To call attention to the strengthening of governance and the rule of law in Africa; and to move for papers.
My Lords, today I want to portray Africa as a continent of hope and opportunity, where the UK retains considerable ties and influence. I greatly regret that conflict has so often taken over the headlines and even the debates in this House.
I would like this to be an Obama debate. Many noble Lords will be familiar with the President’s Dreams from my Father, which I consider an outstanding work of literature. Africa and America make a powerful combination and it cannot be long before the President turns his attention from the Middle East to the country of his forefathers, which is always ready to welcome him home. Gordon Brown and the President have Africa in common and they will be aware of the serious effects of world recession on Africa. It is likely that they discussed it briefly this week. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, in the foreign affairs debate last week, mentioned Africa’s advances in economic growth and regulatory reform over the last decade. The Minister will agree that Africa should have increased representation at international level, well beyond the G20 meetings.
Today I will concentrate on governance, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. I thank all noble Lords who have signed on for this debate. I shall not, of course, blame them for focusing on some of the negative aspects if they must. I will highlight one country—Kenya—but much of what I will say could apply to other countries where we have substantial interests. I visited Kenya with a CPA delegation last November, mainly interested in the strengthening of Parliament.
I am just old enough to remember the zebras in Nairobi’s streets, the last throes of colonial power and the feared Mau Mau. These themes are still echoed in the crossed spears and red-banded shield on the Kenyan flag. Post-election violence suddenly erupted in late December 2007 and January 2008. Hundreds died in Nyanza and other provinces. We visited Kisumu and met dozens of families still displaced in Naivasha, unable to return to their homes.
One year on, Kenya is still fragile under a power-sharing agreement between the major parties, brokered by Kofi Annan and a high-level panel last year. This involves, among other things, implementing recommendations by the Waki commission, which named culprits and demanded immediate investigations by a special tribunal of crimes committed during the violence. The problem is that this tribunal has still not met. Kofi Annan himself had to issue a statement last week that this failure could,
“constitute a major setback in the fight against impunity and may threaten the whole reform agenda in Kenya”.
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Professor Philip Alston, last week even recommended, to the fury of Vice-President Musyoka, the sacking of the police commissioner and the Attorney-General for having condoned such killings over a long period. I hope that the Minister, who has been very concerned about these issues in Africa, will again urge Nairobi to press on with the Waki recommendations. It is vital that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga now remove this stain on their joint Administration, which will remain if nothing is done.
We found a panoply of international experts and donors, including the UK, ready to assist. I especially commend the FCO and DfID for following through on a range of projects to reinforce the democratic process, in line with the recommendations of the excellent report of the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group and the Government’s 2006 White Paper. The capacity of MPs has been strengthened; the Kenyan Assembly has had a younger and bolder voice since the 2007 election; and the select committee process is beginning to make Ministers accountable. Some NGOs and the media are demanding greater transparency by, for example, calling for the taxation of MPs’ expenses, which would not go down very well here, either. Citizens’ groups are analysing MPs’ constituency development fund projects to see whether they are really slush funds after all. Will the Minister confirm that throughout Africa our embassies are always looking out for African civil society organisations that can take a lead in governance and anti-corruption alongside international agencies?
One of the key elements of any democracy is an independent judiciary to enforce the rule of law. In that respect, Kenya can easily be faulted, but I would strike a note of caution. The Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina said:
“We are often guilty of using words like leadership, government, parliament and institutions as if they represent solid realities … But in truth, all these structures are about as solid as free floating gases … we watch our government float above us like a helium balloon tethered by the flimsiest of strings”.
Africans have to beware of constructing too many institutions, while we have to respect the power of family, tribal loyalties and traditions.
My noble friend Lady Stern, who has joined the debate, reminds me that governance must take account of African values and may not meet all the formal criteria. To help to support the rule of law in poor countries, she says, donors should be realistic about justice reforms. They should help Governments to develop more locally based and traditional systems for securing justice in everyday life, such as DfID has researched and pioneered very successfully.
We cannot blame ordinary people for corruption when the whole state is permeated with it and they have no alternative. According to a survey in 2005 by Transparency International, the police and legal institutions are the most fertile ground for bribery, accounting for nearly half of all bribes in Kenya. The police still have the worst ranking, followed by state corporations, local authorities, the prison service and the judiciary. In the private sector, the worst offenders are in the health and construction industries and, of course, foreign companies are often involved. Counterfeit medicines are a big problem, as is red tape. The Kenya Medical Supplies Agency was dismissed last July for holding up supplies to hospitals. Corruption goes right to the top and involves Ministers from all major parties. The former Finance Minister, Amos Kimunya, was implicated in a hotel deal, though he has now been reinstated as Trade Minister.
On the Orange side, there have been accusations against the Tourism Minister for overstated invoices and the Health Minister for millions of dollars missing from the global AIDS fund, which has serious repercussions for us. The Energy Minister has to explain why the Kenya Pipeline Company lost $95 million of petroleum from storage at Kipevu, with Triton Petroleum suspected of collusion. More recently, during the food crisis, the Agriculture Minister and Kalenjin leader, William Ruto, was suspected of allocating tenders for famine relief to his cronies.
Whatever the truth of those accusations, they do not give the Kenyan people confidence in their leadership any more than us. The media are vocal and there have been repeated calls from MPs for Ministers such as Ruto and Kimunya to resign—calls that we might not have seen two years ago. Yet they know that nothing will happen fast: the idea that you help your own people is firmly rooted in African traditions even if Europeans have forgotten it. Sociologists explain it with terms such as neopatrimonialism, clientelism and informality. It is a fact of life. Only when individual Ministers come out and demonstrate that they are not above the law can change be seen to happen.
In Uganda, where we also have a substantial aid programme, there have been some improvements. Uganda’s score in the Transparency International index improved from 1.9 in 2001 to 2.7 in 2006 and 2.8 in 2007. The World Bank’s global governance indicators showed a similar pattern.
An upbeat OECD report on Kenya last year also showed advances in governance and anti-corruption. There are many small but effective NGOs in Kenya. There is a strong Kenya Human Rights Commission, for example, which was the first to expose the offenders behind post-election violence. Gilbert Sebihogo, a Rwandan who co-ordinates with great skill the network of 32 African national human rights institutions, says that Kenya’s commission is one of the most independent in Africa partly because it also represents civil society. From that point of view, Kenya scores high.
I wish that I had more time to refer to the growing influence of women in public life in Africa. For example, yesterday I was privileged to listen to someone representing the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone telling us about the extraordinary influence of the women’s movement on the passing of legislation on gender and equality in the past couple of years.
I returned from Nairobi full of confidence. The Kenyan people have great energy and diversity. They deserve to succeed in governance just as they do in business. Incidentally, the newly elected US Administration is doubly popular in Kenya: while the Luo were supporting their very own Senator Obama, the Kikuyu were reportedly backing Mrs Clinton, so now they have been brought together.
I see Kenya as an example of what is going on in many African countries. It has huge obstacles to overcome and yet it shows what can be done through patient international co-operation in the truest sense. Our Government are similarly involved in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Mozambique, and I have seen some of the results in those countries, too.
I studied the UN General Assembly report last July on Africa’s development needs and looked in vain for signs of progress in the much heralded New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which was to be the policy framework for meeting the millennium development goals, as the Minister will well remember. There are 20 new regional infrastructure programmes that are of value. I hope that the Minister will help me because I could not find very much except mention of nine thematic clusters needing,
“to mainstream adequately the integration priorities of the African Union”.
I know that the Minister will be familiar with that language from his past experience. I was once a supporter of NEPAD and I would be sorry if it were now seen to bite the African dust.
I turn very briefly to the topic of the moment, Sudan, where the comprehensive peace agreement between north and south still hangs in the balance. I cannot help feeling that this agreement, the product of painstaking diplomacy and considerable sacrifice, is imperilled by the warrant that the ICC has now issued against President Bashir. We must not forget that many others could have received such a warrant. There is something a little too theatrical about the whole proceedings, when the world sits in judgment on one head of state. The question is whether it will have any effect whatever. Meanwhile, I know that many who are working in Sudan have been directly affected and I am certain that our embassy is doing all that it can, as it has many times before, to protect humanitarian workers and get them the passes that they require to have access to places such as Darfur.
One important aspect of the CPA tends to be forgotten: reconciliation within the south. We must not forget the atrocities between southerners as well as between north and south. One needs to have more reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, between the many tribes, and between the Government and the church. A friend of mine, Joseph Ayok, who was a parish priest in west Dorset, is the new director of the department of religious affairs in the Government of Southern Sudan. He has particular responsibility for reconciliation and I hope that the FCO and DfID are giving him every possible encouragement. Many of us in the Salisbury diocese are following events in Sudan closely and I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury was not able to be here today.
Finally, I would like to take up a point raised in last week’s foreign affairs debate. My noble friend Lord Wright was flanked by two ex-Foreign Secretaries when he said that he believed that it was time to correct,
“a serious imbalance between aid and diplomacy”.—[Official Report, 26/2/09; col. 344.]
The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, wanted to look again at the 2002 Act. In general, they are of the school that aid means the relief of poverty and not diplomacy. I am interested to hear what the Conservative Front Bench has to say about that. I agree in principle, of course, but my experience of the growing range and advocacy of non-governmental organisations and expert bodies in development suggests that diplomacy now covers a much wider field and there are many informal areas where DfID can support it, including the subjects of this debate. I am sure that the Minister will agree privately with this but, as he missed the debate last week, perhaps he will seize this opportunity to reject these allegations. I much look forward to his reply.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for introducing this important and timely debate with his customary passion and concern. There is no dearth of examples of poor governance and weak rule of law in Africa: from the south, where Zimbabwe as a state has all but collapsed, to the west where Guinea-Bissau has come to a standstill after the killing of President Vieira. Somalia is producing a generation of people who have never known of life under a Government and the Democratic Republic of Congo is now known as the “world war of Africa”.
This is not to say that the continent is devoid of good governance and a strong rule of law. The new South Africa is a functioning government with a proud record, so far, of democracy. When the ANC lost its faith in former president Thabo Mbeki, he quietly stepped down from office. In 2003, Liberia entered its first period of relative calm in 14 years with the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the presidency—the first democratically elected female head of state in Africa. The rule of law was further strengthened with the arrest of Charles Taylor and his extradition to the Hague where he is being tried for war crimes committed during the Sierra Leone civil war. Botswana remains a stable constitutional democracy.
The 2005 Commission for Africa report concluded that:
“without progress in governance … all other reforms will have little impact”.
Good governance, rule of law and development are interlinked and interdependent—without development, government and the rule of law are set to fail and without good governance and a strong rule of law, there will be no worthwhile development.
