective action to investigate women’s complaints of rape. At worst, raped women were arrested for adultery”.
Secondly, the report accused the Government of Sudan of having
“indiscriminately or directly bombed civilians.”
For far too long—not for weeks, or even for months, but for years—the Janjaweed militia has been involved in such activities, and that has to be condemned. It is entirely unacceptable. Jodie Williams, who was awarded the Nobel peace prize, described those activities as war crimes, and her representations were so impressive that the UN Human Rights Council set up a group of seven distinguished people, who have met representatives from the Sudanese Government and who are to report in Geneva in a few weeks’ time. I assume that it will be a comprehensive report, and I trust that what they have to say will be taken seriously by the international community. If, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said at the start of her speech, there remains a challenge to the international community, the report will underline that fact.
I, too, accept the requirement for the African Union-UN hybrid force. I have heard different figures—today, we heard the figure of 17,000 and later of 20,000—and UN spokespeople have suggested a figure of 23,000. Darfur considers all those figures to be far too high, yet we simply cannot deal with the situation unless there is an AU-UN presence of that size. The problems are too great for the limited numbers that the Sudanese Government are prepared to accept. In congratulating my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on her involvement, may I say that the UN is absolutely right to ask many different countries to support the objectives that it has set—not only African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria, although their involvement would be welcome, but such countries as Iran, Pakistan and China, which have nuclear weapons and are involved in crises elsewhere? If they are involved in efforts to seek a solution to Darfur, that can only be helpful in other regions.
Recently, Mr. Bernard Kouchner, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, offered a proposal—it obviously carries greater weight because he is a co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières—for a contact group of nations. That is something that the Government might be willing to consider, and I should like to hear their response. Whatever approach we make, however, there is—this point was made by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, and, I am sure, it will be made by others—a requirement, if we can do it, for a much stronger UN resolution. One reason that the Sudanese Government have not acted as we would wish is that that strength—and we want it to be there—is not apparent. The visit by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to China is important because, for a number of reasons, China has a great interest in Sudan. If a further attempt is made to achieve a stronger resolution, I do not believe that China would refuse to support it or, on the other hand, would decide to exercise its veto. Over the past 30 years—I accept what the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks said about the Chinese record on human rights—China has only twice exercised a solo veto. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has visited the country. I would not expect her to tell the House everything that was discussed, but China and the other countries that I have mentioned could exercise considerable influence in reaching peace in a troubled region of Sudan.
I accept that the issues that we are discussing and have discussed in the past—I have tabled questions on them and have participated in debates on them in the House since 2004—are complex, but it is right to denounce any impediments to humanitarian aid, which are simply unacceptable. We should endorse the proposal for a no-fly zone and make sure that it is properly monitored. We should bring to task those accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court. We all know—and I respect very much my right hon. Friends’ position—that negotiations can take months, but people are dying daily, and our constituents want to know what we are doing about that. We need the urgent presence of a viable peacekeeping force. Above all, not just for Parliament and the UK, but for others observing what has happened in Darfur and in the neighbouring regions and countries at a stage in the millennium when we wish to support and give strength to the UN, something has taken place that is entirely unacceptable. It would be easy, given the problems—the killings, the maimings, the refugee camps and the rest—to wash our hands of the issue and say that very little can be done. However, most of us in the Chamber, and those of our constituents who support us, believe that the time has come to strengthen our position, give our support to those who can act and say, above all, to those who have influence in these matters, particularly the Sudanese Government, that we have concluded that we need action this day and that enough is enough.
It is a pleasure and privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), who has a long and distinguished career and interest in this field. He spoke about many themes, to some of which I will inevitably return. However, I particularly wish to pick up his point about the need to support and recognise the efforts of those who volunteer for the humanitarian front line and take great risks in working alongside those who are suffering in Darfur. We must never lose sight of what they do.
When, in 2001, the Prime Minister famously described Africa as
“a scar on the conscience of the world”,
there were many reasons for his choice his words. Tragically, the observation has lost none of its power or truth in the intervening years. To this day, across the continent, there is much still to shock and shame us, but in Sudan in general and in Darfur in particular, it is not so much a scar as a gaping wound that we have to address. The decision to hold a debate on the subject is therefore welcome, as is the fact that the Foreign and International Development Secretaries are both participating in it.
Many international crises and atrocities demand our attention: Zimbabwe, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Burma. All those and many more have often distracted attention from the horrors of Darfur, so our debate rightly serves to put the unconscionable and unforgivable suffering of the people of that region at the heart of our political agenda. We have already heard that at least 200,000 people have been murdered and, indeed, that the true figure may be much higher. That is the equivalent of the population of a city such as Swansea, Aberdeen or Northampton being wiped out. We have heard, too, that beyond those who have lost their lives, at least another 2 million people have been displaced and—it is a familiar statistic—4 million rely on some form of humanitarian assistance. The word “displaced” is one of those dry technical terms that sanitises the brutality inflicted on people, mostly women and children, who are subjected to appalling mistreatment, including rape and sexual abuse, as if the abysmal conditions of the refugee camps were not enough.
The humanitarian disaster in Darfur ought to be enough on its own to motivate all of us to search tirelessly for a solution, but, more selfishly, the crisis goes beyond the region, threatening neighbouring countries and consequently our collective international peace and security. It has already spilled over into Chad, where 200,000 refugees create untold pressures on a fragile state. There is barely a neighbour in the region that is not affected, and hardly a country without some further internal conflict of its own. Indeed, it does not require much imagination to see that there is a real danger of escalation into disastrous regional conflict.
It was not meant to be like this. The signing of the Darfur peace agreement this time last year and the passage of Security Council resolution 1706 were hailed as great successes. Nobody can fault the integrity of the diplomatic efforts or the investment of international political capital which the process involved—not least on the part of the Secretary of State for International Development—but the charities, the NGOs and the official bodies that work in the region all report a worsening situation ever since. Attacks on civilians have increased and the need for aid is multiplying, yet restrictions on humanitarian access have grown and attacks on NGO staff, including abductions, hijackings and beatings, have risen rapidly.
The upshot is the lowest level of humanitarian access since the beginning of the conflict, with the UN recently estimating that almost one in four people cannot access humanitarian assistance. In these circumstances, it is no surprise that the Disasters Emergency Committee, which brings together Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children and many others, has launched a major appeal to help people in Darfur. Like the Foreign Secretary, the shadow Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, I support its efforts and endorse its appeal and campaigns to raise further money for Darfur.
People across the United Kingdom have a crucial role to play, but our Government and the international community have additional significant responsibilities. We must be in no doubt that establishing greater security on the ground and reinvigorating the political process are the key steps towards building a sustainable and lasting solution to the crisis. That is easily said, and it would be difficult enough where there was a political will to do so, but it is all the more complex when the Government of Sudan are set against it. As has been noted, they failed to honour their previous commitments, they obstructed the deployment of the African Union and United Nations hybrid force, and they are clearly hindering attempts to bring the rebel groups together as a precursor to a new political process.
The most important element in tackling the humanitarian crisis is the deployment of that hybrid AU-UN force, and the continued refusal by the Khartoum Government to allow the deployment of the force is utterly disgraceful. Although they recently agreed to support the deployment of the UN heavy support package, that agreement has still to be implemented. That must be our first priority, coupled with the delivery of adequate financial resources in order to reinforce the African Union mission in Sudan. It is an important stepping stone towards the full deployment of the hybrid force.
In parallel, there should be a serious examination of the possibility of establishing an internationally monitored no-fly zone for military aircraft, supported by the United Nations. Some means must be found to halt the continued bombings and aerial attacks by Sudanese forces. I recognise that there are serious logistical challenges to giving effect to such a proposal, and there are legitimate concerns from some of the NGOs about the complexities involved and the need to allow continued humanitarian access. However, air power is being used by the Sudanese to carry out their murderous campaigns and there must be serious efforts to bring that to a halt.
It is not just in the military arena that the international community has made little progress. It is also true, as the Foreign Secretary acknowledged, in the diplomatic sphere. The new Secretary-General of the United Nations has not been able to coax the parties to develop any kind of momentum towards peace, so his efforts have to be backed up by actions that the Sudanese authorities can understand. We should welcome President Bush’s determination, in response to high profile campaigns in the United States, to see a new Security Council resolution and his announcement of unilateral US sanctions. Now is the time for the United Kingdom and the European Union to follow the US lead and to pursue a reinforced sanctions package. How else are we to get it through to the regime that we mean business?
Is it not notable that as soon as President Bush came forward with that package of enhanced sanctions, it was immediately criticised by both Russia and China? That demonstrates the difficulty facing the international community if we are dependent upon Russia and China in international law to get any resolution through the Security Council.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I shall return to the matter and consider other ways that may get round the situation in the United Nations if we reach an impasse. He is right to highlight some of the practical and legal problems that confront us.
As the shadow Foreign Secretary and others have highlighted, the extension of sanctions must include further travel bans and asset freezes on individuals in the Government of Sudan and in the rebel groups. It is unacceptable that so far there are so few people on those lists. We should also consider, as set out in early-day motion 12, which the shadow Foreign Secretary instigated,
“action against the offshore and international network of businesses owned by and linked to the government of Sudan”.
There is a great deal of business going on there which supports the regime. We should take steps to sort that out.
As others have said, a tightening of the arms embargo is needed. We have heard that Amnesty International last month exposed the extent to which the existing bans are being flouted, and in particular highlighted the roles of China and Russia. Photographs of Russian helicopters and Chinese fighter jets taken earlier this year make the point. The report also suggests that a Russian-built Antonov military plane, in all-white livery—in contravention of Geneva conventions—was “highly likely” to have been used in bombing in Darfur. There have been denials by both Governments, but at the very least the report highlights damaging weaknesses in the international arms regime. I am sure the Government will have studied the detailed proposals from Amnesty International. I hope the Secretary of State for International Development will give us his response to them when he replies to the debate.
Beyond our concerns about the arms embargo, we must surely look at measures aimed at international investment in Sudan’s petroleum industry. Of course, restrictions on investment, let alone divestment, raise difficulties. It is an approach only to be considered in extremis, as we have seen in Burma, but surely that is the situation that we have reached in Sudan.
The early-day motion tabled by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), me and others on a cross-party basis states that
“the government of Sudan is financially and strategically supporting . . . atrocities through its oil revenues”
“according to the World Bank and sources within Sudan, between 60 to 80 per cent. of the government of Sudan’s revenue is spent on the military”.
We have seen a small step taken by Rolls-Royce, which is to end its involvement in Sudan. We must now look for further targeted divestment from areas which
“impart minimal benefit to the country’s people”.
In the words of the early-day motion, it is time for the Government to
“look into ways of changing national and international business behaviour in the face of the manifest gross violations of human rights.”
There will be debate about how such an approach affects ordinary people, and how it plays into the comprehensive peace agreement which ended the north-south war, so great care must be taken, but we must show our intent to examine and pursue this option vigorously. That of itself will send a strong signal to the Government in Sudan.
As I said in response to the intervention, I shall briefly consider the roles of other Governments. Clearly, given the scale of their investment and ambitions, China and Russia’s roles are crucial in Sudan. Our approach to Beijing and Moscow must be crystal clear. Lip service to Security Council resolutions is not enough. Given those two countries’ joint roles in investment and military support, we are entitled to be very concerned about their agendas.
The Foreign Secretary recently described China’s role in Sudan as “positive”. Many of us will require convincing of that. So far, little new evidence has been offered to support a sanguine interpretation of China’s intentions. We must confront the Chinese about their responsibilities and make sure that they act with us, not against us.
In debating the immediate military and sanctions priorities, it is essential, as the Foreign Secretary has said, not to lose sight of the broader international contributions that are necessary. The political process in Darfur needs to be completely renewed if there is ever to be a lasting settlement. The work of the envoys needs everyone’s support, backed up by serious measures. The European Union and the British Government must play their part in all this. The EU’s High Representative, Javier Solana, has already indicated that the EU is “open to consider” further sanctions. That is not enough.
By the time of the European Council later this month, the EU needs to agree a further, substantive and targeted sanctions package that complements President Bush’s announcement last week. The Prime Minister has said that we should pursue sanctions at the UN level, and I certainly endorse that view. Given the role of Russia and China in Sudan, however, it is not at all certain that further UN sanctions will or can be imposed. There is precedent for such EU action. Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burma are all examples of the EU having imposed sanctions ahead of, or in the absence of, United Nations measures. Therefore, if agreement cannot be reached there quickly, the implementation of EU sanctions must go ahead.
There is now a great expectation among our constituents and across the world that something will be done about the continuing desperate situation in Darfur. To many, it is clear that the Government of Sudan are committing genocide. We can debate the technicalities, but, certainly, there appear to be countless acts committed with the
“intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”,
as article 2 of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide puts it. Whatever the debate on that, it is clear that we have a moral duty to act and to do so now. The Foreign Secretary was right to say that the international community has failed Darfur. She also mentioned the newly established responsibility to protect, as put forward in the United Nations. If that is to be anything more than a high but meaningless principle, it must surely be put into effect in Darfur.
I very much welcome the decision to hold this debate in Government time, much as I deplore the fact that such a debate is necessary. We are debating the tragedy of Darfur, a current humanitarian catastrophe—perhaps the greatest current humanitarian catastrophe—and, indeed, a genocide. International efforts have failed to make the necessary impact, and if the debate is about nothing else, it must be about both exposing what is happening in Darfur and considering what further actions could be taken internationally and the possible role of our Government in that.
The history of Sudan is complex and difficult. Today’s debate, however, focuses on Darfur. We should remember that since 2003, following rebel action, the Sudanese Government decided to embark on aerial bombardment of Darfur, and to arm the nomadic Arab militias, the Janjaweed, to dispossess the people of Darfur. Riding on horses and camels, they have inflicted murder, dispossession and rape. The consequence has been 400,000 dead, 2 million displaced people and an estimated 4 million people dependent on international aid, with more than 200,000 Darfuris now refugees in Chad.
