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Democratic Republic of Congo

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 26 November 2008

rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the ongoing and high-level interest that both Houses are taking in the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This reflects the Government’s own concern, which is why I gladly agreed to put forward this Motion in government time.

Reflecting our commitment, I followed up the Secretary of State’s recent visit to the region with his French counterpart by going to the Great Lakes region last week. I visited Kinshasa, North Kivu and Kigali. In Kinshasa, I called on President Kabila and pressed him on the need to find a political solution under the so-called Goma agreement to the problem of General Nkunda and the CNDP rather than trying to find a military option to resolve the problem. I also urged him publicly to denounce the FDLR—the militia that is made up of Hutus who were involved in the Rwandan genocide and which is still the root of many of the problems in the eastern DRC. In Goma, I visited General Gaye, the acting commander of MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force, and discussed with him the situation on the ground and MONUC’s needs. I also saw the governor of North Kivu and visited an internally displaced persons’ camp where I saw at first-hand the suffering that this conflict is causing. In Kigali, I called on President Kagame and urged him to continue to engage in the regional peace initiative and to maintain an ongoing dialogue with President Kabila, building on their recent meeting in Nairobi as part of a regional gathering. I also asked him publicly to denounce General Nkunda and the CNDP as part of a reciprocal renunciation of the FDLR by President Kabila.

As I saw for myself in North Kivu, the situation in the region remains fragile. Despite the recent ceasefire agreements, there has been renewed fighting over the past week and the situation remains volatile. Since the end of August, this conflict has resulted in an estimated 250,000 displaced people in North Kivu, bringing the total in North Kivu to well over 1 million, and at least 100 civilians have been killed. While the humanitarian consequences of the fighting are dire, it is the violence, insecurity and general lawlessness that is affecting the civilian population and hampering the delivery of assistance. Last week’s fighting has resulted in fresh displacement in areas difficult for the humanitarian agencies to reach, although we are still not clear on the numbers.

I take this opportunity to thank all those people working in such difficult circumstances on this humanitarian crisis. I met many devoted NGOs and individuals working there. I also commend the lead role that the Department for International Development is playing in the response.

Most humanitarian assistance is still getting through to camps around Goma, Rutshuru and Kiwanja. The World Food Programme is managing to distribute food aid sufficient for 200,000 people, and shelter materials have been supplied to displaced people around Goma and Rutshuru. Nevertheless, the situation remains precarious and access for humanitarian assistance can quickly be blocked if the fighting and lawlessness continue to spread.

Her Majesty’s Government had already committed £37 million of humanitarian assistance to the DRC for 2008. This included funding to ensure that supplies were in place to respond quickly to emergencies such as this. Much of our resource has been targeted on North Kivu. We announced an additional £5 million on 31 October. Six DfID humanitarian flights arrived in Goma between 9 and 11 November carrying water purification materials, plastic sheeting, blankets and water containers, and £2 million is to be used to assist the World Food Programme to source and distribute food in North Kivu. The rest will be channeled to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee and Oxfam for provision of water and sanitation, health assistance and other essential supplies.

Like all noble Lords, I am deeply disturbed by unconfirmed reports of FARDC soldiers—the national Congolese army—raping and killing civilians and of atrocities of equal severity committed by the CNDP forces. We also have reports from Human Rights Watch and other NGOs that there has been large-scale forced recruitment, including of children, not just by CNDP but by PARECO and the Mai-Mai militias.

The deliberate targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, humanitarian aid workers and supplies is evidently in direct contravention of international humanitarian law and we hope that it will cease immediately. The targeting by the FARDC, the national army, of a therapeutic nutritional feeding centre on 19 November is a disgraceful example of this. MONUC has sent a team to investigate the alleged massacres at Kiwanja and the forced recruitment around Rutshuru. We await its report and encourage it to work with the Government of the DRC to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes will meet on 27 November to look specifically at sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC and will launch a report from the noble Lord, Lord Mance, on the subject. This is an important issue.

This crisis has again underlined the fact that the Congolese state, for all the support that we and the international community have given it, is still a long way off track in reforming its national army. We need to review our support in this area. We are certainly willing to provide more support to help to reform the security sector, but for that to happen there needs to be a step change in the DRC Government’s own approach. We would like to see a stronger commitment to tackling corruption within the army, which remains one of several key obstacles to the ongoing reform efforts.

The UK’s immediate goal is to ensure that the ceasefire agreed in October in North Kivu between the CNDP and the DRC Government remains in place and to try to bring an end to the fighting and allow humanitarian assistance to reach the displaced people around Goma and other affected towns in North Kivu. The cause of the immediate crisis is General Nkunda’s CNDP and for that purpose we need to resume meaningful negotiations with the Congolese Government and the CNDP to end the current fighting. However, we must also tackle the longer-term underlying cause of instability in the Great Lakes: the continuing presence of the FDLR and the Hutu genocidaires within it in eastern Congo. Dismantling and repatriating the FDLR is an essential element in any long-term solution.

Neither this nor a restitution of the status quo ante before the fighting began in October is enough. A long-term solution that finally brings stability, economic growth and development in eastern Congo and the broader Great Lakes region is needed and we are active in trying to achieve that goal. The Prime Minister has worked the phones, including calling President Kagame and discussing the crisis with both President Sarkozy, with whom he introduced a Security Council resolution, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. As I said, the Foreign Secretary also visited the region with his French counterpart at the beginning of November. We have strongly supported the appointment of former Nigerian President Obasanjo as UN special envoy for the Great Lakes and we hope to work closely with him on his mediation efforts. Indeed, I have already been in touch with him a number of times.

I attended the Nairobi summit on 7 November. The summit saw the first steps taken by the region and the United Nations towards a resolution of the conflict and injected fresh momentum into achieving full implementation of the Nairobi communiqué and the Goma accord. It also agreed on the establishment of a follow-up mechanism to drive implementation of these agreements and it saw regional leaders back Mr Obasanjo in his role as UN special envoy.

I turn to the issues surrounding MONUC. The UN’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC has a key role both in ensuring the implementation of the diplomatic agreements—the Nairobi communiqué and the Goma accord—and in stabilising the current situation in order to allow full access for humanitarian assistance and protect civilians. With over 17,000 troops and 1,000 international civilian staff, MONUC is the biggest peacekeeping force that the UN has ever deployed. It also enjoys a broad mandate that allows it to tackle a wide range of challenges that need to be overcome if stability is to be brought to the DRC.

