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Africa: Conflict

Volume 697: debated on Thursday 13 December 2007

rose to call attention to the causes and consequences of conflict in Africa; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, for the past 12 months I have been seeking a debate on conflict in Africa, and I am delighted that the House is to address the issue today. I express my gratitude at the outset to all those noble Lords who will participate. I declare a non-pecuniary interest as an officer of the All-Party Group on Sudan, as treasurer of the Parliamentary Friends of Cafod and as a founder of the charity, Jubilee Action.

If you take the estimated loss of life in sub-Saharan Africa, nowhere else in the world has seen such a haemorrhaging of life: 4 million lives have been lost in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2 million in southern Sudan, 1 million in Uganda, 800,000 in Rwanda, and anything between 200,000 and 400,000 in Darfur. More than 8 million lives lost in less than two decades is surely a human catastrophe, one that registers too infrequently with us. The sheer scale of the loss of life makes this Africa’s Great War. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, intimated at Questions, Darfur is the first genocide of the 21st century. The causes of conflict are many: sometimes it is naked greed and the plunder of minerals and assets, as in Congo or Sierra Leone; sometimes, in addition to minerals, oil has become a factor; and as in Sudan and increasingly in Nigeria, when this is accompanied by attempts to impose a different culture or religion, it has had calamitous results; sometimes it has been the genocide of war lords or their agents, as with the Janjaweed in Darfur; sometimes the ethnic hatred of one group against another, as with the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutu Interahamwe militia in Rwanda or the depredations of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda; and sometimes local war lords and violence have been triggered by cattle raids for livestock, the stealing of territory or disputes over water, as on the Kenyan borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Elsewhere in Africa, in countries such as Zimbabwe, corruption and the denial of political liberties conspire to set African against African, with disastrous consequences.

Others will speak with greater knowledge and authority on the crisis in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe have in effect declared war on their own people. It will be years before we are able to quantify the full costs of Robert Mugabe’s destruction of Zimbabwe’s infrastructure. Not only agriculture, industry and commerce, but the entire health and education systems will need to be rebuilt. Compared with much of sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe was well developed and exported food; now half the population of Zimbabwe depends on donor food aid. While unable to provide adequate water in the major cities, Robert Mugabe’s regime allocates almost half the national budget to security and the secret police. How will Africa ever attract the inward investment necessary for sustainable development while her leaders fail to condemn such wanton destruction and such squandering of natural and human resources? Many of us are full of admiration for the forceful leadership given by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York on the need for change in Zimbabwe.

In many parts of the continent, the consequences of conflict may be seen in the charred remains of development projects, in the harrowed faces of refugees, and in the haunting images of the victims. Throughout Africa the proliferation of weapons has made conflict more deadly and crime easier, feeding cultures of retribution and downward spirals of violence. In addition to taking a heavy toll on human life, small arms undermine nations’ development. The widespread abuse of weapons deprives developing countries of the skills and talents of the victims of small arms. Small arms are the preferred tools of violence in most internal wars, coups, militia and gang rampages, government oppression and human rights abuses. They are the weapons of mass destruction. The arms are also commonly used in domestic and transnational crime. In cultures of violence and gun ownership, these weapons become symbols of power and pride, even objects of affection.

A recent report documenting the consequences of conflict was published by Oxfam International, IANSA— the International Action Network on Small Arms— and Saferworld, an independent non-governmental organisation that works to prevent armed violence and to create safer communities in which people can lead peaceful and rewarding lives. The report estimates that during the 15 years up until 2005 the cost of conflict in Africa has been around $300 billion. The study, Africa’s Missing Billions, represents the first time that analysts have estimated the overall effects of conflict on GDP across the continent.

Along with better controls of the manufacture and sale of small arms, conflict resolution and the disarming of bands of lawless militia who prosecute these wars of attrition must surely be the single most important priority for progress and prosperity in Africa. One simply cannot sustain agriculture, industry, health and education programmes in the middle of a battlefield. On the other side of that coin, fratricide and blood letting drive people out of their homes and off their land into the often fatal status of refugees. I have seen first hand the situation in Darfur and the DRC, where the conflict in the east is reaching crisis point.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, when she comes to reply, will tell us the latest situation in Sake, where the United Nations forces are today in a state of virtual siege, the Government’s forces having been driven back by Laurent Nkunda’s troops. Four hundred thousand people are thought to have been displaced, many of them children, and violence against women is widespread.

Situations such as that in the DRC, southern Sudan, which I visited with the SPLA during the civil war, and the genocide sites which I have visited in Rwanda leave one with a sense of our impotence in failing to avert conflict. That sense was well expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in the Question that preceded this debate. Our failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda continues to be matched by our lamentable failure to prevent genocide in Darfur.

Two weeks ago, the Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, addressed the All-Party Group on Sudan. He described the Russian-made Antonov bombers that he had seen at El Fasha in Darfur and said that they represented,

“a brazenness which has been visited on the people of Darfur by Khartoum”.

He said that 2.2 million people had lost their homes, and that twice as many as that were reliant on food aid. He said that,

“the threat of violence remains high”,

and that it had become,

“more difficult for humanitarian agencies”.

Ninety per cent of Darfur’s villages have been razed to the ground while the international community has failed to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It has impotently watched as people have been corralled and concentrated into camps in Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic.

At the same meeting, as I intimated during Questions a few moments ago, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, said that,

“once force has been deployed, it is vital that its credibility is not undermined”.

Yet the Government of Sudan continue to undermine the deployment of the UNAMID peacekeeping force by trying to dictate who will and who will not be part of it. This is matched by the failure of the international community to guarantee the provision of helicopters to enable the deployment of the force. It is due to take over in January, not six months from now. As we heard at Question Time, the logistics have still not been resolved, although the conflict has been under way for four years.

Sudan is a textbook example of what happens when you appease a dictator or dictatorial system. Two million people died in southern Sudan, and there is a real danger that, after the 18-year civil war in the south, we will slump back into further conflict. The withdrawal of the south’s leaders from the national Government, the failure equitably to distribute the oil revenues, the questions left unresolved by the comprehensive peace agreement and the festering situation in the east of the country all underline the importance of credible peacemaking and enforcement.

The Government of Sudan, as the case of Gillian Gibbons illustrates, are past masters at manipulation. They have every good reason to assume that the world will be indifferent to their actions in Darfur; after all, they got away with butchery in southern Sudan. Why should it be any different in Darfur?

I will never forget travelling in the Torit diocese of southern Sudan with its bishop, Akio Johnson. In three raids on Ikotos, where he lived, 72 bombs obliterated his residence. The compound also housed a primary and secondary school, which were destroyed. Early years education for south Sudan’s children involves learning the difference between the engines of UN relief planes and the Antonov bombers, such as those which the Secretary of State saw in Darfur, and then running for your life. Where do the funds for these atrocities come from? As Sudan Divestment makes clear, our investments and purchase of oil provide the revenue for the purchase of arms and ammunition.

However, Sudan is by no means the only centre or victim of conflict. Between 1990 and 2005, 23 African nations were involved in conflict. According to research by these agencies, this is equal to the amount of money received in international aid during the same period. The study, Africa’s Missing Billions, shows that, on average, a war, civil war or insurgency shrinks an African economy by 15 per cent. For example, during Guinea-Bissau’s conflict, the projected growth rate from 1998 to 1999, without conflict, would have been 5.24 per cent, whereas the actual growth rate was a negative of 10.15 per cent.

In countries affected by war, the direct costs of violence, such as military expenditure or the destruction of the infrastructure, pale in comparison with the indirect costs of lost opportunities. These include inflation, debt and high unemployment. In Kinshasa I visited what was once one of the finest hospitals in Africa. Congo’s extraordinary wealth has been leached away by decades of fighting and corruption. As a result, there are no funds to repair crumbling facilities or to pay doctors and nurses. I saw incubators with premature babies in them; virtually none of the incubators worked. In the absence of beds, I saw patients lying on the floor and once pristine facilities in a catastrophic condition. I also saw many patients who were the victims of the conflict that has endlessly plagued the DRC. Rape is often used as a weapon of war and has been a major contributory factor in the spread of AIDS.

Conflicts are costing African economies an average of $18 billion each year— desperately needed money, which could solve the HIV/AIDS crisis, prevent TB and malaria or provide clean water, sanitation and education. Save the Children tells me that more than half the 72 million children still out of primary schools live in countries affected by conflict: that is 36 million children. Save the Children says that international donors are reluctant to commit funds for education in conflict-affected countries and it describes this as a blind spot that it would like DfID to address. Hit by conflict and then denied education, children in situations of conflict deserve far greater commitment.

The shortage of education, healthcare, food and medicines is matched by an abundance of small arms. Kalashnikovs are the most common weapon in Africa’s conflicts, the most readily available of which is the AK47. These are weapons of mass destruction and you do not need international weapons inspectors to find them. You can see them everywhere you go, often brandished by young children. In too many parts of Africa there are too many children under arms. Ninety-five per cent of the Kalashnikov rifles used in these conflicts come from outside Africa. Until a global arms trade treaty is ratified, they will continue to do so. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us which countries continue to be the major suppliers of the arms used in Africa’s conflicts. Joseph Dube, IANSA’s Africa co-ordinator, said of its findings about the cost of conflict to Africa:

“As an African, I implore all African governments and weapons-producing governments to support a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty. Without this regulation, the cost and suffering borne by Africans will continue to be immense”.

More people, especially women and children, die from the consequences of conflict than in the fighting itself. Paul Collier, professor of economics at Oxford, says that conflict is one of the “four traps” that lock the “bottom billion” into lives of grinding poverty and stagnant or shrinking economies. One study suggests that, in a seven-year period, the net losses to agriculture alone from armed violence in Africa was more than $25 billion. Compared to countries living in peace, African countries suffering from conflict, on average, have 50 per cent more infant mortality, 15 per cent more undernourished people, life expectancy reduced by five years, 20 per cent more adult illiteracy, 2.5 times fewer doctors per patient and 12.4 per cent less food per person. The proliferation of arms in countries in conflict, from Somalia to Sudan, from Eritrea to Congo, means that arms flow across borders into more peaceful countries such as Kenya and destabilise them. The Kenyan foreign minister recently said that,

“when guns get into the calculus then it becomes a recipe for disaster”.

I end on a more hopeful note. From Ghana to Kenya, from Rwanda to South Africa, many African leaders are working to create stable, peaceful and democratic societies. We should applaud them. We should also underscore the crucial role played by customary institutions in conflict resolution. In managing inter-ethnic conflict, we need further to strengthen the role of customary institutions and traditional mechanisms and ensure that the African Union and the United Nations can deal effectively and rapidly with conflict when it does arise. I hope that the Government will take seriously our obligation to ratify an arms trade treaty in 2008 when it comes before the United Nations.

In the century before the birth of Christ, Cicero wrote:

“Laws are silent in times of war”.

Nothing much has changed. Conflict is inimical to the creation of a civil society and the ability to uphold the law. In many parts of Africa enlightened leaders have recognised the truth of that. I hope that this debate will serve to reinforce the message that, without resolution of conflict, without curbing the proliferation of arms and without sustained approaches to peacemaking and peacekeeping, Africa will continue to bleed and the prospects for building a civil society where law is respected will be endangered. I beg to move for Papers.

