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Africa: Post-conflict Stabilisation

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 8 July 2010


Moved By

To call attention to developments in regional post-conflict stabilisation in eastern and central Africa; and to move for papers.

My Lords, this debate on post-conflict stabilisation in Africa is surely timely when, with a change of Government, the United Kingdom’s foreign and international development policies, particularly in Africa, are under scrutiny and reappraisal. The appalling scale of violence and human rights violations that occurred, and in some areas continues, in the Great Lakes region is well documented. The horror of the Rwandan genocide and the long war in the DRC are still claiming lives. More recently, the conflict in Burundi has left some 300,000 people dead.

Developments in post-conflict stabilisation depend on progress in strengthening democracy, the rule of law, transparency and good governance. Monitoring the effectiveness of the United Kingdom’s aid through the objectives set out in international and bilateral aid programmes should be paramount. Accountability to Parliament and mutual accountability between the UK and recipients should be an integral part of aid programmes, and in this context I pay tribute to the work of the all-party group on the Great Lakes region in Africa, of which I have the honour to be vice-chair.

At the Development Cooperation Forum held at the United Nations last week, the new director-general of DfID set out the UK’s international development policies. Mr Michael Anderson told the delegates, drawn from UN diplomatic missions and the international development community, that one of the UK’s top priorities was transparency and accountability in international aid and development. The director-general said, in terms:

“The tide of history is with this initiative. The next generation will not understand why it took us so long to grasp this initiative”.

Mr Anderson continued:

“DfID will now be accountable to all, worldwide. DfID will welcome scrutiny. We will put all our aid programme documentation on the web. We are committed to transparency in contracts. We will set up an independent aid watchdog, reporting directly to Parliament. We will introduce a UK aid transparency guarantee”.

Those are fine-sounding objectives and I acknowledge that Mr Anderson has been in post only since April. But noble Lords may agree that, never mind the next generation, it is this generation that does not understand why it has taken so long for government to grasp the importance of transparency and accountability, particularly for what amounts to a budget, funded by the taxpayer, of some £9 billion a year.

Can the Minister perhaps clarify the extent of this “new” initiative? Does it include developing programmes that build in mutual accountability between the donor and the recipient for aid delivery, disbursement and programme targets? The scale of the task should not be underestimated. For instance, there are over 40 donors operating independently in Uganda alone, and local politicians believe there to be over 200 NGOs present in the country.

What assessment has DfID made of the capacity of Uganda and of other aid recipients in the Great Lakes region to manage country programmes that meet their priorities? Has DfID established audit trails with recipients to track aid flows through to project destination? Is DfID aware that, according to the director-general of CIVICUS, a civil society alliance, speaking at the Development Cooperation Forum, less than 10 per cent of aid is reaching front-line destinations?

Can the Minister comment on the balance between the roles of the FCO and DfID and the pursuit of British interests within the economic restraints that now bind the United Kingdom? Do the Government accept the case for strengthening the diplomacy content of UK aid distribution, for establishing audit trails, transparency and cost-effectiveness, and monitoring whether our objectives are being met? If not, why not?

In this context, can the Minister also advise if the Government are looking at the implications for the Great Lakes region of their emerging foreign and international development policies? Promoting stability and security in the region is clearly in our interests, but what are the Government’s priorities for Africa when compared with the demands in Afghanistan?

It is a depressing fact that in 2010, 50 years after the Congo became independent, people in the eastern DRC and neighbouring countries are still suffering appalling levels of violence. Oxfam states in its report Breaking the Cycle of Violence that Governments in the region have failed to uphold commitments to punish war crimes. They have failed to protect civilians and end the impunity in the militarised exploitation of mineral resources. They have failed to build on what is potentially one of the region’s most important agreements, the pact on security, stability and development.

Mr Philip Alston, a United Nations special rapporteur, observed:

“DRC has long suffered from recommendation fatigue. Hundreds of reports have proposed thousands of reforms”.

Oxfam concurs:

“the people of the Great Lakes do not need more recommendations that Governments agree to, and then do little about.

Recent field research in Southern Sudan by a team from Waging Peace brings disturbing findings. Contrary to the belief that the Lord's Resistance Army was close to elimination, it found that the LRA has been attacking civilians with increased frequency and violence. This year, more than 600 people have been abducted, about 360 killed and more than 30,000 displaced. Human Rights Watch recently defined the LRA as the “greatest civilian threat” to the population of the DRC. There are signs that the LRA is regrouping, with the apparent aim of returning to Uganda.

The mutilation and murder of villagers, sometimes at the hands of children abducted on earlier raids, fuels insecurity and instability. It has disrupted the elections in the Western Equatoria State, with people now too frightened to leave their homes to cast their votes, and has prevented the distribution of vital aid to the region.