Nevertheless, the current crisis has highlighted the limitations that MONUC faces both in current force levels and in rapid response ability. Having followed MONUC from the beginning of its life, I have seen its responsibilities and mandate expanded, but all too frequently without the reinforcement of its logistical capability or its fighting forces that is required in order for it to carry out the ambitious Chapter 7 tasks that it has now been given. The Prime Minister announced on 13 November that the UK would support the request put to the UN Security Council by the UN Secretary-General to approve additional troops for the UN’s peacekeeping force in DRC. Following on from this, the UK co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1843 on 20 November mandating the deployment of 2,785 additional troops and 300 police for MONUC. We are now working with the UN’s Department for Peacekeeping Operations to identify contributors and to ensure that these troops are deployed to the DRC as soon as possible. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced in another place today that he has written to those countries deemed most likely to provide additional troops to encourage them to do so and to say that we would offer whatever support we could to facilitate their urgent arrival in eastern Congo.

In the mean time, we continue to work closely with our Security Council partners to ensure that MONUC’s existing resources are utilised as efficiently as possible and targeted where they are most needed. We commend MONUC’s efforts to reinforce its presence in and around Goma by moving troops from other parts of the DRC. Now, 95 per cent of MONUC’s troops are deployed in the eastern Congo.

Nevertheless, we approach today’s debate with a heavy heart. The situation has improved modestly over the past several weeks but it remains deeply dangerous and precarious. Unless we can apply political will, from this House and elsewhere, on the leaders of the region and the leaders of the militia to find a political solution to this problem, the likelihood that this situation will once more revert to a descending cycle of violence and civilian loss of life remains high. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.—(Lord Malloch-Brown.)

My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister, not only for giving this report on the situation in the DRC but for his considerable efforts in the region—he has described his visit there last week—and to the Prime Minister for his equally robust efforts. We are also grateful for the way in which the Minister has constantly kept your Lordships informed of developments in the region on an almost day-to-day basis. We are well briefed for the debate today and we are grateful to him for that.

Although the Security Council had the DRC on its agenda at the end of October for the first time since the end of March, until just now its response to a rapidly escalating emergency was a statement by the president and the Secretary-General’s assurances that it was indeed his number one preoccupation. One had a sense of déjà vu thinking back to the former Secretary-General’s commitment following the genocide in Rwanda to the UN,

“never again to fail in protecting a civilian population from … mass slaughter”,

and the independent inquiry’s recommendations, for example, that member states be prepared to provide the necessary troops and logistical resources at short notice in support of peacekeeping operations. Yet it is only now, at this 11th hour, that the Security Council has authorised, as the Minister described, the deployment of an additional 2,700 troops and 300 police to the eastern DRC with already a quarter of a million people displaced from their homes over the past few weeks and lacking access to food, shelter and medical attention.

President Kabila has demanded a stronger mandate for MONUC whereas all that SCR 1843 does is to underscore the present mandate, including what it describes as the robust rules of engagement. Can the Minister say whether the rules of engagement are being updated and whether they will be published so that civilians who are at risk will know what protection they can expect from the UN? On Monday, the Minister said at Question Time that there were caveats by some troop contributors which affected the competence of peacekeeping operations. Can he say something about the further steps being taken to persuade the relevant states to lift these restrictions?

Laurent Nkunda, whose spokesman last Friday said that the UN decision was,

“proof of the engagement of the international community to the Congolese people”,

a couple of days later did a U-turn and said that the CNDP would not accept outsiders coming to Goma to provide security. He wants the UN’s special envoy, former President Obasanjo of Nigeria, to promote negotiations between the Government and the CNDP to deal with what he sees as key issues, such as the failure to disarm and demobilise the remnants of the Rwandan Hutu genocidalists in South Kivu, a point mentioned by the Minister in his speech. The point is that there was a plan to do that but not the political will to execute it, even before the disintegration of the national army deprived Kinshasa of the means.

Is there now some hope of rehabilitating some of the units of the national army, with the UN calling for, among other resources, 200 additional military training instructors? Even where the remnants of the FARDC have managed to fend off CNDP attacks at Kanyabayonga, 175 kilometres north of Goma, a week ago, it is a mixed blessing for the inhabitants; as the Minister has said, there are reports of atrocities by the national army, with the UN force commander saying that government troops, in this case, were looting the town. It would be good to know if the military instructors who are part of this UN resource will be given an active role in promoting better discipline within the armed forces.

Oxfam was supplying water to the 20,000 inhabitants of Kanyabayonga as of a couple of weeks ago, and it would be useful if the Minister could give us an update on access to the town and to other conflict-threatened centres of population for the humanitarian agencies. I join him in the tribute he has paid to the many agencies that are still operating in the region, even under considerable threat to their own security. UNICEF says that 85 per cent of the schools in the territory controlled by the CNDP remain closed to around 150,000 students in spite of promises that they would be allowed to reopen, and we join it in calling for all children to be able to resume their studies and to be protected from abuse, exploitation and violence, particularly from recruitment into the militias, as the Minister mentioned.

Olusegun Obasanjo has been successful in negotiating humanitarian access to the area controlled by General Nkunda, but does his mandate allow him to report back on the goals of the rebels so that the UN can gauge the possibility of a negotiated solution to end the fighting and allow the CNDP to pursue its aims by political means? With the increase in the size of MONUC, Nkunda must realise that he is not going to be able to drive the UN out and so become the de facto ruler of the eastern DRC as a whole—if that indeed were his ultimate objective.

On the other hand, President Kabila’s options are limited too. He has no control over the territory of North Kivu beyond Goma and the area surrounding it, from which Nkunda’s forces withdrew voluntarily, and he has no military capacity anywhere in the eastern DRC that would allow that territory to be reoccupied. His spokesman reiterated yesterday that he is prepared to talk to Nkunda only within the framework of the January peace agreements, which have already collapsed. Is that not unrealistic? If so, do the Government not think that all parties to the agreements should come together again under UN auspices to see whether it could be amended or replaced by a new, more robust settlement? Does Mr Obasanjo need to be given a more precise remit to arrange such a meeting? Can we get the EU to persuade President Kabila that he has to be more flexible and not to insist on the letter of the Goma and Nairobi peace agreements? As the Minister has implied, the dialogue has to involve Kigali because, as everyone knows, Nkunda gets his marching orders and his military support from there.

At the time, most observers warned that the Goma accord was a truce rather than a permanent deal, yet in the months that elapsed between the end of January and the resumption of fighting the international community made no collective effort to address its deficiencies that had been identified at the time. There is a lesson here for the UN too: it must actively address the underlying causes of a conflict that has led to a peacekeeping mission.