My Lords, I was misinformed, which is my own fault. I thought I had 11 minutes to speak. I have just had to convert an 11-minute speech into a seven-minute speech, so it may not be very coherent. The whole House must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this issue to the Floor at a critical time, allowing us to consider the present dangerous situation and what might be done to alleviate it.

When a committee of this House was examining the strategic partnership between the EU and Africa in 2004, some terrible statistics were given on the cost to African countries of armed conflict: health costs, economic cost and the human cost of over 4 million refugees and over 13 million internally displaced people. In 2005, the same committee was very optimistic about the capacity and the will of the African Union to put things right, thanks to its new Constitutive Act, which gave it the right to intervene in member states’ affairs in the case of grave circumstances. The EU was encouraged by that to finance and support the African peace facility. That has not worked for Sudan; if there was intervention, it was ineffective.

The mantra set out by NePAD, the African peer review mechanism, decrees on the contrary that no change may be required of a country if it does not itself initiate a peer review of good governance. The AU has succeeded in using its bloc in the UN to prevent any discussion of Zimbabwe, even in the Human Rights Commission, and in preventing any discussion of Zimbabwe in Commonwealth forums, despite the precedent set in the case of South Africa, which the Commonwealth continued to put on its agenda after the apartheid Government took the country out of the Commonwealth on the grounds that the people of South Africa had not voted to leave. That precedent was recognised in the Harare Commonwealth declaration and the Millbrook programme. The African members have also frustrated any action by the Commonwealth even to place Zimbabwe on the agenda, just as they have done in the UN.

We are never going to solve conflict in Africa by the use of troops—with small exceptions, such as Sierra Leone—or even by attempts to control the inflow of arms. The Russians have always made a lot of money selling small arms; they will continue to do so. They and the Chinese will continue to sell military aircraft and arms because of their interest in African oil and minerals.

The UN is to provide troops to back the African force in Sudan, but I have not the slightest doubt that their mandate will be to observe and not to intervene. If they had a mandate for intervention, that might be something, but it will not be. The Sudanese Government will continue to murder, rape and destroy, and we to wring our hands. Was anything said, I wonder, to the Sudanese head of state in Lisbon?

In a notable debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in this House in 2005, we discussed the eminently sensible Brahimi report. That made clear the serious limitations of the UN’s actual capacity to be militarily effective, its lack of trained troops or institutions fit for effective action, and the need for stronger policies in the case of state failure. I do not believe the UN has moved far to create that necessary effective force. Indeed, I cannot really see how it can.

The UN may do its best, although apart from the admirable Anna Tibaijuka, who reported with devastating honesty on the Murambatsvina, it has not distinguished itself in Zimbabwe. Much of the money that DfID has channelled to the Zimbabwean people through UN agencies—we and the Americans are very generous givers—has gone straight to the Mugabe Government. In the last analysis, ways must be found to make the African Union, and SADC in particular, use its strength constructively rather than being an obstructive dog in the manger.

We have meekly accepted NePAD’s insistence that aid must be accompanied by absolute acceptance of AU policy, on the grounds that conditionality is colonialist imperialism. Why? Desmond Tutu said that there are no African rights; there are human rights. At least some of our problems in this area arise from our readiness to accept the thesis that conditionality equals political intervention.

However, I was greatly encouraged by the sturdy decision of the last Secretary of State to cut off immediately the £50 million of direct budget support a year that we were giving to the Ethiopian Prime Minister when his security forces killed 88 people in demonstrations during the elections. We continued to subsidise work through the aid agencies, but he received no more direct funding. If we could do it then, without, so far as I know, suffering any consequences in our relations with Ethiopia, we can surely do it again.

After the woeful failure of the EU-AU summit in Lisbon to send any message of hope to the despairing and beleaguered people of Zimbabwe, I hope that we shall challenge the SADC countries to stand by the AU’s own Constitutive Act and their own human rights commission, which reported honestly but has never been allowed to publish its report and act to save the people of Zimbabwe—and their own economic skins—by intervening before it is too late. They can no longer fail to act because of a wholly dishonest policy of not listening to us—and it is generally the West whose help will be needed—on the ludicrous grounds that they are striking a blow for liberation.

We have been given a lead by the admirable most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. Let us tell the African Union that committees and quiet diplomacy and, sadly, even an African force, are not enough if they are used to obstruct any action to save a suffering people. We should recognise the limitations of such bodies as the EU and the UN which often by their acts or failures to act obscure awkward facts and take away the individual responsibility of nations to do something. The presence of a number of UN agencies in Zimbabwe, for instance, encourages the illusion that through them the world is acting to care for people suffering under tyranny. DfID, which is one of the two major world givers of aid, does it through the UN agencies, yet those agencies, with those funds at their disposal, actually feared to act to support the victims of Murambatsvina as one of them admitted to Anna Tibaijuka and was so recorded in her report.

We have been complicit for too long in allowing food aid to be handed out only to ZANU-PF supporters, with the knowledge of the UN. The UNHCR, when urged to set up refugee camps for Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa, or at least to intervene on their behalf, claimed as recently as this year that they were not refugees in the accepted UN sense; they were economic migrants.

The UN is being exploited by the AU to prevent any discussion in that forum and to flout even the UN's own mechanism to protect human rights. The AU has replicated its success in these bullying tactics in its only-too-effective moves to keep Zimbabwe off the CHOGM agenda. I hope that a number of decent nations, including especially the Scandinavians, who of course ruthlessly colonised us in their day, will work together with the many right-minded Africans such as Moeletsi Mbeki, Pius Ncube and Anna Tibaijuka to broker and secure press freedom in Zimbabwe and promote a series of life-saving missions to help the sick and the starving at once while a truly free political climate is created by Zimbabwe's own civil society— still a potentially effective instrument to restore the rule of law. What we must not do is require the people of Zimbabwe to accept as valid the elections that have already been comprehensively rigged and in which, in any event, the millions now in the diaspora driven from their country would not be able to vote.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a former director of Oxfam and before that of VSO. I am currently a serving trustee of Saferworld.

We all want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his powerful contribution today and for having given us the opportunity to review this subject. The distressing agony of this reality of conflict is that the overwhelming majority of deaths and casualties are civilian and not military. What is the true cost of conflict and of armed violence? Quite apart from the almost £18 billion a year estimated by a wide cross-section of experienced NGOs, there is the grim human consequence, the psychological trauma and lasting mental damage, the widespread rape, acceleration of AIDS and the bereavement. But how is the £18 billion itself calculated?

There is the military expenditure; medical and rehabilitation costs; the burden on policing, private security and justice systems; care and protection of refugees and displaced people, often in neighbouring countries; damage and destruction of infrastructure and livelihood assets; reduced economic activity and adverse economic effects on adjacent countries; capital flight; damage to the tourist industry; inflation; reduced savings and investment and exports; increased debt; loss of development aid; rampant corruption and wealth transfers to the illicit economy; and damage to the education system and to public services in general.

As the noble Lord said, it is essential to address prevention of conflict; in that, as he emphasised, conflict resolution and potential conflict resolution have to be given attention, as does the generation of economic and social hope and the engagement of the population as a whole in security sector reform. It will not be easy, as the pressures of population and land issues are compounded by water shortages and climate change. What is striking about the collective experience of a wide cross-section of frontline NGOs is their concern about the opportunist arms trade that fuels conflict and armed violence. Those responsible for that irresponsible trade should be seen and identified for what they are: greedy and cruelly cynical merchants of death.

The UK Government and the European Union are to be commended for their stand on the issue. The European code of practice is a good start; but it is only a start. The Prime Minister’s recent support for the extension of arms export laws to control extra-territorial brokering and trafficking in small arms is encouraging; but it, too, needs to go further and support the extension of controls to cover such brokering of all conventional weapons.

There is a pressing need to ensure that in the context of the Government’s review of the Export Control Act, remaining loopholes in our export controls are closed, not only to deal with the extraterritorial brokering, but also to introduce effective monitoring of the end use of UK exports and to regulate the increasingly globalised nature of the UK arms industry. More resources are therefore required for proper investigation and enforcement of all possible breaches of existing and future controls. Of course, African Governments themselves have to shoulder their share of responsibility and the 2004 Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons, covering the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, is an example of good intent. I hope that the Government will do all they can to support, strengthen and actively encourage such initiatives.

China’s engagement in Africa can bring many benefits, but it has not been without disturbingly negative dimensions, not least the support of oppressive regimes and the blocking of UN resolutions on Darfur, as well as its arms transfers to conflict centres. Our Government favour positive relations with China. They must use any influence this provides to win China’s support for long-term stability and the reduction of conflict in the African continent.

A global arms trade treaty, effectively implemented, is an imperative for the promotion of stability and the containment of violence in Africa and beyond. The Government have done well in their work and consistent commitment to that at the United Nations and elsewhere. The unwillingness so far of our US allies to come on board must be bitterly disappointing and frustrating. The emotional belief in the right to own, buy and sell guns runs deep in the psyche of too many of our American cousins. When that is extended into the international community, it can have literally devastating consequences. I fervently hope that our Government will not lose heart—they must not. Everything possible should be done to win the US to the cause and to build and strengthen the resolve of the rest of the international community.

An arms trade treaty would provide a code reflecting existing obligations of UN member states under international law, including the UN charter, UN embargos, human rights principles and international humanitarian law. Within the UK, we need an interdepartmental commitment by trade, industry, the Treasury, FCO, DfID and, of course, No. 10 itself. The arms trade is lethal. In Africa, it fuels a brutal nightmare. In the dangerously volatile world in which we now live, it is absolute madness not to give priority to the control of this dreadful business.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Alton has performed a service in raising this issue of conflict in Africa and set out clearly the scale of the devastation that conflict causes. I would pick only two facts: first, 50 per cent of the states that have emerged from conflict lapse into conflict within five years and, secondly, at least 32 per cent, a third, of the population of Africa are affected in their countries by conflict or emergence from conflict. However, I wish to concentrate on another angle.

If the House would bear with me, I would like to start with my recollection of an experience as the last British administrator—later, when I was a Minister, President Mubarak described me as the last British imperialist—when I was a district officer in Kenya. There was a crisis and a policeman reported to me that there was fighting over a water hole some 70 miles away. I went straight there with an escort and, probably rather patronisingly, summoned the two tribes who were fighting to sit under a baobab tree while I lectured in very bad Swahili that they should not fight wars. If they were to share the water hole they would find that they could all get some water. Whereupon, a man put up his hand at the back. “Bwana,” he said in Swahili, “could I ask you a question?”. I said, “Yes, of course”. He said, “You tell us not to fight, but how is it that you in Europe have fought two world wars this century?”. “Of course”, I said, “you win”. They went away rocking with laughter and shared the water.

