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Sudan: Comprehensive Peace Agreement

Volume 707: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to recent developments in Sudan, with particular reference to the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement.

My Lords, first, I apologise to the House for my piratical guise; I have an eye complaint.

The comprehensive peace agreement is the foundation for future peace and stability across all Sudan. Indeed, 2008 saw progress in some key areas, including preparations for elections, but implementation remains slow and 2009 will bring significant challenges. With only two years before the end of the interim period, we must accelerate progress. We remain fully engaged with both parties and international partners to secure full implementation of the CPA.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. When in January I travelled widely throughout southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains, I found widespread concern over renewed hostilities by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army, which was killing, abducting and torturing civilians, and even greater concern over the fact that it was widely believed that Khartoum is widely supporting the LRA. Will Her Majesty’s Government make the strongest possible representations to the Government in Khartoum, as the renewed hostilities by the LRA can destabilise southern Sudan and, indeed, undermine the comprehensive peace agreement?

My Lords, the whole House recognises the noble Baroness’s interest in and concern about this area and her informed position on the matter. We share concerns about the horrific atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in recent months and years, but we are not aware at this stage of the Government of Sudan in Khartoum giving any support to the Lord’s Resistance Army. They once did; they do not now. We have seen no evidence that they are, and we do not believe that either side wants to return to war. However, it is essential that both sides maintain efforts to implement the comprehensive peace agreement. I understand the noble Baroness’s concern and anxiety.

My Lords, at least the ceasefire is holding, but my noble friend appears to recognise that time is running out and that key problems, such as the census, have not yet been addressed. Is he confident that the international community properly recognises the danger of failure to the civilian population in Sudan, and is he also confident that the challenges, such as the exclusion from the process of key elements, need to be addressed very speedily, given that the process is due to end in 30 months?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, because he has highlighted an important part of the development of the comprehensive peace agreement—the institution of elections—which can take place only when a census has been effected. I think that I will encourage my noble friend when I say that the census process is working quite well and we anticipate that it will be completed in the near future. It will provide the basis for us going on to the next crucial stage.

My Lords, the CPA is falling behind not only in regard to the census but also on border demarcation, DDR and the consultation process. If there is no hope of the scheduled date for the referendum being achieved, would it not be best to be realistic and recognise that, and see whether the parties concerned could agree on an adjustment to the timetable?

Secondly, I wish to ask about the situation in Darfur, particularly following the gratuitous bombing of Muhajiriya by the Sudanese air force, killing many people and causing the displacement of another 30,000 to add to those already without homes. Will the noble Lord see that we ask for this matter to be raised in the forthcoming Security Council resolution, following the Secretary-General’s report of 30 January?

My Lords, on his first point, I think the noble Lord is being excessively pessimistic. We live in hope that the timetable for the completion of the census will be adhered to. He is right that the whole peace agreement has been subject to woeful delays, but there is confidence in the international community that that aspect is progressing.

I do not think that we need to bring pressure to bear on the United Nations about the issues in south Darfur. The Security Council is all too well aware of them, and the Secretary-General has emphasised that continued military action by all sides is putting civilian lives at risk. The United Nations is greatly concerned about that. We will play our full part in seeking the development of peace in south Darfur. It is one of the areas, although not the only one, that is causing real concern.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned the bombing and upsurge of violence in south Darfur, where there does not seem to be much sign of peace at all and where government forces appear to be combining with others to attack the Justice and Equality Movement, the rebel group. Can the Minister explain why this sudden increase in violence has occurred? Is it anything to do with the suggestion that the International Criminal Court may be about to deliver charges against President al-Bashir?

My Lords, we hope that the Government of Sudan will co-operate with the International Criminal Court, which is engaged in proceedings for which it is entirely responsible and that it is entirely entitled to follow. We are all too well aware, and it will be obvious, that Khartoum does not look kindly on the possible charge—none has been laid as yet—against the President of Sudan. However, to link that to the situation in Darfur may be stretching issues a little far. Suffice it to say that we expect the International Criminal Court to pursue its position according to its own processes, and we want to see peace restored in Darfur.

My Lords, what measures are Her Majesty’s Government taking to ensure that the proposed indictment of President al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court does not provide an opportunity for the Sudanese Government to renege on their commitments in implementing the CPA, particularly the delayed census results and, one of the most serious matters, the demarcation of the border between the north and the south, on both of which the forthcoming elections depend?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has accurately identified some of the very difficult issues that need to be resolved. I hope that I have indicated our optimism about the census. The International Criminal Court will pursue its own strategy and developments. However, we recognise that that raises issues about Khartoum.