The Aegis Trust, which has done so much to publicise the atrocities of Darfur, has referred to the
“systematic use of aerial bombardment of villages and surrounding areas and burning of villages by Janjaweed militiamen who loot, slaughter and rape”.
The victims of that slaughter and rape have included many women and children. The women must choose whether they dare go out to gather firewood or food, as they face the risk of repeated rapes, which the perpetrators are allowed to carry out with impunity. It is deplorable, and amazing, that those atrocities, which have taken place over the past four years, have until recently received little publicity to capture the public imagination. I wonder where are the marches, meetings and rallies demanding action to stop such abominations.
Sadly, as we know, the carnage continues. The causes of the conflict are many, but they include the marginalisation by those from the north, who are of mainly Arab ethnicity, of Darfur’s mainly black African majority, who feel that they do not have a fair deal. Other causes include disputed claims to scarce resources by various groups, and a background of long civil war, to which reference has been made during the debate. Clearly, the actions taken internationally have been ineffective. Efforts have been made, but the problem continues. Actions have included the presence of the African Union protection force—AMIS—the Darfur peace agreement, United Nations Security Council resolution 1706, and the involvement of the International Criminal Court, which has indicted a Sudanese Government Minister and his assistant.
The killing continues, and as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), the recent Amnesty International report spells out in graphic detail the continuing murders, pillage and rapes. The question before us must be: what needs to be done, and who should take that action? Clearly, new, stronger and more targeted action is needed. Stronger action is needed to persuade or, if persuasion is not possible, force the Sudanese Government to permit the AU-UN force to operate. They have agreed that such a force can operate, but have failed to carry out their promises.
Engagement with the political process, if that is possible to achieve, is also needed to bring in all the rebel groups. Perhaps that can be done through AU-UN mediation. A more effective, stronger arms embargo is of extreme importance. Stronger, more focused sanctions are needed, perhaps against the Sudanese Government, and particularly on the petroleum sector, which provides the Sudanese Government with their main revenues to support the Janjaweed. We should also look again at sanctions on the businesses conducted by the ruling National Congress party, because those businesses provide the revenues to fund much of the conflict. We should consider travel bans and freezing the assets of individuals who have been identified as guilty of atrocities.
The implementation of a no-fly zone over Darfur should be pursued to prevent the aerial bombardment of displaced people. Reference has been made to the role of China and Russia, and more attention should be given to that. The position taken by China in particular, in pursuing its own interests at the expense of the lives of many people in Darfur and Sudan, should be given more exposure. The UN has a responsibility to protect, and while sanctions are certainly the preferred method to resolve this dreadful conflict, the UN must consider that responsibility, which would include seeking the consent of the Chad Government to deploy a rapid reaction force on their borders with Sudan, as well as considering what other measures might be needed to bring peace.
Those are just some of the measures necessary to try to resolve a conflict that is ongoing and costing so many lives. There may be others, but if we consider those measures alone, we can see that the European Union and the United Nations need to become more involved, focused and active in trying to bring about change.
At the beginning of my contribution, I commented that I was concerned and disappointed that little public attention has been given to this ongoing and dreadful conflict. I commend and compliment the Aegis Trust, which, over the years, has done much to bring the enormity of what is happening to public attention. I also commend the campaigns on Darfur that are being conducted by the National Union of Students, particularly the work being done by the Liverpool guild of students. Those campaigns have taken the form of holding public meetings to publicise what is happening and lobbying a wide range of people, including Members of Parliament, to ask for more action to be taken. It should be noted that while perhaps those who should have been doing more have not done so, the NUS, the Liverpool guild of students and others throughout the country have done what they thought was possible. They should be commended for that.
One of the many obscenities in relation to Darfur—it has been highlighted by the Aegis Trust, which has done excellent work—is that mass killing of a particular racial group is classed as genocide, but if it is not aimed at a particular racial group, as the international community under international law seems to say is the case in Darfur, it is not classed as genocide and is therefore seen by the international community as being a lower order of crime. What is happening in Darfur is as terrible as if it were genocide. The fact that it does not fit into some convenient legal definition should not make it any less terrible a crime than happened in the holocaust with Jews or others.
What is happening in Darfur is indefensible and unacceptable, and we should not only be appalled by it but be ready and willing to take action to stop it. Arguably, it is indeed genocide—but whatever label is attached to it, it is unacceptable and something that we need to act on.
I think that all of us here today can agree that the status quo is unacceptable, and that what has happened internationally so far has not been sufficient. I call on our Government to continue the good work that they have been doing and to take the lead in intensifying international efforts to bring peace to the people of Darfur, to stop the killing, and to allow the country of Sudan to have a prosperous future for all its people.
This is a much needed debate. It is one of those many occasions when I feel sorry that the Chamber is organised in a confrontational way with Benches on either side, because I suspect that this is one of those subjects where the whole House agrees on the main issues, and should be seen to be trying to muster support.
Those of us who have visited Darfur—many in the Chamber have done so—can give witness and testament to what they have seen. As has been well documented and reported the humanitarian crisis is awful and continues to get worse. That is clear from all the representations that we are receiving from non-governmental organisations such as Save the Children and Christian Aid.
I want to use this opportunity to raise some broader concerns about intervention in support of humanitarian assistance. The Foreign Secretary spoke about the responsibility to protect. That is a concept that the Prime Minister first developed in a speech in Chicago a few years ago, for which he must take great credit. As the Foreign Secretary said, the UN resolution on Darfur was the first time that the concept had been introduced into international law. However, there is no logic in the implementation of the responsibility to protect; it is implemented largely on an ad hoc basis and there has never been any consistency. Every time we have had an international humanitarian crisis, whether in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or wherever, intervention has taken place on a somewhat ad hoc basis with a different combination of players. That is partly a consequence of political will and partly of the fact that intervention often has to be military intervention, and very few countries have the necessary military lift capacity to intervene effectively in that way.
Last week the Prime Minister was in Sierra Leone, rightly receiving plaudits for what the UK had done in leading the intervention in Sierra Leone to bring an end to the conflict and killings there. We were able to do so largely because the UK had the necessary military capacity. One of the difficulties with Darfur was that the UK and the US found themselves so involved in Iraq that there was no question of military intervention in Darfur, even had that been thought to be the appropriate response. However, I cannot understand why the international community has not imposed a no-fly zone on Darfur. We know that a no-fly zone works effectively, as it did for a considerable period in protecting the Kurdish community in northern Iraq before military intervention by the coalition.
As one of those who voted against the war in Iraq, I suggest that if the UN Security Council does not operate effectively as an international law-making body there will be an increasing tendency for coalitions of the willing to act outside the parameters of international law, because they will see that as the only way in which they can take action. We are dependent on the effectiveness of the Security Council, which is in turn dependent on every one of its members, including Russia and China. It is a matter of record that Russia and China have been exporting defence equipment to Sudan. The 2005 trade figures show that China sold $24 million-worth, and Russia sold $21 million-worth, of military equipment to Sudan. Some 90 per cent. of Sudan’s exports are to China.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that China cannot have it both ways? It must sign up to being part of the solution in Sudan. If it fails to do so, we should be thinking about sanctions on China. In a few years’ time, it has the Olympic games. Surely we should raise the spectre of that to ensure that we get its full co-operation in securing a deal on Sudan.
I entirely agree that China is a major key to this. Indeed, some 100 US Congress Members recently sent a strongly worded letter to China’s President saying that the Beijing 2008 Olympic games could be affected if China fails to try to halt the bloodshed in Darfur. Our colleagues in Congress said:
“It would be a disaster for China if the Games were to be marred by protests, from concerned individuals and groups, who will undoubtedly link your government to the continued atrocities in Darfur, if there is no significant improvement in the conditions…unless China does its part to ensure that the government of Sudan accepts the best and most reasonable path to peace, history will judge your government as having bank-rolled a genocide.”
The all-party group on China, of which I happen to be a vice-chairman, is the largest all-party group in the House after the all-party group on America. It behoves us to try to exert what influence we can on China. The Olympic games are coming up. China maintains that the 21st century will be the century of Asia. If it believes that, it behoves it to take a much greater lead in international affairs, in peacekeeping, and in seeking to establish a way forward whereby the Government of Sudan cannot veto what is happening in Darfur.
Last week, President Bush announced that the United States would be looking to take tougher sanctions against Sudan. Interestingly, China and Russia immediately signalled opposition to US proposals for tabling a fresh UN Security Council resolution, expanding an embargo on arms sales to Sudan, and establishing a no-fly zone over Darfur. I would have thought that an embargo on arms to Darfur and a no-fly zone were no-brainers for the whole international community. The fact that neither Russia nor China is willing to support a no-fly zone or an arms embargo is a matter of considerable concern.
It is a matter of record that China and Russia have never vetoed sanctions, but the US and the UK have not suggested them because of the likelihood of a veto. I do not criticise the Foreign Secretary for that, but one can see the equivocation of Foreign Ministers, who know in their heart of hearts that a solution such as a no-fly zone would be useful, but recognise that it is unlikely to get passed and therefore ponder whether it is better to propose it, with the risk that it could be voted down, or not to suggest it.
China’s attitude has changed slightly. It has appointed a special envoy to Darfur and it backs the peacekeepers. I suspect that that is born of a mixture of economic self-interest—safeguarding Chinese investments in Sudan—and, more interestingly, an anxiety that the Beijing Olympics could be overshadowed by the accusation that China is bankrolling genocide. Human rights groups, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch—as I have already said, the US Senate has done this too—have used the link between the Olympics and the position in Darfur as a mechanism to make China move. I understand that when Lord Hannay recently spoke to the Conservative party Human Rights Commission, he made it clear that he believed that pressure from groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch had caused China to make some movement. China is a large part of the key to progress in Darfur—90 per cent. of Sudan’s exports are to China.
Our recent focus has been on the make-up of the peacekeeping mission to Darfur. The problem is that there is no point in having a peacekeeping mission unless there is a peace to keep. To date, there has been no peace to keep, and that is unbelievably frustrating. Five peace deals have been started for Darfur, and they all have shorthand names. Talks have been held in Libya and Eritrea, and there is now a new United Nations deal, led by the special envoys, with US and UK backing, but no process has yet been completed. The international community needs to get behind one of those peace plans—I hope that it is the UN peace plan—and reach a deal, as happened in southern Sudan. In southern Sudan it took 10 years, but the people of Darfur simply have not got 10 years.
My hon. Friend is right. We must get behind one peace plan.
As Jeffrey Sachs makes clear, we must also focus on genuine economic development in Darfur. Millions of people cannot be left permanently in camps. One of my most precious memories from the time when I was fortunate enough to chair the Select Committee on International Development and we went to Darfur is a tool box made out of an aid can from USAID. A blacksmith in one of the camps managed to turn the can into a tool box. Even in the most grim circumstances, human effort, enterprise and endeavour was continuing. He had set up a small blacksmith’s workshop and was making lock-up boxes in which people could keep their possessions. Millions of people cannot simply be kept in camps and fed by the international community without proper development. Jeffrey Sachs therefore makes an important point about the need for development.
It should not go unnoticed that Charles Taylor’s trial started this week. That is especially important because I believe that it is the first time that a Head of State has been brought before the international community to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Hitler managed to commit suicide, so we were not able to get him. It was previously believed that Heads of State were sovereign exemptions. That should send a clear message to the Government of Sudan that no one in Africa, or the rest of the world, is ultimately immune from prosecution by the international community for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
We are happily in accord. However, I suspect that many African or other Heads of State would not take much notice of the High Court in the UK, whereas they will take notice of a UN-backed international war crimes tribunal. We should make every effort to remind people in Khartoum that they are liable to be tried for international war crimes if they persist with their actions.
I personally suspect that Her Majesty’s Government are doing all they humanly can to bring pressure to bear on the international community. I do not believe that the subject divides the parties in the House. However, we must work out how we can be fleeter of foot in bringing pressure to bear on other international players, not least China and Russia, to start playing a better role in the Security Council, and thus help create an international order in the 21st century that highlights and reflects the responsibility to protect that the whole international community shares.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to take part in the important debate on the situation in Darfur, which might be described as Africa’s holocaust. Sudan has experienced Africa’s longest-running civil war. The notion of liberal interventionism—that powerful western countries have a responsibility to intervene on humanitarian grounds, sometimes stretching the bounds of international law to the limit—has been tainted by the war in Iraq. However, if ever a situation cried out for liberal interventionism, it is that in Darfur.
The humanitarian crisis has touched the conscience of people all over the world. I pay tribute to the work of not only aid agencies, but people in the faith communities, who have kept the issue at the forefront of debate. Indeed, I believe that public opinion has impelled politicians rather than the other way round. That is to the credit of those who are active in aid agencies and faith groups, and ordinary people who have, over the years, written, campaigned and tried to keep the issue where it should be.
During the debate, we have heard about the 4 million displaced people, the hundreds of thousands of people killed, the terrible incidence of rape and the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. One of the intrinsic aspects of the dispute has also been mentioned: it is a war between the Arabs of the north and the Africans of the interior. That is not much discussed. It has been mentioned again and again in the debate that the Sudanese Government seem to think that they can behave with impunity. In the face of all the evidence, all the reports and all the pressure, they are giving tacit support to militia who, in common parlance, are indeed engaged in genocide. The fact that the Sudanese Government believe that they can behave with impunity actually points—despite the best efforts of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and for International Development—to the ineffectualness of international action so far.