I came to the conclusion, probably subjectively, that the time had come for Britain to leave Africa and her empire. I am in full support of Mbeki’s approach to the problems of Africa: that there must be African solutions to African problems. It is no good anyone in Europe or Africa blaming the past. The cobwebs of the empire have now gone; colonialism is now dead and independence means taking responsibility for your own country. It is worth reminding ourselves that Mugabe obtained independence as the first leader of Zimbabwe 27 years ago. He takes full responsibility for the condition of Zimbabwe today. Ian Smith may have been the other major contributor, but Mr Mugabe carries the responsibility for the condition of his people today.

Africans themselves say that what they need most is leadership from Africans. All of us who know Africa can see that it is capable of producing great leaders, from Kenyatta to Mandela to Kofi Annan to Bishop Tutu. The people of that continent no longer need outdated leaders who are leaders of anti-colonial liberation wars. They need leaders who can develop their countries and can develop democracy in their countries. African leaders do great harm to our perception of them from outside the continent when they fail to condemn brutal dictators like Mugabe or Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan. It is always the people of Africa who suffer from it, not the former colonial masters.

The key is how Africans solve their own problems. What do they most need and want to do? Here I must commend a very remarkable book published by the British Council called Under the Tree of Talking: Leadership for Change in Africa. It gives African views rather than European views on how they can and want to best solve their problems.

The Commission for Africa’s executive summary report of 2005 highlighted two weaknesses in Africa over the past 50 years. The first was the capacity of African states to prevent and manage conflict and their ability to design and deliver policies. The second was accountability—how well a state answers to its people. In my view, there is much that we can do—either multilaterally or bilaterally—to help these countries, and to help them help themselves; our experience through the Commonwealth is one illustration. However, the growing competition between China, the United States and the European Union to trade in Africa is producing dangers for its people because, if the issue of governance, accountability and human rights is forgotten in this competition, it will do the biggest possible disservice to the people of Africa—it is they who will suffer.

Our approach must be to help the African nations build on success. In Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Liberia and South Africa, strong Administrations are emerging with success stories. We should encourage that and through the African Union and other nations we should demonstrate to the people of, say, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan, the Congo and the Ivory Coast that it is possible to have African leaders who can lead their countries back to a better and happier condition.

I end on one particular area. We need, both in the European Union and the African Union, a positive approach to reconstruction and peace building. This requires a strategic plan which can be adapted to different countries. One specific issue of interest is that there is now a diaspora of Africans living outside the continent—20 million have left since the Second World War. They are people with great experience and skill; their remittances back to their continent amount to exactly the same as the amount of overseas development that is given to Africa. These skills are badly needed back in Africa. I would like to see the European Union, our country and the African Union develop a plan to mobilise these people—or at least some of them—into a kind of peace corps of African expatriates who could help to rebuild these countries that have been devastated by conflict. After all, we have to remember that the first priority must be the people of Africa.

My Lords, I am glad to speak in this debate instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Luce, in what they have to say, with almost all of which I entirely agree.

It is about the Sudan that I am competent to speak in your Lordships’ House at first-hand. I too know what the sound of an Antonov bomber is like and when you need to dive for the hole. In January 2005 the comprehensive peace agreement was signed between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum to try to end 21 years of war in southern Sudan. It granted southern Sudan a degree of autonomy for six years, followed by a referendum about independence. In January we shall reach the half-way mark of that timetable.

However, this agreement did not mark the end of conflict in southern Sudan. It was only the beginning of a process to settle the most contentious outstanding issues; issues of wealth distribution in Sudan, territorial boundaries between the north and the south, and, perhaps critically, the issue of the identity of the state and its national character, divided as it is between a lower and upper Nile area and an African people. If there is to be a sustainable peace, these issues have to be addressed in a way that can at least promise a continuing dialogue, supported by international pressure for resolution.

At the moment, as noble Lords know, there are fears that the Government of Sudan are seeking to divert attention from those issues by continuing to allow, if not actively to encourage, the situation in the Darfur region to escalate and the Lord’s Resistance Army to continue to maraud across boundaries in southern Sudan. This draws international attention away from the crucial work of the boundary commission and the question of the proper distribution of wealth derived from the mineral resources which lie along the north-south boundary.

My colleague the Bishop of Sherborne has recently returned from a visit to Sudan in his capacity as the chair of our link organisation. He was able to meet and talk to representatives of the Government and the church, as well as our ambassador in Khartoum. He has reported to me on the conversations that he had with members of the border commission, who are taking great care to establish just where the border between north and south lies and to use local knowledge to obtain precise definitions that the rather straight lines on the old and somewhat notional maps cannot give. This consensus, worked out on the ground by talking to people and asking on which side of the boundary that tree or this river fell, can now be mapped using modern satellite techniques to establish a much more secure boundary so that, in the event of a division in the wake of the promised referendum, the question of the distribution of wealth arising from the oil can be determined equitably and held to fairly.

More alarmingly, Bishop Thornton was informed about the reality of the non-implementation by both parties of the comprehensive peace agreement. In the words of Anthony Poggo, the Anglican Bishop of Kajo Keji in southern Sudan, who I am happy to say is my guest in the House today,

“the hopes of the Sudanese people are being dashed”.

The comprehensive peace agreement is the best hope for continued peace and stability in Sudan, and I believe that Her Majesty’s Government must intensify their efforts to support its implementation. Pressure and support may be brought to bear in the most measured and efficient way through neutral intermediaries, such as the mediation team from a regional organisation, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, which played an essential role in maintaining distance between the conflict parties and the supporting states during the Naivasha peace process that issued the comprehensive peace agreement.

However it is achieved, I believe that pressure for the implementation of the CPA should be directed to achieving three ends. First, the two parties must be held accountable for non-implementation and the international signatories to the agreement must strengthen its Assessment and Evaluation Commission. Secondly, the international community must send a strong, co-ordinated message to the National Congress Party that it is legally bound by the report of the Abyei Boundary Commission and that it is expected to implement it in good faith so that the south receives its fair share of the oil revenues from this disputed region. I hope that my noble friend Lord Sandwich will be able to say more about Abyei later.

Thirdly, the forthcoming census, elections and referendum on independence from the north could easily be triggers for conflict and must be supported and prepared for thoroughly in advance. Very little preparation has been made for free, fair and representative elections to take place in 2009. However, these elections must take place according to the timeframe of the CPA. The UK, EU and other Governments have a key role to play in supporting elections with logistical support and electoral observers. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will be able to signal in this debate their willingness to intensify their efforts to support the implementation of the CPA so that we can concentrate on the provision of education and healthcare, which are almost entirely absent in southern Sudan.

The noble Lord, Lord Luce, referred to enabling skilled people to get back into these countries and use their skills to help rebuild new worlds. With virtually no secondary schools in southern Sudan, that is an enormous challenge. Who will go back there if they cannot get education for their children? The support we give to education— not just putting bricks and mortar into place but providing teachers and supporting their skills—has an enormously high priority in the diocese of Salisbury.

There are some rays of hope. For example, there is a lower than average incidence of AIDS in southern Sudan because the roads have been impassable and the bridges are down so the truckers have not been able to get through. What are we learning about how to do educational programmes to support the medical and health education needed in southern Sudan? Appropriate support at this stage by the wider community would go a long way towards ensuring the planned and sustainable development of the region, which has such enormous potential. It is a part of Africa where some of this is within our grasp. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will do everything they can to support these processes lest the hopes of the people of Sudan are dashed yet again.

My Lords, I remind noble Lords that in these debates the clock is not always very helpful because once it reaches seven it means that we are in the eighth minute. Time is very tight in this debate, so I remind noble Lords that when they reach number seven, they are in the eighth minute.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on introducing this topical debate. He spoke a bit about Zimbabwe. My noble friend Lady Park also made some useful points about that country, and I congratulate her too. I also want to congratulate our colleague the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, who must have brought home for the first time to millions of people the fact that there is a Mugabe problem when he cut up his white collar on television and said that he will not wear it again until Mugabe has gone.

Mugabe claims that he is fighting against Britain, but he is not; he is fighting against his own people. Our role was to end the war of independence and to arrange the elections that put Mugabe into power. He makes two allegations against us: neo-colonialism and that our sanctions have caused the appalling economic condition of Zimbabwe. Both charges are ridiculous. The “sanctions” are not sanctions but targeted measures, and it is not likely that they have caused the inflation in Zimbabwe which, according to the latest report that I saw today, has now reached a rate of 14,840 per cent. So good is Mugabe’s spin that it seems he has convinced a majority of the leaders of the SADC countries of what he is saying. The three principal African treaties have been breached by Mugabe, but the SADC leaders appear to be unaware of that—at least they do not refer to it. The effects of the economic situation in Zimbabwe are horrifying. One-third of the population has fled, especially the best qualified people and young people who were born after 1980, when Mugabe came to power.

On 11 March, a prayer meeting in Harare was violently broken up by the police and the military. That shocked even the leaders of SADC and led them to give a mandate to President Mbeki of South Africa to facilitate negotiations between the opposition and Mugabe. That was accompanied by a police warning to the MDC opposition, who are entirely peaceful, not to cause any trouble. No such warning was given to Mugabe, who has been causing turmoil among the opposition by the beatings and the intimidation of all sorts that he was conducting before that event and which have continued until now. Mugabe is preparing for elections with the usual measures that he has used in the past. The latest one—which is new, so far as I know—is that 4 trillion Zimbabwe dollars have been set aside as a fund available to Mugabe in preparation for the elections. We can imagine that it will be used to persuade voters—so far as they need persuading, given the violence that has been going on—to vote for Mugabe.

Is there any ray of light on the horizon? Four representatives of the European Union recently made speeches in Lisbon that criticised Mugabe. I do not remember other members of the European Union often criticising him, so that is a step forward. In a few days there will be an election for the next president of the ANC in South Africa. It could be quite important if it leads to the election of Zuma, who is a robust character compared to President Mbeki. His history is not entirely without blemish, but it is possible that he will be much more active in pursuing peace in Zimbabwe than President Mbeki has been. Kofi Annan recently made an important speech—the Nelson Mandela lecture—in which he cited Zimbabwe as one of the crises in the world that the United Nations should pay attention to. He said that Africa is particularly crying out for resolute action by fellow Africans. That was with particular reference to Zimbabwe, so one or two straws are beginning to blow in a light wind. However, we cannot regard the end of Mugabe as being likely soon. We have to bear in mind also that his mother lived to 100, and he is only 84. An end could be put to the problem if the SADC leaders got together with a powerful president of SADC in the form of Zuma, if he wins.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on this timely debate—I am tempted to call him “my noble friend” because we go back a long way. This debate is timely because of the recent meeting between Europe and Africa which highlighted the continuing conflicts on that continent, most notably the grinding oppression of the people of Zimbabwe. I shall not say much about Zimbabwe, but a snapshot that may be of interest to noble Lords is that its latest issue of postage stamps has a denomination of half a million dollars; if you are a dollar millionaire in Zimbabwe, you can buy two stamps.

Several years ago, the eminent broadcaster and writer Alan Whicker was interviewed on a chat show. He was asked about Africa and replied that in his view there was no hope for Africa and, consequently, he rarely went there. I disagree with that analysis.