There are now concerns that the LRA will attempt to disrupt Sudan's forthcoming southern secession referendum, due in January 2011. There has been a dismal lack of co-ordinated, sustained interest and action by the regional government armies, by UN peacekeepers and by the international community, in stopping the LRA. As a result, one of the most vicious rebel groups in history continues, more than 23 years after it first emerged, to target innocent civilians across central Africa.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it is surely incumbent on the United Kingdom to be as effective as possible in securing support for the UN missions working in the LRA-infiltrated areas. The UK, as one of Uganda's largest donors, needs to be more effective in supporting the Ugandan Government in their efforts to eradicate the LRA.

By contrast, in east Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe are not directly in a post-conflict stabilisation process. Nevertheless, violence and unrest around the 2007 elections in Kenya indicated just how fragile an established democratic process can be. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, the flight of millions from the oppressive regime of President Mugabe has generated widespread instability and insecurity in the region. The response from both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to the Zimbabwe crisis has been disappointing and timid. Despite insisting that this was an African problem requiring an African solution, neither the AU nor SADC has lived up to the trust placed in them by the UN and by the international community.

In the Great Lakes region, the UK is well placed to play a key role in the post-conflict stabilisation of the region. This is a critical time, with presidential elections due in most countries over the next two years. The challenges are severe. The UK must be active in addressing the causes of instability across the region—from the root causes of the conflict in eastern DRC to concerns over opaque contracts, the low level of due diligence performed by companies and their lack of accountability for the proceeds from the lucrative extractive industries in this mineral and oil-rich region.

The region is beset by the woes of weak states. In the 2010 Failed States Index, the DRC ranks fifth and Uganda 21st, followed by Burundi, which is 23rd. Rwanda is only slightly better in 41st place, despite its recent economic progress, which has been recognised by the Commonwealth Business Award for 2010. In Rwanda, there are growing concerns about shrinking political plurality and media space, and the murder last month of Jean-Leonard Rugambage, an editor of Umuvugizi, one of Rwanda's few independent newspapers, signals a further attack on freedom of expression.

Does the Minister agree that the United Kingdom should put greater onus on encouraging respect for the civil and media freedoms in Rwanda? What plans do the Government have for continuing support, via DfID, to the Media High Council following the closure of two of Rwanda’s leading independent newspapers? Does the Minister agree that the erosion of civil and media freedoms is contrary to the agreement to promote good governance and human rights set out in the memorandum of understanding signed by the UK and Rwanda?

Similar concerns are surfacing in Uganda with the controversial Bill before Parliament to amend the Press and Journalists Act 1995. Civil society is fearful that, if passed, draconian publication offences will shackle press freedom. Stability across the region is at best fragile. Stability requires not only a co-ordinated approach from donor governments, but a positive regional engagement by Great Lakes Governments. Here there are still major uncertainties, particularly regarding the ongoing conflicts in the DRC.

The Secretary of State, Mr Andrew Mitchell, said in another place that,

“we will make conflict prevention, resolution and reconstruction central to our approach to development”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/7/10; col. 1029.]

Does the Minister therefore agree that ending the conflict in the DRC is crucial to achieving these aims in the Great Lakes region? Does the Minister recognise that securing this stability specifically before the drawdown of UN peacekeeping forces is complete—which must be done across a firmly objective-driven and not time-bound framework—is crucial to preventing the loss of substantial technical and financial investments made by the UK over the past 10 years? As the Secretary of State states:

“Hard-pressed taxpayers need to know that the expenditure of their money is being scrutinised … and is really delivering results”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/7/10; col. 1025.]

In that regard, can the Minister tell your Lordships what steps the Government are taking to persuade the Government of the DRC and those others in the region, particularly Rwanda, to engage seriously in an effective combined approach to ending the conflict spilling out of the eastern DRC?

In its report, Breaking the Cycle of Violence, Oxfam points out that,

“a long list of regional agreements and institutions has grown up in the Great Lakes. In the East, the EAC … provides some real potential; so, too, in the west does the CEPGL ... But governments have squandered one of the region’s most important agreements: the Pact on Security, Stability and Development”.

There are many regional intergovernmental organisations in the Great Lakes region with overlapping memberships and similar objectives to promote its economic integration. Mostly, they lack material, human and financial resources, and the determined political will necessary from their members. But, according to Oxfam, to varying degrees they represent the hope for the future. In this context, could the Minister tell us what discussions the Government have had recently with Rwandan and Congolese counterparts on their progress on honouring commitments that they made with the UN, the EU and the USA in the Nairobi communiqué which was signed two and a half years ago, in November 2007? Observers agree that despite the promises on addressing threats to security and stability, there has been little progress.