Much has been spoken about the need for sanctions, particularly action against businesses supporting and making money out of the region. I support everything that has been said about the role of sanctions, but we need to bear in mind, as we look forward, that sanctions can play only a short to medium-term role. In the end, as the economist Jeffrey Sachs said, Sudan’s underlying problem as a country is that it is desperately impoverished with a terrible lack of water and food. Underlying the ethnic nature of some of the conflict is a desperate struggle for scarce resources. When the politicians are finally able to broker some sort of peace settlement, what will be needed in Sudan is not a sigh of relief and turning to the next international crisis, but a genuine economic restructuring. That would be the appropriate aim from the west.
I want to say a few words about the point raised by the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) about the framework of international law, especially when it comes to humanitarian interventions. I served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee during the 1997 Parliament. It conducted an inquiry into international law in relation to humanitarian interventions in the particular context of Kosovo. We had hearing after hearing and dealt with vast piles of papers. Having dutifully waded through them and dutifully listened to the international lawyers, I realised that international law on humanitarian interventionism is really what the last lawyer told us it was. It is work in progress. If we believe, as I do, that there are times and places where liberal interventionism is really called for, we need to seek in the longer term a more robust legal framework.
I did not vote in favour of the war in Iraq, which for me was outside the framework of international law. I believe that we cannot allow that sort of American-led intervention, but that is not to say that there is never a case for liberal intervention. Actually, the framework of international law that applies at this point does not allow for it. While dealing with the immediate and pressing problems in Darfur and elsewhere, international institutions need to work on a framework, on a code, and on getting resources for those that would make it possible to have genuine humanitarian interventions that can go forward with the support of the whole international community and cannot be blocked by individual members of the Security Council, which may well have their own narrow selfish interests rather than relieving genuine suffering at heart.
I believe that the role of the African Union force is vital. The way forward in this sort of international crisis is not direct western military intervention, but greater reliance on properly funded and supported regional forces. I hope that the EU, Britain and, of course, the UN will do all they can to support and allow the African Union force to continue its work. Ideally, as has been said, it should be a hybrid force of the African Union and the European Union. However, in this sort of crisis we should look first and foremost to a regional force rather than to the UN, although such a regional force should have UN backing. The African Union has done some good work in Sudan in practice, but it is important to support the work of the African Union force in principle—financially and in many other ways. I very much support what has been said about the need to take action against the different business and financial interests that are benefiting from their investments in the region.
I congratulate my right hon. Friends on allowing us to debate this issue in Government time. There were divisions among all the parties on the issue of Iraq. If the notion of liberal and humanitarian interventionism is to be rehabilitated—sadly, in the cruel, violent and economically unstable world in which we live, it must be—the surest way of doing so is for the international community to be seen to act effectively and decisively—politically socially and, if necessary, militarily—to end the tragedy in Sudan.
It is a privilege to follow the thoughtful and penetrating speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). In opening my remarks on this critical subject, I would also like very warmly and enthusiastically to echo the tribute rightly paid by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) to the Aegis Trust, an organisation that has consistently and brilliantly championed the interests of the long-suffering and oppressed people of Darfur.
By any yardstick, somewhat in excess of 300,000 people have died in the region. It is estimated that there are something in the order of 2.4 million people internally displaced, including no fewer than 450,000 displaced since the signing of the abortive Darfur peace agreement in May 2006. We know that there are also about 230,000 refugees who have now fled over the border to Chad. It has been regularly stated, but let me underline the fact, that in the order of 400,000 people, in addition to the numbers of previous refugees, have become refugees over the past year alone.
We know that 4 million people are dependent on food aid, so it is a desperate and harrowing situation that we encounter. Moreover, we are aware that this is something that is happening right across the region. Whether it be Um Rai in the north, Amar Jadeed in the south or Sirba in the west, no area is unaffected for any length of time. The position is one of uniform misery and persistent and chronic insecurity.
I think that we know that the overwhelming share of responsibility for the lamentable state of affairs that obtains today lies with the Government of Sudan. Aerial bombing, mass shooting, widespread rape, the use of child soldiers, persistent hijacking, the destruction of crops, the theft of livestock, the calculated poisoning of water supplies and the chaining together and burning of people alive: those are all part of the story of savagery that has shamed the world. That poses the question of what sort of response is evoked from this House, from our Government and from the international community.
There are complexities in the subject, but it seems to me that we know from the historical record that there is one language alone that the Government of Sudan understand—and that is the language of pressure, pressure and more pressure. Remorseless and unrelenting pressure is required if we are to persuade that Government to stop slaughtering their own people and to start respecting their rights. Reference has been made to sanctions, which can take a number of different forms. It seems to me that there are two that are so blindingly obvious as candidates that only an extraordinarily clever and sophisticated person could fail to observe and recognise them.
The first sanction relates to the oil sector—petroleum has already been mentioned. We know the facts. Between 1999 and 2005, the Government of Sudan’s oil revenues increased from $61.1 million to $2,297 million—virtually fortyfold. During a similar period, from 1999 to 2004, the increase in military expenditure by the Sudan Government was absolutely enormous, from $242 million to about $587 million. The link is manifest and palpable: those huge revenues enabled that Government massively to ratchet up their expenditure on weapons of repression, oppression and destruction. Various figures have been given for the proportion of total revenue in Sudan at governmental level that is accounted for by oil—someone quoted a figure of between 60 and 80 per cent., and I customarily encounter a figure of 50 per cent.—but whatever the figure, we need to be clear about the fact that growth in Sudan is driven by oil.
I believe that we have reached a point at which we must seek to build support in the international community for the establishment and operation of an oil trust fund. The funds that pay for the oil would be placed in an escrow account, and the Government of Sudan would not be allowed to get their hands on them pending a resolution of the conflict. It would be made clear that they must be used for the provision of essential and basic health and education services for the population and to facilitate necessary development projects, and that moneys must be put aside in a compensation fund to deliver reparations at the required time for the people of Darfur.
That suggestion has been made by the Aegis Trust, and it is supported by the judge Richard Goldstone, an immensely experienced and wise figure in the international community who has the advantage of having sat on the Volcker committee. After studying some of the shortcomings of the earlier attempt relating to the oil-for-food programme in Iraq, and heeding lessons from it, he remains firmly of the view that such a scheme, appropriately monitored and enforced, could bear real fruit in putting pressure on the Government of Sudan.
The hon. Gentleman is right, in that thus far the Government of China have not been prepared to play ball. My view is that we must simply repeat and intensify our efforts and try to ensure that they are as concerted as possible. If China wants to play a responsible role in the world, it must accept that it is incumbent on it so to behave in the international community as to demonstrate a greater respect for the human rights of other people, and also an interest in the political and diplomatic priorities of the countries with which it wants both to do business in commercial terms and to establish decent political relations. As the hon. Gentleman says, we have not got there yet, but we must continue to try.
Not only do I favour financial sanctions against individuals, financial sanctions against the Government of Sudan and financial sanctions in the form of a concerted effort to increase divestment from the country, I feel that the issue should now take centre stage and I hope that the Secretary of State will include it in discussions at multilateral level with a view to securing the level of support that will be needed.
The second obvious candidate for enhanced and strengthened sanctions is, of course, the arms industry. Reference has been made to both China and Russia. In 2005 alone, China sold some $83 million-worth of arms to Sudan, and Russia sent somewhat in excess of $34 million-worth. The history is quite interesting. When an arms embargo for Sudan was first proposed, it was decided—chronically and disgracefully—that it should apply only to rebel groups and opposition forces. Subsequently, thanks not least to the good offices of the British Government and others, its application was extended to the Government of Sudan. The present position, however, is that although the Government of Sudan are not supposed to use arms in Darfur, they are still entitled to buy arms for other purposes.
It requires a degree of naivety to suppose that the Government of Sudan, a bunch of mendacious thugs if ever there was one, will not take the opportunity to circumvent the moral purpose of international action and decide to use those forces, that equipment and those aeroplanes for their own purposes of continuing war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and, yes, genocide in Darfur. That is precisely what they are doing now, and that is why we need to say that there should be a complete embargo on the sale of arms to Sudan, period—an embargo that can be lifted when, and only when, Sudan ceases to oppress, abuse and slaughter its own citizens.
Those sanctions appear to me to be the centrepiece of an effective strategy, but we need to do other things as well, and we need to lose not a moment in going about the process of doing them. In a characteristically powerful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) spoke of the importance and urgency of the imposition and enforcement of a no-fly zone. I entirely agree, but I think that we should remind ourselves, and inform those attending to the debate, that the issue goes back some time. If memory serves me, it was as long ago as March 2005 that United Nations Security Council resolution 1591 was passed, exhorting, nay instructing, the Government of Sudan to cease all offensive military flights in the region. That has not happened. We need to establish the no-fly zone, give effect to it and monitor compliance with it. I am not a lawyer—I say that with some pride—but if a chapter VII provision is required under the United Nations procedures, so be it.
In addition, we must secure the troop deployment that is necessary. We have talked in passing about United Nations Security Council resolution 1706. I remind Members that that resolution was passed in August last year. Now, nine months later, there is still a piddlingly inadequate, feeble, lamentable, risible force level in a region the size of France. We need 20,000 troops there, and we need them now. General Romeo Dallaire—who has considerable experience of these matters, having been lumbered with the task of trying to secure peace in Rwanda with hopelessly inadequate resources for the purpose—has speculated that 44,000 would be more appropriate, and the head of AMIS, the African Union mission in Sudan, suggested at one time that 60,000 might be required. However, we certainly know that we need the 20,000, that we need them now, that they are not there and that they should be. Action must be taken and pressure must continue, at the highest levels of Government and on a multilateral basis, to achieve that objective.
There is another issue that no one has mentioned so far, but which is relevant to our sending a consistent message and exerting a credible pressure on the Government of Sudan. I refer to this Government’s attitude to asylum seekers coming here from Darfur. On 4 April, the Government were defeated—the Home Office lost—in the Court of Appeal when it was decided that it would be unduly harsh to send a subsistence farmer back to live in virtual refugee conditions in or near Khartoum. The court did not accept that overall it would be unduly harsh to send people back to Khartoum—it did not have the necessary evidence on which to reach that conclusion—but the Government are appealing against even that limited and justified finding and, as they decided on 4 May, they are taking it to the House of Lords.
We have since received additional evidence from the Aegis Trust about Sadiq Adam Osman, who was returned to Sudan as a rejected asylum seeker in February 2007. The trust has interviewed him and has seen the scars inflicted on him by the savage beatings that he has sustained. It reported its evidence in March this year, and it appeared in The Guardian on 29 March. It also featured in a powerful programme on Channel 4 on, I think, the same day. I have seen the clips—people do not beat themselves up gratuitously and viciously in that way. Yet in relation to the asylum process, Darfurians are considered appropriate for the fast-track procedure.
The Sudanese embassy is complicit in the attempt to return those frightened, terrified and vulnerable people. The interviews are conducted on the basis of Arabic translation, which is objectionable to the Darfurians, first, because very often they do not feel able fully and adequately to conduct the interview on that basis, and secondly, because they believe that Arabic is the language of the oppressor. After their experience at the hands of Bashir’s regime, can anyone blame them?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Foreign Office or British missions abroad do not as a matter of routine investigate the situations of people who have been returned against their wishes to a place from which they had come to seek asylum here? There are no official records taken and no substantial evidence is kept by the Foreign Office. Does he agree that it ought to be? If we are sending people back to a place of danger, we should at least know what we are responsible for.
I entirely agree. There is no systematic process of studying whether the individuals returned are safe. We have made international commitments on non-refoulement. We have an obligation to ensure that people who we send back are not sent back to the likely prospect of imprisonment, torture, death or even, dare I say it, a grisly combination of all three. Yet that is what is happening at the moment. The country guidance notes could be changed very simply by the Foreign Office to make it clear that it is dangerous.
The Home Office is so ignorant on the matter that it apparently does not realise that a Darfurian bearing his tribal scars returned to Khartoum, which is literally crawling with state agents, is immediately vulnerable to arrest, imprisonment and all the horrific consequences that are likely to flow. Is it not both perverse and rather sinister that people appealing against their refused asylum application or making a fresh application receive requests to go to interview from the enforcement and removals section of the Home Office? That is unacceptable.
This is an appalling state of affairs. Too many people have suffered too much for too long with too little done about it. The dead, the dying and the destitute are increasing exponentially by the day while Governments internationally dither. I warmly endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury said—he was a brilliant Chairman of the International Development Committee and he was right. We have to decide whether the responsibility to protect is to be a serious attempt to avert genocide or simply a rather futile exercise in vacuous moral posturing. I believe that it should be the former, not the latter.
We in the international community as a whole have let people down. I have great respect for the Secretary of State for International Development, as he knows. The problem is not mainly in that Department; it is with foreign policy. We need the requirement of will, the assertion of principle, the determination to act and the insistence on saying to people who have been dishonest, have let us down and behaved consistently badly, “Up with this we will not put.”
This issue deserves the support of the whole House and we have heard speeches today that have made it quite clear that this House and the people whom we represent will not tolerate what is happening in Darfur and are deeply concerned about it.
The estimates of the death toll have varied from 200,000 to 400,000. As we have heard today, it has been difficult to make estimates or get exact figures on the death toll, not least because many of the aid agencies have found it difficult to give honest reports. To a certain extent, they depend on having the good will of the Government to be able to continue to operate in the area where they are giving out aid.
As we have heard today, agencies have been prepared to speak out. One in Northern Ireland has raised the profile of the issue among regular churchgoers—the Africa Inland Mission. It has circulated pictures of what has happened in Darfur around churches in Northern Ireland and tried to raise the profile of what has happened to the unfortunate people of that area. The mission has made it clear—despite perhaps putting its personnel in great danger—that what is happening there is genocide and that the insecurity that has been orchestrated by Khartoum impedes its ability to deliver aid and that of other agencies. On top of that, as was pointed out graphically by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), we have had a huge displacement of people.