In the debate in another place a couple of weeks ago, there was general agreement with the proposition that violence in eastern DRC would not end until the root causes were addressed. In addition to the legacy of the Rwandan genocide, my honourable friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton raised the competition for mineral resources. Previously he had been given the brush-off with a reference to the EITI, a useful initiative, but not fully effective in the context of the DRC because of the premature disbandment of the UN Expert Panel, which had been gathering the evidence. It had produced a list of companies operating or trading in minerals from the region, but no action has been taken to halt these activities, which help to fund the conflicts. Have we checked on A&M Minerals, listed by the UN Expert Panel? What action has been taken by the NCP following her statement in July on DAS Air, and why was no mention made of the other three UK-based companies cited by the Expert Panel—De Beers, Oryx Natural Resources and Avient? Are we making any further inquiries about Alfred Knight, the assayer who told the International Development Committee in 2007 that he was not doing work on a mine in North Kivu? What has happened following the DRC’s interministerial commission, set up in April 2007 to re-examine mining contracts signed before 2003?

There were several mentions in another place of the appalling epidemic of violence against women in eastern DRC, referred to by the Minister, and on which the UN rapporteur, Yakin Ertürk, reported following a visit in July last year. She found that more than half of the acts of sexual violence were committed by state security forces, but in South Kivu the FDLR and its offshoots were the major culprits. Since then, matters have got even worse. The noble Lord referred to the report this week from Human Rights Watch. That allegation goes for the numbers of offences as well as the scale of the atrocities.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, says that the Hutu militias are the most vicious of the lot. Sexual violence has reached levels that exceed even the experience of the Rwandan genocide. What is MONUC doing specifically to protect women or to organise community self-defence against the rape gangs?

I have exceeded my time but should like to ask two final questions. Have there been any offers to meet the specific needs itemised by the UN, particularly the 18 utility helicopters, with the personnel to operate them? Can the Minister say anything more about the timetable for getting these assets into the field?

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for making possible this debate, for his useful contribution in opening it and for all the work that he has done in recent weeks to deal with this pretty terrible situation. Surely no country in the world epitomises more accurately the old Irish adage “Well, I wouldn’t start from here” than does the Congo. A brutal and rapacious colonial regime was rapidly followed after independence by a civil war in which the Congo became a pawn to Cold War rivalries. That war was followed by a long period of autocratic kleptocracy, and then another civil war, in which many of the country’s neighbours joined.

Two years ago, democratic elections under UN auspices held out some prospect of a better future, but now the country is again teetering on the brink of an all-out civil war in which its neighbours get involved. This truly appalling sequence has brought massive suffering and loss of life to the population, and while some responsibility for this miserable state of affairs can be laid at the door of the Congolese themselves, the greater part of their troubles has invariably come from outside the country, fuelled by a desire to get control of its valuable mineral resources.

In speaking in this debate, I should declare a non-pecuniary interest as chair of the board of the United Nations Association of the UK. The UN has had a long, and by no means entirely happy, involvement in the Congo. Embroiled in the civil war that followed independence, in what turned out to be a military enforcement capacity for which it was ill suited, it extricated itself, having preserved the unity of the country, but at the cost of the life of arguably its greatest Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld. In recent times, it has been at the heart of international efforts to remedy the state failure which followed the departure of President Mobutu. As the Minister said, with 17,000 peacekeepers on the ground and a major civilian contingent, this is the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation. As recent events around Goma have shown, it is not going well. We need to ask why, and not just to throw brickbats at the UN. We need also to ask what Britain, a major player at the UN, can do to help remedy the situation, not just give a weary shrug of our shoulders and turn away.

So far as the military aspects of the peacekeeping operation are concerned, it surely cannot make sense to have spread the 17,000 peacekeepers all over that vast country and to have made no provision for a rapid-reaction capability within the force to cope with any emergency such as that which has occurred in the north-east of the country. The decision by the Security Council just before last weekend to increase the force by 3,000 is obviously a step in the right direction, but will the additional troops be forthcoming in a reasonably short space of time? Perhaps the Minister will say a little more about what we are doing to help with force generation. He said a few sentences on it but not much in detail; it sounded more like exhortation than logistical support and other things. Is thought now being given to constituting a rapid reaction capability, perhaps, as was done in Bosnia in 1995 when the peacekeeping operation there was on the point of collapse, and to it being better equipped—indeed, perhaps not in blue helmets at all—so that it can deal with the threat to the mission in a reasonably robust way? Does there need to be some adjustment to the UN’s mandate and rules of engagement, where I echo the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury?

However, it is clear that a military response is not all that is needed if the situation is to be stabilised. I again pay tribute to the work of the Foreign Secretary and the Minister in helping to muster a diplomatic response to the crisis. It is obvious that the main focus now needs to be on the mediation efforts of the UN special envoy, former President Obasanjo, who appears to be making some initial headway. However, no UN envoy can ever hope to succeed without the concerted and sustained support of the main international players. What are we doing to use our undoubted influence with the Government of Rwanda to shift them from being part of the problem to become a key part of its solution? Is it not surely the case that Rwanda’s security will never be achieved unless there is stability across its western border? That requires not a fellow Tutsi warlord but a political accommodation with the Government in Kinshasa, including action to deal with the Hutu genocidaire militias, which are still active in the region. Are we working closely with the French Government, who probably have more influence than us in Kinshasa?

It is deeply unfortunate and deplorable that, just when the main requirement is for both external and regional players in the Great Lakes region to work more closely together, the air is being filled with accusations and counteraccusations about responsibility for the event that triggered off the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. With an international tribunal determining responsibilities for that terrible episode, it should surely be possible for all other jurisdictions to leave the lead to that court and not to seek to exercise competing jurisdiction themselves. Is that the view of the Government, and, if so, what are we doing to persuade other actors that that is the best way to proceed?

Looking beyond the immediate crisis, are we giving any thought as to how to avoid the Congo’s rich mineral resources continuing to be the focus of greedy incursions and destabilising activity? Does the success of the Kimberley process in dealing with illegally mined and traded diamonds, which did so much to fund the wars in Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone, offer some kind of pattern or template for similar action; for example, with respect to the coltan deposits in the eastern Congo? Are we learning a lesson from other peacekeeping operations that an excessive focus on the holding of elections may prove a distraction from the much more laborious, resource-intensive work of rebuilding state institutions, courts, public services and the rule of law more generally? Both in the Congo itself as well as in Bosnia, and perhaps Afghanistan next year, elections are not a kind of silver bullet or a cure-all and should not be presented as such. It is what happens when the elections are over that really matters, and that means planning ahead and situating the elections in a wider, longer framework of sustained international commitment. In this context, I suggest that it is a pity that the UN is still not making greater use of the UN Peacebuilding Commission or the UN Peacebuilding Support Office which were established following the 2005 UN reform summit.