Since entering Parliament in 1992, I have taken every opportunity to visit Africa to learn more about that fascinating continent. There is no doubt that there are some good countries and that there are others which are not succeeding. There are many still suffering the after effects of conflicts which have ended; there are others where conflicts are taking place today—the noble Lord, Lord Alton, told us about those; and there are others where future potential conflicts are bubbling under the surface.

The recent report to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred, Africa’s missing billions, was published in October. It is a sobering document and I recommend it to all noble Lords. Armed conflict costs Africa $18 billion a year and $300 billion has been lost by 23 countries since 1990. Those 23 countries are: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda. It is a catalogue of shame, but some countries are not on that list.

I am patron of the Kambia Hospital Appeal in my former constituency of Cheltenham. This is a link between Cheltenham General Hospital and the Kambia area of north-east Sierra Leone. The population served by the hospital there is more than 100,000 and it is a little more than a large shed—or, rather, it was little more than a large shed because during the civil war in Sierra Leone rebels looted anything worth taking and set fire to the buildings. Now, some years later, thanks to the European Commission and our Cheltenham appeal, there is a new hospital. So the consequences of the civil war in Sierra Leone resulted in European taxpayers picking up the cost of reconstruction.

I also went to Sierra Leone in 2002 to monitor the first elections shortly after the civil war ended. It was the most difficult visit I have ever experienced in Africa. Perhaps because it was an EU observer mission they sent me, a British MP, to a former rebel-held area in Kabala—“We’ll teach these Brits”—and it was really difficult. Most of the buildings had no roof; there was no electricity supply because the electricity pylons had no cables; and there was no water supply. Each day, a UN wagon turned up which contained a liquid that they called “water”. It was either green with brown bits floating in it or brown with green bits floating in it and we used it to flush the toilet. Residents of Kabala asked us if they could have some of our water to take home to cook with and drink. It was a terrible experience. So the consequences of civil war are bad. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, described, the consequences in Sudan and Darfur are truly terrible.

The countries neighbouring conflict areas suffer economically because of reduced trade, political insecurity and an influx of refugees. I visited Burundi in September with an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation. Burundi lost 37 per cent of GDP during its 13-year, savage civil war. This was more than Rwanda, although the conflict there received more widespread international coverage.

In the report to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, introduced us, there is a snapshot entitled, “The cost of a bullet”. It states that:

“a surgeon from Kenya tells the story of a 17 year-old Congolese boy whose jaw was shattered by a bullet. The son of a diamond prospector, he was shot by rebel soldiers who thought he had diamonds. It took him one year to raise the money from friends and family to have it treated. During this time, he kept his disfigured mouth covered. He travelled 3,000km to Nairobi for the operation to insert a steel plate into his jaw, which took nine hours and cost $6,000.

The cost of the operation is equivalent to a year of primary education for 100 children, or full immunisations for 250 children, or 1.5 years of education for a medical student”.

That is the cost of one bullet.

Tourism is important to Africa. The report contains a snapshot on tourism which states that:

“the continent’s share of global tourism revenues is twice its share of global GDP. It is an essential source of foreign exchange to many countries, and for Kenya the largest source. However, armed violence deters millions of potential visitors. The chief director at South African Tourism admitted that the reality and reputation of South Africa as a country beset by gun crime had lost it 22 million visitors in five years”.

There is no doubt that Africa will continue to have conflicts in the foreseeable future. Many countries have had bad rulers, and corruption, the misuse of resources and conflict have cost Africa dear. In the 21st century the continent must put that legacy into the past and build good countries for the future. It will need our help.

My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord Alton for securing this timely debate and for introducing it, characteristically, in a comprehensive and informative way. Like the right reverend Prelate, I shall focus on Sudan, the site of Africa’s longest-running conflict.

The comprehensive peace agreement—the CPA—of 2005 has brought some welcome relief from the war waged by the National Islamic Front regime against the peoples of southern Sudan and marginalised areas such as the Nuba mountains, Abyei and Southern Blue Nile—but not before 2 million people perished and 4 million were displaced. As my noble friend Lord Alton reminded us, this toll of human suffering was inflicted before the horrors of Darfur began to unfold, culminating in a continuing genocide in which at least 200,000 have been killed and a further 2 million displaced.

The current situation is acutely disturbing in at least three ways: the possibility of eruption of further war in the south; the recent disintegration of the Government of National Unity; and the continuing lack of co-operation by Khartoum, preventing effective intervention by the international community in Darfur. Therefore we must welcome the initiative this week to bring the CPA back on track, with the two sides reaching agreement on all issues except Abyei. This may, indeed, be a ray of hope on the dark horizon, although everyone must be well aware that Sudan’s President al-Bashir and his National Congress Party—the NCP—have reneged on every agreement to date.

Therefore, while we welcome this development, we must do so on the basis of the principle, “Trust but verify”. It is essential that there is effective supervision and monitoring of every aspect of the agreement. Therefore I ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government will use their influence to ensure that such monitoring is implemented and to indicate that failure to honour this agreement by either side will trigger powerful sanctions. This is particularly important given the continued deployment of large numbers of troops in strategic locations, where the scene is set for a potential imminent resumption of war. Indeed, the last time I was in southern Sudan, the talk was, very reluctantly, not about if war would start again, but when. This is entirely understandable.

Khartoum has also reneged on its obligations to supply resources to the south so that urgent, essential reconstruction and rehabilitation have been impeded and the condition of the people is, in many places, little better under the new Administration than it was previously. It is widely believed that this restriction of resources is a ploy by Khartoum to create such disaffection in the south that, when the referendum for self-determination comes, the people will have no incentive to vote for independence.

Like other noble Lords, I have seen the plight of the people. There is obvious relief that the peace agreement has brought a cessation of fighting, including the incessant aerial bombardment by Khartoum, with Antonovs dropping their bombs, often targeted at health centres, feeding centres and schools, and terrifying attacks by low-flying helicopter gunships. These were diverted to Darfur and have since been inflicting their terror and carnage there.

But we have also seen in the south how people are still suffering and dying from diseases for which treatment should now be available. In Equatoria, in rural areas, we have seen preventable, treatable diseases such as meningitis, measles and malaria killing people on a huge scale. In eastern Upper Nile earlier this year, we found leprosy, possibly of pandemic proportions.

These problems help to explain why the leadership and the people in the south are feeling so desperate. There are also indications of the lack of good faith on the part of the northern leadership, with regard to not only the CPA but Darfur. President Omar al-Bashir, whose Government are widely believed to be instigating atrocities in Darfur, has consistently refused to allow a sufficient number of peacekeepers or military assets to protect civilians. But without an effectively equipped peacekeeping force, the assaults on human dignity—the executions, rapes and ethnic cleansing—will continue, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, has emphasised.

What efforts are being made by Her Majesty’s Government to support the United Nations in the provision of all resources essential for an effective peacekeeping force for Darfur, and what representations are they making to Khartoum to ensure effective compliance with the requirements of the UN for deployment of the peacekeeping forces?

The debacle over the teacher and the teddy bear is a further indication of the bankruptcy of British policy vis-à-vis the Islamist regime in Khartoum. A leader in the Daily Telegraph on 4 December summarised the situation:

“For Sudan to be able defiantly to humiliate a major democratic nation from which it receives large amounts of aid by holding one of its citizens to ransom speaks of the impunity with which it believes it can operate in the world ... Mr Bashir, who has been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in post-war history, has successfully blocked the deployment of peacekeeping forces that would protect Darfur citizens. It is that failure of international resolve which encourages him to believe that he can flout moral and diplomatic conventions. As we argued last week, we should recall our ambassador and consider sanctions against the regime”.

Indeed, many of us have long been urging Her Majesty’s Government to do just this. I therefore ask precisely what representations were made to Khartoum over the totally inappropriate treatment of the British schoolteacher.

The issues of Darfur—particularly Khartoum’s intransigence and continued aggression—and the growing tension in the south are connected. There is a fear among experts that al-Bashir will exploit the weakness and indecision of the international community regarding Darfur to deliver a decisive defeat to the south as soon as possible. Strong voices in the uppermost circles of Khartoum now recommend this line of action to solve all the other outstanding problems by “resolving” the unfinished campaign in the south. The enduring instability in the vital Abyei area can provide Khartoum with many excuses for violating the recent agreement to revive the CPA. It is therefore very important to signal to Khartoum that the outside world is most interested in the sustenance and completion of the CPA. I hope that the Minister will give reassurances that Her Majesty’s Government will adopt appropriately robust responses to any deviation by Khartoum from the CPA, or to any failure to provide full co-operation for peacekeeping initiatives in Darfur. I also hope that the Minister will give some assurance of adequate succour for the victims of Sudan’s longest-running conflict. They will be deeply interested in the Minister’s reply, and I hope that it will bring them some comfort.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on securing this debate, and thank him for introducing it with considerable passion and understanding.

Since other Peers have spoken about the consequences of conflict, which are well known anyway, I want to concentrate on, first, why conflicts occur and, secondly, what we should do about them. In discussing conflicts in Africa, we must avoid two mistakes. There is a tendency to think that it is a conflict-ridden continent, that conflicts have been there ever since the independence of various countries and that nothing can be done about them. That is not entirely accurate. Conflicts have ebbed and flowed. They peaked in 1991 and then fell. They rose again to 1991 levels in 1998, and they have been falling ever since. Between 2002 and 2005, conflicts in Africa declined by 15 per cent. It is also striking that more and more wars have ended in negotiated settlements, instead of being fought to the end.

The second point is that conflicts in Africa are of three kinds. There are conflicts between countries, conflicts within countries and conflicts that are a mixture of both. They either develop indigenously and then spill over, or they begin outside the borders of these countries and have their consequences within them. It is important to bear in mind that these conflicts have different causes. To homogenise them and assume that they all arise in the same way and can be solved by the same magic wand would be a grave mistake. Therefore, I want to highlight some general factors that seem to characterise all these conflicts, albeit in different forms.

The first factor is the ethnic and religious discrimination in most of these countries. It is striking—all the statistics show it—that those countries that practise ethnic and religious discrimination are 10 times more likely to have wars than those that do not. It is also striking that states that practise ethnic and religious discrimination are five times more likely to fail than those that do not. Therefore, the first problem to address is the question of ethnic and religious discrimination.

The second factor is the easy availability of arms. There are as many as 500 million small and large arms freely available.

The third problem is bad governance. One must bear in mind that in Africa, once you are out of power, you are nothing. You can be harassed, persecuted and deprived of all your rights. Therefore, the only alternatives for those who are discriminated against are to keep fighting or to surrender, in which case they will suffer all the consequences at the hands of those in power. They are simply left with no rational choice to enter into any peaceful negotiations.

The other source of conflict is the ease with which people—rulers in particular—are able to plunder national resources and siphon off money abroad. It is also striking that wars, both civil and international, are more likely in those countries where Governments are able to borrow vast sums from international institutions and bankers in the name of the country. A ruler has a constant temptation to plunder resources, and political power gives him access to them. It is striking that Nigeria’s military leaders left a debt of $30 billion, which is 80 per cent of the GNP, and absolutely nothing could be done about it.