I know that the Foreign Secretary has to be careful as she is involved in delicate negotiations but despite all the evidence, the UN and those who are responsible in Government have not been prepared to come out and say openly that what we are seeing in Darfur is genocide. The hon. Member for Buckingham made it clear that the one thing that we need at this time is to put pressure on the Government in Sudan—not to pussyfoot around them, placate them or bring them along. We should make it clear that internationally they are regarded as parasites and that what they are doing is wrong and will be highlighted. There is a need for frank talking on the issue.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the alternative would mean that, both legally and politically, the international community would be saying that the suspected genocidaire should be the arbiter of whether its victims could be rescued or protected? Would that not be a complete absurdity?
An absolute absurdity. As has been pointed out, ultimately there must be punishment for those who have engaged in these actions. To water down what they have done might have some implications.
In Northern Ireland, we have seen over 30 years what can only be described as attempts to ethnically cleanse many places; in 30 years we have seen 3,000 people killed. Had the same happened in Northern Ireland as has happened in Darfur, we would have had a death toll of 120,000 people. That is the scale of the disaster that has taken place there. The Government of Sudan have had an important role to play in this.
The right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) talked about the reticence of Front Benchers to tell things as they were, but said that Back Benchers could be a bit more forthright. He talked about the indolence of the Government in Sudan. It is far worse than indolence; the Government of Sudan have bombed villages and armed the militias to go in afterwards and wipe out whoever happens to be on the ground. I have read a number of harrowing accounts—I know that the militia have been charged with this as well—of young girls being systematically raped, not by members of the Janjaweed, but by members of the Sudanese army. Rape now appears almost to be a weapon of war. Because of the implications of admitting to having been raped in a society where rape carries great shame, some victims do not admit what has happened as it might affect their chances of marriage.
The Government of Sudan are deeply implicated. They have carried out bombings and armed the militia, and they have refused to accept any outside intervention to resolve the situation and to hand over war criminals. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) asked why the Sudan Government believe that, despite all of that being known, they can still behave with impunity. One reason is the lack of response from the international community.
That is the most pertinent point: there is international concern, but insufficient international pressure is brought to bear on the Sudanese Government to drive them to cease their activities. Should not the outcome of this debate be a call for sufficient pressure to be brought to bear, and should that not be what is done internationally?
I entirely agree. The United Nations has a responsibility to protect, but it cannot even agree that what is happening in Darfur is genocide because genocidal intent appears to be missing; that is what the UN has stated. Given the amount of people being killed and the fact that the killing is confined to a particular area of Sudan and that the victims tend to be of a particular colour and to come from certain clans, I fail to understand why the UN does not accuse the Sudanese Government of genocide.
Other international players fail to do so for their own reasons. China fails to do so for economic reasons, and Russia does not do so because it wants its policies and stances to be different from those of the west. Also, some western Governments fail to do so because of the support given by Sudanese military intelligence in the war against terror. The Foreign Secretary said that we must be aware of the implications for regional and international stability. The fact is that, for a variety of reasons, the Sudanese Government believe that they can act with impunity.
The Foreign Secretary said that we must make it clear to the Sudanese Government that they will face consequences if they do not bring an end to the killing and conflict. However, although there have been fine words, let us consider the record of our Government in making clear to the Sudanese Government the consequences that they will have to face. As has been pointed out, contradictory answers have been given, even on the Government’s attitude to an arms embargo. From a recent written parliamentary answer it appears that the UK is still training troops for the Sudanese army, which has been engaged in the campaign against the people in Darfur. We have also twice admitted the head of Sudanese military intelligence to the UK for medical treatment. Dallex Trade aeroplanes that have been registered in London have been clearly identified as supplying arms into the Darfur region, but I do not know what action we have taken against that company.
It is one thing to say that we must tell the Sudanese Government that they will face the consequences. The matters I have mentioned might appear to be fairly inconsequential—it might be said that only a few troops are being trained, that only one company or plane has been identified, that only one general has come for medical treatment. However, if we are serious about taking that message to the Sudanese Government—or putting the pressure on them, as the hon. Member for Buckingham said—such small matters are as important as tabling UN resolutions in favour of international sanctions.
Members have mentioned many of the things that must be done. First, we must try to get international sanctions imposed on the Sudanese Government—to hit them where it hurts so that they cannot get the revenue to pay for the weapons to carry out the war and the genocide. I believe that there has been some movement. That is probably due to the fact that the Chinese Government are now getting nervous about the amount of pressure being applied and the talk of disrupting the Olympics. However, we must recognise that it might prove difficult to get sanctions through the UN as they might well be vetoed by China or Russia for different reasons.
The Chinese Government have economic interests in Sudan and they are importing oil from the country. They have shown a willingness to act as protector and to supply arms to the Sudanese Government. However, that should not stop us seeking to find ways to put pressure on China to do what it should do. China initially opposed the introduction of a UN-African Union peacekeeping force. Now it has suggested not only that it will support that force, but that it will contribute some engineers to help it. That movement and change is the consequence of pressure, and it must continue to be applied.
The hon. Gentleman is making an important point. I believe that it is possible to encourage China to make a far more constructive contribution. He also rightly mentioned that I used the word “indolence”. When I did so, I had in mind the Sudanese Government’s failure to honour the agreements that they had reached. It was in that context that I considered the word “indolence” to be appropriate.
I appreciate the clarification, and I acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman did not in his speech shirk from criticising the Sudanese Government for the role that they have played in the terrible situation in Darfur.
There is evidence that other bodies might be used to try to broker an agreement. We must address not only the Sudanese Government, but the various factions in Darfur. Perhaps Egypt or the Government in southern Sudan should be encouraged to put pressure on each of the factions to come together and reach an agreement that will stick. Such diplomatic pressure is important. As has been pointed out, a peacekeeping force can only play a role if there is a peace to keep.
It is also helpful that China and Egypt have suggested that they are prepared to contribute troops to that peacekeeping force. That development would at least stop the Sudanese Government using the rhetoric that any outside peacekeeping force is the west trying to impose an invading army on another part of the Muslim world. Such developments must be explored, at least to defuse that kind of argument, which the Sudanese Government might use.
Finally, in the long run we must make sure that those who are guilty of crimes in Sudan are brought before the International Criminal Court. If we get an agreement, we must make sure that it is quickly underwritten with international support, so that the resource problems that caused the conflict in the first place do not arise again and the conflict is not re-ignited. There is general agreement on what must be done. I hope that we will see robust action and movement by the Government to ensure that those parties who have dragged their heels and led the Sudanese Government not to feel under pressure will themselves be put under pressure, so that this situation can be resolved.
As we debate the situation in Darfur today, we must come to the very depressing conclusion that we have been nothing other than impotent bystanders as some 400,000 people have perished as a result of violence, malnutrition and disease. On observing what is happening in Darfur just now, we can only further depressingly conclude that things are not going to get any better for a while. This is a human tragedy and a humanitarian crisis that has thus far not properly run its course. It is in fact the world’s latest episode of moral failure in responding to such humanitarian crises. I have no qualms at all about describing this as genocide—in fact, probably for the first time in my political career, I agree with President Bush in his use of that definition. This clearly is genocide, and we should recognise that fact and join the Americans in labelling it as such. We have to act decisively, and act now.
We have heard that the crisis goes beyond Darfur and is in fact a regional crisis. That is correct, but eastern Chad seems to be bearing the brunt. Khartoum has been spectacularly successful in exporting this genocidal destruction through its Janjaweed proxies, and through giving complicit support to some of the Chadian rebels. It is these elements that we must focus on, too.
As a consequence of this situation, we must expect during the impending rainy season and the so-called “hunger gap” to see human destruction exceeding all mortality records so far. What we are seeing is populations weakened by years of conflict, without the food reserves that they so desperately require, and without access to humanitarian assistance. If something is not done quickly, we face the prospect of hardship and malnutrition on a biblical scale. If we do nothing now, hundreds of thousands of human beings could die in the coming months from these causes.
Some three quarters of a million people are without any assistance whatsoever in Darfur and eastern Chad, and many hundreds of thousands of other innocent human beings are tenuously hanging on to what little aid is still available. Thankfully, this has been recognised by the Disasters Emergency Committee, whose initiative launched last week I very much support. We must remember that the last two initiatives that the DEC organised and campaigned on concerned the tragic earthquake in Pakistan and the tsunami in east Asia. That is the scale of the crisis that we face in Darfur, and to which the public have been asked to respond; it compares to those crises.
The British public, in their traditional way, have responded very well thus far. I was fortunate enough to be in the Scottish Parliament last week, where First Minister Salmond and leaders of the Opposition parties came together to support the DEC campaign. The case that they powerfully made was that some 4 million people are dependent on assistance in Darfur and eastern Chad. That is almost the population of Scotland. That is the scale of the challenge and test that we face, in order to make some sense of the situation unfolding in front of us.
I am grateful, as ever, for the hon. Gentleman’s contribution. I shall touch on the role of the United Nations in this tragedy later.
If this situation is to be resolved, it must be resolved through political means. We must do all that we can to persuade, cajole and compel the Sudanese Government to desist from being a problem and to start being part of the solution. They must immediately stop the bombing and stop supporting the Arab militias who wantonly kill their Sudanese compatriots. They must allow and co-operate with the dispatch of additional peacekeepers to the area, so that they can stabilise the situation. They must assist the international community in delivering much-needed assistance, and work with non-governmental organisations to administer that assistance, so that the people on the ground can be helped.
If the Sudanese Government do not do those things, we have to make it abundantly clear to the regime in Darfur that Sudan will be totally isolated. We must convey the message that they must change their behaviour toward their own people in Darfur, or remain a pariah and outwith the reaches of the international community. More than anything else, we must say to President Bashir, “You must accept this hybrid force of United Nations and African Union nation peacekeeping troops as soon as possible, or face the prospect of increased international isolation and increased sanctions.”
Just now, there are 7,000 African Union troops in the region. That is clearly deficient for an area that, as the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) said, is the size of France. They are on a limited mandate, and the African Union itself has made it clear that it does not know how much longer it will be able to finance and resource this mission. Something clearly needs to be done to assist those troops on the ground. So far, the Sudanese Government have resisted strong western pressure for the UN to take over control of the peacekeeping mission. As several Members have said, the latest plan envisages providing perhaps up to 23,000 troops. We must stress as strongly as we can that Khartoum must allow these peacekeepers in to provide stability, and to get the aid that is desperately required to all those people who are suffering as a result of the situation in Darfur.
As I said, I welcome President Bush’s description of the situation in Darfur as genocide—that is a positive thing—but I also welcome the very strong words used by the Foreign Secretary. That is good, but I cannot help thinking that if President Bush and the current Prime Minister had acted just a little earlier—when it was becoming abundantly clear that something was going disastrously wrong—and imposed some of these sanctions then, we would not be in this situation, and perhaps many of the people who have perished thus far in this conflict would not have perished.
The Sudanese regime has had a free ride for far too long. It has thumbed its nose at the international community time and again over the past four years, as it has attacked its own people and harassed humanitarian workers in Darfur. There has been too much talk and too little pressure on Khartoum. There has been a failure to construct a robust, structured, coherent and muscular international response; putting such a response in place must be a priority.
President Bush has acted, and it is odd that it is the Americans who have taken the lead. Despite all the criticisms that we make of American foreign policy, it has to be said that they seem to have acted much more decisively than this Government and the European Union have done so far. They have imposed targeted, limited sanctions on the Sudanese leadership, which I welcome; that is a good start, although I presume that it is not likely to be enough. By way of response, we have seen the typical Khartoum belligerence: not accepting these sanctions and a failure to co-operate, once again thumbing their nose at the international community and the actions that it is trying to take.
I doubt whether such sanctions will be enough to change Khartoum’s behaviour. I hope that President Bush will set a deadline for compliance, and the international community should assist him in that regard. The people in Sudan cannot wait months and months for sanctions to take effect and for the Khartoum Government to respond. We need a deadline. We need to say to the Sudanese Government, “This is what we expect of you. These are the sanctions that we are putting in place. If you do not comply, we have in place a further, more stringent and robust set of measures that we will implement against your regime. You must comply, and you must do so now.”
The first thing that the Sudanese Government must do is to allow in the hybrid force; the peacekeepers are the key to all this. Some Members have referred to the limited role of peacekeepers and to the type of peace that is there to keep, and that is an issue. We have had many peace agreements so far that have failed to bring the promised peace and security, but it is only the peacekeepers’ presence that will give the humanitarian organisations, the aid agencies and NGOs the confidence to deliver the much needed aid that is required if we are to put an end to the suffering of the people in the area.
We now need to start thinking about stronger measures, so that if the deadlines are not met, they can be imposed immediately. The Khartoum Government do not require any further consideration: they have had their chance. They have had four years to try to resolve the situation. That is why we need a short deadline for further sanctions. If the Khartoum Government fail to comply, they have to know that the international community will respond.
The US President, along with the outgoing Prime Minister and the incoming Prime Minister, must turn all their efforts to securing the further strong, mandatory UN Security Council sanctions resolution. The EU could do a lot more. For a start, I hope that it will do what the US has done and impose a programme of limited sanctions. I hope that the EU will do more than that, but at the least it should replicate what the Americans have done. It is only with the UN resolution that we will make any real progress.
We have discussed the situation with China and Russia, and I endorse the arguments that we have heard about the need to bring those countries on board in this process. I can fully appreciate the Foreign Secretary’s difficulties and her reluctance to press for a resolution that may fail, but there are several levers that we could use against China. That country is the major difficulty. Yes, it has the Olympics in a year’s time and we have to make it clear to the Chinese Government that it is within our gift to disrupt them. The Olympics have been used several times—the US Olympics and the Olympics in Moscow—to make real and sustained political protests. We have to raise the spectre of such action with China and make it clear that it is within the remit of the international community to take some form of action if it is not prepared to be part of the solution in Sudan. China has to make up its mind: it is either part of the solution or part of the problem. There can be no ambivalence. China has tried to play it both ways, but those days will have to end and it will have to make up its mind.