What distinguishes the stable states from those with weak governance and no rule of law? There are external factors, both in colonial times and now: Western corporate complicity in resource-rich developing countries; harmful trade policies; and, among internal factors, there is corruption and leaders more interested in enriching themselves than their people. The imposition of artificial boundaries and borders by colonial powers cut across ethnic divides, produced unequal access to resources and quarantined land-locked countries from development—as a result, competition for resources in many parts of Africa remain rife. The Cold War has also disrupted African development where realpolitik led western countries to support dictators.
UK corporations are powerful and many do a great deal of good for the African states in which they operate. However, there is a link between the activities of some of our corporations and the fragility of rule of law in some African states. We need to recognise and address that link. Resource-fuelled wars in Africa have caused the deaths of millions and destabilised entire regions. In Liberia, for example, Charles Taylor funded his political and military ambitions through the Liberian diamond and timber trade. It is essential to make all our multinational corporations partners in Africa’s pursuit of good governance and the rule of law.
We also need to address the impact of European and USA trade policies on government and the rule of law in Africa. Trade tariffs, farming subsidies and commodity dumping have made it increasingly difficult for African states to generate healthy and stable economies. Many African states are not able to sell their produce even to their own neighbours who can import products more cheaply from Europe and the USA. This has a crippling effect on African economies and inevitably weakens development and with it good governance and the rule of law.
Many African states have to use international aid to subsidise their own agricultural markets, but even then, they cannot compete. In fact, the financial loss caused by farming subsidies is greater than the aid donated by the same subsidising countries. An intelligent reform of subsidies is required: reform that improves the economic viability, both for European and African farmers, and puts an end to the current artificial protectionist market. This was set out in the seventh report of EU Sub-committee D on the future of the common agricultural policy.
The UN defines “governance” as the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a company’s affairs at all levels. Corruption is an important part of the governance agenda and tackling the issue is key to improving the way governments in Africa function. Long-term good governance and the rule of law are the main ways to beat corruption. Domestic institutions that are transparent, representative and accountable are the key. These include institutions such as a functioning system of parliamentary committees, a strong audit office and transparency of budgets to ensure that citizens can actively access information, as well as ensuring the participation of civil society, trade unions and parliaments in policy-making processes. Finally, a free and independent media and judiciary are essential.
Our Government can contribute to the fight against corruption through vigorously investigating and prosecuting contraventions of our anti-corruption legislation. There has been very little evidence of such vigour in the last few years. More generally, improved institutions will only work if based on a culture of accountability and if active citizens are aware of, and demand, greater transparency. Donors like the UK should provide more financial assistance to civil society groups and parliamentarians to hold their governments to account for decision making. There is no easy or speedy answer to Africa’s many governancy issues and certainly not a simple blueprint of institutions that can be pushed on a country by outside agencies. Good governance took hundreds of years to be achieved in rich countries and is still far from perfect. When the UK was at a similar level of development to many African nations, only one in 10 men were allowed to vote, and these were the richer property owners, and schooling was a distant dream for the majority of children.
In Africa, institutions of democracy already are far in advance of this in the majority of the poorest countries. The African Union is moving into new areas which have the potential to augment the rule of law through the establishment of the first pan-African court—the new African Court of Justice and Human Rights innovates in important ways, including its ability to enforce socio-economic and “group” rights. We need to support this court as a nation and show our commitment to the strengthening of the rule of law in Africa. One African country recently demonstrated how strengthening governance can lead to a peaceful transition of power and a more stable political culture. I am referring here to Ghana, a country that last year conducted elections in which the ruling party conceded defeat without violence in a knife-edge election. In Ghana, the steady spread of civil society organisations, along with other checks and balances on state powers such as an independent media, is paving the way for a transition towards more accountable and effective government. Through strengthening civil society, taking action on corruption and improving the way donor countries provide development aid and remove obstacles to free trade, Africa will see the emergence of more countries like Ghana.
My Lords, I was born in Kenya and raised in Uganda, so the subject of this debate is close to my heart. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for securing today’s debate. He and I have recently come back from a trip to Nepal, where, among other things, we looked at good governance in that country.
In 1960, Harold Macmillan said:
“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact”.
The speech, which was made in South Africa, signalled the British Government's intention to grant independence to many of the African countries.
When the British granted independence to these African countries, they hoped that they would establish a multiparty democratic political system. In 1989, 29 African countries were governed under some form of single-party or military rule, but by 1995, most of the countries on that continent had implemented a form of multiparty democracy and entertained the notion of holding democratic elections. This statistic shows that since the early 1990s there has been a significant change in Africa's political landscape. Between 1960 and 1992 only three heads of state voluntarily relinquished power, but from 1992 onwards that number has risen significantly, to over 40.
In the mid-1950s, Sudan and Ghana were the first two African nations to gain full independence. Their current plights, however, are very different. On 7 January 2009, Ghana inaugurated a new president, John Evans Atta Mills, who defeated the incumbent president in a run-off election on 28 December 2008. To ensure the integrity of the election process, several hundred election observers were deployed throughout the country. The observers were unanimous in concluding that the electoral commission had conducted the election in a credible manner that was peaceful, transparent and generally free of intimidation and other threats. Ghana has gone a long way to establishing a political system that is made up of multiple parties and holds free, fair and competitive elections.
The situation in Sudan, on the other hand, is not so positive. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his party have controlled the Sudanese Government since he led a military coup in 1989. There is also the ongoing conflict in Darfur, which is adding to the unstable political environment in Sudan. In fact, yesterday the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Elections are scheduled to take place in July 2009 but that is now looking unlikely. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has said that,
“delays in setting up the requisite infrastructure for elections may make this deadline hard to meet”.
The current situation in Sudan is dire and the country will need a lot of international aid and assistance in order to try to implement a peaceful and democratic governmental system.
Zimbabwe is another country that has recently encountered political problems. President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai recently signed a power-sharing deal that aimed to resolve the political crisis in the country. While that was a major step towards restoring the rule of law, there have been problems. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has said that some political detainees are still being held, including a senior member of Mr Tsvangirai’s party. He also said that the disruptions on white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were undermining efforts to revive the agricultural sector and restore investor confidence. He said that as long as these matters remain unsolved it will be impossible for the transitional Government to move forward. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that the UN is ready to help Zimbabwe, but he also said that there would be more support if there was political reconciliation.
The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy is another important issue that needs to be addressed. The Zimbabwean Government have asked for a $2 billion loan to try to restore Zimbabwe’s economy and infrastructure. The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, with thousands of people dying from cholera, also needs to be looked at. I would like to hear the Minister’s response to the current situation in Zimbabwe and ask him what our Government's plans are to provide support for the people of Zimbabwe.
Somalia is another country in crisis. A new president has recently been elected and his aim is to bring peace to the nation, which is promising. But we have to remember that there have been many failed attempts to bring peace to the region, and there has been no effective government in Somalia since 1991. There is no rule of law in the region at the moment and the issue of Somali pirates needs to be urgently addressed. What is the Minister's response on how best we can deal with the problem of piracy?
I turn to the situation in Kenya, the land of my birth. I was very pleased when the power-sharing agreement was agreed between Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga. There is relative peace in the country, but Dr Kofi Annan has expressed his disappointment that the Kenyan leaders failed to pass a Bill to create a special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects. He stated that,
“failure by the Kenyan Government and Parliament to create a Special Tribunal would constitute a major setback in the fight against impunity and threaten the whole reform agenda, upon which Kenya’s stability and prosperity depend”.
I ask the Minister: what support and financial assistance are we providing to Kenya?
I turn to the issue of aid. Many countries that have pledged aid to African countries are falling short of their targets. Aid from foreign countries is essential to the improvement of conditions in Africa. Improvements have been made in many areas, including governance, and some economies are indeed a lot stronger. If the aid entering Africa slows down, all of the good work that has been done in the past decade is at risk of being undone. It is also important that we base our aid on the condition that certain reforms are met, something which the EU and the IMF are increasingly doing.
In 2005, under the chairmanship of Tony Blair, the G8 countries made a pledge at Gleneagles to donate an extra £12.5 billion to Africa by 2010. I ask the Minister: what were the pledges made by the United Kingdom, and to what extent have we fulfilled them?
I turn to the involvement of China in Africa. The Chinese Government have been providing aid to African countries and have also written-off substantial debts owed by various African countries. China's intention has been to gain access to the continent's natural resources to promote its development. But unfortunately China's aid to Africa has been controversial as there are no political strings attached to the arrangements. The aid has therefore been granted without ensuring that there is good governance in the African states. This scenario is not desirable.
The issue of good governance in Africa is extremely important as without it development of African countries as a whole will suffer. Even though I have given statistics showing vast improvements in terms of democratic elections in African countries, there are still some major issues which need to be addressed: human rights violations, corruption, weak democratic institutions as well as the lack of transparency and accountability in the management of public resources in many African countries. These are the issues that we need to look into to improve the situation.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for raising this important topic. I agree with both noble Lords, Lord Joffe and Lord Sheikh, that one problem with these debates is that we tend to highlight the problems in Africa and do not pay enough attention to the good news. Unfortunately, our media do not pay enough attention to the good news, either. I am chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Ghana Group and I welcome what has been said about the election in Ghana. It was not much covered in our newspapers. Nor was the presidential election in Zambia, held in the same month, which was equally good. Sometimes we have to remember that, among the troubles of Africa, there is some good and stable news.
I will raise two topics and then turn my attention to two countries. I am very critical of successive Governments for repeatedly cutting our representation in Africa. We are now represented in only 23 out of 53 African states, and that is a shame. It need not be an extravagance. More than 10 years ago, I visited what were then called “mini-embassies” in French West Africa. I went to one in Brazzaville that consisted simply of a bungalow, one accredited diplomat—the ambassador—and his wife, who was his secretary. It can be done on a shoestring in those countries that are not politically important to us. However, the steady erosion of our representation in Africa is a mistake.
My second observation follows what the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said. We have been told in a parliamentary Answer that:
“The UK and China have initiated a dialogue covering a range of issues important to conflict prevention and development in Africa”,
and that the Government are,
“working to encourage the Chinese Government to endorse the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/6/08; col. 606W.]—
whatever that may be. Will the Minister say how often the parties to this dialogue have met, and what progress has been made? The influence of China in Africa is an important issue.
I turn to two countries with which I have been actively involved. The first is Kenya, my second home. I was looking back at the Official Report. I asked a Question in January 2007, a year before the election, about the appointment of the new electoral commission, made unilaterally by President Kibaki without any representation from the opposition—the first time that had happened. I said that the outgoing chairman of the commission had been quoted in a Kenyan newspaper as saying that if the commission is constituted in a way that people are not happy with, they will not trust the election result. That is exactly what happened: they were not happy with the count and the result was the eruption of violence that we saw.