In his 2005 report on reforming the United Nations, Kofi Annan, the then Secretary-General, noted the tendency for fragile states to return to violence within five years of the conclusion of armed conflict. Burundi is a case in point where four years after the peace accords, current presidential elections are being jeopardised by threats of outbreaks of violence. Without effective post-conflict peace-building, through strengthening public institutions, judicial and security sector reforms, and economic initiatives, countries can become trapped in a conflict cycle with no way out.

From its research into security sector management, Cranfield University has demonstrated the importance of aid and development agencies monitoring and evaluating their performance. Its studies show that the ability to measure aid effectiveness is essential for maintaining and improving performance in donor programmes. Without measurement and evaluation, we will never know if our aid and development funds are being dispersed effectively and efficiently in advancing security and stability, to the benefit of recipient states and the UK’s foreign policy objectives. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for securing this debate. The noble Lord is well versed in the complexity of the challenges facing this vast region of Africa. It includes two countries that are close to my heart: Kenya, the place of my birth, and Uganda, the country where I spent my formative years. We need to recognise how the continent of Africa has changed in recent years. As recently as 1989, 29 African countries were governed under a form of single-party constitution or military rule. By 1994, not a single one-party state remained, and by 1995, most countries in the continent had met the initial demand of multi-party democracy and embraced the idea of holding free, fair and competitive elections.

The road has not been easy, and some countries have faced truly significant challenges, but overall there is a recognised trend of improvement in governance and engagement. I support the use of the development aid budget to provide budgetary support for the African Union’s Peace Fund. The Secretary of State for International Development is correct to initiate a bilateral aid review to ensure that we are spending our resources in the most productive ways and ensuring that there is transparency, clear objectives and measurable success. We need to ensure that our international aid is used effectively through aid transparency and security. We need also to ensure that no part of any aid falls into the wrong hands. Can the Minister confirm that this is the position?

We cannot have an effective debate on developments in Africa without recognising the terrible poverty that exists. Twelve out of the 13 countries with the highest mortality ratio are to be found in Africa. Two-thirds of HIV-positive adults and 90 per cent of HIV-positive children live in Africa, and life expectancy levels are terribly low. Population growth in Africa is relatively high, and that poses challenges to tackling post-conflict scenarios. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region was formed by the United Nations and the African Union in 2008. The main objective of this body is to devise and implement a regional approach to conflict resolution and human rights abuses. The 2006 pact on security, stability and development came into force in 2008. The requirements of the pact include protecting displaced persons, punishing the perpetrators of war crimes, and ending impunity for those who exploit natural resources.

I made reference to the important work of the Kimberley process in my recent speech in your Lordships’ House on Zimbabwe. The progress made recently in forming the East African Community is broadly welcome. The EAC is a common market with the aim of promoting the free movement of labour, money and services in the region. This new economic initiative will increase cross-border employment and trade between Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has captured the world’s attention due to the unparalleled suffering of its citizens. Years of political and social unrest have left the DRC ravaged by horrendous levels of poverty. Approximately 5 million people are thought to have lost their lives since the beginning of hostilities in the early 1990s. This figure is truly shocking. The humanitarian crisis in the east of the country shows no signs of abating. In January this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council reported that approximately 2.1 million internally displaced persons are in the eastern DRC alone. I would be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House what steps the Government will be taking to ensure that the repatriation of internally displaced persons and refugees is in compliance with international law? The UK is a large donor to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It can be strongly argued that we are not getting a diplomatic return for our funds as there have been limited signs of improvements in the region.

I recently attended a conference on the International Criminal Court in Kampala, Uganda. Uganda has achieved good economic growth and there has been relative peace and stability. Mr Museveni has been the President for more than 20 years and, to a large extent, his presidency has been good for the country. Uganda has made great social and economic progress. Some citizens, however, continue to voice concerns over the lack of transparency in the activities of policy-makers. Oil has now been discovered in Uganda and a production-sharing agreement has been signed between the Ugandan Government and the London Stock Exchange-registered company Tullow Oil. I hope that the oil does not result in practices of corruption and inner conflicts. The revenue can be utilised to deal with poverty, particularly in the north of the country. When I was in Uganda I met our high commissioner. We are a major donor to the country but, as I said previously, our donation should be used effectively.

I welcome the decision to renew the memorandum of understanding between the UK and the Rwandan Government in 2008. It is important for the international community to recognise the progress that has been made in Rwanda since the atrocities of 1994. For example, Rwanda recently earned 67th place in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business report. However, it is also vital to maintain a realistic view of the post-genocide activities of Rwanda, which will hold general elections in August this year.

In 2006, 13 years of civil war in Burundi came to an end. The decision by opposition parties to boycott the presidential election in Burundi on 28 June in protest at corruption and fraud at the local elections held in May is a cause for concern. I would be grateful if the Minister can inform your Lordships’ House as to what recent reports have been received from the Burundian Government. The international community, along with the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes, must place greater efforts on creating successful dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties.