We have seen some encouraging developments, including the move by the US. I also welcome the new interest in Darfur from President Sarkozy, and his attempts to break the deadlock. In the next few days, world leaders will meet at the G8 to discuss world events and issues. I know that Chancellor Merkel is keen that Darfur is discussed at the G8 and I hope that our Prime Minister will respond positively to any initiative that is hatched there. It is a fantastic opportunity to discuss the issue and to try to find a solution. I hope that the Prime Minister will hear the wishes of this House, because we want him to take the issue to the G8. I hope that he will reflect what we have said today in his contribution to the debate on Darfur and the situation in Africa.
I hope the encouraging new developments do not turn to ash, and that we can achieve a political solution to the situation. More than anything else, I want to see humanitarian aid getting through to the people of Darfur. Hon. Members have said that that is what their constituents want. The way in which they have responded to the DEC campaign tells us that this is an issue that they want us to address and achieve a resolution to. We are at a decisive stage in the Darfur crisis. The rainy season is coming in the next few weeks, and will lead to the hunger gap. If we do not act decisively now, this could be not just a genocide, but a human tragedy way beyond anything that we have seen. The people of Darfur deserve better than that: they deserve our attention and our solutions.
There have been some excellent speeches on both sides of the House today. As I have sat in my place, my blood has boiled in fury at the lack of action from the international community and everyone involved, but most at the Sudanese Government. We look to them to be part of the solution, but without a doubt they are at the heart of the problem.
The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) mentioned the issue of asylum seekers from Darfur. One only has to hear the evidence of the Sudan Organisation Against Torture to realise what is happening, in Darfur and in other parts of Sudan. Students who are protesting have been attacked and killed. People have had their eyes gouged out—I saw photographic evidence of that when I was there some years ago. I have no doubt that the Sudanese Government’s actions, then and now, are at the heart of the reason for the suffering and misery of the people in Darfur.
People wonder what the Sudanese Government’s plan can be. Part of that plan must be the continued destabilisation of Darfur so that they can remain in power in Khartoum, unchallenged by an organised opposition. I hope that the elections in Sudan in 2009 will provide an opportunity for regime change in Khartoum.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is therefore imperative that our policy should be logically consistent from one Government Department to another? He rightly referred to the issue of asylum seekers, but does he agree that if we simply chuck back to Khartoum and other parts of Sudan people who have good reason to fear that they will be tortured, we give the impression to the Sudanese Government either that we do not think that those people will be tortured—which shows us to be gullible—or that they might be and we do not care very much? That is not good enough.
I agree. We have to be clear. I can understand the need for diplomacy from the Foreign Secretary, but she said that China, Egypt and Libya were key to any solution. However, we only have to look at the actions of those countries in the past to see that Libya flooded the region with weapons and used Darfur as a military base; Egypt attacked Sudanese protestors on the streets of Cairo, killing people; and China, as I will make clear later, is at the heart of funding the Sudanese regime, its military and the oppression of the people of Darfur. Front Benchers have to speak the language of diplomacy, but if one is dealing with thugs—and that is what many of these people are—one has to be forceful and let them know what one thinks.
We have heard much about the suffering in Darfur and how much more the people living there can be asked to take before there is some effective action from the international community. Excellent work is being done on the ground by NGOs and aid organisations, but their workers’ lives have been put at risk. Save the Children withdrew from operations in Sudan because two of its workers were executed at a roadblock. The World Food Programme, Oxfam, UNICEF and Médecins sans Frontières do an excellent job.
We have heard the figures of an estimated 400,000 dead and 4 million depending on aid. The earthquake in Pakistan killed some 73,000 people and the world rallied to help quickly. We must move more quickly than we have been doing in Sudan.
Every ingredient for misery is present in the area—civil war, too many guns, corrupt government, lack of basic water and sanitation, ethnic tensions, famine, refugees in camps, armed militia and problems resulting from climate change. They are combined with oil wealth and an international community that often stands by as the tragedy continues to unfold. What part is the international community playing? China is playing a key role in funding the Sudanese Government, getting 10 per cent. of its oil from Sudan—500,000 barrels a day, which is predicted to jump to 3 million barrels in two or three years’ time.
One might have thought that a peaceful Sudan would be to China’s advantage, because it could develop its ties with the area, but China has a track record of working with Sudanese soldiers, who cleared areas for the oil industry to work in southern Sudan. The oil revenues are used to supply the army and the militia, the Janjaweed. At least the talk of a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has made China more aware of its actions in that land. One hundred members of the United States House of Representatives have protested to the Chinese Government, warning of the risks to the Olympics if they do not think again on Sudan. Every action should be taken to highlight China’s involvement in the tragedy that is unfolding.
Along with China, Russia has been involved in supplying MiG-29s and attack helicopters. Antonov bombers, Kalashnikovs and gunships are not made in the Sudan. Both countries have effectively sabotaged UN Security Council proposals for harsh sanctions against Sudan. We do not need to wonder why.
British companies, too, such as Rolls-Royce, Weir Pumps and others have continued to support the oil industry in Sudan. It is no good, even indirectly, helping to fund the regime and then being outraged at what it is doing. Britain’s role in supporting the United States of America in Iraq has also changed the view of many who might have supported more and quicker effective action in Sudan. Looking at the disaster that is unfolding in Iraq, who would want to risk repeating that again, anywhere?
Even the guns in the hands of the militia could have come through the UK. We imported 200,000 assault rifles and machine guns from the Balkans in 2005. They are not here, so they were probably re-exported. Despite repeated attempts to find out where they went, I have been unable to get answers from any Department or Minister. If any have ended up in Darfur, those responsible will have blood on their hands. People around the world are looking to their leaders to act. They have seen the suffering on television and some have witnessed it first hand. It cannot be allowed to continue.
Life in the refugee camps is misery for many, and life in the villages came to an abrupt end for many when they were attacked from the air and on the ground at the same time. I have no doubt that the Sudanese Government are responsible for the suffering of many of their own people. While we debate whether it is genocide or not, people have had their houses attacked from the air and their family members killed and have been attacked by armed militia on the ground. They are then moved to a refugee camp and described as displaced persons. It does not sound too bad. Whether it is technically genocide or not, it is murder by the Government of the people of Sudan.
The people of Sudan and Darfur must be asking, “Why have we been forgotten?” Today we are saying here in this place, “We have not forgotten. Action is required to bring this genocide to an end.” If genocide is the calculated and organised killing of an ethnic group, this is genocide.
Men, women and children are all suffering in a way that we could not have imagined possible. When I visited the refugee camps in Darfur and saw Médecins sans Frontières fighting to save women and children, I was struck by the savagery of it all. There were few men, as the camps were mostly full of women, children and older people. When we asked about the men, we were told that they were missing, fighting or dead. It sounded as though they might be the lucky ones when we discovered what life held for the survivors, especially the women.
It was said earlier that rape is a weapon of war. In Darfur, that is the case without a doubt. In a recent advert, Amnesty International showed an image of a knife and two hand grenades as a phallic symbol to indicate the terror of this act. The strategy is simple—rape as many women as possible, as brutally as possible, as publicly as possible and as often as possible. That is how the state-backed Janjaweed militia in Darfur is terrorising the population. Young girls have not only been raped but had their breasts cut off to make them suffer more, if that were possible.
Two years ago, reports by Médecins sans Frontières noted that the organisation had treated 500 rape victims over four and a half months. The total is undoubtedly in the thousands. Rape is a weapon of war. Children who witness it are traumatised; men flee from their partners out of shame; and women not only suffer at the time but are in pain for the rest of their lives and sometimes are left pregnant from the enemy, with all that that entails. The UN has confirmed the concept of rape as a war crime. Those responsible should never be free to feel that they will not be hunted down and brought to justice.
Sadly, the use of rape as a weapon follows an established pattern from previous conflicts in the Congo, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, to name just a few countries. Even in Iraq such crimes persist. We know of the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl by American soldiers and the killing of her and her family. The details of the four murders and rape are too horrific to repeat here today.
The question that people are asking is why there is no effective peacekeeping force in the region with a mandate to protect the people. The African Union is there but, as I have seen for myself, Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships are at the airport side by side with the white peacekeepers’ helicopters. There was no doubt then and there is no doubt now that the only people with the fire power are the Government of Sudan. A no-fly zone would help, but perhaps it is too little too late. Travel bans and sanctions should be in place, but so much more is needed. The one thing that we must accept is that the Sudanese Government are part of the problem and are stopping the solution being delivered. Reports of villages being attacked by armed men on the ground at the same time as they are being attacked from the air mean there is no doubt that the Government and the Janjaweed are working hand in hand.
One glimmer of hope is the 2009 national election. It has been said that elections are sometimes one of the most over-rated factors when it comes to delivering peace. During the election period, the violence reduces while everyone thinks they might win. After the result, the relative quiet comes to an end.
If the hope of a change in Government rests on the elections, action must be taken now, as elections are not won or lost on the day. The census and voters’ register must be accurate and the election must be free and fair. Otherwise, all that will happen is that the Government in Khartoum will have the democratic stamp of authority, and that will result in an already desperate situation becoming even worse. One has only to look at Zimbabwe to see that.
If this debate has done nothing else, it has kept the plight of the people of Darfur on the agenda, but we cannot leave it at that. Much more must be done, and done quickly. The people in Darfur and worldwide are crying out for a strong peacekeeping force with a mandate to protect civilians and aids workers and an African Union force with logistical support. Sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes on key Government officials and an arms embargo are required. As someone said, an arms embargo is a no-brainer.
There ought to be no let-up in the drive to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court. We must challenge China, Russia and the Arab world and their media to recognise the problem. In much of the Arab world, there is little recognition that there is a problem in Sudan and Darfur. It is good to see a lot of people in the House, in the country and throughout the world speaking forcefully. I should like to pay a compliment to Mia Farrow, who attacked Steven Spielberg for being the Leni Riefenstahl of the Chinese Government by acting as an artistic director for the Olympic games.
Diplomacy is fine, but tough talking is also essential because without it the people of Darfur will give up hope. They cannot live on hope alone, but without it they will give up. We in this country and worldwide have to give them hope.
I, like other hon. Members, have seen on television the tremendous suffering of the people of Darfur. Many hon. Members have spoken about the estimates of the number of people who have been killed in this terrible tragedy. I believe that it is about 300,000. That is four times my electorate. It is appalling to think that four times as many people as I represent here in Parliament have been so brutally killed in Darfur.
Darfur is important to my constituents. Many have written to me to express their outrage at the crisis and the savagery and butchery that are going on in that part of the world. The Foreign Secretary showed her usual polished, professional handling of the debate at the beginning, but it masked the Government’s disastrous failure over the past four years to deal with the situation. That barbaric regime should be isolated and we should be using our influence to put the issue at the very top of the international agenda.
In her speech, the Foreign Secretary said that Libya and China are key to resolution of the crisis. Today, I met the Libyan chargé d’affaires, Mr. Jelban, and asked him about the role of Libya and Egypt in that crucial matter. Libya, of course, has a common border with Darfur. I must declare an interest at this point: I am the chairman of the all-party group on Libya and feel that the country has a particularly crucial role to play in dealing with the tyrannical regime in Khartoum. My only disagreement with anybody in the debate was with what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) said about Libya.
Does the hon. Gentleman disagree that in the past, as I stated, Libya has flooded the region with arms? That was my specific reference to Libya. My greatest wish in the world is that its people are willing to play a part in the future, but we must accept what happened in the past.
I have no evidence that Libya had armed bases in Darfur, nor have I come across evidence that Libya crossed the border and interfered directly in Darfur. If the hon. Gentleman has such evidence, I should be grateful if he would share it with me.
The Prime Minister visited Tripoli last week, where he made positive statements about our relations with Libya and the progress that he has made. May we have a statement about those talks with Colonel Gaddafi? What assurances has the Prime Minister been given about what Libya is prepared to do? What actions will Libya and Egypt take to solve the crisis? I hope that the Prime Minister will come to the House to explain what took place in that tent in Sirte when he met the Libyan leader last week.
In a powerful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) mentioned the Libyan peace plan. I very much regret that the Minister for the Middle East is not in the Chamber as I would have liked to ask him whether he has read the plan. I have been briefed on it and it would be sensible for our Government to support it.
In an intervention on the Foreign Secretary, I mentioned the Arab League, which has great influence over Sudan. It has a responsibility to force the Sudanese Government to take action. I urge the Foreign Secretary to send an observer to the next meeting of the Arab League to give a clear message. I realise that would go against all protocols, because we do not normally send observers to meetings of the Arab League, but the tragedy in Darfur is of such proportions that we need a paradigm shift in our dealings with other countries to resolve it. I would even like the Foreign Secretary to attend the meeting. That is a highly unusual step, but when hundreds of thousands of people are being killed we must show how determined we are that the Arab League should take action.
Many Members have spoken about the role of China and Russia in supplying the Sudanese Government with weapons. A recent report in The Daily Telegraph stated that both countries were selling gunships and other serious military hardware to Sudan. The Foreign Secretary said that more UN sanctions need to be considered, but how can we do that when two of the permanent members of the Security Council are behaving so outrageously—selling serious military equipment to and propping up the Sudanese regime?
I am worried about the lack of action by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in tackling the crisis. He should make sure that Russia and China, which are meant to be responsible members of the Security Council, do not behave in that outrageous way. The behaviour of the Chinese is desperately disappointing; they are so hungry for oil and raw materials that they are happy to trade with any pariah to obtain supplies. I agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who said that we should take tentative steps to tell the Chinese that unless they comply with our wishes in this matter we may have to reconsider our participation in the Olympic games.
