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Volume 712: debated on Monday 20 July 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to developments in Sudan with regard to the comprehensive peace agreement and the provision of humanitarian assistance.

My Lords, as a witness to the comprehensive peace agreement, the UK is working with all parties for its full and timely implementation. We and other parties reaffirmed our support for the CPA at the Washington forum on 23 June 2009. The UK is the largest European bilateral provider of humanitarian assistance to Sudan, having spent £56 million towards humanitarian aid and early recovery assistance in Sudan for 2008-09.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Is he aware of the growing concern that the National Congress Party may resume conflict if it does not agree with a ruling by the Abyei Court of Arbitration to be announced this coming Wednesday, 22 July? That concern is being exacerbated by reports of large numbers of militias dressed in police uniforms, believed to be supported by the NCP, amassing on the border between Muglad and Abyei. Given that the SPLM has agreed to abide by the ruling, whatever it is, will Her Majesty’s Government put the strongest possible pressure on the National Congress Party to accept the ruling and to desist from further conflict?

My Lords, we welcome the public commitment made by both parties to abide by the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Abyei boundary. The UK urges both parties to ensure that the decision is fully implemented in a timely manner and in a way that does not escalate tensions or cause conflict. This was reiterated by the UN Security Council on 17 July.

My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that, further to the Question put by the noble Baroness, UNMIS has enough troops in Abyei to protect civilians from harm in the event of any disturbances and that it will report immediately to the Security Council on who is guilty of any breaches of the ceasefire following the declaration of the arbitration court on Wednesday?

My Lords, I do not think that I can give that assurance. UNMIS will do all it possibly can, but in the end what will achieve acceptance is if the political parties on both sides urge their supporters to accept the ruling.

My Lords, in the light of possible developments arising from the agreement of the CPA, such as autonomy for the south, equal distribution of oil revenues between the north and the south, and lately a vast real estate boom, it is good news that Her Majesty’s Government are providing further humanitarian assistance to those still affected by the conflict. However, what are they doing to redevelop the nation’s torn infrastructure?

My Lords, at the moment, the situation in Sudan is essentially about humanitarian issues, reconstructing governance, getting a proper census for the elections, getting the borders agreed, holding the elections and so on. It is crucial that this period of constitutional reform leading to the elections and the referendum goes smoothly. I am afraid that those matters are taking the highest priority in DfID’s work.

My Lords, I am confident from my noble friend’s first reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that he is aware of the great importance of the comprehensive peace agreement. However, is he as concerned as I am that in the event of this peace agreement not being upheld there will be a further outbreak of war? Can he expand on the recent discussions in Washington and say whether Her Majesty’s Government’s initiative received proper support from other members of the international community?

My Lords, the north-south war in Sudan was probably one of the most awful wars that the world has seen and we must all pray that the CPA persists. The UK, other witnesses to the CPA and regional partners attended the forum for support of the CPA in Washington. We support the statement issued on 23 June by participants noting the progress made by the parties to the CPA and reaffirming the importance of progress on the CPA for peace and stability in Sudan.

My Lords, if I heard correctly, there is some irony in the fact that the figures the Minister cited for aid in the Answer to this Question and the cost of the new judicial structure given in the previous Question were approximately the same. What are we doing to ensure that this money is properly spent?

My Lords, we are very careful in ensuring that the money is properly spent. Perhaps I can answer the question in the negative; none of this money will be spent either through the Government of Sudan or the Government in southern Sudan. All of it will go either through international agencies or direct to NGOs. We are as confident as we can be in such a difficult situation that it will be audited and will all arrive where it is meant to be.

My Lords, as there is a real danger that if the comprehensive peace agreement breaks down there will be resort to civil war, fragmentation and probably repression in the south, is there not an overwhelming African interest, let alone Western interest, that we do something positive about this and that the British Government play a vigorous role, alongside the other nations, in trying to get this agreement implemented and a settlement brought about in Darfur?

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that the Government have Sudan high on their agenda. We appreciate just how important it is. What we are doing is absolutely in line with the White Paper. We recognise the issues of fragile states and the need to bring security as part of our aid. Our influences in that area are the best we can do. It is a unique situation in Sudan, where an African Union and United Nations force exists, and we must all pray that it is successful in maintaining the peace.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on Sudan. Following on from the comprehensive peace agreement, what has the international community been able to do to ensure transparency in the division of the oil revenues between the Government in Khartoum and the Government of southern Sudan so that the people of southern Sudan know exactly how much money their Government have received?

My Lords, the Government, with the international community, are helping in the demarcation and border issues in southern Sudan to ensure that that division is appropriate, and we are helping with the election processes and governance processes related to it. If there is peace and we are able to stick to the CPA, the agreement sets out what the division of wealth and influence would be. The problem is not with the CPA but with maintaining it while it comes into force.