We welcome the initiative of Kofi Annan and the creation of the coalition, but I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who has, like me, been to Kenya recently, that the coalition has lost its way. First, it was too bloated. Instead of halving the number of Ministers from one party and appointing the same number from the other, the number of Ministers was doubled and each ministry was divided into two. The president presides over a Cabinet of some 40 people, which is ridiculous. According to a recent opinion poll in Kenya, 70 per cent of the population has lost confidence in the coalition.
It is not surprising. The noble Earl gave us a list of recent allegations of financial scandals. However, there are two major ones that have never been resolved: the Goldenberg scandal during the time of President Moi, and the Anglo Leasing scandal, which involved $100 million, during the time of President Kibaki. These issues must be tackled. I hope that Kofi Annan will accept the representation made to him to return to the scene and persuade the coalition to concentrate on the promised constitutional changes, and then lead the way towards fresh elections in Kenya.
The noble Earl mentioned the fact that the UN report talks about the police being out of control. The coalition Government seem not to have been able to do anything about that. More worrying is the recent legislation passed through the Parliament that resurrects the possibility of government intervention in the broadcasting media and newspapers. These are bad signs, and the coalition must be put back on the rails and brought quickly to an end once it has completed its task.
The second country that I draw attention to is Malawi, where elections are due in a few weeks’ time, and where the omens are not good. Learning the lesson from Kenya, we need to be alert before the event and not during it. Former President Muluzi has been arrested on charges of corruption. He is alleged to have siphoned off $7.7 million of donor money during his presidency. If he did, they should have arrested him four years ago. Why wait until the eve of an election in which he is a candidate? I do not believe the charges for a second. I know him quite well. I do not think he is above criticism. I remember one dialogue that I had with him about the way in which he funds his political party. He goes around collecting large donations and then shells out bicycles and motor cars to various party branches. I was there on behalf of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, giving some modest equipment to the party headquarters, and I said that this was not a suitable way to fund a political party. I am not saying that he is above criticism, but this is a trumped-up, last-minute charge, resurrected on the eve of the election. He is not the only person who has been arrested. Another party leader, Mr Chakuamba, has also been arrested. We need to say firmly to President Mutharika that Malawi is a poor country, heavily dependent on aid programmes, and we insist that there should be a proper, fair election, with everybody who wishes to stand being able to do so.
My last point is that when I was involved in the tail end of the life presidency of Dr Hastings Banda, what impressed me was the solidarity of the small diplomatic corps that we had in Lilongwe. Perhaps it was more effective because it was small. There were no more than half a dozen people and I remember going to their meetings. They spoke as one on behalf of the donor community, and that made their pressure effective, leading to the referendum and multipartyism in Malawi.
It is more difficult in a place like Nairobi, where there are more diplomats. However, if we are to avoid the charge of neo-colonialism that is always thrown at us, there must be concerted action by diplomats on the spot, to make sure that no one country tries to wave a big stick. We must also insist that, in return for our substantial aid programmes, the basic rule of law is adhered to, that the press and broadcasting media are free and that elections are fair. That is all. It is reasonable and we should do it together.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Earl Sandwich for introducing us to this important and topical debate. I will devote my comments to developments in southern Africa, specifically in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
I addressed a conference yesterday on realising Africa’s investment potential. A core theme of almost all the speakers was that the precondition for investing in Africa was the achievement of good governance and respect for the rule of law. Good governance has several dimensions. It does not mean just political stability and respect for the rule of law, but also accountability, effectiveness of national and local government, regulatory quality and—just as important—the control of corruption, which has been mentioned by almost every speaker today.
The common denominator of many violent conflicts in Africa is unequal access to land and other natural resources. I welcome the inquiry by the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group, which is looking at land reform in Zimbabwe. Land reform in South Africa is also an important point that will be one of the core issues that the next president will address. Increasingly, agricultural development is becoming a core objective of many African Governments in their quest to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, which is one of the millennium development goals. One of my concerns is that many African Governments are not sufficiently focused on either addressing or tackling the eight key goals set out in that document. Fresh impetus needs to be given to NePAD. I certainly hope that it will not be the case, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said, that we are seeing the death knell of NePAD.
Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, Zimbabwe has remained a key topical issue in your Lordships’ House. There have been many false dawns and some high expectations. Sadly, the situation in that great country has gone from bad to worse. I have always advocated the view in your Lordships’ House that there should be African solutions for African problems, and that South Africa holds the key to achieving a sustainable solution for Zimbabwe. I have erred on the side of being overoptimistic, but I believe that now, at long last, we are seeing the first green shoots of a potential recovery, following the establishment of a Government of national unity. Just yesterday, I met a delegation of businessmen from Zimbabwe. Beforehand, they mentioned the speech of Morgan Tsvangirai in his inaugural address to Parliament in Harare. Morgan Tsvangirai called for an end to “brutal suppression” to allow the country to gain international aid. I refer to two quotes from his speech:
“Brutal suppression, wanton arrests and political persecution impede our ability to rebuild our economy”.
He also said:
“I therefore urge the international community to recognise our efforts and to note progress in this regard, and to match our progress by moving towards the removal of restrictive measures”.
I also noted that the new Government would form a national economic council that would include private business and civil society and which would take steps to revitalise the mining industry and stop the “wanton disruption” of productive farming. He also promised that security laws would be amended.
One of the points that I was quite taken with which was made by the delegation was that the supermarket shelves are being filled with produce at long last. Yes, it is expensive, but at least it is some start to the recovery. Petrol is also freely available. There is a real determination by the peoples of Zimbabwe to revitalise the domestic economy and be the masters of their own destiny, not allowing the “gang of six”, as they call them, to continue to destroy their lives and their future any more.
Even though the judiciary has allowed itself to be corrupted in the past to survive, it was encouraging that a judge has now ordered the release on bail of Roy Bennett, after he spent nearly three weeks in prison on trumped-up charges.
The delegation’s concern was that many of the new members of the Government of national unity from the MDC lacked political expertise and experience, and they were keen that Her Majesty’s Government should assist in giving more guidance. I am delighted that my noble friend the Convenor has taken the initiative to try to get a group of Members of both Houses of Parliament to assist in this process.
Many of the mines in Zimbabwe stopped production last year, as they were forced to sell all their gold and other mining produce to the Reserve Bank, for which many of them were not paid. They accused the Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono, of massive corruption. Despite stopping production, the owners of many of the mines continued to pay their workers and provide them with food and medicines. Restrictions have now been lifted on gold mines having to sell their products through the Reserve Bank, resulting in the mines recommencing production.
Will the Minister consider a policy of retaining strict sanctions against the perpetrators of corruption, while supporting those companies and businesses in Zimbabwe that have consistently complied with good governance and accountability and which have supported the local community through the dark times? Despite the recent attempts of ZANU-PF war vets and activists trying to derail the Government of national unity by taking over 40 white farms, it is clear that the people and the leadership of the MDC are using their best endeavours not to rise to the bait.
This is a momentous year for election watchers in southern Africa, with elections in Angola, Malawi—as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said—Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and, on 22 April, South Africa. With Jacob Zuma, in all likelihood, being the next President of South Africa, many are questioning whether this will lead to a major shift in the country’s economic and political strategy. Having met Jacob Zuma on several occasions in the past year, I believe that he has the character to build on the remarkable transformation and reconciliation of South Africa that even the most optimistic of observers did not anticipate 15 years ago. He is one of the few people who can reconcile the diverse elements of the ANC. Despite his somewhat chequered past, the first test of his leadership will be the appointment of his key Ministers in the new Government.
I also welcome the emergence of Cope as another official opposition party in South Africa. This augurs well as a check and balance to ensure good governance and accountability. Clearly, Jacob Zuma will have some major challenges to tackle, including job creation, improvement in education, reduction of crime and taking a much stronger line on trying to ensure a sustainable solution in Zimbabwe. I believe that he has the qualities of strength of character and strength of leadership and the ability to execute his agenda.
There is no doubt that Africa faces many challenges, many of which have been articulated today. Time restricts me from speaking about the important role of women in the governance of Africa. I wholeheartedly support the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which was adopted by the African Union in 2007. I shall end as my noble friend Lord Sandwich started his excellent speech: Africa is indeed a continent of hope and opportunity.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, and I thank him for giving us some signs of hope, or green shoots, as the noble Lord just said. I intend to speak a little about the contribution of Parliaments to good governance, particularly looking at the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. First, I have some random reflections.
As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said, Africa is so often marginalised. Few of our newspapers nowadays take any notice of Africa; in respect of South Africa, perhaps only some sniping comments. There are few experts in our newspapers on Africa generally. The FCO strategy, as published in April 2008, states:
“We will continue to shift our resources to Asia and the Middle East”.
When there is news, it tends to be bad news, of natural disasters, human disasters and failed states. Good news is often disregarded, for example the good news of Ghana, as the noble Lord said, or the good news of Liberia.
Yet there is much cause for concern. The old excuses or scapegoats of colonialism, neo-colonialism and apartheid have gone. The terms of trade, certainly with commodities, until recently have improved, although agricultural protectionism still reigns. There is corruption, and there is too much milking of assets. This week, we have been reminded by what one ECOWAS spokesman called, “the assassination of democracy”—the fate of the President of Guinea-Bissau—of what happened in Mauritania last summer and the problems of Guinea-Conakry at the end of last year.
There are indeed many self-inflicted wounds. The African Union reached its compact with the rich world in NePAD, to promote good governance. Of course, there have been many failures. The peer review mechanism has not been as good as we had hoped. On Zimbabwe, equally it has shown pusillanimity. As the Minister will be aware, since he was there, last month the African Union elected Colonel Gaddafi as its president, which is not the best signal of democracy and good governance. Yet the African Union is there and it needs our support. It needs the help of everyone with its capacity-building. Some claim that the problems of Africa are likely to worsen because the cuts in public expenditure are likely to encourage coups; and that western aid, the millennium development goals, will be under pressure. The US National Intelligence Council’s report published last November suggested there would be increasing vulnerability in Africa. One asks, given the failures, how one can expect to attract the FDI, which is so relevant. Yes, Africans need our help as partners, and there is much support obviously and a constituency for aid in the West. It should be both a moral imperative for us and clearly in our interest in our globalised world, because if we ignore their plight their problems will come to us, in the form of migration, drugs, and crime.
The challenges of Africa are contained in many reports, some gathering dust; for example, the Brandt report. The scale of the task was well documented in the Commission for Africa’s report in 2005, in which the head of the commission secretariat said that governance was the main stumbling block to development. Effectively he was saying that the build-up of capacity, the rooting out of corruption and improving the way that Governments can deliver are absolutely vital for the well-being of Africa. This point was well made in an article by our high commissioner in Ghana in the current edition of The World Today, in which he stressed accountability, transparency and balance, as he called it, as essential elements.