During the Chinese President’s visit to Sudan, he announced that China would provide an interest-free loan to build a new presidential palace. How on earth can that be a priority when so many people are starving in that country? In relation to Darfur, President Hu said:
“Any solution needs to respect the sovereignty of Sudan and be based on dialogue.”
That is wrong, and shows his complete lack of interest. The Chinese simply do not want to upset their oil suppliers.
The African Union armed forces unit has been mentioned. I concur with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) who said that the solution will have to come from AU forces in the country taking action to ensure that peace is maintained. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) and many others who said that the force is far too small and overstretched for Darfur—a country the size of France.
There are problems with finance and payments for the force. The Rwandan general in charge of 2,000 of the 7,000 AU troops complained that some of his troops have not received their $25 daily allowance. Major Jules Rutaremara told the BBC that the AU mission is reliant on international funding that has not been forthcoming. He said:
“The AU has financial problems emanating from the fact that it is heavily dependent on partners outside Africa—mainly the European Union, US and Canada—whose contributions have not been forthcoming.”
That is a grave problem, given everything that has been said in the House today about how seriously we need to ensure that those troops are protected.
Absolutely. I wholly concur with my hon. Friend. The fact remains, however, that serious allegations have been made about the lack of dependable funding that arrives on time. Given the importance that Great Britain and the EU attach to supporting the AU troops, I very much hope that Foreign Office Ministers will give us an assurance that they will investigate the matter and ensure that the EU sends money to pay the troops on time. I feel passionately that we must do everything possible to support the AU taskforce, in dealing not just with the crisis in Darfur but with many other crises in the continent of Africa. We need to do far more to protect the AU forces, but we also need to support the tremendous peace plans that have emanated from neighbouring countries, especially the Libyan peace plan.
I welcome the fact that the Government have held this debate, which is long overdue, in Government time. It is good to see that, across both the political divides, there is much consensus about the difficulty that we have in that troubled country, Darfur. However, it would help if the Government were to acknowledge what is really happening in Darfur.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the situation in Darfur as a crisis—the term that is being used by the United Nations—but it would be helpful if there was recognition that what we really have is genocide, as defined by article 2 of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which refers to
“acts committed within intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnic, racial or religious group.”
The House would find it helpful if the Minister explained in his summing up what it is that the Government find difficulty in understanding in the legal definition of genocide, or what it is that they find when, unlike the ordinary lay person who sees what is happening in Darfur, they cannot recognise that it is genocide. What we are seeing there is brutal and savage oppression, where rape is used as a weapon of war; horrific examples were cited by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett).
The statistics have been given by many Members. In the past four years, up to 400,000 people have been killed and a further 4 million have been displaced and are now refugees, living in desperate conditions. In 2001, our Prime Minister said:
“If Rwanda happened again today, we would have a moral duty to act”.
Those words were uttered six years ago, and in the past four years alone, we have seen hundreds of thousands of people butchered and millions of people displaced. I am sorry to say that in this instance, six years on, the Prime Minister has failed to act.
We should consider the fact that the 2005 peace deal is now defunct, yet in honour of that peace deal, as recently as April 2007, the Ministry of Defence was training Sudanese military officers at British establishments. That was in support of the 2005 peace deal between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. It is noteworthy that the training is for
“managing defence in a democracy and collective training.”
It does not require a person of enormous intelligence to recognise that what we have in Sudan is certainly not a democracy.
Many have said that the African Union mission in Sudan—otherwise known as AMIS—is an African solution to an African problem. It is intended to protect civilians from attack by Government-backed militia and rebel groups, but the African Union mission requires assistance, and that has been sorely lacking. Those 7,000 peacekeepers have to police a region roughly the size of France. They are badly equipped and underfunded, and as has just been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), they have not received much-needed funding from the European Union and other rich nations. The staff, including senior commanders, have not been paid for months. That mission should be making 50 patrols a day, protecting women who collect firewood and go to the market. Instead, it is able to muster merely three such patrols a day.
The African Union’s mandate expires at the end of June. Twice in the past 12 months it has been renewed at the last minute, with promises of extra funds and troops, none of which have been delivered. There is, of course, no guarantee that the African Union will agree to renew the mandate once more, but if it does, we must ensure that any promise made is honoured this time. We must not forget that that mission is the African Union’s first attempt at peacekeeping. If it fails, it will place a huge question mark over the African Union’s future abilities in peacekeeping missions on the whole of that difficult continent. Therefore, it is vital that any support promised is duly delivered.
I think that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that the aid workers deserve our utmost admiration for all that they do, but given the security difficulties that the country faces, with aid workers regularly being killed or injured, it is hardly surprising that many are leaving the area. We must do more to ensure that there is security for the aid workers, so that they can do properly what they are best equipped to do, and have access to all the people who very much need their assistance. For many of those people, they are the only frontier between life and death.
As for the way forward, no one disputes the fact that this is a complex and difficult problem, but we all recognise deep in our hearts that there is a solution, and we must do whatever we can to achieve it. I certainly welcome the proposed sanctions announced by the US Government. We must also support the Sudan Divestment UK campaign, which seeks to end the global financial support for the Sudanese Government and their military actions through targeted disinvestment.
We have heard much reference to a no-fly zone. We have seen that no-fly zones work in other parts of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) gave a very specific example of one working effectively in protecting the Kurds in northern Iraq. We must continue with all forms of diplomatic pressure. I recognise that the Ministers in DFID and the Foreign Office have been doing their utmost to try to put pressure on China and Russia and other such countries, but we must redouble that pressure where possible.
My hon. Friend is making a very impassioned and well thought through speech, but he mentions a no-fly zone. Does he not accept the fact that to enforce a no-fly zone, sophisticated air-superiority aircraft of the kind that we might supply by way of Eurofighter, for example, are needed? They would need to come from sophisticated NATO or EU countries. Has he considered the implications of deploying an air force of that kind from outside Africa in the middle of the African continent? Is that the right solution, or does he have another solution in mind?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for posing that question. We, as a global community, recognise that there is a serious problem. We in non-African countries are considering sanctions. We are providing financial assistance to solve the problems of Africa, albeit perhaps not as much as we ought to. There is thus no reason why we cannot consider extending our efforts to achieve whatever else is required in Africa, including the establishment of no-fly zones. We must take that on board, consider it effectively and positively—with or without African support—and get on with the job.
Pursuant to what my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) said, may I put it to my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) that there would be a compelling case for punitive action in the event of a no-fly zone not being observed? I do not baulk at the ultimate sanction—the use of air strikes—to give effect to the multilateral will. After all, are we not dealing with a regime characterised both by foot stamping and by diplomatic sorcery? We are considering not an honest disputant, but people who need to be dealt with in the most punitive fashion in the last instance.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. I do not think that I could add anything to the point that he eloquently put forward. It was a pleasure and privilege to listen to his speech. His reputation, efforts and tenacity on this subject go before him. It is a credit to him that he has persisted with his efforts, and I am well aware that the Government respect his comments.
Let me return to the point that I was making before I took those two interventions. We should be clear that both China and Russia are world powers. However, they must recognise that with the status of world superpower goes responsibility. World superpower status is not simply based on economic strength; it carries with it responsibilities and moral obligations. We must put whatever pressure we can on those Governments, especially that of China, given that the country will host the Beijing Olympics. China has a responsibility to use whatever influence it has with Sudan for peacekeeping purposes, rather than purely to make money.
I can only echo what others have said about UN peacekeepers. We must ensure that the procrastination regarding those soldiers with which the Sudanese Government confront us is dealt with quickly. People are dying and suffering each day that UN peacekeepers are not in that troubled country.
The butchery, rape and genocide in Darfur have gone on for far too long. The Sudanese Government have had four years to stop the slaughter of innocents and the misery of displacement. During that time, men and women of power and influence throughout the world have said all the right things, but the reality is that the genocide is continuing. After President Clinton stepped down from office, he spoke of his regret for his “personal failure” to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. Men and women of conscience must ask themselves whether they will express the same sentiments about Darfur in the years to come, or whether they intend instead to do something about the situation now.
As we have heard from many hon. Members, the situation in Darfur continues to worsen, and is spilling over into Chad and the Central African Republic. I use the word “genocide” because I do not know what else to call murder and killing on a scale such as that in Darfur. The Sudanese regime is one of the most brutal and destabilising in the world today. I understand that 400,000 black Darfuris have perished as a result of the measures taken against them by the Sudanese Government and their allied militias.
Two and a half years ago, the Prime Minister took a stand by saying that the “international focus” on Darfur
“will not go away while this issue remains outstanding”.
That was not his first statement to that effect, nor was it his last. However, last year Salah Gosh, the Sudanese security chief who orchestrates the violence in Darfur, was twice welcomed to this country. That was not another case of the Government failing to recognise who was going in and out of our country, because he was granted a visa to come here for medical treatment. There is a sickening contrast between his treatment in this country and that which he is meting out to hundreds of thousands of Darfuris.
Our unwillingness to act on the violence in Darfur has assured the Government of Sudan that they can commit gross violations of human rights with impunity. The regime in Sudan has played the international community, including us, for fools. I feel that we have been supine in a way, because we have tried to remain on better terms than we should be with the Sudanese Government. Perhaps that has to do with whether we can get information on our key agenda; I do not know exactly, because those things are not given to me to know, but it seems that we have not been as active or as quick as we should have been, given what is going on in Darfur. As we have heard, despite the promises, African Union troops did not get to work, and there are still no United Nations peacekeepers.
So what is to be done? We have heard the mantras from every Member present. There must be a deployment of troops. If we need more leverage on Sudan, we have to get China and Russia to listen to us, whatever it takes, and I do not understand our reluctance to do that. In fact, I have been amazed by the lack of ways in which the world can take action in such situations, even when there is agreement about the behaviour of a nation. There seems to be a lack of ability to do something that will make the countries that could influence Sudan sit up and listen, and take their responsibilities as world powers seriously. Perhaps the Olympics could be used, and I was very much attracted by what the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) said about oil, although he would have to explain it to me again; that would hit states where it matters, and where it hurts.
Another mantra is that we must stop the Sudanese Government bombing Darfur. That would mean a no-fly zone and the extension of the arms embargo. We need to hit those orchestrating the violence where it hurts, through travel bans and asset freezes on the individuals named by the UN’s commission of inquiry on Darfur. We also need to stop the flow of money that Khartoum needs to pay for the genocide, and that means the UK and the European Union targeting companies that provide Sudan with revenue, arms and diplomatic cover. Those are the mantras, and we have all chanted them tonight, but I would like the Secretary of State for International Development to say how and when the Government will apply the measures that we are all requesting.
The matter is not just down to Governments. We should not wait for others to act, as there are actions that all of us of in the House can and should take. We can lobby key decision makers, publicise the need for action, and put pressure on bodies such as local councils, which may have funds invested with firms that support the Sudanese regime. I would like the Secretary of State’s assurance that our pension fund investments have no connection whatever with any such companies. I see him looking at me, but I think that that is worth checking. Further measures are necessary, and indeed we have all agreed that we have a responsibility to act—but when we do, we will have to balance the actions that we take, and we should bear in mind the fragile nature of the comprehensive peace agreement that ended the 20-year civil war between north and south, which claimed 2 million lives.
Our focus at this stage must be to change Khartoum’s calculus of its own interest, so that it becomes in its interest for it to act as the world wishes it to. The UK and the USA are pushing for measures to be adopted at the UN, and that is to be applauded, but the support of China and Russia is key if we are to apply any of the sanctions that we have talked about tonight. We have to work hard to make sure that they support us. However, the question should be put; if it is a matter of introducing a no-fly zone, we cannot hang back just because those countries may veto the proposal. We have to be bolder.
Lastly, I return to the figure that I mentioned at the start of my speech—the 400,000 people killed in Darfur. Unsurprisingly, it is hard to get hold of exact population figures, but Darfur’s population is put at between 6 million and 7 million. The United Kingdom’s population is 60 million. If what happened in Darfur were to happen in our country, proportionately that would mean 4 million people being killed, and in my constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green, 7,000 people would die. It massively dwarfs 9/11. We were not so passive when 9/11 happened; we should not be so passive now.
Europe’s leaders have repeatedly expressed their horror about what has happened in Darfur, but they have not taken action. Their words have been rather hollow to date, and it is action—not next week, not next month, but right now—that is needed. Wishful thinking will not stop the atrocities. We have been nice, we have played the good guy, and we have got absolutely nowhere. Excuses will not stop the atrocities, only action will—and I rely on the Government to come forward.
This has been an interesting and, at times, eloquent debate. Members on both sides of the House have expressed similar concerns and voiced huge anxiety about the events that have taken place in Sudan and Darfur, as well as the lack of action by the international community and its woeful failure to make any impression on this terrible problem. There is a clear belief that the House does not want today’s debate to be another well-intentioned hand-wringing exercise. There has been some criticism of the Government’s action and inaction but, equally, it is incumbent on the legislature to say what we expect of the Government. The situation is bleak and dire and we have searched in vain for very much progress.
In setting out what we expect from the Government, there are three important points that it is worth making. First, at the G8 summit we expect a ringing declaration of the importance of achieving progress towards a solution of the crisis in Darfur. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) hoped that the matter would be discussed, and I have followed with interest the drafts of the summit communiqué, which have been made available to me not as a result of the Freedom of Information Act, but through the generous help and assistance of various non-governmental organisations that have followed the drafting of the declaration. In the latest draft, dated 1 June, there is not one mention of Darfur—there is nothing at all about the situation there. It would be disgraceful if there were no mention by the G8 of the dire situation that persists in Darfur or no expression of its determination to do something about it.