The final factor that causes, or at least aggravates, wars is external interference. This was the case during the Cold War, when one country was played off against another. There is a danger of something similar happening, if we are not careful, with China being actively involved in Africa and we ourselves thinking that we must do everything in our power to stop this, as we did with the Soviet Union. Even if countries do not get involved, multinationals always want to play off one group against another and create conflicts.

This is, briefly, why I think conflicts occur. The question is what we do about them. The first and most important step is to make sure that Africa develops economically. Unless there is a large middle class, and ordinary people have a stake in the country, wars will continue. It is sad and self-contradictory that we talk a great deal about preventing conflicts and do little to provide Africa with sensible terms of trade, or help with economic development. The second important step is to encourage civil society in Africa. Civil society has a greater chance of success if there are sensible international mediators, if conflicts are anticipated in advance, before they appear on the horizon, and if women are involved. It is striking that where women have been involved in negotiating conflict settlements, wars tend to end about six years earlier than they otherwise do; we might have some lessons to learn here, too. Also, when religious leaders are involved, situations are easier to control.

The third important thing to bear in mind is that many of these conflicts have exogenous sources—they arise outside the country and spill over into it. It is extremely important to ensure regional co-operation, as the Great Lakes regional summits have done from time to time. Finally, we must tackle the situation in certain countries where one can get into a position of power, plunder national resources, get kick-backs and siphon off money abroad, or borrow money legitimately from international institutions. It is very important that there should be internationally agreed restrictions on the borrowing privileges of unelected military leaders in those countries. It is also important that their right to dispose of national resources must be severely restricted. It is equally important, in this context, to track the movement of money from African countries to others and the ultimately disgraceful practice of secret Swiss bank accounts. The time has come to put an end to that. It has more to account for in terms of human bloodshed than almost anything else I can think of.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this timely debate. Africa is rich in natural resources yet remains among the poorest continents in the world. Much of my speech is based on the extensive work carried out by Oxfam, IANSA, Safeworld and Save the Children.

As the noble Lord said, the report estimates that the economic cost of armed conflict in Africa’s development has been about $300 billion since 1990, money which could have helped solve problems such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, addressed Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation and helped towards preventing diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. The report also estimates that some 95 per cent of Africa's most commonly used weapons come from outside the continent, the most common being the Kalashnikov assault rifle, in particular the AK47, a light rifle readily used by child soldiers, a point that I will return to. Of course some African nations have made significant efforts towards arms control, but there is an urgent need to reduce the international supply of arms and ammunition into Africa, otherwise the cost of African development will be measured not only monetarily but in lives shattered and opportunities squandered. About 40 per cent of the world's conflicts are fought in Africa, conflicts that prevent development and that keep the world's poorest continent poor, confining people to a life of poverty and shrinking economies.

There are huge intangible costs—and here I return to my earlier remarks on child soldiers. Save the Children reports that most child soldiers are abducted or coerced into volunteering to become soldiers. Resistance often means torture or death to them or their families. It reports that, in 2005, more than 8,000 children were still fighting in west Africa, with up to 20,000 more child soldiers waiting to be released. Approximately 300,000 child soldiers are used around the world, with numbers on the increase, not decrease. That is despite the Cape Town principles set down in 1997 by the international community—strict guidelines to eradicate the use of child soldiers and to protect children released from service, children who were subjected to brutal intimidation. Children who have no access to school or healthcare are exposed to abuse and exploitation beyond our imagination. Ex-child soldiers, once released, often find themselves rejected by society. They are refused access to education and find it near impossible to re-enter normal life.

On 5 February 2007, the international community established new guidelines. Johanna MacVeigh, an adviser to Save the Children, said:

“Being recruited by armed forces has a devastating effect on children's lives. They are immersed in violence, are subject to terrible abuse and are forced to forfeit love, play, education and hope. Governments and the United Nations must show their support and commit to stamping out the use of child soldiers”.

The plight of young girls is even more horrific. They face sexual abuse, physical abuse, and then the prospect of rejection by their families. They have to live with the scars left of both physical and emotional abuse inflicted on them by grown men. I recently watched a film called “Blood Diamond”. It was based on true events in Africa, graphically portraying the ugly, violent and tortuous way in which innocence is sucked out of the lives of young children and how easily that is replaced with behaviour devoid of any emotional responsibility towards another human being.

The United Kingdom announced that it would double its support to the African Development Fund over the next three years. I hope that the Minister can tell us whether projects will be funded to look at the rehabilitation of child soldiers and young girls who have suffered abuse. Can she also say what progress African nations are making in achieving the millennium development goals and whether the progress to date looks promising? Unless progress is made in achieving gender balance in both civil and public life in the African continent then changes affecting the plight of women and the implications for the lives of children, particularly girls, will remain a serious issue. When increasing funding levels to Africa, will special attention be paid to empowering women’s organisations so that they can participate more fully in the decision-making process of their nations? Is there any tangible evidence to show that real progress is being made to address gender issues, and are all African nations signed up to implementing real changes?

I look forward to the Minister's response. I am pretty certain that we will revisit this enormously important subject again and again. As we all recognise, the stability and economic success of this region has huge compounding consequences for the rest of the world. In last week's debate on Kenya I argued that the key to success for Africa was to make the continent economically strong and that, to achieve that, our emphasis should be as much on trade as on providing aid. Although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Luce, that the solution for African peace lies in the hands of African leaders, we in the West cannot expect that its progress will be made and sustained without the West engaging in developing the second-level technologies that are so much needed in providing skills to the people of Africa.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend very warmly. He speaks with passion, especially about Darfur, a word which is almost synonymous with conflict in Africa. However, Abyei, in neighbouring Kordofan, threatens to become another household word if the right action is not taken in time to prevent another conflagration.

The history is important, and the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, have already set the scene. Abyei straddles the border of north and south, the home of the Ngok Dinka people, and is bordered to the north by two sections of the Misseriya cattle herdsmen who have claimed a customary right to graze their animals down to the Bahr el-Arab and other shifting tributaries of the White Nile. It was only in 1905 that Britain brought nine Dinka chiefdoms in Abyei within the borders of Kordofan, setting a fuse for the conflict which broke out after Sudan's independence half a century later.

This dispute should have been settled by the Addis Ababa agreement of 1975, but instead Ngok Dinka became the spearhead of the powerful Anya-Nya II movement, which led to the formation of the SPLA. The Misseriya, meanwhile, raided Dinka villages and enslaved their women in their well known government-backed offensives against the SPLA. The Machakos Protocol of 2002 again postponed the problem, leaving Abyei in the north and excluding it from the prospect of a referendum and self-determination in the south. Abyei from then on became one of the “three areas” separately negotiated and was one of the main causes of delay in the painstaking negotiations that led to the CPA.

The Abyei deadlock seemed to be broken at Naivasha in 2004, with the help of US Senator Danforth, when the Abyei Protocol was conceived as a means of creating a special administrative status for Abyei, and yet again the CPA itself was signed without agreement in those important areas.

The presence of some of Sudan’s most important oilfields has naturally aggravated the dispute, because the revenue, instead of benefiting the people, has been withheld entirely until the boundary is settled. The Abyei boundary commission in a sense revived the pre-1905 boundary by bringing the nine chiefdoms back into the south within a territory still to be defined. This logical solution has been bitterly opposed by the National Congress Party. It seems an intractable issue and will require a much greater international effort to resolve it.

I think that the UN can be seen at its best in this part of Sudan, where demilitarisation and disarmament under the CPA is edging forward on many fronts despite the dissatisfaction on both sides. The SPLA, meanwhile, complains quite reasonably that guarding oilfields cannot explain the vast numbers of government troops still in Upper Nile. The special representative of the Secretary-General has given the UN a new impetus and UNMIS is working overtime towards an agreement, and it has achieved success with confidence-building initiatives and workshops involving civil society.

As my noble friend Lady Cox said, there has been sabre-rattling partly because the Government had not accepted UNMIS's jurisdiction north of Abyei. However, the Ceasefire Joint Military Committee has had some success in defusing conflict and the local monitoring committee has now agreed to lift restrictions on the movement of UNMIS north and south of Abyei.

If we are looking for comprehensive causes of conflict we should include climate change and especially water shortage, whose effect is to drive both pastoral and nomadic tribes, who have traditionally shared resources, into competition at certain times of the year which can be desperate. Abyei and many areas of southern Sudan which were models of racial harmony in the past have become areas of tension, aggravated by recent memories of slaughter during the civil war.

As in Nigeria, the presence of foreign oil companies, however carefully they tread, is bound to make these situations even more explosive if they are not seen to bring direct benefits to the population. I had personal experience of Chevron's activities during a visit to Upper Nile in the early 1980s, and I recall their managers' genuine interest in the welfare of local people. They also drilled successfully in Abyei at that time but they had to work with President Nimeiri, who created his own oil boundary in forming the unity state at Bentu, in 1980. They left soon afterwards and since then the general lack of security throughout the oilfields has further separated the companies from the communities.

Only four years ago about one-quarter of national oil supplies were coming from Abyei but production has since steeply declined. The National Petroleum Commission dominates control of oil resources and the SPLM are hardly involved in the discussions. The south theoretically receives 45 per cent of the revenue, and the Dinka, the Misseriya and the provincial Governments are supposed to receive 2 per cent each. The International Crisis Group has estimated that each 2 per cent would work out at $36 million in 2005-07. Such a contribution paid out now would build up good will and make a huge difference to negotiations on the ground.

How can we help? What is Her Majesty’s Government’s response to the ICG's suggestion that the UN should create a demilitarised zone at Abyei until this conflict is settled? What about the constitutional court? Does the Minister favour that route? Finally, is the Minister aware of the concern among some NGOs about the effectiveness of the pooled funding mechanisms and the speed at which funds can be disbursed through the non-governmental organisations? I have great admiration for those who have to work with the details of conflict resolution in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I know that the Government have such experts, whom we must use, and I know that the Minister will reflect their opinions today.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on initiating the debate and on his excellent presentation.

The subject is very broad and we do not have time to talk about the details of any particular country. I wish, therefore, to make general comments. During recent history, Africa has experienced significant turmoil, upheaval and war. That ranges from large conflicts including the problems in Darfur and the statelessness of Somalia, to the smaller, more localised problems including the turbulence in the north-east of Kenya involving disputes between different tribal groups.

Africa is a vast continent comprising hundreds of distinct ethnic groups with complex histories. Therefore, the continent has witnessed conflicts of tremendous diversity in nature, size and scope, including struggles for independence, civil war, tribal conflict, genocide and terrorist attacks. All this means that it can be difficult to draw broad conclusions about the causes and consequences of these conflicts. Having said that, it appears possible to draw a clear link between conflict in Africa and poverty. Poor economic development can be seen as both a cause and a consequence of conflict. Conflict can quickly cause inflation, debt, reduced investment and unemployment.

Poverty, in its many facets, can create social discontentment which in turn can create an environment more prone to conflict. Poverty, and specifically financial inequality within a society, can be exploited by leaders to mobilise followers and legitimate violent actions. Thus the nature of the problem goes in a cycle. Poverty results in conflict and conflict results in further poverty. There are also reasons to relate conflict to the absence of good governance. Weak government institutions, a lack of transparency and poor adherence to democratic principles all predispose a state to conflict. The ideas developed by Immanuel Kant in his essay, Perpetual Peace, in 1795 have since evolved into the theory that democracies rarely fight or go to war. It could be suggested that the absence or weakness of democracy in certain African states has led to conflict and war.