How, then, do we best help in remedying the weaknesses of governance? Only recently, in my judgment, has the importance of the parliamentary dimension been recognised. This perhaps is the value-added aspect of us as parliamentarians, in that previously the aid agencies concentrated only on the executive branch: making tax inspectors more efficient and so on. As an example of this, between 2003 and 2006, DfID spent just over £1 million annually on parliamentary strengthening, out of a budget of over £5 billion. The changes in DfID came perhaps with the 2006 White Paper, emphasising the important role of parliaments in delivering good governance, while acknowledging that parliaments in many countries tended to be weak and ineffective. The 2007 DfID White Paper Governance, Development and Democratic Politics, and the excellent ODI report of the same year, Parliamentary Strengthening in Developing Countries, emphasised this same theme. The APPG report, which the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, contributed to, on strengthening parliaments in Africa, was in my judgment also an excellent contribution to the debate. The ODI recommended that the Foreign Office and DfID should engage more with UK-based institutions such as the CPA, the IPU, the overseas clerks association and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in parliamentary capacity-building.
I give as an example the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, internationally and in the UK, relating to legislatures in sub-Saharan Africa. The bilateral programmes are important: seminars, workshops and exchanges. Last month, for example, there was the outward delegation to Zambia, which involved discussions on a partnership basis, with scrutiny and accountability as the key themes. In February there was the parliamentary strengthening seminar in Uganda, which the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, mentioned in our debate last Thursday, and in which he participated. Currently at Westminster we have the 58th parliamentary seminar, with 16 parliamentarians from sub-Saharan Africa and six Clerks from Africa. This is an exciting new development, as is of course the Westminster Consortium, a five-year programme involving CPA UK, FCO, DfID, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Overseas Office of the House of Commons, the NAO, the International Bar Association, Cardiff and Essex universities and the Reuters Foundation. They are targeting several countries, including two African countries, Mozambique and Uganda. I look also at the way that the partnership between the European Union and the African Union, which was agreed in Lisbon a year ago, is making progress, on a partnership basis, in many key sectors. My only plea is perhaps over the greater need for co-ordination among the several bodies which are involved in this field.
I make one final reflection, on the linkage between development, governance and security. I was saddened to learn of the Government’s decision to withdraw the vast majority of police seconded for reconstruction projects abroad, and possibly next year to slash our contribution to civilian conflict resolution. Where, where is joined-up government, between DfID and the FCO? I accept that these matters, the reconstruction, are easy targets because much of it is discretionary, not compulsory as with other sectors. But there is a key linkage between the basic need for security and development. Can there be additional support for DfID for this work? I would urge my noble friend and the Government—although I suspect he is on side in any event—to think again about this. I join with others who feel very strongly about this matter, including the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Jay, in urging the Government fundamentally to rethink this failed and wrong decision.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sandwich is to be congratulated on obtaining this debate at a time when it is much needed. As news floods in of continued financial crisis and of sharper economic retreat worldwide, it is all too easy to allow it to drown out the needs of Africa and our own responsibility in helping to meet them—all too easy, but, I would argue, all too wrong. Short-sighted, too, in terms of our own medium and long-term prosperity and security, not to speak of the moral repugnance of turning our backs on a major part of that bottom billion of the world’s population who live in Africa.
Nor do self-serving arguments about coming back to Africa’s problems once we have sorted out our own economic and financial difficulties make much sense. Africa will not sit patiently by as we do that—urgent challenges will go unmet, individual country situations will slide out of control, and as we have seen in the case of piracy off the horn of Africa, the continent has the capacity to nip our ankles quite painfully and damagingly if we neglect its problems.
In addressing these problems today I suggest we need to avoid two traps. The first of these is to see the whole continent through the prism of Zimbabwe. It is inevitable that we in this country should, for historical reasons, focus strongly on developments in that unhappy country. It is right for the Government to pursue a “wait and see” policy for everything except humanitarian aid, while events in Zimbabwe demonstrate whether the coalition Government represent real change, and a move away from the tyranny of Mugabe, or just tragically more of the same. But we should not regard Zimbabwe as some awful paradigm of Africa as a whole; it is not. There are plenty of African countries that have, with strong international support, made the transition, or are making the transition, from conflict and tyranny to stability and better governance. Look at Namibia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and look at two countries such as Botswana and South Africa, which have achieved stability by their own largely unaided efforts.
The second trap is to generalise too much about Africa, and to neglect the fact that the continent is composed of more than 50 independent countries, each with its own problems and each with its own need for its own solutions. This is a trap into which even the title of this debate risks leading us but which surely needs to be avoided.
It is hard to avoid beginning any analysis of what needs to be done to strengthen governance and the rule of law in Africa by addressing the problem of conflict. Where conflicts are raging, or are barely suppressed, as they are in Darfur, the Congo and Somalia, among others, it is pretty academic to talk about good governance and the rule of law, just as it is pretty academic to hope that you can achieve economic development and prosperity in such countries. So we need to strengthen international efforts to prevent or resolve conflicts.
The whole burden of that cannot simply be thrust on the UN, which is already reaching the limits of the number and scale of conflicts it can handle at one time. Therefore, Africa’s own peacekeeping and peacemaking capacities will need to be expanded and supported far more purposefully and far more effectively than has been achieved so far. That cannot just be done by Africans themselves, important though their contribution and that of their regional and sub-regional organisations will be; it will need finance, logistical back-up, training, specialist military and civilian capacities, and unswerving political support from outside.
Clearly, there is a role here for the European Union, which has already done a good deal. Can the Minister give the House some idea of future EU plans? Can he say whether consideration is being given to joint efforts in this field with the United States now that the election of President Obama offers the prospect of a US Administration which will be more fully and more sympathetically engaged with the problems of Africa than has been the case in the past?
In the same context, I join the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, by raising the context of our own contributions to conflict resolution and peacemaking, and I express the strongest dismay, occasioned by the report in the Financial Times of 2 March, that the Government have decided to cut back drastically their support for the civilian components of such operations—police, legal staff and so on. Can the Minister deny that the Government are even contemplating a step which is so completely contrary to their policy over recent years and which is so certain to undermine efforts to strengthen good governance and the rule of law?
That brings me to one of the international community’s biggest failures in recent years: the failure to operationalise, to use an ugly but comprehensible word, the new notion of the standard of the “responsibility to protect” citizens of a state whose own Government are either unable or unwilling to perform that duty which every Government have to their citizens. Africa, alas, both before and since the agreement on the responsibility to protect at the UN summit in 2005, has been replete with examples of state failure. Indeed, it was an African case—that of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994—which triggered the international response that led to the adoption of the new standard.
Effective promotion of good governance and the rule of law, not simply external military intervention, is at the heart of this concept. Some African Governments seem to fear that it is just a recipe for military intervention. However, it is important that international efforts to stop countries sliding towards, and then into, state failure should be continued. Last year’s review of the European Union’s security strategy identified the responsibility to protect as a priority for the EU to promote. Can the Minister say what the Government and the EU are doing to follow up that conclusion? What steps are being taken to demystify the whole concept of a responsibility to protect and to gain wider acceptance of a multifaceted approach to its implementation, and perhaps wider buy-in and regional support for it from the neighbours of countries at risk? What can he tell us, indeed, about the work of the UN Secretary-General’s special adviser on the responsibility to protect?
I spoke earlier of the need to strengthen African peacekeeping and peacemaking capacity, but even more important, surely, is the need to back up with deeds and resources, not just with warm words, the continent’s own mechanisms for promoting good governance and the rule of law, most particularly the African Union’s own African Peer Review Mechanism. What progress is the African Union making in persuading its member countries to accept application to it of the mechanism, and what is the track record of countries applying the remedies recommended in the reports made under the mechanism? What are we nationally, and the EU collectively, doing to reward countries that accept the mechanism and to help them to implement its recommendations? This must surely be an integral and sustained part of efforts to promote good governance and the rule of law in Africa.
In conclusion, I should like to raise two particular African cases. In one, Somalia, over a period now of two decades, both before and after the collapse of the Siad Barre dictatorship, both good governance and the rule of law have been almost totally absent. The lesson to be drawn from the present threat from piracy in Somali waters, with which the international community is trying to cope, is surely that such efforts cannot stop at the water’s edge if they are to be genuinely effective. That neglect of a country such as Somalia is no solution, however painful the UN’s earlier experiences may have been. What is being done now to stabilise this situation and to begin to bring Somalia back from the depths of anarchy and conflict into which it has fallen? What are the Government doing to support Somaliland, the one part of that country in which good governance and the rule of law are not just pious wishes and distant aspirations? How do the Government see the situation of Somaliland evolving in both the near and the medium-term future?
Finally, the second case is that of Sudan, which is in the headlines today because of the International Criminal Court’s decision to endorse its prosecutor’s view that President Bashir should be indicted for his responsibility for crimes committed in Darfur over many years. I think it is admirable that the court has resisted all the pressures put on it by the African Union, the Arab League and some members of the Security Council to allow politics to triumph over international law. It has thus shown its determination to be a genuine court of law and not a forum for diplomatic manoeuvre. If China or any other country now seeks to get the Security Council to suspend implementation of the indictment, I hope that the Minister can confirm that a very tough set of key performance indicators towards the people of Darfur will be required of the Government of Sudan before any such approach is even contemplated.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to take part in the debate, and I join all noble Lords in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, on bringing this important region of the world to your Lordships’ House.
My own remarks will be on the more positive progress made in Uganda. Of course, I agree that much more needs to be done. We know that Uganda has had a history of instability, particularly under Amin’s Government following the expulsion of the Ugandan Asian population, but today it is among the most stable states in the region. It is very important that we build on the strong relations that we have with Uganda and Africa as a whole. I shall concentrate on only a couple of areas but I should like to say that the many friends that I have in my home city of Leicester who were victims of Amin’s expulsion orders still hold a very warm spot for the country that had been home to them for many generations. They have often said that it is time to re-establish the links they once had.
Last year, I attended a conference in Kenya on good governance and the participation and empowerment of women in the decision-making process. Of course, empowerment of women is a global issue and the Kenyan conference made it abundantly clear that African women parliamentarians wanted very much to play an active role in their countries’ decision-making. A number of African countries have decided to take affirmative action in ensuring that women can participate in politics, and the implementation of that action in Uganda is closely associated with the coming to power of the Government of the National Resistance Movement in 1986.