It would have been a good thing if the Prime Minister, on his farewell tour of Africa—it was great that he went to Sierra Leone and other countries, as his personal contribution in Sierra Leone deserves praise—had gone to Darfur in the dying days of his premiership to express his belief that the world is watching what is going on and to insist that the President take action. I regret that the Prime Minister did not include Darfur in his visit to Africa. Secondly, the House expects the Government to take action by emphasising at the G8 and elsewhere the imperative for a strategic plan to achieve a stable Darfur, as security will not be achieved with 100,000 troops, let alone 20,000, without an effective peace agreement. If progress is to be made in Darfur, it requires at least four key measures: a cessation of all hostilities; a process to identify representatives of all the different groups and parties in the conflict in Darfur; the effective monitoring of a ceasefire; a credible timetable for effective mediation; and a safe and secure environment in which to negotiate. I shall say something about all those points in a moment. The third and final point that we expect the Government to emphasise is the grave damage to the United Nations that has been done as a result of the Sudanese Government flouting the will of the international community, which seriously undermines the UN’s ability to perform effectively in other areas. It underlines the point that the responsibility to protect, about which hon. Members around the House have spoken so eloquently during the debate, and which was enthusiastically embraced in September 2005 in New York with much back-slapping and the flash of cameras at press conferences, means nothing to those living in camps in Darfur.
There are three parts to the resolution of the current dire position in Darfur. The first is the humanitarian situation. No one can doubt that it is deteriorating. The area of Darfur from which relief is excluded is now greater than when I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) were there last year. As recently as last week, the United Nations warned of further humanitarian withdrawals. Between January and March this year, 110,000 people were newly displaced. That is a rate of more than 1,000 every day.
The conflict has been internationalised. For example, there are 235,000 refugees from Darfur in Chad. As a consequence of the conflict, 120,000 people have been internally displaced in Chad. Between 12 and 18 May—only a couple of weeks ago—Dafak village in south Darfur was attacked by Janjaweed militia, who are, as my hon. Friends pointed out, armed and paid by the Khartoum regime. The village was repeatedly bombed by Sudanese Government planes. Consequently, according to the UNHCR, 1,500 women and children were driven towards the border of the Central African Republic.
We have lost count of the number of times the Sudanese have promised the international community that the aerial bombardments will cease, yet they continue. The UN recently provided photographic evidence of Sudanese war planes disguised in UN livery, and Khartoum repeatedly breaks its word because it believes it will face no serious consequences because we lack the political will to implement them. There is further evidence of Government harassment, with aid workers who leave Darfur not being permitted to return for six months, along with other visa restrictions in flagrant contradiction of the undertakings on the subject that my right hon. Friend and I were given when we were in Khartoum last year.
The aid corridor proposed by the new French Administration is a welcome humanitarian response. The appeal of the Disasters Emergency Committee so movingly fronted by the respected journalist Fergal Keane is hugely needed, but the key point for all of us tonight is that the humanitarian situation is not getting any better. As all hon. Members have pointed out, 4 million people—two thirds of Darfur’s population—are dependent on humanitarian aid and support, yet as the UN reported only last week, attacks on aid workers increased by 100 per cent. in 2006. According to a leading British NGO:
“Malnutrition rates are close to emergency levels”.
Chad cannot support the number of people who have been made homeless as a result of the conflict. The humanitarian situation remains dire.
Secondly, we must address the political situation. As a number of my hon. Friends and others have observed, Salva Kiir, who was in Britain not long ago, the President of Southern Sudan and the Vice-President in Sudan’s Government of National Unity, has warned that
“war will return to the south if peace is not achieved in Darfur”.
At the heart of the conflict is regional discontent with the exploitation of people and resources by the leaders in Khartoum. No solution will be possible without a political deal.
After unduly lengthy negotiations in Abuja—I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for his personal commitment to those negotiations—and a somewhat hurried finale, the Darfur peace agreement was born. However, the discussions will have to be reopened as a conference for all participants. Security will have to be guaranteed by the African Union and the UN. It will have to be in Darfur, and all parties will have to attend. I do not say that Dayton is the model that should pertain, but the negotiations must be less comfortable and languid than those that took place in Abuja.
The international point made throughout the debate is that the Chinese attitude towards what is happening in Darfur is the key. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire and my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) made the point that China, as it emerges as a superpower, has obligations and responsibilities, which we look to it to carry out. As many have said, it is no good indulging in megaphone diplomacy with the Chinese. We must persuade them that it is in their interests to take a serious attitude to what is happening in Darfur. I was very impressed by the effectiveness of the campaign tying in the Beijing Olympics with the situation in Darfur, the powerful adverts that many will have seen in the international and national press linking the two facts, and the reaction of the Chinese Government in the spurt of activity that took place in their negotiations in Darfur. It is true that China often appears to have a commodity-driven foreign policy. China is increasingly involved, however, in United Nations humanitarian work, as I saw recently in the Congo, where Chinese engineers are a key part of the UN force, as they are in south Sudan and other parts of the world where the UN is active. That underlines a point made throughout the debate.
To address the political situation, the absolute requirement, as set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks in his opening speech, is for concerted international pressure. That is the only way that we will make a serious difference. The United States has now announced further measures to put pressure on the Sudanese. We need the European Union to match and complement those measures. In his wind-up, I hope that the Secretary of State will explain what the Government are doing to try to ensure that the European Union agenda and level of activity matches what is now required. As others have said, the 19 concluding Council statements on Darfur, expressing great concern on behalf of the EU Foreign Ministers, are not sufficient. What else is the Secretary of State seeking for the EU to do?
We should extend the travel ban and asset freeze to cover all those individuals named in the UN commission of inquiry. We should target companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese Government. As many have said, we should certainly support the work of the Sudan divestment taskforce, to which I pay tribute. Investment in companies that directly benefit members of the regime in Khartoum is not appropriate. We need seriously to increase such pressure on Khartoum. That is urgently required.
Thirdly, and finally, as we have considered the humanitarian and political situation on the ground in Darfur and internationally, we need to consider the military situation, which is also of paramount importance. Much discussion tonight has been on the role of the United Nations and the detailed negotiations between the African Union and the United Nations about how to deploy in a possible chapter VIII assignment. There has been far too much discussion, however, about the nature of the hat badge, and not enough about the urgent importance of getting troops on the ground, whether from the AU or UN. Two weeks ago, Sudan said that it would allow in 3,000 UN troops. The President of Sudan has said, however, that he no longer stands by his earlier agreement on that. What is the Secretary of State’s judgment tonight on the position on the ground in Sudan? How quickly will the troops be reinforced?
My second point on the military situation is that we urgently need the no-fly zone, which was set up by the UN in 2005 but has never been implemented, to be enforced as rapidly as possible. The Prime Minister has given many interviews, including on the front page of the Financial Times, no less, endorsing the idea of a no-fly zone. We are advised that the French offered to enforce it last year, but were dissuaded by the United States. What is the current state of those negotiations? Of course, we understand that enforcing a no-fly zone is not easy, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) explained, it can be done. It is pointed out that we would require AWACS aircraft. That is true, but if we could find them to patrol the skies above the Athens Olympics, surely we can find them to protect those who live in terror in Darfur.
Thirdly, there is the issue of the additional peacemakers who are required in Chad and the Central African Republic. The Secretary of State will recall that in February the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called for 11,000 peacekeepers to be deployed in those two countries. What is happening on that initiative, and what progress has been made? Fourthly, as many Members have said, the African Union should command our strong support: first, for what it is seeking to do in Darfur; and secondly, because it has a pivotal role to play in resolving the regional problems that will undoubtedly arise and that beg a regional solution. Despite considerable British support, not enough is being done by other countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) pointed out that many troops have gone unpaid for months. On 20 April, we heard that large numbers of serving soldiers had not been paid for four months and that 150 language assistants, who, as I have seen on the ground, are essential to the work of the African Union in providing translation, were on strike. Last month, the African Union said that its mission was on the point of collapse and Rwanda and Senegal threatened to withdraw their troops. That is a most unsatisfactory position. Britain has a leading role to play because we have put our money where our mouth is in supporting the African Union. I hope that the Secretary of State can tell us what is being done to ensure that the financial future of the African Union, apart from the other aspects, is being addressed in a far more fundamental and sensible manner.
The former commander of the African Union told me that there was an urgent requirement for another 7,000 troops, which would enable him largely to discharge the duties that he had been given. He is still well short of that. However, in the short term we need to ensure, from our leadership position in Britain, that we give more support for secure funding and for logistical support and that, as my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire said, we think carefully about how we can enable the African Union itself to do more in such situations.
There is one important point to which reference has not been made. Does my hon. Friend agree that unless there is very soon a sufficient force present to re-establish security, the internally displaced people’s camps will cease to be temporary and inadequate refuges and will become permanent residences for people subsisting there, who will not be able to return to their land, which will have been destroyed, leaving them with no home to which to return?
My hon. Friend makes the point in his inimitable way and adds to his earlier eloquent contribution.
I end with two simple reports, which I keep among the huge numbers that are issued on Darfur every week. The first states:
“In the town of Tawilla in Darfur the last relief agency there shut down its clinic after government-backed rebels hijacked their vehicles. At least 20,000 people are struggling without healthcare or sanitation facilities.”
The second report spoke of people such as Hassania Abubakar, who fled her village of Tina in September. She said:
“We were farming near our homes when we saw the planes coming. I ran to get my children from the water hole where they were playing and we kept on going.”
Hassania has not seen her husband since the attack.
If, as the Prime Minister so eloquently said, Africa is a scar on the conscience of humanity, the debate has shown that Darfur is a gaping wound on the conscience of the world. The world knows precisely what is happening in Darfur and has achieved nothing in trying to bring it to an end.
We have had an important debate about a terrible conflict that has gone on for far too long, claimed far too many lives and caused far too much suffering. It also tests our ability as a world to protect our fellow human beings from violence, including killing and rape.
I want to begin by acknowledging the quality of the contributions to the debate. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke with enormous clarity. More than anything, she has shown by her actions as Foreign Secretary her determination that Britain will continue to play its full part in trying to do something about the conflict. I shall revert to that shortly.
The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) spoke with great eloquence and force. All the contributions have been excellent—although I have one or two criticisms, which I shall make shortly. They included speeches by: my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Moore), my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman), the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow)—who made an astonishingly powerful contribution—the hon. Members for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) and for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett), who reminded us graphically of the brutality behind the conflict, the hon. Members for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) and the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), who has just spoken.
Let me deal directly with the point about the G8 communiqué. We and the French—and, I am sure, the United States of America—are pressing for the communiqué to include the reference that has been mentioned. I hope that other G8 countries will agree with what we are trying to do.
I pay tribute to the all-party group on Sudan, which is chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who would very much like to have been here this evening; to the Aegis Trust—I echo what has been said about it—and to everyone who has campaigned on the issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside made an important point. She asked why our streets were not fuller of people demonstrating about what has gone on. If people do come out on the streets to demonstrate, in fairness they cannot point the finger at the Governments of the United States of America, or the United Kingdom or of the countries of the African Union. This is where I would gently rebuff the comments of the hon. Members for Shrewsbury and Atcham and for North-West Cambridgeshire, whose contributions were unusual in that they tried to criticise the Government. I shall come directly to what we have sought to do, but the truth is that trying to tackle the problem in Darfur has been this country’s highest priority. The United Kingdom has played a leading role, and I want to pay tribute to the contribution of not only my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary but that of the Prime Minister, because, perhaps President Bush apart, it would be difficult for any hon. Member to name a world leader who has made a greater effort to deal with the conflict than my right hon. Friends and the African Union, which has done an extraordinary job in difficult circumstances. I also pay tribute to Lord Triesman, who is the Africa Minister in the Foreign Office. The UK pressed vigorously for the original sanctions resolution and supported the international commission of inquiry. The UK played the leading role in obtaining the reference to the International Criminal Court. Here, I would say to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that the United States does not support the International Criminal Court, but this Government do and the UK has also supported AMIS, to which I shall return. I seek to remind the House of these things not to seek plaudits, which I do not, but simply to point out that, despite our efforts, no one country has the ability to deal with this conflict or to bring it to an end.
What has been so palpable in this evening’s debate has been the sense of frustration expressed by all Members. It is one of the ironies of these conflicts that sometimes the countries that have tried to do most also act as the lightning conductor for all the frustration that is felt, whereas the countries that have done least get away with it and nobody gives them a hard time. I feel that frustration, too. In truth, I feel ashamed at our inability as a world to have done more. Yet we have tried, while those who are responsible for this conflict feel no shame at all and have tried to do nothing at all.
We have all heard the statistics and know about the 2 million people in Darfur who will once again tonight have to live in camps because they are too afraid to go home. We know about the 4 million who are dependent on aid and the 100,000 displaced since January. The numbers involved should not let any of us forget—whether it be those like myself who have been to Darfur on a number of occasions or other right hon. and hon. Members who have related their experiences tonight—that behind all the statistics are individual human beings and families who have been forced to flee their homes because of this violence and who will not be able to return until they feel that it is safe to do so.
The United Nations and the non-governmental organisations are now delivering the world’s largest humanitarian effort in response to the world’s largest humanitarian emergency. I can tell the House that I am proud of the fact that Britain is and has been the second largest donor to that humanitarian effort. Since April 2004, we have given about £250 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan as a whole, more than £140 million of which has been specifically targeted at Darfur. I just want to say that I long for this conflict to come to an end for a whole host of reasons, not least because I would much rather spend that money on supporting development in Darfur than effectively paying for the consequences of the failure to bring this conflict to an end. I echo what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had to say about the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Darfur and Chad, which I hope people will support.
It does not provide very much comfort, but the fact that conditions for people in the camps now are better than they were two or two and half years ago, despite the problems, is the result of an extraordinary international effort. I know that the whole House will wish to commend the brave work of the humanitarian agencies and their staff in ensuring that this life-saving assistance has got through. As anyone who has met and talked to them will attest, these people have enormous courage in continuing to work in very difficult conditions. Their commitment to humanitarian principles is exemplary. Twelve humanitarian staff were killed in this conflict last year, yet the work continues.