As is often the case when crises occur in major UN peace-keeping operations, the organisation comes in for a good deal of criticism. Some of it is well deserved, but we need to remember that when we criticise the UN we criticise ourselves. The UN is not some kind of disembodied entity operating outside our control and area of responsibility; it represents the collective efforts of a world body, in which we still have considerable influence. I hope that the Minister, who has more reason to be aware of these uncomfortable truths than any of us, will be able to tell us when he replies to this debate what the Government have been able to do and intend to do to strengthen the hand of the UN in our attempts to help the long-suffering people of the Congo to escape from their poisoned historical inheritance.

My Lords, the diocese of Manchester is linked, especially through its mothers’ unions, to the Anglican diocese of North Kivu. Its bishop wrote movingly to us as recently as last week, describing the plight of people in his diocese fleeing in terror from their homes, their men killed and their women and young girls most terribly abused. Had it been possible for my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester to be in his place today, he would no doubt have spoken of the links that his diocese has with almost the whole Anglican province of Congo and of his own visits to that wonderful but presently tragic country. From these Benches, we join in tribute to the Minister both for this debate and for the way in which, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, indicated, he has clearly sensed from his own personal contacts and recent visit both the complexity of the situation in the DRC and the urgent need to find a solution that will bring some hope into a context of utter despair.

This is an extended and messy conflict across a vast area from which accurate information is difficult to obtain. It is a conflict that has paid the dreadful price over 10 years of 5.4 million deaths in or as a direct result of combat, which is arguably the biggest loss of life as a result of conflict since World War II. By what means, through whose intervention and how soon can perhaps the 1 million all told who have fled from their homes return in safety, free from the insecurity and fear of wondering which militias may rape or kill them? How realistic is it to put much hope in a political process with Nkunda and Kabila, given the track record, and how realistic is it to believe that a political solution on its own, however desirable, which of course it is, can be put in place in time? Can the Minister tell us what results have emerged from pressing for a proposal for the appointment of a special adviser on human rights for eastern DRC as the Armani process resumes to monitor commitments made under Article 3 of the Goma agreement?

If a political solution on its own without appropriate extra forces as back-up does not work, the ensuing disaster not least in humanitarian terms will be very great. That brings me back to last week’s plea from Goma and to the backing of EurAC, the network of European NGOs, for the immediate establishment and deployment of an effective disciplined European force to stabilise North Kivu. Our church contacts support the evidence that neither the DRC armed forces nor MONUC have sufficient ability adequately to support the Goma accord and Nairobi communiqué. I am somewhat concerned about the stress laid by Ministers in another place and by the Minister this afternoon on MONUC being the largest UN force deployed, with what seems to be the implication that its resources are adequate. Will the Minister acknowledge that MONUC is facing conflict on at least four different fronts over a large area with a force that is only the size of that deployed to Sierra Leone—a country one-twenty-fourth the size? The Minister will recall that for Kosovo, which is smaller than even North Kivu, we found 60,000 troops.

I suspect that the UN reinforcements announced are likely to take three to four months to arrive in theatre. Or is the Minister suggesting that MONUC reinforcements can reach the DRC in weeks rather than months? If so, does he have any evidence for that, because it would be contrary to standard practice? I fear that there may be a danger of wishful thinking among all of us if that is the conclusion that we are hoping for.

If there is, as I suspect, a delay of a few months, what will fill that gap? I understand that the Government have no problem about providing practical help in the humanitarian terms that the Minister described this afternoon, or in terms of command, logistics and expertise, but the Government are clearly drawing the line at active service units at this stage. Will the Minister recognise that an EU force can be deployed quickly, be of high quality and fill that dangerous gap before UN reinforcements arrive? Or is he saying that the Government completely rule out the mobilising and deployment in the very short term of an EU/UK military stabilisation force? I hope not, because the desirable political solution is unlikely to be achieved without the backing that such a force would provide, if the UN reinforcements cannot get there quickly enough.

In his written reply to the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, the Minister agreed that transforming the military, police and justice sectors is a key priority and not least, as he said in this debate, the disbanding as soon as possible of FDLR and the CNDP. However, does he agree that the integration into the national army without human rights screening of people, some of whom have an appalling human rights record, has added to the incompetency and the population’s fear of the army? Will he say that proper attention should indeed be given to the effective screening of such people, including Nkunda himself if, as we hope and pray, we get as far as that.

There has already been reference in this debate to minerals and I welcome the Government’s support for the Government of the DRC becoming a full member of the extractive industries transparency initiative. But what else is the international community, especially the EU and this country within it, doing urgently to stiffen the regulatory framework for the extraction and tracing of minerals? The voluntary OECD guidelines mechanism is the only one at present that can deal with identified abuses. The United Kingdom has recently improved the functioning of the mechanism here, although I think that it is still far short of its potential. Will the Minister confirm the Government's resolve to strengthen further their own commitment to the OECD?

What we have in Congo reflects an international failure to address the link between armed conflict and the global trade in natural resources. The organisation Global Witness has documented the role of commodities ranging from diamonds to timber and cocoa in sustaining conflicts across Africa and in south-east Asia. Do the Government recognise the problem of the resource conflict nexus and are they determined to break it? I refer in particular to the report very recently presented to the United Nations by a panel of experts relating to the funding of armed groups through the exploitation of minerals. I gather that this report is not in the public arena. Can the Minister say when that will happen and, indeed, if he is pressing for that publication? Does he agree that it is time for a more serious attempt to target sources of funding for armed groups in the DRC, both within the Congo itself and from the DRC’s immediate neighbours and from further abroad?

Of course the Government are right to be weighing up resources, priorities and implications in considering the Congo. How could they not do so? But from these Benches I join in emphasising that this conflict has already caused the most horrendous suffering, to a level that overtakes other conflicts in recent history; and that the Government ought to be intervening even more strongly than they already are. In his message to the Manchester diocese last week, the Bishop of North Kivu wrote:

“We have experienced suffering that we have never known before. When our women and girls have been raped we fail to know what to say or what to do. We are overwhelmed”.

Such is the moral context within which I believe the Government’s policy must be made.

My Lords, I join in thanking the Minister for giving us the opportunity to debate the current crisis in the Congo—the DRC—and in congratulating him on his tireless work in trying to find a resolution to the tragic state of affairs in that country.

The position in the east of Congo was aptly described in the brief that all of us as speakers today have received from Amnesty International. It states:

“Time is running out for the civilians of the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

I have always said in your Lordships' House that there should be African solutions to African problems. I have been wrong in this, certainly no more so than on the DRC. As other noble Lords have mentioned, with more than 250,000 displaced people who have fled their homes since August and with estimates of a total number in excess of 1.2 million internally displaced people in the province, the situation in eastern Congo is already a humanitarian catastrophe.