The Local Government Act 1997 has operationalised aspects of the provisions for affirmative action, dealing with representation of marginalised groups in local government structures. Implementation of affirmative action has resulted in a marked increase in the number of marginalised groups, particularly women, people with disabilities and youth in politics and decision-making, thereby changing the landscape of politics and decision-making in Uganda.
Women are the most visible beneficiaries of the policy. Increased visibility and effectiveness of women in politics and decision-making have challenged widespread patriarchal beliefs and practices, which in the past have excluded women from such positions. I have close ties with people from Uganda, who have informed me that the inclusion of women parliamentarians has gained promising momentum. I must congratulate such women MPs as Sylvia Namabidde who argue so passionately for free contraception to protect women from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
A report from the African quota project examines how the Ugandan Parliament has expanded to include 39 seats reserved for women, one woman from each district. Since its consolidation in the 1995 constitution, women have been guaranteed one-third of all council seats, and women currently hold 24 per cent of seats at national level. This marks great progress in the country when comparisons are drawn with neighbouring Kenya where only 8 per cent of total parliamentary seats are occupied by women. Conversely, it is also evident that neighbouring Rwanda has 48 per cent parliamentary women representation. These are figures that leave many western parliaments struggling to come even close to that sort of representation.
However, there has been concern that, in reality, women yield little power. They tend to be elected by male-dominated electoral colleges in the districts, and women elected through quotas tend to owe their allegiance to the men who elected them. Therefore, although there have been improvements, a great deal more needs to be done. A key lesson I took from the report and research is that quotas alone cannot promise a democratic, non-sexist Ugandan society and are just one of a number of tools needed to dismantle patriarchal institutions.
Just to touch on education, Uganda continues to make significant strides towards achieving universal primary education. While there is gender parity in the first grade, in adolescence drop-outs, especially adolescent girls, are unacceptably high and learning achievement for girls is low. Barriers to education are topped by poverty, socio-economic factors and the indirect costs of education. Girls are more often left at home to help the family. There are more than 800,000 orphans under 15 years of age and, so often, girls stay out of school to care for the sick and for younger siblings. Can the Minister say what is being done through aid funding to support girls who have to care for family members to continue receiving an education?
Making decisions about when and where to spend aid takes a great deal of local experience. One of the most worrying consequences of this Government's enormous expansion of the role of DfID has been the corresponding cuts to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The cuts in FCO staff throughout Africa have meant the loss of their local knowledge and expertise. The people who have replaced them might have a good academic understanding of development theory, but little understanding of the local situation and the unique pressures that people are under.
For Uganda and its neighbours to respond to the global challenges facing us all, we have to look very seriously at issues such as water preservation. During the past 10 years, steps have been taken under the Nile Basin Initiative to rationalise water resource management and development through a range of statutes, policies and action plans. They have provided the framework for the rational and sustainable management and use of water, the provision of clean water for domestic purposes to all, the orderly development and use of water for purposes other than domestic use and the control of pollution. The Government's strategy includes providing an enabling environment, with the Government as enabler, and regulatory control only in response to need, at enforceable levels, and combined with economic incentives.
Unfortunately, in Uganda, water resources are not evenly distributed in time and space and therefore large areas of the country are threatened by persistent periods of floods and drought and by uncertainties over the timing of wet seasons. Groundwater is limited in yield and extent, it is often corrosive and recharge rates are generally low. Management functions are currently being delegated to the lowest appropriate levels, and private sector involvement, women's participation and the development of water resources management capacities are being pursued. Can the Minister say whether we are supporting the Ugandan Government in building infrastructure programmes that will help conserve water supply?
Ugandan sugar companies are making significant capital investments to expand their sugar production capacities. Much of the expansion of cane supply is coming from increased cane cultivation by outgrower farmers. Kakira Sugar Works and the Sugar Corporation of Uganda are in the process of installing high-pressure cogeneration equipment, which will enable them to use bagasse—the fibrous waste residue from cane crushing—to produce green electricity for their own use as well as to supply the national grid. This will not only help ease the significant power shortfall facing Uganda, but will provide electricity that is more environmentally friendly and significantly cheaper than electricity produced by diesel.
Uganda appears to be becoming more proactive in pursuing renewable energy, but climate change does not appear to be an immediate priority. Deforestation and rapid urbanisation are greatly contributing to the release of greenhouse gases. Currently, the Ministry of Water and Environment has prepared a national adaptation plan of action to address issues of climate change at national level. We must all agree that dealing with the problems of climate change is universal. Can the Minister say whether the Government have joint projects supporting the work on adaptation plans?
Uganda has made leaps in its encouragement of women into politics, particularly when comparisons are drawn with neighbouring African states. However, there remains a widespread challenge to water preservation and although action is being taken in response to climate change, its effectiveness is debateable.
We in the West must see that greater opportunity is provided for countries such as Uganda to be supported in education, skills and investment, and we must ensure that they can trade in equal markets.
My Lords, as it is customary to declare an interest, I suppose that I ought to announce that I was conceived in Africa and born in London. That probably gives me a foot in the continent of Africa and a foot in Europe. I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Sandwich on his excellent introduction. I find myself in agreement with almost all the views expressed today on this important subject and, above all, on why good governance and the rule of law are so important. They help to create a stable framework within which a country can grow economically and help to reduce poverty. Without that, Africa cannot make progress. Having said that, I agree with the view that it is essential not to be patronising. We must respect the traditions, history and culture of those countries and not expect to impose our systems on the countries of Africa.
If we are going to give assistance, we expect peace and security, about which my noble friend Lord Hannay spoke, proper systems of accountability and transparency, the rule of law, the freedom of the press, effective and impartial public service and many other factors. Some people seem to think that witnessing whether elections have been free and fair is a simple way to judge whether a country has good standards of governance. However, it is a continuous process and one must look for continuing accountability between elections. There has been a lot of discussion about whether there has been progress in Africa. Like the majority of noble Lords, I take the view that there has. We only have to look at the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, drawn up at Harvard University, to see that its analysis shows that in recent years there has been an increase in democracy of some kind or another on the continent, that, interestingly enough, there has been less violence in the past few years and that there has been quite a lot of progress on standards of governance.
We should bear in mind that, according to the Financial Times, there have been no fewer than 90 coups in Africa in the past 50 years and 125 failed attempts. However, as many noble Lords have said, we have seen very encouraging progress in Ghana, Senegal, Liberia and Botswana, but, by contrast, we have seen disaster in Somalia, Zimbabwe and the Sudan. I hope that the Minister will feel able to say something about the Sudan. I agree with my noble friend Lord Hannay that we look to the Security Council to take a lead, but that we have to keep our sights above all else on helping the people of the Sudan. It is their future and their lives that are at stake. Already 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, but, in the south, over a series of civil wars, 2 million people have been killed and 4 million people displaced. Will the Minister say something about how, however modest is the British influence, we can make sure that the comprehensive peace agreement in the south is implemented and that we facilitate, help and encourage that process?
However, we have to reconcile our concepts of good governance with the characteristics of many African countries—my noble friend Lord Sandwich referred to what are known as neo-patrimonial rules to politics in those countries. I suppose, to put it in one word, it means cronyism. It is based on tribal strength, which leads in turn to intense corruption—Kenya is a very good example of that. Some way has to be found to balance the traditions in Africa, based on tribal and ethnic groups, with the need for adequate systems of governance.
It is essential that both national and international aid donors are robust in ensuring that the money that we give for development—by “development”, I do not mean humanitarian aid, which is important on its own, but development of the country—is not used for propping up unaccountable rulers. Here, DfID, I am glad to say, has quadrupled its UK development budget. That is fine if the money goes for proper development. It must therefore be conditional on progress on governance, and it must not make a country so aid-dependent that it removes its own incentive to spark its own development and expansion. We have to be realistic about this. We should at the same time take notice of the views of a growing number of Africans about how aid can be destructive as well as constructive.
I agree, too, with the view expressed today, not least by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, that while we have seen the expansion of DfID, it has been to a large extent at the expense of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is essential first of all to have a foreign policy framework for the continent of Africa and then to fit the DfID role within it. However, we have seen at the same time, as many other noble Lords have said, a substantial reduction in the role of the Foreign Office. If we do not have information about countries, how can we devise policies about them? We desperately need to restore more strength to the Foreign Office so that we have more knowledge about what is going on in Africa and can do our job more effectively.
It is worth noting that, in the past 50 years, $1 trillion of aid has come from the West to the continent of Africa, yet 600 million people there are still trapped in desperate poverty. We have to think about that very carefully. It is essential that the multilateral bodies, too, play a role. I shall touch on one—the Commonwealth. We should remind ourselves that the Harare Declaration in the early 1990s—Harare of all places!—was a commitment by the Commonwealth to good governance, democracy, the rule of law and the freedom of the press. It is up to the Commonwealth to have a continuous dialogue with its African members on standards of governance, because that is the commitment that all members of the Commonwealth make. A lot of work is going on through the Commonwealth Foundation, of which I had the privilege to be chairman in the 1990s, in fostering civic society, which is expanding in Africa. Civic society can play a prominent role in strengthening governance in Africa. The British Government should work very closely with the Commonwealth on that.
I end on an issue that I raised a year or so. One the most important ways in which we can facilitate improvement in governance in Africa is to encourage those in the African diaspora who live in Britain, America and Europe. They have lived here and acquired great skills, many of them highly professional, but they would like to contribute to their countries of origin if they had that opportunity. A good test case would be Zimbabwe, because, if in the course of time—not yet—we are ready to give it major reconstruction assistance, we should at the same time help to mobilise those in the Zimbabwe diaspora here, who have all the skills and want to contribute to Zimbabwe. I know that the Minister is sympathetic to that and hope that he can say something about it. An African solution for an African problem is to encourage those in the diaspora to go back to their countries of origin where they can.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, on securing the debate and thank him for introducing it with the wisdom and concern that we have come to expect of him. Although the subject of the debate is Africa, all noble Lords but two have concentrated on sub-Saharan Africa, as I, too, shall do in my nine-minute presentation.
Sub-Saharan Africa includes 48 countries and 920 million people. Of the 48 countries, 23 are authoritarian, 12 are democracies and 13 are hybrids. The 12 democracies have different degrees of stability and maturity. Apart from four of them, we cannot say that democracy is firmly entrenched, because one or two elections do not by themselves prove that the institutions are there to stay.
Africa presents a mixed picture. On the negative side, as I have just said, democracy has not taken root in more than half a dozen countries. Two-fifths of the population live on less than one US dollar per day. Seventy-five per cent of HIV/AIDS victims in the world are from Africa. Ninety per cent of malaria-related deaths in the world at large occur in Africa. And a continent with 12 per cent of the world’s population has no more than 1 per cent of global GDP. It is also a continent which, happily, unlike Asia, does not have dynastic rule but has long periods of personalised rule. Omar Bongo in Gabon went on for 40 years; our good old friend Mobutu Sese Seko went on for 32 years; and I could mention many more, including Mugabe, who has been going for 25 years.