Furthermore, conflicts have arisen from the failure of leaders to relinquish power, resulting in military coups and other attempts to seize power. The example set in 1991 by Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia, who gave up power, needs to be repeated in states where unpopular leaders, such as Mugabe, cling to power. In the spirit of working with Africa as a partner, I would like to see Africa solving African problems, through an empowered African Union, albeit working with strong support from the international community. I feel this is probably the best way to deal with problems in Darfur.

The implementation of an international arms trade treaty would represent an important step forward in preventing tomorrow’s crises in Africa becoming violent conflicts. Ninety-five per cent of the small arms in use in Africa were made outside the continent and ensuring tighter global controls on the sale and movement of such weapons would help to stem their flow into Africa, where they fuel conflicts and cause untold damage.

If Africa is to become a peaceful, stable and secure continent, we need to show support to countries recently emerging from conflicts, otherwise those countries may slip back into a cycle of violence and conflict. Conflict resolutions are therefore very important. I would like to take this opportunity to remind us all of China's heavy involvement in Africa. The concern is that the numerous projects and financial aid packages funded by China seem to be unrelated to any requirements for good governance.

However, we are pleased to note that the EU remains the largest donor to Africa and that there seems to be a shift away from projects for Africa towards a more mature partnership involving projects with Africa. This method is to be commended as it represents a stronger and more responsible solution for obtaining peace and development in Africa. I am pleased that, despite problems connected with Mr Mugabe, the EU-Africa summit was held last week in Lisbon.

A major challenge facing Africa as a continent is climate change, the effects of which could stoke new conflicts in the continent in the years to come. There are predictions from some scientists that the continent will have 25 per cent less water by the end of the century. This points towards an increasingly bleak scenario for certain areas of Africa, in which the availability of water will decrease and there will be a reduction in viable agricultural land and an increase in food shortages, possibly leading to conflict. We all appreciate that the problem of climate change needs to be tackled globally, but I am very pleased that we have taken the initiative and are discussing the Climate Change Bill.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on securing this debate and on generating such a wide-ranging and interesting one that covers so many topics. Others have talked about governmental and strategic issues; I want to talk more on the local level about a single topic, health, which I hope will complement what others have said. Health is an area where, I believe, more action is possible. I will make my remarks about, first, the impact of conflict on health; then on the support that health can give in dealing with the aftermath; and, finally, on preventing conflict in the first place.

On the impact, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, began our debate by telling us that awful story about Kinshasa hospital. Others have commented on the impact of conflict on health. I want to pull out two aspects that I think have not yet been mentioned. One is the long-term nature of the damage done; for instance, if a child does not get appropriate nutrition early in life, there will be impacts on the development of the brain and the rest of the body. Therefore, in the longer term, if a community contains many such people, there is less ability to develop that society economically. That is a real, long-term impact on individuals.

Secondly, there is another long-term economic impact. Before conflict, Liberia had something like 500 doctors—not very many. After conflict, it had about 75. It was also observed that, as more doctors were brought into Liberia, inflation on salaries was not 1,000 per cent but 1,000 times their salaries. We have therefore seen inflation and changes in costs in Liberia having knock-on effects elsewhere. So, my first point is that impacts can be very long-term, and they therefore need action that is sustained over the long term.

On dealing with the aftermath of conflict, the UK can do—and already does—an enormous amount. It can do that practically to support local people. I certainly take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, that it will be Africans who solve Africa’s problems, but that does not mean that we cannot be there in support, providing help through respectful partnerships based on trust. As a simple example, the King’s College NHS trust here in London has, since 2000, been partnered with Somaliland. Over that period, something like 90 people from that trust have gone for various periods to work with partners in Somaliland. They are starting to have a real impact: this year, for the first time in 20 years, medical students graduated in Somaliland. I could give other examples of partnerships; there is the Cheltenham link with Sierra Leone that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Jones. It is interesting to note that these volunteers are going to work in countries with such difficult circumstances.

Earlier this year, I published a report for the then Prime Minister on what more the UK could do to support such person-to-person or institution-to-institution partnerships. I am yet awaiting a government response, so I will take this opportunity to ask two specific questions. First, do the Government support and value that sort of capacity-building partnership in the aftermath of conflict, or in developing countries in any case? Secondly, the Government give no significant financial support there, so will they do so in future? There is much more that we can do to mobilise the terrific good will in this country to support such people. This is about people-to-people partnerships; we should pause to salute the many people who take on those difficult and daunting responsibilities. Health, with other actions, is thus a key part of development.

I will move briefly to prevention, with two examples. The first is of eight countries from west Africa, a sub-region that has been devastated by ongoing civil conflict. As a result, populations have been dispersed and infrastructure has collapsed. As a means to break the cycle and provide a stabilising influence on security in that sub-region, as well as addressing the crisis in healthcare provision, the ministries of health in those eight countries met in August 2001 and developed the “Health for Peace” initiative. That was designed so that they would work together—they are, generally, small countries—with different countries taking the lead on different aspects of health, which provides a common ground. I should declare an interest as chairman of Sightsavers International, one of the British organisations that have been playing the lead role in eye health in that region.

West Africa is not the only example. I am indebted to Ingrid Stellmacher of the International Commission of Peace for drawing my attention to many others around the world, not just in Africa, where health has, in many places,

“provided a platform to build cultural bridges and social cohesion … Health care professionals and the accompanying systems can promote greater community and race understanding and promote tolerance and non-violence”.

She has also observed to me that, in many places, hospitals or health facilities are relatively neutral grounds where communities can come together.

Finally, health is a basic human need. We need to see it as a much greater part of the whole development process, and in terms of the practical things that can be done to bring people together at both individual and community levels. I believe that paying more attention to health can play a big role in conflict prevention, during conflict and, of course, in rehabilitation.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for securing this debate. I should at the outset declare an interest, as for the past 12 years my wife and I have worked on a hospital ship in most of the countries of west Africa under the auspices of the charity Mercy Ships. We have seen at close quarters the appalling results of conflict—especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have been torn apart by civil war.

There, rebel soldiers would invade a village, round up the children and ask each one, “Are you left- or right-handed?”. If a child said “Right-handed”, the rebels would amputate the right hand. The children became wise to this, so if they were right-handed they would say that they were left-handed. That hand would then be amputated, but at least they were left with their more useful hand. The fate of the adults was even worse. The women were repeatedly raped and often killed, and the men killed in their hundreds.

Then there was Salamatu, a 19 year-old married lady in Sierra Leone with a young baby. The rebels surrounded her village, murdered her father and took her into the bush. They forced her to choose her fate by making her pick up one of three pieces of paper. On one was written, “Hands and feet”; on another “Feet and waist”, and on the third “Hands and waist”. Not knowing the significance, she picked up the paper with “Feet and waist” on it. The rebels promptly amputated both feet and her buttocks with a machete, cheering as pieces of her body fell to the ground.

In spite of all those disasters, and the death of her husband a few years later, she eventually made her painful way to the hospital ship, where she was hospitalised for four months while having extensive and successful plastic surgery. She was fitted with lightweight, artificial legs. As her story became known, donations came in that enabled a house to be constructed for her and for her dependants, and to provide her with the materials to start a tie-dying business that would make her self-sufficient. What amazing courage and faith; it was a great inspiration to all 400 people on that hospital ship.

Then there was a girl of 12, kidnapped by the rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone and taken away as a hostage. They raped and tortured her for a whole year and left her doubly incontinent. Somehow or other, she managed to escape and hide in the jungle for a week; no one knows how she managed to survive, but she made her way to the ship and her appalling injuries were corrected surgically, which made her completely continent again. However, psychologically she was very damaged indeed, and it was the tender, loving care of the nurses on board that helped her to come to terms with her appalling trauma.

Many of the countries in Africa are potentially rich, as many noble Lords have already said, in diamonds and other resources. Sierra Leone should bring prosperity to its citizens, but the corruption and intertribal warfare have prevented this.

One of the most interesting countries in west Africa is Ghana. We often wondered what makes that country different from the neighbouring countries; it may be that its educational structure is the solution, as children of different tribes and religion are educated peacefully together, which creates lifelong friendships and tends to preclude later internecine warfare.

There have been some encouraging signs elsewhere in west Africa. The 2,000 British troops who restored and maintained the peace in Sierra Leone did so much more besides in helping the local population to rebuild their homes, schools and hospitals. They went the second, third and fourth mile—so much so that many of the Sierra Leoneans asked the British troops to stay for ever and run their country. In Liberia, there is also good news, as they have elected a president, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is the first lady president in Africa. She is strong, honest and charming.

Has the Minister thought of using the really radical solution to the African problems which Costa Rica found when it abolished its army in 1948? As the New Internationalist stated in August 2005, as a result of abolishing the army,

“the nation’s limited resources were channelled into infrastructure, especially education and health, which rewarded the country with the highest living standard in Central and South America”.

There are now 28 nations without armies. Former Costa Rican president, Dr Arias Sanchez, has stressed that abolishing the army reduces the threat of military coups but he emphasises that it is essential to have a comprehensive programme to disarm and reintegrate soldiers into society. Otherwise, armed groups can reform under a different banner. Radical and imaginative solutions are essential for this terribly troubled continent.

My Lords, I join in the congratulations expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on returning to a subject that has been discussed several times during the current Parliament; in the debate on the Address, in his own Question on the Oxfam report and in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Soley, on liberal intervention.

The Government have agreed with the estimate that conflict in Africa is costing $18 billion a year, which is roughly the same as the amount of aid by the whole of the world. In the year to June 2008, the UN budget for peacekeeping in six of the seven major conflicts where it is involved comes to $4.9 billion, which does not include the amount for Chad and the CAR, for which the budget has still to be agreed. In addition, there is the 3,700-strong EU force to be deployed in Chad starting early next year, the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in CAR, and the UNHCR’s operations in Africa, for which it is requesting $380 million in 2008. That is to consider only the direct costs of the seven larger conflicts, leaving out the numerous indirect costs to the UN and its agencies such as those incurred in the conflict in Somalia, and of the smaller conflicts in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, and so on.

The Oxfam estimate is a conservative one, as Oxfam acknowledges. It includes nothing for Somalia, for the simple reason that there are no data, and nothing for the cost of armed crime, on which the only data, in relation to Ghana and Nigeria alone, are seven years out of date. There are also no data for piracy along the coasts of Africa, including 27 hijacks or attempts near the Somali coast alone this year. The downstream costs, extending for a generation or more, are also neglected in these estimates, as has been highlighted by the noble Lords, Lord McColl and Lord Crisp, simply because they are utterly incalculable. However, as the Commission for Africa said:

“War does not only harm people. It destroys roads, bridges, farming equipment, telecommunications, water and sanitation systems. It shuts down hospitals and schools. It slows trade and economic life, sometimes to a halt”.

As the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, said, those effects carry on for many years after a conflict has ended.