I welcome the fact that the United Nations has authorised the reinforcement of MONUC with an additional 3,000 additional troops, but unless those troops are properly empowered to tackle the crisis, there remains the threat that if the rebel forces were to attack Goma, MONUC would be unable to protect the hundreds of thousands of refugees there. Does the Minister agree with the analysis of the shadow International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, who in a recent visit to the DRC said that Britain should help the United Nations with,

“everything short of sending combat forces”,

and that it is very difficult to undertake a chapter 7 assignment with a chapter 6 infrastructure? Sadly, the pronouncements of ceasefires have rarely matched reality. Can the Minister elaborate on MONUC’s level of success in establishing safe corridors of humanitarian aid through North Kivu?

We all have very vivid memories of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when Hutu militias murdered well in excess of 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis. While General Nkunda claims that his main aim is to disarm the Hutu militias, he clearly has greater ambitions of controlling power in the region. Human Rights Watch recently said that his troops and the Congolese Government troops have been implicated in numerous killings, torture and rapes. If recent reports are to be believed, it appears that Rwanda is allowing its territory to be used as a recruiting ground for the CNDP. An article in last Friday’s Daily Telegraph suggested that President Kagame was treading a thin line between actively helping the rebels and turning a blind eye to their use of Rwandan territory. Can the Minister elaborate on those claims?

I agree with the assertion of Amnesty International that much of the failure can be laid at the door of the DRC Government, who have failed to deliver meaningful reform of their mining, justice and security sectors. But responsibility must also be taken by international donors who have failed to insist on such reforms. I had intended to speak about the horrendous violence against women, but the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, eloquently covered that point.

The tragedy of the DRC is that the country has the potential to be one of Africa’s most prosperous countries with its boundless natural resources, fertile soil and good rains, but sadly the ongoing conflicts and lack of infrastructure, as well as high levels of corruption and lack of accountability and transparency, have made it one of the riskiest countries for international inward investment. I was involved in the launch of the Global Peace Index, set up by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Its report considered some 30 variables and 140 countries around the world and judged those countries on the dividends of peace. Sadly, the DRC came 131st out of 140 countries. Under the circumstances, it is highly unlikely that international investment will flow back into the DRC until it can show signs of taking stronger control of the current crisis.

Apart from military issues, I want to touch on a few of the infrastructure issues. Access to electricity across the DRC is less than 6 per cent, and in rural areas, where nearly 75 per cent of the people live, it is only 1 per cent. Can the Minister give an update on the Grand Inga dam project, which I understand will be the world’s largest hydro power scheme, providing a power grid across Africa which will, one hopes, spur the continent’s industrial and economic development? Apart from satisfying the need for extra electricity of countries such as South Africa, to what extent will this scheme satisfy the electricity needs of the people of the DRC?

I should like to make brief mention of a conservation concern. As a long-standing trustee of the African wildlife conservation charity, Tusk Trust, I am particularly concerned about the Virunga national park, home to more than a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, where the illegal trade in charcoal is threatening not just the survival of these gorillas but a wide variety of other species. Can the Minister give any encouragement as regards what measures can be taken to protect these endangered animals? As my noble friend Lord Hannay of Chiswick said, there is no doubt that the battle for control of the region’s natural resources is fanning the flames of the civil war.

I welcomed the appointment of President Kabila, whom I have met on several occasions, but sadly he has been long on promise and, so far, low on delivery. Just as every sound business needs good management, every successful Government need sound management. For there to be any chance of a longer-term solution in the DRC, effective measures have to be taken to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate, or even repatriate, armed group fighters and end the arms proliferation.

It will be an uphill struggle to reconcile divided communities, but it can be done. For me, as an African, the political miracle in our great continent was the success of President Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. There will also need to be root-and-branch reforms of the army and the police and the suspected perpetrators of human rights violations will need to be excluded from the army.

There are no shortcuts, but equally there is no time for further delays. The upside is enormous. The downside is calamitous.

My Lords, I, too, am glad that the Minister, having just returned from the DRC, has chosen to update us through this debate, even though we are right up against the end of the Session. The debate has been of high quality, although brief, and I have no doubt that we will revisit this issue when we debate the Queen’s Speech next week.

Like others, I am glad that the Minister has been able to use his vast UN experience in conjunction with his position as a UK Minister to play the part that he has done in this crisis. We have heard about the loss of life, destruction and terrible fear caused by this latest crisis, as the right reverend Prelate so movingly conveyed. We have heard that some 1 million people have been displaced, although that number may have slightly reduced. The situation remains volatile, as the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others have emphasised.

We also know that some of the longer-term effects of such conflicts go on for many decades. This conflict links to the Rwandan genocide. There is the destruction caused by the recruitment of child soldiers among the displaced. The area has a terrible tradition of recruiting such children and Save the Children talks of an,

“explosion in child recruitment over the past few weeks”.

Women and children are especially vulnerable in this situation—they always are—but, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Avebury, half the violence against women has been committed by government forces.

Where do we go from here? As we have heard, few areas are secure. It is difficult to get humanitarian assistance in. The UN Security Council has ordered the deployment of 3,000 extra troops. I press the Minister on this, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the right reverend Prelate have done. How quickly can these troops be forthcoming, how quickly can they be deployed and what will be done to ensure that they are used as effectively as possible? What of an EU force? What of a rapid reaction force, which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, mentioned? Should further troops be requested, what would Britain’s answer be?

We may not be able to play much of a part in terms of military contribution, as we are desperately overstretched by our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Surely that shows yet again the folly of what happened in Iraq. We and others have had resources directed away by that conflict, with consequences for what we and others can do when problems come up in countries such as Sudan and the DRC. We also know that the quality and equipment of troops are key issues. However, as other speakers have said, given the size of the country and the scale of the task, even increasing the troop numbers by 3,000 to 20,000 may not achieve what is required.

Clearly, training up the Congolese army is a priority. What sort of timescale does the noble Lord think that that would involve? However, given the human rights abuses that we have just heard about and the history of conflict in the area, increasing the abilities of the Congolese army also has its risks. How might these be tempered?

We have heard how a political solution is necessary. That is self-evidently so, but what a relief it is after the past few years to hear such a view voiced. The noble Lord’s UN days have no doubt helped to shape his view of the world. The current military presence could help to encourage a political solution and perhaps bring pressure to bear on the signatories to abide by the peace agreements. Was it complacency and a lack of interest from the international community that contributed to the non-implementation of those accords? As my noble friend Lord Avebury asked: what can we do now to ensure that this does not happen again? What is the EU doing here? The International Crisis Group notes the apparent inability of the EU to speak with one voice and that at the October monthly meeting of EU Foreign Ministers the DRC was not even on the agenda. What can the noble Lord now tell us of the EU response?