That is the negative side of the total picture, but there is much good happening, too, which is encouraging. There is a strong desire for democracy. Some of the latest public opinion poll surveys that I have seen show that 87 per cent of the African population is very keen on some form of democracy, and 70 per cent is totally opposed to any kind of personalised rule. Average growth in Africa has been at the rate of 5.8 per cent; low rates of inflation have helped; and external debt relief has released money for social expenditure. Civil war has ended in some parts of Africa such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there are also some remarkable success stories such as South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana.
Botswana is particularly interesting. Its GDP has risen one hundredfold since independence. It is the fastest growing economy in Africa. It is non-racial. Sensibly it did a deal with De Beers on its diamonds and used the royalties well. To its credit, it broke with the Washington consensus, which helped it enormously. It set up state-owned companies, nationalised mineral rights, steered the economy to six-year development plans and it is what one academic called “a free market economy that does everything by planning”. Economic development is obviously important but not enough. We need to ensure that its fruits are evenly distributed and that it does not lead to plutocracy.
Given that the picture is balanced at one level but has dark signs on the other, what are the sources of Africa’s problems? Can we do something about them? Some problems are a result of factors beyond its control, such as the global food crisis, climate change, external interference in various parts of Africa, and so on. Others are its own creation, such as weak state institutions, extensive centralisation, for which it need not have opted but did so, overly personalised rule and institutionalised corruption. There is constant violent conflict and tribalism that have led to a brain drain, the dismantling of infrastructure, constant plundering of natural resources and little climate in which foreign direct investment can flow.
In that context, what are we capable of doing? I have three or four suggestions on what we might do. First, in this kind of mixed situation there is constantly a danger of wanting to return to the 19th century kind of scramble for Africa in terms of energy resources, arms’ sales in Tanzania or energy contracts in Nigeria and Angola. That temptation must be resisted.
Secondly, we should stop thinking in terms of China as our competitor or try to recreate conditions for some kind of cold war with China. China is welcome in that part of the world for obvious reasons; it does not have the legacy of European imperialism or the way in which Europeans divided up different parts of Africa and left it in a mess. China does not suffer from that handicap, although it has its own handicaps because of its ideology and lack of familiarity with the African tradition.
I was very interested in the internal debate in the Chinese Communist Party on its strategy in relation to Africa and developing countries in general. China rightly decided that it would stay away from political activities in the country—not favouring this candidate or that. It would not intervene for political or humanitarian reasons but would concentrate on building infrastructure and agriculture. Although that strategy has something to say for itself, it also has disadvantages. For example, we cannot expect China to help us out in the Sudan. But we must not at any cost enter into any cold war rivalry with China. It can be our partner; we can work with it; engage in dialogue and work out patterns of co-operation.
Thirdly, we need to develop new forms of aid partnership—the sort of thing initiated by Clare Short, and proposed by Tony Blair, such as aid related to projects. Something that I have been emphasising in relation to India and other countries is the idea of encouraging the diaspora to return. They will not return for good as they will have struck roots in other parts of the world, but nevertheless some kind of scheme could be devised such that they can go there periodically and co-operate in the construction of the country. It is also important to train African manpower and most important of all, as Botswana has shown, not to insist on a single model of economic development.
My last suggestion is of a more general nature. There is a tendency to think that Africa has a crisis of democracy, bad governance, and that somehow we can “export” good governance and democracy to it. The language of “exporting” democracy smacks of arrogance. It implies that Africa does not have its own traditions of consultation on which to build and which we can creatively adapt to modern times. It also implies that we have somehow perfected good governance and democracy. We have not. The catastrophic mess in which we are in shows that good governance of the economy is not our strong point. The way in which we panicked after 7/7 and 9/11 and imposed all sorts of drastic restrictions on civil liberties shows how easily good governance can be sacrificed in a moment of panic. We should remember that African countries live with 7/7 and 9/11 daily on a smaller scale. It is remarkable and striking that some of them have not succumbed to the kind of panic that we have. It is also striking that in our own country some of our brilliant scientists at our great universities have suffered at the hands of animal right activists, or what I call animal rights terrorists. Professor Colin Blakemore at the University of Oxford courageously stood up to them and paid both a visible and invisible price.
Let us approach Africa as we do other parts of the world, in a spirit of global solidarity, equality and humility, and let us appreciate that just as we have a good deal to teach African countries we might have something to learn from those that have managed to maintain a climate of civility and liberty despite suffering daily acts of terrorism.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sandwich has shown a remarkable sense of good timing in tabling this important Motion for debate today. It is good that we have been reminded of the considerable achievements in many parts of Africa, from South Africa to Ghana to Uganda. It is also true, as noble Lords have reflected, that considerable challenges remain.
On Tuesday, Raimundo Pereira, the Speaker of the Parliament in Guinea-Bissau, was sworn in as the country’s interim head of state following the assassination on Monday of President Joae Bernardo Vierira. In addition to assessing the fallout from this killing, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council had no shortage of other issues to discuss when it met in Addis Ababa later the same day. They could have included the civil war in Somalia and the piracy to which the noble Lord Sheikh and others have referred; cholera and instability in Zimbabwe; sectarian violence in Nigeria; and the security situation in eastern Congo. Lawless militias such as the Janjaweed, the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Interahamwe have become synonymous with bloodshed and horrific atrocities.
My noble friends Lord Luce and Lord Hannay were right to remind us that it was yesterday’s decision by the International Criminal Court to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, that gives an even more topical edge to our proceedings today.
Some 2 million people died in Khartoum’s assault on Southern Sudan and between 200,000 and 300,000 people have died in Darfur. That region has seen 2.7 million people displaced, and 90 per cent of the homes there razed to the ground. These millions of lost lives represent a human catastrophe, and it is an indictment of our failure to protect rather than the duty to protect that my noble friend Lord Hannay was right to remind us about.
Darfur is the first genocide of the 21st century—a conclusion I came to when I travelled there in 2004 with Rebecca Tinsley who subsequently founded Waging Peace and provided some of the evidence placed before the International Criminal Court. I took evidence from some of those who had been the victims of the Janjaweed militia, the Government of Khartoum, the regional war lords and their agents. I also visited Southern Sudan four years earlier during the civil war.
I was reminded of some of the horrific personal accounts that I heard when listening this morning to Colonel Samir Jaja, a deserter from the Sudanese army. He described how he had abandoned the army after taking part in an attack on the villages of Korma, Ber Tawila and Sanj Koro in Southern Darfur in April 2003. They were ordered to,
“rape the women, kill the children, leave nothing”.
They killed the villagers as well their livestock and the wells were poisoned. Oumba Daoud Abdelrasoul is one of 17,000 refugees in Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad, which is 90 miles from the village in Darfur from which he fled. He said:
“My younger brother and my two uncles had their throats slit in front of me. I had to watch as others were thrown alive into fires”.
He is one of the quarter of a million Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, along with a further 18,000 displaced Chadians.
It is in this context that we must view the decision in July 2008 by Louis Morino Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, to indict Omar al-Bashir and consider yesterday’s momentous decision of the ICC judges in the Hague to issue a warrant for his arrest—the first against a sitting head of state.
The court spokeswoman, Laurence Blairon, said that Bashir was suspected of being criminally responsible for,
“intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, murdering … raping, torturing and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property”.
She said that the violence in Darfur was the result of a common plan organised at the highest levels of the Sudanese Government. In the 108 countries that recognise the ICC, Bashir is now a wanted man. Although the ICC did not, at this stage, issue a warrant for genocide, no-one should underestimate the importance of this sombre, considered and courageous decision.
A few weeks ago, as an officer of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan, I chaired a meeting to which I had invited Mr Ocampo. We discussed the indictment of Omar al-Bashir and the role of the ICC. Mr Ocampo made it clear that his mandate was to examine the evidence and act accordingly, not to make calculations about politics or diplomacy. Some of those present at the meeting, and others commenting on yesterday's decision, have criticised the prosecutor and the court because of potential political repercussions, particularly on the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement. However, either we have a court that is capable of holding those who kill, plunder and rape to account, or we do not. Despots cannot be permitted to offer the pretext of state sovereignty or immunity to cover up the extermination of their actions against their own citizens.
Bashir’s response to the court is also instructive. He contemptuously told the court it could eat its arrest warrant; and Salah Abdallah “Gosh”, head of Sudanese security and intelligence, said that he will amputate the arms and cut of the heads of anyone co-operating with the ICC. It is people like this whom we are told we should accommodate. Bahsir’s other response has been to demonise and expel humanitarian and aid agencies, which are a lifeline to his beleaguered people. For years, the daily reality for humanitarian aid workers in Darfur has been intimidation from the Government of Sudan, combined with open threats, interference, and randomly imposed restrictions.
Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s international development director, says that yesterday’s decision,
“will affect more than 600,000 Sudanese people whom we provide with vital humanitarian and development aid, including clean water and sanitation on a daily basis”.
She added that it will also affect 200,000 in eastern Sudan and Khartoum state. This morning, Ken Caldwell of Save the Children pointed out the implications for the 50,000 children it supports.
Bashir is a man who has to answer charges of war crimes, who vindictively retaliates against children and refugees, who threatens aid workers and charities, and who seeks to intimidate and blackmail the international community. Remember also that Khartoum has broken every peace deal it has signed in the past six years of violence in Darfur, often within 24 hours of making commitments to honour its pledges and responsibilities under international law. It is an absurd argument to suggest that you should not act against war criminals for fear of upsetting them. The ICC’s actions offer long-overdue leverage against a regime that has defiantly persisted with the ethnic cleansing of Darfur, and we should strongly support the court.
I have not heard anyone who has actually suffered at the hands of the Khartoum regime suggest there is a conflict between pursuing both peace and justice. The response in the refugee camps is simply one of disbelief and incredulity that it has taken the West so long to recognise what has been happening in western Sudan since 2003. The Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur has supported the issuing of the indictments, even though it is well aware that some of its members are also being investigated by Mr Ocampo. Justice must be applied without fear or favour.
The exiled Sudanese bishop, Macram Max Gassis once said:
“Peace without justice is like building a house without foundations; it is a pseudo-peace doomed to collapse at the very first storm”.
Leaders the world over, from Slobodan Milosevic to Charles Taylor, and now Omar al-Bashir, must understand clearly that if they order or collaborate in the killing of their own citizens it will not be met with appeasement or impunity.