One contributory factor identified by Oxfam and highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is the steady flow of weaponry into the hands of private militias and organised criminal gangs. Most of the arms and ammunition come from outside Africa, and in spite of the EU code of conduct, which prohibits arms exports that provoke or prolong conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts, one EU state is the largest supplier of ammunition to sub-Saharan Africa. The international arms trade treaty, which all noble Lords have agreed is absolutely necessary, will have to include better provisions for reporting and enforcement than the EU code. It will be useful to hear from the Minister whether in the light of experience that code is to be strengthened, and what the EU is intending to propose to the UN group of experts when they start work on drafting the treaty next month. Will they seek to include an international monitoring mechanism such as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has indicated would be of great importance?

One answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is that it is impossible to generalise about the causes of conflict in Africa, although I agree to some extent with the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, that many of them are due to ethnic and religious differences. For instance, there is only one that I can think of that is based on traditional antipathy between two neighbouring states, ostensibly but not mainly about the boundary between them. That is the confrontation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and their proxy war in Somalia, which stems from the grievous mistake of the UN in 1950, when Eritrea was compulsorily federated with Ethiopia in the absence of any proper democratic consultation. When the people of Eritrea rose against the colonialist occupation, and there was a war of independence lasting 29 years, the international community did not lift a finger to help, and the Foreign Office throughout continued to parrot the mantra that some form of federal solution was best for the people of Eritrea.

When the Eritreans finally gained their independence, but war broke out again over the boundary, the international community failed to act firmly against Meles Zenawi’s refusal to accept the findings of the boundary commission. Now, after that commission has been disbanded, Meles remains in illegal occupation of some Eritrean territory, and refuses to accept the commission’s final recommendation for the boundary to be demarcated by co-ordinates. One-quarter of a million troops are confronting each other along this border, and Eritrea, a desperately poor country of 4 million inhabitants, has become a militarised police state, dubbed the worst country in the world for press freedom. Those are the reasons that the UN has to spend $120 million on the peacekeeping forces of UNMEE this year, and they help to explain why the two states are involved in a war in Somalia. Even now, if the UN took a robust line on the border decision and on withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, it could solve this problem, which would allow both countries to reduce military spending, to benefit from trade through Assab and Massawa, and to release the agricultural potential along the border. What is the UK doing, as a friend of both countries and as a permanent member of the Security Council, to avert this potential war?

I do not underestimate the risk of a resumption of the conflict between north and south Sudan, which has been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who urged us to take action to shore up the CPA and to make Abyea into a demilitarised zone. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on that. The situation in Darfur, which is turning into the most expensive of all UN peacekeeping operations, illustrates the problem of mobilising international action even when you have in front of you “an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe”—to use the language that justified the intervention in Kosovo without the approval of the Security Council, as we discussed the other day in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Soley. Although objectively the Darfur statistics on the loss of life and the dispossession and involuntary displacement of inhabitants far exceed the worst that could have happened in Kosovo, the deployment of the hybrid force to protect the people and to allow refugees and IDPs to return home has been thrown into doubt by Khartoum’s refusal to accept non-African forces, and by the persistent obstruction by President al-Bashir, which is still continuing. Yet there was no mention of Darfur or any of the other conflicts in the EU-AU summit declaration. The communiqué said that a high-level EU delegation discussed the refugee situation with President al-Bashir, and President Sarkozy said:

“We told him it is in Sudan’s best interests ... that there is a halt to the massacres on its territory and that in order for the massacres to stop, the hybrid force needs to be deployed as soon as possible”.

Is that really all that the EU has achieved? It must be clear to Khartoum that there are no penalties attached to its intransigence over the UN deployment, and that with the EU unable to come up with the hardware necessary to make it a success, there is no real political will in Brussels either. If I am wrong, I sincerely hope that the Minister will correct me.

To return to where I started, the debate has amply demonstrated that conflict and insecurity have been identified as the greatest barriers to development for poor people across the continent of Africa. As Saferworld emphasises, all the evidence—the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor, the report of the UN High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and the Commission for Africa’s report, among others—points to the conclusion that secure environments are fundamental prerequisites to the achievement of human development. Collectively, we are still not doing enough either to restore peace in several of the most severe conflicts or to prevent new conflicts breaking out where there are clear signs of imminent danger.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this debate so forcefully and also for his admirable consistency in highlighting these serious subjects. I thank noble Lords for all their interesting contributions. This was your Lordships’ House at its best. I will not go into detail on individual countries, as each one mentioned has been covered comprehensively by your Lordships in a better way than I could do.

Let me start with the proposition that the causes and consequences of conflict in Africa are often indistinguishable. Poverty, for example, can provoke violence, and violence can perpetuate poverty. Desperate and impoverished groups of people are more likely to turn to violent conflict. Violent conflict can lead to the reallocation, misappropriation and diminution of vital resources, and the fiscal cost of conflict invariably has an adverse effect on the living standards of the poorest people. A report on armed conflict in Africa has shown that the cost to the continent’s development over a 15-year period was, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Verma, nearly $300 billion or £146 billion. Between 1990 and 2005, 23 African nations were involved in conflict, and, on average, that cost African economies $18 billion a year. The report argues that this sum of money is,

“equivalent to international aid from major donors in the same period. If this money was not lost due to armed conflict, it could solve the problems of HIV and AIDS in Africa, or it could address Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria”.

However, poverty in itself is not the only cause of conflict and it is not my intention to oversimplify the matter. If poverty were the only cause, there would doubtless be many more outbreaks of violence across the developed and the developing world. Clearly, there are many complicated, diverse and interrelated factors which lead to conflict; so many that it is almost impossible to list them all. However, I believe that there are certain underlying factors, which I am sure your Lordships will agree have contributed to the outbreak of conflict in Africa. So what are those factors?

Corruption and bad governance, ethnic divisions and religious intolerance, illegitimate government, scarcity of resources, despicable human rights abuses, and, according to Professor Paul Collier in The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It,

“low incomes, slow growth, and dependence upon primary commodity exports”,

have all contributed, and will continue to contribute, to the many instances of violent conflict in Africa.

Furthermore, societies that have one group large enough to form a majority of the population, but where other groups are still significant, are indeed more at risk. The list of causes goes on and the effects are paramount. As we have heard from many noble Lords, since 2003 Darfur in western Sudan has been in the grip of a bitter civil conflict between African rebels and government troops. In the past four years, more than 200,000 people have lost their lives, 2 million been made homeless, and a further 2 million forced to rely on foreign aid. We all know that when civilian populations are provided with at least a basic standard of living, when Governments have a proper mandate to govern, when individuals are allowed to go about their daily business without fear of persecution, and when a country’s economy is able to achieve a certain level of sustainable growth, then the probability of conflict is radically reduced, and reduced it must be. As Professor Paul Collier points out:

“Civil war is development in reverse. It damages both the country itself and its neighbours”.

That is a very good way of putting it. So, what can we do to minimise the risk of future conflicts in Africa or to solve the problems? In his eloquent speech the noble Lord, Lord Luce, stressed a positive approach towards reconstruction, suggesting that the talented African diaspora be encouraged to return or to help in some way. My noble friend Lord McColl, in his moving speech, spoke about Costa Rica’s radical solution.

I suggest four ideas. First, as Andrew Mitchell, the Shadow Secretary of State has said, we should show a lead in promoting UN reforms to strengthen UN peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts around the world and to protect vulnerable populations from great harm. Secondly, we should make certain that aid is monitored and spent effectively, and that it reaches those people who really need it. Relieving hardship may be the best form of conflict prevention. Thirdly, we should work with the international community to reduce formal and informal trade barriers that hinder growth; because without growth peace is considerably more difficult. Fourthly, we should address the problem of conflict from a practical, rather than from solely an academic, perspective.

As the Department for International Development noted in its 2001 consultation document, The causes of conflict in Africa, by 2000, more than half the countries in Africa and 20 per cent of the population were affected by conflict. Not much has changed today, as we heard in the debate, despite aid of billions. The facts of civil war are clear; thousands of people are exposed to risk of death or displacement, and the process of development is severely hindered.

Conservatives support the principle of an international arms trade treaty to make certain that other countries live up to Britain’s high standards of arms export control. What progress has been made on such a treaty?

Until there is peace in Africa, opportunities for development by us are limited. I have not mentioned today China, India, Malaysia and others, but support all that my noble friend Lady Park and the noble Lord, Lord Luce, said about those countries.

I end, as did my noble friend Lady Verma and the noble Lord, Lord Luce, by reiterating that Africa should help itself. However, after so many years of fighting, it is clear that external help, too, is needed to end its many conflicts.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate and for drawing our attention to this vital issue. I am grateful also for the characteristically well informed contributions from all noble Lords who have participated in this powerful debate.

Conflict has sadly been a regular feature in Africa in recent decades, although we should be careful not to fall into generalisations—a large majority of Africans continue to live in peace. The end of the Cold War had a dramatic impact in Africa. Governments often lost the economic and military props they had previously enjoyed and political change was suddenly on the agenda. Conflict in Africa since the early 1990s has been largely internal, with government forces pitted against rebel groups often representing regional or ethnic interests. Cross-border groups acting as proxies for neighbouring regimes have been common. The number of conflicts rose dramatically, reaching a peak in 1999, which saw 17 significant conflicts.

Every conflict in Africa has its own complex story, its own specific triggers and drivers, but there are some clear trends, of which climate change, cited by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, is clearly one. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, was right to mention poverty as an underlying cause of conflict. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, spoke of governance: economically developed democratic countries rarely fall into conflict, which is often a product of poor governance and lack of development, and which then reinforces them. Many post-colonial African states have been vulnerable to conflict because they lacked the ability to act like a state, to provide a secure environment for their citizens and improve their quality of life. In many cases, the state is next to non-existent in remote rural parts of Africa. It is no surprise that many armed conflicts arise in such areas. Too many African Governments in the past have been non-inclusive, favouring one or more regional, ethnic or social groups at the expense of others. That has left other groups excluded, with no channels to express their grievances and often no access to scarce resources.

If those basic problems of governance and exclusion have lit the flames of conflict, they have been fanned by many other drivers, including impunity and arms. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, rightly drew attention to the pernicious impact of irresponsible arms trading in Africa, in particular in small arms. In some African countries, a few hundred men with small arms can have a huge and terrible impact. There may be major barriers to trade within Africa, but the Kalashnikov is an exception. The noble Lord powerfully pointed out that weapons represent power and pride; they fuel the conflicts that sap human life and economics.

Many noble Lords mentioned the arms trade treaty. The UK was the first major arms exporter to throw its weight behind the campaign for an arms trade treaty. We want a treaty with teeth, which will make a real difference to those who are suffering as a result of armed conflict in Africa. UK engagement has been instrumental in galvanising international support, and we will not lose our resolve on this matter. To my noble friend Lord Judd, I say that we will continue to engage with the US on this issue and to encourage it to participate as work progresses, with the aim of securing its support for an eventual treaty.

Violence begets violence. Too many African Governments have used their security forces not to defend their people, but to oppress them. This often creates a bad neighbourhood, encouraging others to use proxies. We saw the impact of Charles Taylor’s appalling regime throughout the Mano river sub-region, and events in Darfur have exacerbated instability in Chad and the Central African Republic. Perhaps we should pay more heed to the example of Costa Rica, as cited by the noble Lord, Lord McColl.