If we are to tackle this problem, surely, as others have said, we need to look at its economic roots. For Paul Collier, as he argues in his book The Bottom Billion, the DRC’s mineral wealth is a two-edged sword. That wealth, which might have helped development, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, explained, has helped to fund the conflict instead. As Collier relates, Kabila, marching across Zaire with his troops to seize the state, told a journalist that in Zaire rebellion was easy: all you needed was $10,000 and a satellite phone. Everyone was so poor that with $10,000 you could hire yourself a small army and with the phone you could strike deals with mining companies. By the time Kabila reached Kinshasa, he had reportedly arranged $500 million-worth of deals. There is small-scale mining right across the area of this conflict. As the New York Times put it, its,

“wealth is unearthed by the poor, controlled by the strong, then sold to a world largely oblivious of its origins”.

It is reported that often western companies are not even allowed near the mines that they own, as these are controlled by warlords. Soldiers violently enforce a system of extortion from every worker, merchant and trader who comes to the mine. The UN Panel of Experts, to which others referred, listed how business activities had prolonged the conflict. It identified 85 companies that it considered to be in breach of OECD guidelines; 18 of these were British or British-based.

Companies that were named subsequently fought back and the panel seemed to be forced to backtrack. In its final report, the vast majority of company cases were listed as resolved, but there are still unanswered questions as to how this verdict was reached. The countries where these companies were based were asked to take action against them. My noble friend Lord Avebury has battled away in Parliament pretty much single-handedly on this issue. He found that at one point only one junior person in the Department of Trade and Industry was tasked with taking matters forward against these major companies. That does not speak of governmental commitment. I gather—it has been mentioned this afternoon—that there has been another similar investigation, which is welcome, and that the report of it was given to the UN on Friday. I should like the Minister to assure us that this time the issue will be taken extremely seriously. I should also like assurance that any UK companies listed will be properly investigated and that, if appropriate, cases will be brought against them.

Supply chains were an issue that came up when the Companies Bill went through your Lordships’ House. We fought hard and strengthened the Bill so that what companies do overseas and through their supply chains can more easily be brought within directors’ responsibilities. Does the noble Lord think that that might be relevant here? What might happen now in relation to DAS Air and Afrimex? Does he agree that Vodafone, for example, might be challenged on its supply chain in relation to coltan, used in mobile phones and mined in the DRC?

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, mentioned the Kimberley process. The German Government have supported work to develop a fingerprinting system that could lead to a mineral certification scheme for central Africa. What are the prospects for this scheme being adopted internationally?

The Minister and others spoke about the roots of this conflict in the Rwandan genocide. We welcome the actions that are being taken to try to strengthen the UN presence and protection in the DRC. However, this protection is clearly limited and all efforts must be made to support the current peace negotiations. To step back further, it is surely now vital that the economic factors in this conflict are firmly tackled. We have to act internationally to ensure that the reasons for this conflict are not fuelled by the free-for-all that so obviously exists, especially in the extractive industries in the DRC. I look forward to the Government taking this forward, not only through support for military action and peace negotiations but in tackling the economic causes of this conflict with a great sense of determination.

My Lords, we are fortunate in this House to have had the benefit of a first-hand report from the Minister after his recent visit, based on his enormous experience in United Nations matters over many years. He is right to warn that we are bound to approach all this with a heavy heart. The Congo has been the graveyard of UN and world ambitions and hopes for many years. One remembers the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the Katanga secession, Patrice Lumumba, and a whole series of tragedies down the years.

One of my first assignments as a young journalist on the Daily Telegraph was to cover the return of the king of the Belgians from the independence celebrations, as they were called, in Léopoldville almost 50 years ago. From that day, which was sunny in Brussels with crowds cheering—I remember thinking that perhaps they would not go on cheering—it has been a continuous downward path of tragedy, bloodshed, rivalry, greed and marauding tribes, groups and rebel organisations and the killing, killing, killing mostly of innocent people.

The point that has emerged in the debate, which is worth repeating, is that this is a country of the most colossal size. It is the size of India, but without the communications that can link different parts of it together. One obvious conclusion is that any agreements made in Kinshasa or other provinces tend to be virtually unenforceable. Battles and wars can go on locally without any control, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester rightly reminded us. This is an enormous area and very difficult to pacify. The right reverend Prelate also reminded us of the devoted work of his colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who has given immense time and concern to the appalling poverty and conditions prevailing in many parts of the Congo, particularly in the area with which we are concerned.

I rather miss the presence of my colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, who in her younger days, played a major role in intelligence matters in the Congo and other regions. I know that she would have given us a great deal of her wisdom on how things really work in this part of Africa. I hope that she will be back in a few weeks from her present indisposition to do that.

As we have heard, the situation in and around Goma is immensely difficult. It is grim. The town is virtually cut off. Those of us sitting here in London have to ask why 17,000 UN troops—and 3,000 more to come, we hope—cannot at least contain the rebels, keep at bay the different marauding groups and, above all, protect the children, whose plight is horrific and sickening, if the reports are right. Children are not only being recruited into the various armies, but are being raped and hideously abused as well. This is a horror of almost medieval proportions, and it is hard to assimilate the terror and misery of it.

To that question, I offer two answers, which have been touched on in this debate. First, the UN troops are obviously insufficiently trained and they have been criticised for being of low quality. There is even anecdotal evidence that they have been selling their equipment to the rebels and are prepared to succour them in their activities. The UN troops were spread across the Congo, so I was glad to hear the Minister say that 95 per cent of them are now located in Kivu province. That is an improvement.

The much bigger answer to the question of why there is not better control through the large UN force is the mandate, which was rightly mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Avebury. In theory, the mandate is under Chapter 7, but in practice, as my colleague in the House of Commons, Andrew Mitchell, observed, the carrying out of the mandate is being performed as if it were an exercise in Europe rather than a struggle in the darkest heart of Africa. I understand that there are total limitations on what collateral damage can be inflicted by UN actions. No helicopters are allowed to fly at night. All kinds of conditions are laid down about the accommodation conditions for the soldiery, which may be perfectly proper in a European theatre, but make no sense at all when applied in Africa. These limitations vastly limit the flexibility, mobility and manoeuvrability of the UN forces. The trouble seems to be that the forces of General Laurent Nkunda and other groups know that and regard the UN operation as not to be feared but to be more or less disregarded. It may have just about held the situation around Goma for the moment, but no more than that.