Her Majesty's Government should consider how, with their international partners we can ensure that Bashir is actually brought before the courts. Although the Foreign Secretary has welcomed the ICC ruling, I am surprised that his statement made no mention of what practical steps will arise from it. We need to work with the United Nations Security Council to support targeted sanctions against those most responsible for the violence in Sudan and ensure that there is a concerted and sustained international response, including a comprehensive arms embargo against the Government of Sudan.
I hope that we will hear something from the Minister today about whether we can co-ordinate our actions with those of China. I recently met its special envoy on Darfur and was very impressed by his attitude.
What is being done to ensure that the UNAMID force will become an effective presence on the ground with a competent lead nation and clear command-and-control structures?
There is so much to do in Sudan, and our efforts thus far have not been extraordinarily successful. Millions have died in Africa’s various conflicts. Even the Minister is entitled to feel occasionally daunted by the scale and complexity of situations like that in Sudan, but when he does he should take comfort from the words of Thomas Paine, who said:
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph”.
I hope that that will be the case for the noble Lord. I thank my noble friend for introducing this important debate.
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, has rightly received the unanimous congratulations of those who have spoken. It is extremely opportune that he should have secured the debate and given us his views on strengthening the rule of law in Africa. I particularly enjoyed his comments on progress in Kenya and in Uganda, from which I recently returned from an FCO/CPA workshop.
The noble Earl drew attention to the progress or otherwise of NEPAD, a matter to which I shall come back. The noble Lord, Lord Joffe, pointed out that Africa is not without good government and the rule of law and gave some telling examples to encourage us. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, gave an insight into his personal roots in Kenya. He was followed by my noble friend Lord Steel, who drew attention to the good news in Africa, in Ghana and Zambia. However, he raised his concerns about the cutting of UK representation in many African states and about where the UK-China dialogue over Africa was going. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, kindly drew attention to my small attempts to bring this issue forward as part of the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group’s report on strengthening parliaments there.
Just over a year ago, in March 2008, the all-party group published its report Strengthening Parliaments in Africa. In July of that year, as the group’s vice-chairman and an AWEPA council member in this Parliament, I was fortunate enough to secure a short debate on the report. The issues highlighted in its overarching recommendations are as valid and pertinent now as they were then. In particular, I stress the importance that the report put on the understanding of parliaments in their political context; on engaging local demand and encouraging local ownership of parliamentary strengthening by local MPs, political parties and other local actors; on the co-ordination by development partners together, not operating independently, but working in step, who by their actions can ensure that parliamentary strengthening is evidence based; and on ensuring that development work does not marginalise or undermine local parliaments, which should be encouraged to play their full part in and take ownership of the process.
On more present issues, sub-Saharan west Africa is one of the most troubling regions of the African continent, particularly the cluster of nation states running from the Côte d’Ivoire in the south to Senegal in the north. While Liberia and Sierra Leone have come through bitter and brutal civil wars and have resolved the problems with displaced persons in the refugee camps on the borders—I saw that for myself just a few years ago—neighbouring Guinea and now Guinea-Bissau are capturing the headlines.
A military coup in Guinea in late December of last year and the assassination of the President of Guinea-Bissau this week have caused outrage and turmoil. Of particular concern to us is that these west coast African states have in the past few years become a gateway for Colombian narcotics dealers, the drug barons, to import drugs on a massive scale bound for Europe in a way that has never been seen before. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reckons that some 50 tonnes of cocaine, worth approximately £1.4 billion, pass through that territory on its way to Europe each and every year. The sheer value of this drug, transported through one of the world’s poorest regions, dwarfs the entire economies of some countries and corrupts their security forces and politicians.
Just two months after the coup in Guinea, led by Captain Camara, immediately following the death of President Lansana Conté, the late President’s son and his brother-in-law were arrested together with senior police officials on drugs-smuggling charges. There have been confessions by Colombian partners on television in Guinea. Evidence has been produced that drugs hauls, seen and apparently burnt before the national television cameras, were switched at the last minute for a bogus white powder by corrupt officials who then sold the real drugs on in the open market. This is corruption at the highest level. That will, I hope, now stop with this new regime.
Do the Government recognise the extent of this drugs threat and do they have plans to combat it? Can the Government provide us with an update on the arrests made by the military junta in Guinea? We should note the success of officials from the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency in working with Sierra Leone police to secure the arrest of some 17 suspected drug dealers, impounding a plane that was disguised with false Red Cross markings and carrying over 700 kilograms of cocaine. Thanks to the intervention and guidance of our officials, these people were arrested. Given that success, do the Government have plans to provide similar levels of assistance to other west African countries battling against the international drugs trade?
The reaction to these events within Africa shows that African institutions are now active in seeking to resolve conflicts and strengthen democracy and the rule of law. The African Union has condemned the coup in Guinea and formed a contact group with ECOWAS, the Mano River Union and others to press for early democratic parliamentary elections. That style of outcome follows routes envisaged in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which was created by the African Union in 2001. The project’s key goals—creating political climates rooted in equity, justice and good governance, and developing transparent and accountable democracy based on the rule of law—are part of that process. Eight years on, even ardent supporters are questioning the slow pace of progress.
Nevertheless, NEPAD’s key component, the African Peer Review Mechanism, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred, is widely acknowledged and accepted. The APRM indicates the steps that can be taken to secure high standards of political and economic practice—the standards that are needed to attract investors in development partnerships. An impressive list of some 29 nation states signed a memorandum of understanding to formally join the APRM, but the danger is that the MOU becomes merely an expression of interest. To date only three countries have been able to complete all the phases of the APRM. Progress has clearly been slow, but we should not let pessimism stifle a project that has so much to offer Africa in terms of producing measures within the APRM that can be taken to establish accountability, transparency and free and fair elections.
Since 2001, NEPAD programmes and priorities have been implemented in many respects. African leaders are now managing conflicts, championing democracy, embracing human rights, adopting sound economic policies and nurturing civil society’s role in their countries. Although only a few countries have been reviewed under the APRM, the mechanism provides a platform to evaluate each nation’s efforts at productive and representative governance. An important spur to engage more robustly in the APRM process comes from essential development partners, such as the G8 and the African Development Bank. These institutions are making it clear that the seriousness with which they will take the commitment of individual African countries to reform will be guided by their APRM score sheet.
There are good reasons for the African Union to give NEPAD more teeth. At present, however, there appears to be mounting criticism of NEPAD’s declining profile among Africans. Since President Obasanjo and President Mbeki left the scene and President Wade and President Bouteflika have had to face other challenges, NEPAD has ceased to be a talking point in political fora. There is now a call to produce new champions of NEPAD. The editorial of 23 February 2009 in Nigeria’s ThisDay said:
“In an era of harsh global economic realities, Africa cannot afford to expect any largesse from donor countries and agencies. It is time for African leaders to reposition and face squarely NEPAD’s priority areas of market access and tourism, environment, education, health, science and technology, agriculture, infrastructure and political and corporate governance”.
This is a clear call from the editor of the leading African newspaper for politicians to be accountable to their people through their parliaments. Who are we to disagree, except to add that the people of Africa expect and deserve nothing less?
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for introducing, to use his words, his “Obama debate”. I look forward to talking to the noble Earl another time about aid and diplomacy. A few minutes here would not do that justice. I add my sadness that my noble friend Lady Park is not here to contribute, as her knowledge of this area would have enriched our debate. I am sure that the House will wish to join me in wishing her well and a speedy recovery.
Her Majesty’s Government have, over the past 10 years, made international aid to Africa, delivered through DfID, a figurehead policy. Their praiseworthy aims, however, have had mixed results. A long-term trend of slow improvement until 2006 has taken a notable downturn in the past two years, as noted by Freedom House. Nowhere is this more marked than in Zimbabwe. One of the prized examples of the Government’s aid recipients, it has degenerated in recent years into one of the least free and most impoverished African states: just think that its copper mines alone, in 1955, had an output of £130 million, earning the country £40 million. There are lessons to be learnt even from Zimbabwe’s most depressing of case studies. My noble friend Lord Sheikh and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made important points on Zimbabwe, and it was good to hear a little bit of good news from the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso.
It is vital that we do not succumb to the myth that the “big man”, however impressive he seems, is the answer. This Government have been willing to compromise too much to establish working relationships with individual development partners who, in return for allowing aid agencies and foreign companies into their countries, take control of much of the dissemination of the funding. Of course buy-in is essential to the success of development projects, but we think that too little care has been taken to make certain that aid does not then support corrupt patronage networks or political elites at the cost of wider political engagement.
The political and economic integration of African citizens should be this Government’s primary concern. The corruption and inefficiencies that mean that aid is as likely to end up in offshore bank accounts or in a western company’s profit statements as in the wage packets of health workers or teachers can be rooted out only from within. The example of John Githongo, the Kenyan whistleblower who had to struggle for so long to bring the Anglo Leasing scandal in Kenya to the appropriate authorities, is both a sign of the way forward and a warning about how much more there is to do to encourage more like him.
African NGOs and other civil society watchdogs have an enormous part to play in encouraging the accountability and transparency of their Governments, but the successful investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption depends on properly resourced and politically impartial legal systems and police forces, as the noble Lord, Lord Luce, quite rightly said. Until western Governments are willing to cut off aid to people and institutions that perpetuate corruption in these institutions, nothing will change. Of course, making decisions about when and where to spend aid takes a great deal of local experience, as my noble friend Lady Verma so rightly said. She also stressed the importance of support for women’s participation in society. A Conservative Government would seek to encourage this by making sure that all DfID staff, on starting a new post, undertook an intensive immersion in the communities that they are there to help.
Much more could also be done to improve transparency about where DfID actually spends its money. There will always be a temptation to focus on grand, impossible schemes that are launched with a fanfare, but it is the small, restrained and realistic projects that often make the most difference. It is not only UK government funding that is currently far too opaque; western companies have been equally guilty, if not guiltier, of perpetuating and even encouraging corrupt methods of governance in the hope of high returns. This Government could do much more to make certain that British companies in particular behave responsibly when investing in Africa—for example, by working with countries such as China and by trying to impress on them that the long-term benefits are often more valuable than the short-term profits.
I have concentrated mostly on institutional failings rather than on the total breakdown in the rule of law that has recently occurred in so many countries—the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Alton, drew our attention to the latest developments in Sudan—but it is clear that the wars that still blight so much of the continent have been exacerbated and even triggered by the failings and corruption of their Governments, so ably described in the recent outstanding book on Africa by Richard Dowden.
In my few remaining minutes, I will add a piece that I found recently, which I feel is poignant to our debate today:
“Africa is an important depository of raw materials, and the surface has scarcely been thumbed as yet. It produces something like 98 per cent of the diamonds of the world, 55 per cent of its gold, and 22 per cent of its copper, as well as large quantities of various strategic minerals, like manganese, chromium, and uranium. Africa produces about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, three-fifths of its palm oil, and has immense reserves of water power. It could grow every crop on earth. But if Africa is rich, it is also poor. This is one of the overriding paradoxes. Africa is not only vital for what it already has, but is incomparably the greatest potential source of wealth awaiting development in the world. No continent has ever beckoned with more fruitful opportunities”.