The truth is that all sides in the conflict are guilty of undermining the humanitarian effort. Convoys have been ambushed and looted, vehicles have been hijacked and humanitarian staff have faced unnecessary bureaucratic barriers put there by the Sudanese Government. As we have heard tonight, if those actions are left unchecked, the deadly combination of violence and red tape could force more agencies to suspend or fully withdraw from Darfur, which would be a disaster. The UN and the NGOs must be allowed to do their work free from fear and free from attack.
The British Government, along with others, have pressed the Government of Sudan on that issue since the beginning of the conflict. I recall my first ever conversation on the subject, when I had to ask a Minister why 30 tonnes, if I recollect correctly, of medical supplies were still stuck in a container in Port Sudan some three months after they had arrived in the country. There was a lot of staring at feet. In the end, the supplies were released, but I learned from that experience that it is necessary to be on the case all the time on every issue. As has been powerfully argued tonight, that is because the Government of Sudan respond only to pressure.
We played our part with others in securing the new joint communiqué that was agreed on 28 March. I pay tribute to John Holmes, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, for the part that he played in the securing of that communiqué, in which the Government of Sudan once again committed themselves to removing the barriers. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the issue when she chaired an informal meeting of the Security Council on 16 April. Along with five other foreign and development Ministers, I have written twice to the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Lam Akol, calling for full co-operation. A high-level committee has been established and there are some signs of progress, but on the basis of my earlier experience I have to say that that probably means we must step up the pressure to ensure that it is maintained.
As we have heard, the crisis in Darfur is not a crisis in isolation. The fighting, and the movement of people that it has sparked, have also caused a crisis in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic. We have heard about the numbers who have been displaced. The humanitarian agencies in Chad also face real challenges, particularly in trying to ensure that basic needs are met before the rainy season starts later this month. We are providing £6.5 million to support the humanitarian effort in Chad this year, and we are giving OCHA technical assistance to co-ordinate that effort.
The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield mentioned peacekeeping in Chad. A United Nations team is currently visiting the country to try to persuade President Deby to accept proposals for the kind of force that has been mooted, because it is important for us to have a presence there as quickly as possible. Reference has also been made to the Central African Republic, where both internal conflict and the spillover of people fleeing from violence elsewhere have resulted in about 200,000 internally displaced people and 70,000 refugees in the north. The humanitarian situation is precarious, and we have provided new emergency funding, increasing our total commitment this year to £2 million.
The hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire asked what made the Government so reluctant to describe what has happened as genocide. We supported the establishment of the international commission of inquiry and the proposal that it should ask the question that he asked me this evening. In January 2005 the commission concluded that the Government of Sudan had not pursued a policy of genocide, but that the Government of Sudan, the Arab militias and rebel movements might be held responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes. It concluded that individuals might have had a genocidal intent, and recommended referral to the International Criminal Court. We accepted its report, and we played as big a role as any other country in getting the reference through. As a result, arrest warrants have been issued against two individuals.
I have to say, however, that I agree with what other Members have said this evening. We can use whatever description we choose, and different people describe this situation in different ways, but what has happened is beyond argument. The question is, what do we do about it?
The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks raised a number of questions, as did others. First, there was the question of AMIS. We must recognise that the African Union should be congratulated on its efforts. The only people in Darfur who are trying to prevent the conflict are those 6,500 peacekeepers. I am proud that the United Kingdom was the first country in the world to provide financial support for the African Union mission, because, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington—who is no longer in the Chamber—we should support regional as well as international efforts.
The United Kingdom has given AMIS strong support, committing £73 million. I believe that the European Union has committed €280 million, €40 million of which was announced last month. There are unquestionably problems over the payment of the soldiers, partly because AMIS has had to live hand to mouth—its funding has had to come from all those different sources—and partly because the AU has not yet been able to meet the EU’s financial reporting requirements. One of the United Kingdom’s practical actions has been, through Crown Agents, to help the AU to build up its capacity to account for the way in which it spends the money.
Let us tell the truth about the African Union mission. This is a major enterprise and undertaking: the AU has never had to do anything like this before. The mission in Burundi was much smaller. That is why, at the meeting in Addis in November about which I shall say more in a moment, President Konare of the AU said to his fellow African representatives “Let us be straight: we cannot deal with this any more. We need a hybrid mission.” The hybrid mission is a creative solution to Sudan’s refusal to accept resolution 1706. In the end, if the mission goes in, it will do what 1706 sought to do, which is to provide more troops on the ground. As General Aprezi reminded me on my last visit, pointing to a map—I am sure he has done the same with other hon. Members—6,500 troops are not enough to do the job. The mission would provide more troops, effective command and control and, crucially, funding. For the first time in the history of the UN, the hybrid mission will use assessed contributions to pay for a joint UN-AU mission. That is absolutely the right thing to do because it will provide financial support for a regional effort combined with a UN effort.
On the Amnesty International report, I can simply tell the House that I am deeply concerned by what it has to say. The UK mission in New York is pursuing this matter with the Sudan sanctions committee. On the hybrid itself, the test for the Government of Sudan is a very simple one. They are about to receive the proposals for the hybrid mission. Once the final arrangements have been agreed between the African Union and the UN, General Bashir and the Government will then have a short time—the UN Security Council is due to visit Khartoum later this month, on 16 or 17 June, I think—to demonstrate that they accept the hybrid. There is no doubt that the threat of sanctions was responsible for agreement to the hybrid package. There is an ebb and flow in the Government of Sudan’s willingness to honour commitments that they have entered into, but this is the last opportunity.
On sanctions, Members have asked what the “further action” might be. It might include further sanctions against individuals, travel bans and an assets freeze, as well as extending the UN arms embargo to the whole of Sudan. I raised my eyebrows when the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks spoke earlier because there is already an EU arms embargo that covers the whole of Sudan. We are seeking to get the UN arms embargo to cover the whole of Sudan. We have been consistent in that for a long time.
There is no doubt that the Government of Sudan have returned to bombing. From the reports that I have read, it seems that it is targeted at the places where rebel commanders are meeting to talk about what might come out of negotiations. That makes the Government’s actions particularly culpable. One of the things that the UN will have to consider is what further action should be taken in relation to that. As the Prime Minister and others have said, that could include a no-fly zone but, as the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) made clear, there are real logistical challenges. Fundamentally, who will do it? How would we ensure the continued operation of the humanitarian effort if the Government of Sudan were to retaliate? These are genuine dilemmas on which we would have to form a view.
Disinvestment was raised by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks and the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Rolls-Royce has said that it will withdraw, but one also has to consider the impact of that on the people of Sudan, who are not responsible for what is going on, on the comprehensive peace agreement and on the Government of southern Sudan. We must not forget that that agreement was based in part on a wealth-sharing agreement. Part of the rising oil revenues that the hon. Member for Buckingham referred to comes to the Government of southern Sudan to help them fund development. We need to think long and carefully: do we want to end up undermining the one peace agreement that is, in a slightly shaky way, in place in that country?
I fully understand the Secretary of State’s concerns, but will he bear in mind the fact that when Salva Kiir was here last year, he made it clear that the Government of Sudan were not giving the south its fair share of the oil revenues? Will he also bear it in mind that the divestment campaign is extremely clear that it is after divestment in those industries that directly benefit the regime in Khartoum and is not interested in seeking to debar investment where it is for the good of the people of Sudan?
My response to the second of those points is to ask a question: how exactly would the hon. Gentleman make the division? The problem with the comprehensive peace agreement is that an agreement has not yet been reached on where the border between the north and south will be drawn. Oilfields fall on the northern side or the southern side of the boundary depending on where the line is drawn. Therefore, where it is drawn is very important in determining how the assets and oil wealth are to be distributed.
The third of the challenges put to me was to do with the political process. The humanitarian effort is about salving the wounds of the people, and AMIS—the African Union mission in Sudan—and the hybrid mission are about better protecting the security of the people, but everybody knows that there is no military solution to the conflict, which can be brought to an end only by a peace agreement. There have been many ceasefires and long negotiations. There were the Darfur peace talks, and it took about two years to achieve the Abuja agreement of last year. I played a part in the final stages of that agreement. In the end, only one of the rebels signed—Minni Minnawi. Abdul Wahid could not be persuaded and Khalil Ibrahim, who heads the Justice and Equality Movement, was never interested in signing it at all, although I see from news reports today that he is now saying that he is prepared to take part in talks.
I remain of the view that the framework provided by the Darfur peace agreement can form the basis of a solution as it involved power sharing, security and compensation. However, I accept that in the negotiations that must now begin it will have to be revisited because a solution can only work if everybody signs up. I say to the hon. Member for Buckingham that although I agree with him and others who have said that the Government of Sudan bear the principal responsibility, one thing that has been missing from the debate has been some recognition of the responsibility that the rebels themselves bear. There has been hijacking and banditry. I am not trying to apportion equal blame, but we must accept that it takes two to make a conflict and the rebels have also been responsible for some of what has gone on. They also have a responsibility to embrace the political process.
That was why at the meeting in Addis not only was agreement secured on the hybrid mission—I pay tribute to the contribution of Kofi Annan, and to Ban Ki-moon for his subsequent support—but there was agreement that we needed a new political process. Jan Eliasson and Salim Salim were appointed as, respectively, the UN and AU representatives. They have been hard at work talking to people. There was a meeting in Tripoli on 28 to 29 April, which included representatives from Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, China and Russia; the UK Sudan co-ordinator, Christopher Prentice, attended on our behalf. It endorsed the work of the two mediators and has now set out a framework for getting to negotiations. However, the Government have made it clear in discussions with the UN Secretary-General that the AU and the UN need to get on with that; otherwise, we will still be talking about talks in six months’ time. The time to start talking is now, and the time to set a date for those talks is also now.
I agree with the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield that sustainable peace in Darfur can be achieved only if the other peace is kept—hence my points about the comprehensive peace agreement, which brought an end to a 20-year civil war that killed 2 million people. The eastern peace agreement was also briefly referred to; it was signed in October 2006 but progress has been slow, as it is in Darfur. The east remains desperately poor, and the threat of a return to conflict is never far away. However, in both cases the process of implementation has begun. The progress in terms of those agreements—in one case involving people caught up in a civil war who were fighting and killing each other in large numbers over a long period—demonstrates that in the end people recognised that the country will make no progress and there will be no development as long as the fighting continues. They had the political courage and leadership to use negotiation rather than guns to resolve their problems.
I have something to say about the need to set a timetable for talks. Given that there would probably be a consensus in the House that the Government of Sudan will not be persuaded by political argument or moral force to start behaving, but will be influenced only by fear of the reprisals that will otherwise flow, does the Secretary of State agree that the international community needs to set a deadline by which the Government killing must stop, and that the Government of Sudan need to be broadly aware of the scale and intensity of the sanctions that they will otherwise face?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the threat of sanctions has concentrated minds and, as I said earlier, I believe that that is why agreement was given to the heavy support package, after quite a lot of prevarication. I have set out for the House tonight the kind of sanctions that we would be looking to get through the UN Security Council, but as the debate has demonstrated, that depends on other countries agreeing, too. They have got to be persuaded of the case, so there is great merit in trying to get agreement and in marching in step with other countries. One can be right and perfect but isolated and ineffective, or one can persuade others of the strength of the case and therefore have a much more powerful impact on the Government of Sudan.
On the talks, I have to say, given that the Government of Sudan did come to Abuja, did participate and did make concessions, that my experience of dealing with them on that front is that they can be persuaded to move. The bigger issue is the hybrid force and getting it in.
I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, particularly as I sense that he is heading for his peroration. Will he find time to comment on the French initiative and the role of China, which were mentioned in all parts of the House during the debate? Many of us feel that these are important issues.
On the French initiative, I welcome, as the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks did, what President Sarkozy has had to say, and Bernard Kouchner’s appointment is undoubtedly good news, given his history and tradition and the things that he has already said. On China, I speak from personal experience. The Chinese were represented at the Addis meeting last November, and at about 11 o’clock at night we reached the point where the Chinese representative said to the Government of Sudan, “I think you really ought to accept what is being offered here.” The Sudanese Foreign Minister looked around the room and realised that nobody else was supporting him. That collective determination of the international community helped to get that agreement. The fact that the Chinese have now appointed a special representative shows that they are taking steps in the right direction, but I agree that all of us have a responsibility—China included—to play our part and to do everything that we can to persuade the Government of Sudan to do the right thing.
Finally, I want to return to the issue that the hon. Member for Banbury raised in his excellent speech, and which is, in effect, the bigger issue that we have discussed tonight. This is the latest in a series of conflicts in which human beings have been killed, raped and forced to flee their homes because of what people in their own country—their Governments or other people—have done to them. Be it Iraq under Saddam; Afghanistan under the Taliban; Rwanda during the genocide; Sierra Leone, when the Revolutionary United Front and the “West Side Boys” were running around chopping people’s arms and legs off with machetes; Kosovo, when Muslims were being murdered in Europe’s back yard; or the Congo, where 3 million to 3.5 million people have died in a conflict in the past 15 years—I cannot tell the House exactly how many, because there was nobody there to count them; most died of disease, some died of violence—every single one of those recent instances raises a really uncomfortable question for us. When are we as a world going to find the will and the means to prevent them from happening? When are we going to be able to offer protection and help?
When are we going to live up to the fine and inspiring words of the UN declaration of human rights? Let me remind the House of what it says:
“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”.
It goes on to say:
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
We have not lived up to those fine words. That is the biggest challenge, the biggest test for the United Nations. If we are to uphold the principle and practice of dealing with these problems multilaterally—in the end, that is a much better solution than countries acting alone—the UN has to acquire the will and the means to act. We have not yet done so. It is time that we did.