One has to ask what is required to make some impact on this situation where very little is being made at the moment. The first thing would be to ask about reviewing and considering a new mandate under Chapter VII for the UN force already there and for the 3,000 troops to come. This point was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Hannay. Is it possible to think about reconstituting the UN force as a serious expeditionary force? There have been parallel suggestions that somehow an EU force could be inserted along the way. I feel uneasy about that. The pattern of bringing the AU, the EU and the UN together in a force operation has not had a glorious record in Darfur. In fact, it has achieved nothing there at all.

When I hear people advocating that we should pour money, men and concerted efforts into the Congo, I am not impressed or dazzled. We must be more precise about which groups we suggest should do that. The French and the Belgians seem quite ready to provide additional forces, and if they wish to do so under some kind of EU label, I would have no objection, but I could not countenance the idea of British troops going there as well, which one or two of your Lordships hinted at. It is worrying that our forces are so incredibly overstretched. That is worrying enough anyway, but when one hears the Foreign Secretary talking about possibly more troops for Afghanistan, or not ruling that out, and when one thinks of the seven-year campaign that has been going on in Afghanistan, with some progress in some areas but a miserable lack of progress in others, it makes one pause before thinking about trying to scrape together—and it would be scraping together—additional troop forces to add any new operation or additional reinforcement in Kivu province in the Congo.

What can the Minister tell us about the new mandate and its possibilities? What can he tell us about talks with the French and the Belgians, who have indicated clearly that they would like to make some move in that direction? Rwanda was raised. The American Government seem to be rather supportive of Rwanda. We have to get to the bottom of the question of whether Rwanda is countenancing, either passively or actively, support for General Nkunda, which my noble friend Lord St John of Bletso rightly raised.

Then there is the matter of economics, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. Are we in contact with multinational corporations and warning them about financing support for the conflicts, whether indirectly or directly? There is absolutely no doubt that illicit mineral sales are part of the causes of the conflict and are attracting the involvement of different tribal groups—an incredible number of them. We have talked about General Nkunda and his mob; we have talked about the Hutu extremists who are exiled in the Kivu region; but I gather that even such exotic tribes as the Mai Mai, who believe that sprinkling themselves with magic water will stop the bullets, are involved. It is considered a free-for-all as people greedily look for mineral exploitation, as has been the pattern and the problem all along for the past half-century.

In particular, we have heard a lot about columbite-tantalite, or coltan for short, which is used in pinhead capacitors in almost every computer and every mobile phone, including those that no doubt we are all carrying at the moment. In fact, the coltan production from the Congo area is a small part of world production, so it would not be a disaster for the world if it all came instead from Australia and Canada, which are the other main sources. As always, there is a disaster at the producing end. It may be produced under appalling conditions by manual workers who are virtually enslaved, but it is work, it is income, and if it is closed down in the name of impropriety or reluctance to use conflict materials, losses, starvation, misery and probably death follow for some of the already penalised and penurious families in the area.

That is a sad pattern that, as I said, has gone on for half a century or more. I make no apology if my comments sound negative. We know that idealistic dabbling in the horrors of this regime, which seems so far from our daily worries, will result, as they have again and again in the past, in more slaughter and more misery, and will do so as long as greedy tyrants and dictators are allowed to stay in place.

One day, there will be a better Africa, and it will need not only western help but the full force of global co-operation, including the rising Asian powers, which now have the resources and the money that the West lacks. However, that day is not with us yet, and until then we must mobilise all that we can on the humanitarian side. I believe that Her Majesty’s Government are doing a great deal—indeed, almost as much as is humanly possible—on the humanitarian side, and that we should never hesitate to do those things or draw back from doing them anywhere in the world, despite those who say that perhaps we should not be involved. We should always seek to be involved on a humanitarian basis, but, when it comes to diplomacy and particularly to military action, we must face the fact that far more decisive and effective action will be needed than anything considered so far to bring these endless rebel attacks to a halt and to give the people of this area a chance to survive and to see tomorrow.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have so generously referred to what we on this Front Bench have sought to do. In my time in this House, rarely if ever have I heard such a well informed and thoughtful set of contributions, from a group of Peers who follow this issue very closely. I should say immediately that this kind of attention is critical. I can think of few conflicts whose fate rises and falls so much in sequence and in lock-step with political attention and political will. We must keep an international focus on this situation, and I commend all noble Lords who have spoken today for that reason.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has spoken before about the Security Council’s lack of attention. I take his point that there may have been an absence of resolutions over the months, although, as I have argued to him before, there has not necessarily been an absence of attention. As I have said, a resolution has now been introduced by France, co-sponsored by the United Kingdom, on the specific intervention of the Prime Minister, and there is no doubt in New York about the concern that we and others have to see a rapid deployment of a strengthened MONUC and a forceful political process, led by Mr Obasanjo. There will be a further resolution before the year is over to re-approve MONUC’s mission for the coming year.

Several noble Lords and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester asked whether the mandate should be stronger, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and others suggested. I put this question to General Gaye, the force commander, who argued that the question of the rules of engagement and the mandate is a red herring. This is a very robust mandate. It is a so-called Chapter 7 mandate, which spells out the obligation of the MONUC forces to protect civilians. His argument, and my view, is that it is not in the language of the mandate or the rules of engagement but rather in the capacities and the leadership of MONUC forces, and in the role of MONUC’s partner, the FARDC—the national army—extraordinary though that might be, which is viewed in the mandate as the partner on whose behalf MONUC acts, to reinforce its own actions.

I shall respond to each of the points that have been made. On capacities, MONUC, as I said in my opening remarks, has grown from what was originally intended as a light monitoring force to monitor a series of ceasefires to a situation in which, as the right reverend Prelate observed, it is active on four fronts. It seeks to contain the LRA, the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army. It is active in several other parts of the eastern Congo and, not long ago, was active in Kinshasa after the elections to make sure that violence did not break out between the losing side and the Government. I should clarify for the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that when I said that 95 per cent of MONUC’s forces are now in the east, that does not refer solely to North Kivu. It is in all the provinces of the east because it is engaged in very delicate, difficult stabilisation efforts in the whole of the eastern Congo, which is a vast area.

As has been pointed out, North Kivu is a very big area. At the moment, it has 3,500 troops, which is a huge enhancement of what it had before. With the intended enlargement, that will go up to 6,500. However, there is a real reluctance to pull troops out of southern Kivu, Katanga or other areas of the eastern Congo where they are deployed, precisely because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, suggested, there is a risk that those areas might again destabilise and conflict might flare up.