That is from Inside Africa, written in 1955 by John Gunther. How sad to have so little progress after $1 trillion in aid has been made and so little learnt in the past 53 years towards fulfilling this extraordinary opportunity. We heard from several of your Lordships of a few green shoots; I wish that I could be as optimistic. I look forward, as always, to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for raising this subject. His views were wide-ranging and erudite, as always, and he showed tremendous judgment in all that he touched on. He described this informally as the Obama debate, since it took America to elect a Luo President when Kenya seemed quite unable to do so. I was clearly not the first to ask Raila Odinga, a Luo, “What is it about Kenya that America elects a Luo President first?”, as he quickly responded, “No, no, no—Kenya was the first to elect a Luo President; America was the first to seat one”. Many would recognise the accuracy of his complaint.
I want to echo the point made about the Mo Ibrahim index, which shows that the quality of governance in Africa, the prevalence of civil wars and the rates of economic growth by country are, indeed, all going in the right way. There is more democracy, less war and rather more growth in recent years than there has been for a long time. Nearly everyone in our debate is an Afro-enthusiast and an Afro-optimist. Nevertheless, listening to this debate, we have heard a series of problems raised that indicate just how far we feel that our friends in Africa have to go in the quality of governance and rule of law on that continent.
For a long time, I have felt that we have, perhaps, been at fault in the amount of money that we put into democracy and elections in Africa. It has reduced good governance to having an election every four or five years. In doing so, we have unintentionally created elected dictatorships, where presidents win at the ballot—they often get re-elected time after time there—and can point to an election that has met reasonable rules of competition, and where there has been support for the contest from ourselves and from others. Yet, as soon as the election is over, the Opposition are, too frequently, locked up again or barred from meaningful participation in the political process.
Minority rights are continuously trampled on or overlooked. All too frequently, there is no robust or free media—perhaps the most significant way available to curb corruption, by exposing it when it is found. Instead, too often the solution to corruption seems to borrow from Western notions rather than more indigenous ones, perhaps. Kenya was raised: an example of a country where, I think I am right in saying, MPs are paid more than MPs here, because of a misplaced notion—borrowed, I suspect, from the Singapore experience—that if you pay public servants well, they will not steal. Well, in Kenya they are paid well and they still steal, so it becomes enormously important to approach corruption through something broader than one poorly borrowed notion from elsewhere.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, has just referred to commodities and the great wealth in them that Africa enjoys, yet the very presence of those commodities has contributed so much to the corruption. The fight to control the diamonds, the oil, the gold and even, at times, the cocoa has led to so much of the continent’s bad governance and corruption. Many wiser African leaders have almost cursed that natural wealth, because it has frequently appeared to inhibit and impede good government. The exceptions are few: for example, in Botswana, which was mentioned, diamonds have contributed to a broad-based development and growing incomes. Yet take a similar presence of diamonds in west Africa, and one sees that they have, until recently, only contributed to a history of bad governance in, say, Sierra Leone or Liberia. The fight to build governance must take account of the nature of the African economy and the nature of African societies, and encourage Africa to find solutions. As so many noble Lords said in the debate today, so many Africans want solutions. Perhaps the most encouraging thing of all is the growth of a civil society which deliberately places itself outside parliamentary politics, because it feels in too many cases in Africa that those are corrupt politics, and instead presses for transparency. It presses against corruption and for accountability of both Parliaments and the Executives. It is a very encouraging development.
I have always felt that the case for democratic governance in Africa cannot and must not be separated from the case for reducing and fighting poverty in the continent. The two must be linked; it must be the case that by giving people the vote one is giving poor people the means to hold government to account, to demand from government the basic services of education and healthcare, as well as the basic opportunities of jobs and employment and a decent living for themselves and their families. In too many places, poverty and the accountability for growth has become completely separated from Parliaments and Governments. The two need reconnecting, so that democracy is not a way for elites to renew their power every four or five years and renew their corrupt access to government resources. Instead, democracy must be a means for the poor to demand a better share of their countries’ resources and demand that their rights are met. That retooling of democracy to that second objective underlies everything that we would want to see done in this area.
Mention was made of NePAD, which is the economic vehicle that Africa has established for poverty reduction. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has invited the current chair of NePAD, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, to come to the G20, accompanied by Jean Ping of the African Union precisely to ensure that, at that G20 meeting, the views of Africa and the poorer parts of Africa are fully reflected and we use the G20 as a vehicle to ensure that an action plan for Africa at this time of global economic crisis is a part of the conclusions of the London summit.
Before turning to the different country situations, let me say that we understand that to establish good governance and the rule of law in Africa needs actions at different levels—the individual level, the state level, the regional level and the global level. I have in a sense spoken about the individual level; we need to see Africans empowered, men and women alike, to be able to demand their rights and to demand access to the limited economic resources of their country. DfID has many programmes, some of which have been commented on today, to strengthen states, their human rights machinery, their legal framework and their parliaments. That is usefully supported by the regional level, where we are working with the African Union to try to support its institutions, some of them new and exciting—from the Pan-African Parliament to its own human rights institutions, as well as a strengthened African Union Commission, with commissioners dealing with many of the areas that touch on today’s debates. Beyond that is the role of the international community, of which we are part, to keep pressure on Africa through our aid partnerships and our diplomatic efforts, to continue moving forward as Africans themselves wish towards an era of better governance.
I turn to the many countries’ situations that were raised in today’s debate and which, in their different ways, are manifest expressions of the challenges that governance still faces in the continent. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and others mentioned Zimbabwe and the call from the new Government for $2 billion of resources to meet the immediate needs of economic stabilisation. Although the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, one of the House’s most well-informed observers of Africa, said that he can see “green shoots of recovery”, I imagine that, in using that phrase—which is currently somewhat controversial in Britain—he implied a degree of scepticism on his own part about how real such recovery yet was. Therefore, he will not, perhaps, be surprised if I say that we will need to see those shoots grow a little more before we are willing to engage in any broad-based economic support for the Government.
We have set very clear tests, including the release of political prisoners; the end of violence; a timetable towards elections; and, perhaps most relevant, a serious economic plan run by honest men. While Gideon Gono remains governor of the central bank of Zimbabwe, there is no confidence on these Benches—or, I suspect, anywhere in the House—that any money handed over would be properly and honestly used. We will continue to support the humanitarian needs of the country as generously as we can. Reference was made to cholera victims growing in number. Here, we are not only providing medical supplies, but supporting the salaries of health workers to make sure that the healthcare system does not collapse.
I turn to Zimbabwe’s neighbour, Malawi. As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, says, elections are imminent. It is most unfortunate that one of the candidates—a man well known to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and myself—has been arrested this week. I have intervened several times with both the current President and his predecessor about the need to make sure that the intense political dispute between the two sides in Malawi does not undermine the multi-party democracy that has been so preciously recovered there. We will be very engaged during the election period.
On Somalia, the fight against piracy is certainly critical. As noble Lords know, we are very much involved in the piracy taskforce; its command centre is here in the UK. Beyond that, we are engaged onshore in Somalia, in the work to stabilise the political situation. There is important progress at the moment and we have been encouraging that with a new President, who has now succeeded in forming a broad-based Government, who have returned to Mogadishu. While there have been ups and downs in security, the basic trend towards a more inclusive politics in Somalia seems to be on course as an outcome of the Djibouti process.
We have had contact with the President of Somaliland, and the Foreign Secretary will meet him. Our position remains the same: first and foremost, the leaders of Somalia and Somaliland must sit down to try to resolve their differences. Beyond that, it is for Africa to take the lead in any change of status that might follow. We certainly cannot overlook the fact that Somaliland is the one part of broader Somalia where there is, at the moment, some reasonable government and development progress. Indeed, some 60 per cent of our development assistance is applied to Somaliland because of the success that is possible there.
I turn to Sudan, Darfur and the ICC, where we welcomed yesterday’s decision by the judges of the court to proceed with an indictment. We welcomed it solely on the grounds that we respect the independence of the court and its power to hold people everywhere to account for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court was established to end the impunities that had allowed these mass human rights crimes in the past to go unpunished. Therefore, we are absolutely committed to that independent judicial process. That does not make us calm about the likely political consequences of this in Darfur and the broader region and we will stay acutely focused on them. The fact that aid workers of non-governmental aid agencies over the past 24 hours have been asked to end their operations in Darfur is a matter of great concern. We hope that that situation will be resolved.
I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, that we announced in 2007 a £70 million, 10-year programme for Uganda. DfID also announced a contribution of £15 million over five years to UN programmes aimed at improving gender equality. Uganda is one of those countries where girls, I am pleased to say, are as likely as boys to enrol in primary school. Participation rates of six to 12 year-olds have risen to 84 per cent from 62 per cent in 1992. A lot of that is as a result of debt relief, which has freed more funds.
I acknowledge that the countries of West Africa have become entrepôts and points en route for the global drugs trade. The Colombian presence in Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and other small countries of West Africa is a desperately serious development and is undermining the governance of those countries. That is reflected in the deaths of the President and the Chief of Defence Staff in Guinea-Bissau in recent days.
I shall hide, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, behind the absence of time rather than get into the relationship between the Foreign Office and DfID. Similarly, I fear that I will not be able to address the issue of police and other conflict resources in Europe. I will also plead that that is perhaps a little outside the scope of today's debate. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, knows that I am extremely concerned to make sure that our discretionary conflict funds remain as strong as ever. While inevitably these economic times require cuts across many areas of government, it would be an absolute anathema to those of us committed to poverty reduction and development if our contribution to the security sector, which is key to stability in so many countries, was inappropriately cut.
I close with a word on the responsibility to protect. Although it is a controversial concept in Africa and things such as the ICC indictment only increase the suspicion of it among many African and other Governments, nevertheless we press ahead because it is an absolutely indispensable concept in today's world. In that sense, the UN report prepared by the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General and published recently in New York stresses, we think sensibly, that the responsibility to protect is not just about military intervention: it is more about upstream interventions intended to pre-empt conflict before it occurs—such as Kofi Annan’s mediation in Kenya before the situation there turned to wider violence.
Noble Lords will forgive me because I have not done justice to many issues raised, but the time is up and, as with Africa, we will no doubt return to this again.
My Lords, as usual we have swallowed up all the available time. We have not solved all the problems and many paradoxes are unsolved. I thank all speakers who have such a wide range of experience and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford for his silent witness during our proceedings. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.