We know only too well the devastating consequences of conflict in Africa. First, as always, should come the human impact. Figures are unreliable, especially so given the nature and location of many African conflicts. Battle deaths probably reached some 100,000 per year in the late 1990s, but have now declined significantly. The number of total deaths was much higher, from disease—including HIV—displacement, malnutrition and the like. The numbers of those suffering physical and mental injuries, from the trauma of experiencing extreme violence, the appalling phenomenon of child soldiers and the terrible incidence of sexual violence in eastern DRC, are enormous and sometimes forgotten. We must not forget the terrible hardship and impact of internal and external displacement, with the brightest and best often fleeing their homelands for ever. It is only the amazing fortitude of many people in Africa, and their willingness to forgive, that prevents the human impact being larger. I shall return to child soldiers.

The recent report by three NGOs that was cited by many noble Lords gives us a dramatic sense of the economic costs of conflict. It is a powerful and sobering report, and we have no reason to take a radically different view from that expressed in it. Similar conclusions were drawn last year by the International Development Select Committee. What is undeniable is that conflict undermines development. In 2005, it was estimated that of the 34 countries furthest from achieving the MDGs, 22 were in conflict or emerging from it. In Sierra Leone’s conflict, for example, rice production fell to 20 per cent of its pre-war levels. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Jones, and Cheltenham hospital are having such a tangible impact in a country that is still suffering from conflict. The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, asked about progress on the MDGs. Despite the fact that UN Millennium Development Goals report 2007 noted that efforts to meet them are being undermined by insecurity and instability, progress is being made. According to the UN, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by nearly six percentage points since 2000. We are contributing £417 million to the African Development Fund over the next three years, which is double the amount of previous support.

On child soldiers, the UK has been active in supporting activity that addresses the terrible effects on the children involved, including innovative work in Sierra Leone and northern Uganda. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that putting resources in the hands of women and involving civil society in conflict issues is terribly important. That is integral to DfID’s work. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke about conflict resolution and the important part that women can play in that.

Conflict is not just a tragedy for Africa, but a very serious issue for the wider world and this country. It brings direct costs to the international community: lost trade and investment, spending on emergency and post-conflict aid, and international intervention. Perhaps more significantly, conflict can fuel uncontrolled migration and create ungoverned spaces, which criminal networks and extremists can exploit.

This sounds like a very bleak picture, but there is real cause for optimism; things are improving. The number of conflicts in Africa has reduced dramatically in recent years, from 17 significant conflicts in 1999 to five in 2005, but of course those conflicts are dreadful. This is not by chance. African countries and the international community are taking a more active approach and greater responsibility for preventing conflicts before they begin, ending them when they start and providing the means to recover from them.

The formation of the African Union in 2002 enshrined a new commitment to democracy and sound economic management. The picture remains uneven, of course, but two-thirds of African countries now have multi-party elections and the successful military coup has almost ended as a way of changing governments. The AU no longer recognises regimes that have come to power by force. It has distanced itself from the former Organisation of African Unity’s mantra of non-interference in internal affairs and has committed itself to a policy of non-indifference. The AU has acted on this, sending peacekeeping missions to Burundi, Darfur and Somalia, leading peace negotiations and preventing conflict through mediation. We should continue to encourage and support this trend. The AU has also developed a long-term vision of an African peace and security architecture, covering early warning, mediation, peacekeeping and post-conflict work. This Government is one of the AU’s major supporters in this. We have trained more than 11,000 African peacekeepers since 2004 and provided capacity-building support to the AU and African regional organisations such as ECOWAS.

At the UN, 60 per cent of the Security Council’s time is spent on African issues. Many of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world are in Africa—in DRC, Liberia, southern Sudan and, soon, in Darfur in partnership with the African Union. Peacekeeping is a vital and effective tool. UN, AU and EU missions contribute to a more secure environment in Africa. The UN world summit in 2005 saw a clear recognition of the links between conflict and development. One of the outcomes was the peacebuilding commission, which aims to highlight the critical gaps between peacekeeping and post-conflict development, and better to co-ordinate international donors to ensure that funds are used more strategically. The first two countries to be addressed are Sierra Leone and Burundi. The UK has contributed some £30 million to the peacebuilding fund.

On conflict resources, the Kimberley process, involving governments, industry and civil society, has made remarkable progress. In the 1990s some 15 per cent of all diamonds traded internationally were conflict diamonds. Now, some 99.8 per cent are traded legitimately through a system of inspections, certificates and warranties. We do not have to be impotent; sometimes we can make things work.

The UK has been instrumental in ensuring that those who perpetrate genocide and crimes against humanity are held to account. We are strong supporters of the International Criminal Court and the international tribunals in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. We stand by to imprison Charles Taylor if he is convicted by the special court in Sierra Leone. The British Government take a comprehensive approach to conflict in Africa, bringing together diplomatic development and defence expertise from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence to work on African conflict-prevention programmes, totalling more than £350 million since 2001. We also aim to ensure that all our development work is sensitive to conflict. This is essential. Rwanda, just before the genocide, seemed to be making social and economic progress, but foreign assistance was not addressing the fundamental divisions within that society.

Of course, there is absolutely no room for complacency. The crisis in Darfur continues; the Government of Sudan continue to put obstacles in the way of the UN/AU mission. The prompt deployment of effective force is essential. We are doing all we can to ensure that the UN can generate the necessary force and that the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements deliver on their commitments. We are working hard to encourage a solution to the differences between north and south Sudan in implementing the comprehensive peace agreement. This is indivisible from the solution to the Darfur crisis. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, spoke powerfully about the needs of the people of southern Sudan. We welcome the SPLM’s announcement that it will rejoin the Government of National Unity.

Two parties have made detailed plans for redeployment of forces in three phases, with 100 per cent deployment by 9 January. Abyei will be protected by joint integrated units and will be monitored by UNMIS. We welcome this. We have supported the capacity building for the JIUs. The UK is supporting the work of the Darfur Assessment and Evaluation Commission, an independent body, whose remit is to monitor and report on the implementation of the CPA. The UK also supports a high-level international meeting to push for more rapid CPA implementation. Of course, free and fair national elections in 2009 are crucial for the whole of Sudan. On peacekeeping in Darfur, we call on the Government to co-operate fully with the DPKO/AU force on composition and deployment. The question of helicopters was very well dealt with at Question Time. Clearly, the Government hope to bring this to the EU heads of government at the earliest opportunity. We are very frustrated by the lack of helicopters.

The situations in Somalia and eastern DRC remain real causes for concern. In eastern DRC the situation is fast-moving and we are aware of Nkunda’s counteroffensive. The real concern is that the current situation is creating more humanitarian misery. It is essential that we focus on the underlying problems, action against both Nkunda and the FDLR in parallel, and that we continue to focus on the political end-game.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, quite rightly and properly drew our attention to the appalling situation in Zimbabwe. The tragedy is unfolding daily before our eyes and continues to endanger stability in the whole area. Like them, I pay tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for his persistence where Zimbabwe is concerned. Like the noble Lord, Lord Luce, the Government believe that the solution to Zimbabwe’s current crisis has, ultimately, to be an African one, supported by the international community. We support President Mbeke in leading efforts to resolve Zimbabwe’s problems and President Wade of Senegal’s recent comments on the need for the whole of Africa to solve the problem. We want to see positive outcomes on the ground. That is the only real test of any initiative.

Zimbabwe’s crisis is not only a regional or African problem, although it requires strong African leadership that is willing to condemn atrocities and recognise injustice. I cannot quite remember the very excellent quotation of the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, but I entirely agree with him about resolute actions. At the last meeting in August, SADC’s leaders did not blame the EU or the West for Zimbabwe’s problems. It was a very small step forward, but perhaps we should take some small comfort from that.

I listened carefully to the experiences and wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Luce. I very much like his idea of an EU/AU plan to mobilise members of the diaspora who have skills that can be used in peacebuilding. Having had discussions with various diasporas in the past, I am sure that they would warm to such a suggestion. The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and others drew our attention to the impact of conflict on health, that basic human need. Yes, the Government strongly support partnerships such as the one he cited between King’s College Hospital and Somaliland. I will come back to him on the issue of funding. I greatly respect the noble Lord, Lord McColl, for his extraordinary work on mercy ships and, of course, the organisation itself. His words were chilling, but the work that he does brings warmth to our hearts and we are very proud of him.

In respect of the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Government’s policy is based on three principles: avoiding a return to war, which would be unacceptable; demarcating the border; and finding a way for the parties to normalise relations. In November we set out this policy very forcefully when the Foreign Secretary met the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, when the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, and the British ambassador to Ethiopia met the Ethiopian Prime Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown also conveyed these points to the Eritrean foreign minister. We recognise the seriousness of that issue.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about pooled funding. The UK in southern Sudan uses the pooled mechanism with six other donors and works to assist the Government of southern Sudan to use the World Bank-managed multi-donor trust fund.

There are important future challenges for the UK and the wider international community. First, there is the question of progress on agreeing an arms trade treaty at the UN. We need a treaty that will stop the irresponsible trade in weapons that are used to fuel conflict, repression and human rights abuses. Secondly, we should ensure that the concept of responsibility to protect, endorsed by 191 world leaders at the UN world summit in 2005, is operationalised so we can help states to improve their capacity to prevent the most egregious crimes. Where they are not upholding their responsibilities we pressurise them to do so, and as a last resort we step in when they fail. That is part and parcel of the Government’s approach to hard-headed internationalism. Thirdly, new approaches should be developed to new challenges such as the potential impact on Africa’s security of climate change as water, land and other resources become scarcer in some areas. Finally, we should put into action the key linkages highlighted recently by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to ensure that all future peacekeeping missions have plans for post-conflict recovery at their heart.

The Government are fully committed to addressing both the fundamental causes of conflict in Africa and its consequences. We will continue to put that at the heart of our broader agenda for Africa’s development and to use our influence within the wider international community.

My Lords, every contribution to this debate has demonstrated a breadth of knowledge and, from all parts of your Lordships’ House, a profound love of Africa and African people. The debate has been enriched by the experience of three former Ministers, by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, speaking from the government Front Bench and by the other Front-Bench speakers, and by many other notable contributions based on personal experience and real knowledge.

Many speeches have concentrated on the situation in specific countries such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo and Somalia. Others have looked at the human costs, especially to women and children, at the opportunity costs and economic costs of conflict and the correlation between conflict and poverty. Others again have talked about conflicts that have arisen, how we might end them and the role of international agencies and countries such as China and Russia.

A large number of speeches have called for an end to the flow of arms into Africa. As some developed nations continue to sell arms into Africa, we have to ask: where are our consciences? As some African leaders continue corruptly to squander lives and resources, where are theirs? That is why so many have called for an arms trade treaty.

Before all other targets for Africa, both within and outside the continent, we need to mobilise our ingenuity and our resources to end the conflicts that take so many lives and endanger development. In once again thanking all noble Lords who have participated, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.