As General Gaye put it to me, the issue is not just troop numbers, it is that there still is a nine to five, Monday to Friday, civilian logistics backbone, which was designed when MONUC was a monitoring mission. Very typically, as MONUC’s role has become that of a Chapter 7 mission intended to undertake peace enforcement functions, it has not been given the kind of logistics, mobility or hardened military capabilities to undertake that role sufficiently robustly.

If that is General Gaye’s point, the second point is one that I would not associate with him. He is a forceful Senegalese general, surrounded by a number of very good national force commanders or contingent commanders. I met with a very able Indian brigadier-general, and the Indian forces are well regarded for the role that they are playing. However, other forces are performing in an entirely pathetic and desultory way. They barely leave their bases and do not engage to protect civilians with anything like the vigour that we would wish to see. Clearly, that needs to change. We need to make sure that all the deployed forces understand their mission and live up to the responsibilities of a Chapter 7 mandate.

For me, the third issue is the most difficult in terms of the effectiveness of MONUC; namely, its partnership with a national army which has been defeated by a militia and which itself is a source of at least 50 per cent of the incidents in North Kivu. Let me confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. The FARDC is, frankly, more than alleged—because there is compelling evidence—to be selling weapons to the FDLR and, through the weakness of its military behaviour, to be having weapons captured from it by the CNDP. Essentially, it is the armoury to the militias of the region. It is, at least in North Kivu, a defeated, failed force, but, worse than that, it shows all the ill discipline and spontaneous military actions of a militia.

I was briefed by MONUC on how many of the incidents it has faced in recent weeks, which began with the FARDC lobbing shells at the CNDP across civilians who lay between them, thus provoking a CNDP response and, usually, its occupation of land as it drove the FARDC back.

Complicated though this is, it is hard to imagine that even a European force going in would be willing to say that it would treat the national army of the host country as just another combatant to be directly confronted and, if necessary, fought. That is a very hard proposition because it is then not peace enforcement but becomes invasion by almost any other name. There is this real problem of the weak partner we have in the Congo in the form of the national army.

A major DfID and MoD-supported investment worth £80 million over five years is being made into security sector reform. While I was in the country I opened a rehabilitated officer training school, where Sandhurst officers were busy training soldiers in issues of discipline and response to civilian emergencies, with a bias towards training in combating sexually based violence and other key issues that an army in this kind of country faces. But we have to work with other donors to achieve a much more effective and co-ordinated effort, to reconstitute a smaller, better paid national army able to undertake properly its responsibilities to protect its own civilians. We will never reach a final solution unless that is achieved.

I turn to the issue of the political process. Most noble Lords pointed out that there is an absence of trust between the different sides. Only yesterday, President Kabila again declared that he would not talk to General Nkunda, and the question was raised that if he was limiting himself to talking within the Goma Accord, surely it meant that he was not serious. There is a very important point here. President Kabila asserts that he is the democratically elected president of the country—that is absolutely correct, and is the result of an election that Her Majesty’s Government strongly supported—and that he will therefore limit himself to giving General Nkunda a role within the existing democratic Government, either reintegrated into the armed forces or in some other institutional role in the country, and will provide security to those who do reintegrate. But President Kabila is not willing to negotiate away political power that he has won at the ballot box against force of arms by General Nkunda and his militia. General Nkunda confirmed to President Obasanjo that his demands were of a reintegration character and he was not demanding suzerainty over eastern Congo or some other grandiose political objective. This is a perfectly reasonable position for the two sides to be in, but the issue is to move quickly to secure that kind of reintegration and demobilisation.

It is clear that the FDLR must be quickly demobilised and either voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda or relocated to other parts of the Congo. If, as is thought likely, a group of them refuses to move, they must be dismantled by military means. That will be another tough and difficult military challenge, one probably beyond even an enhanced MONUC’s capacity and perhaps requiring military action concerted either by Governments of the region or of SADC, but we will not be able to leave the issue unresolved.

Almost every noble Lord who spoke also referred to the economic sources of this conflict. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out, the violence and chaos in the DRC mean that the country is no longer an economic source of coltan, the mysterious metal to be found in our cell phones. Indeed the coltan in our cell phones, particularly the newer models, is unlikely to have been sourced in the DRC. But what remains very active is trading in tin and other semi-precious and precious metals. It is important to understand the nature of the mining sector in eastern Congo, which is not so much one of large and powerful mining multinationals, but of extortion rackets run by the FDLR and the other militias. They tax individual miners who dig the stuff out of the ground and go to Bukavu and other regional centres to sell it to traders. That trade is now being disrupted and the miners are forced to sell at a 50 per cent discount to these Mafia-like militias. We need to break that.

Something else that we need to break—an issue which has not been adequately raised today—is the practice of the FDLR, the Hutu genocide militia, still raising money in Europe and its leadership still living in Europe. There are long legal explanations for it that I do not have time to go into, but we need to address that issue. To Rwandans, the sheer unfairness of a prominent Rwandan individual being arrested at an airport in Germany and turned over to France for trial when, two weeks earlier, a convicted genocidaire, the secretary-general of the FDLR, was not deported to serve a prison sentence in Rwanda because of concerns about the condition of Rwandan gaols, is an unacceptable double standard that has highly complicated our handling of this issue with the Rwandan Government.

It is not only the American Government who deeply admire Rwanda; both sides of the House admire Rwanda as well. It has become a favourite Tory summer vacation spot, of which I strongly approve. It was remarkable to see many Tory MPs and party workers go there last summer and I hope the same thing happens this summer. I utterly support the education of the party opposite in international development and welcome its strong support, as a consequence, for the UK Government’s policies on development. We do not come second to that side of the House in our support for its Government as an effective development partner.

On the question of Rwandan complicity, or not, with the CNDP, I had this issue out with President Kagame in very frank terms. It is enormously important that we are satisfied that there is not active support of the CNDP and General Nkunda. President Kagame assured me that he has never met General Nkunda. He acknowledges that there are strong kith and kin connections and that he has appointed a senior member of his Administration to liaise with General Nkunda, but he insists that it is for the purpose of persuading Nkunda not to attack civilian targets such as Goma. He committed to me that he will continue to use that influence to stay Nkunda from further military operations. He said that he was committed to the CNDP negotiating with the Government of Congo through the good offices of Mr Obasanjo and that, in that sense, he intended to play a positive role. I believe that President Kagame is a good partner of ours and I feel obliged to take his word that that is the role he is playing and intends to continue to play.

Noble Lords have been very patient; they have raised many issues and I regret that I have not been able to respond to all of them. There will be an opportunity to return to this subject next week in the Queen’s Speech debate, as has been mentioned. However, through the APPG and other vehicles I will do my best to keep noble Lords informed of developments around an issue of common concern that unites us all on each side of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.15 pm to await the Royal Commission.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.