The situation in Kenya offers more promise and we are correct to encourage and support the implementation of the national accord agreed by the Kenyan Government following the 2007-08 post-election violence. The promises of an improvement in the constitution to reduce the incentive for violence following “winner takes all” elections, minimising the opportunities for electoral fraud and deterring political violence, are essential. I recognise the challenges that wider fraud has created, not least that which led to the suspension of education aid funding earlier in the year. I would welcome the Minister’s update on the Government’s current assessment of the situation.

Access to natural resources has always been an important factor in eastern and central Africa because of environmental threats, changing climate and the growing population. Access to water is one of the most pressing issues for the citizens in this region. The growing tensions over which countries should have access to water from the River Nile have caused friction between countries north and south of the river. This has resulted in the creation of the River Nile Basin co-operative agreement which has been signed by Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. The DRC and Burundi are also expected to sign the agreement in the near future. International politics is littered with examples of how access to natural resources can lead to conflict. What plans do Her Majesty’s Government have to monitor this situation effectively?

I would not wish to draw my remarks to a close without reflecting on the role of China in providing investment into the region. The perspective of the Chinese Government is not always favourable to the democratic journey and I am concerned that this region, which is already grappling with the challenges of conflict resolution, should not be the victim of international economic exploitation. There is a strong case that China’s contribution to economic development in Africa is a positive cause for growth, as good trade relations are essential for developing countries, especially those that are seeking to come to terms with a post-conflict scenario. In essence, it is the apparent absence of moral politics that causes me much concern. I hope that the Minister can offer a helpful perspective on this issue.

East and central Africa have come a long way, but much still needs to be done. We should seek to facilitate that and support those countries that are coming to terms with the difficulties of recent decades.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, who always makes profound contributions in these debates, but the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, also deserves warm appreciation for having introduced this important debate today. His commitment to Africa is deep and consistent. For my part, I am glad to be a trustee of Saferworld, an NGO that specialises in arms control, security sector reform and conflict resolution. We are very much involved in this part of Africa and my observations will concentrate on what is being learnt from that engagement.

The Horn is home to some of the world’s poorest people and has experienced protracted conflicts. There is a persistent problem of state frailty and, in Somalia’s case, outright state failure. Indeed, all the region’s states can, without exception, be described as fragile or failing. However, there are paradoxes. Strengths and diversity can be obscured. For example, Somalia is simultaneously home to one of Africa’s most promising democratic experiments—the as-yet-unrecognised post-conflict Somaliland—and a zone of multiple, dangerous mini-state entities of militia groups, humanitarian crises and insurgency.

Against that background, sizeable aid programmes and the use of traditional diplomacy have too often yielded poor or at least mixed results. In Kenya, elites have on occasion captured development assistance, which has come through direct budget support or sector-specific support, and used it for their own enrichment. This has played into the dynamic of internal conflicts—of course, underlying conflict tensions and questionable governance led to the 2008 election violence. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, elections have been used to shore up regimes rather than to contribute to democratisation.

In Somalia, money and time have been contributed to peace conferences and to supporting power-sharing Governments at the central level, but these have ultimately run into the ground and we have seen valuable resources diverted to wage war on clan enemies or to enrich the powerful and their friends. It is clear that stabilisation, diplomacy and development assistance policies can prove counterproductive—let alone fail—unless they are carefully applied and tailored for each specific situation. Obviously, stabilisation is an integral part of the concept of security for development, but it is essential to avoid simplistic assumptions: for example, that if only we can introduce short-term stability and a modicum of security with, if necessary, the deployment of force, development will certainly begin; or that if only we can provide otherwise hostile communities with small-scale development assistance—perhaps a well or a school—they will immediately abandon their hostilities and give us their hearts and minds. There is little convincing evidence that that will automatically follow.

We need to ask ourselves whether there has been undue focus on state-building, to the exclusion of other vital processes, such as peace-building, reconciliation and early, demonstrable economic recovery. In south Sudan, in the wake of the comprehensive peace agreement, peacekeepers and civilian police have commendably been put on the ground by the UN. This has helped to stabilise the situation and has dampened down, although not totally averted, subsequent internal conflict. By contrast, there has been a disturbing failure to provide sufficient support for early economic recovery, improved governance, laying the foundations for sustainable development or strengthening the societal peace-building efforts that are essential to prevent future outbreaks of internal conflict. We must constantly beware lest questionable Governments use the legitimacy conferred by our dealings with them and divert the resources we provide in the name of stabilisation to further their own manipulative power games.

One of the weaknesses with past approaches to Somalia has surely been the support for the establishment of central government, in partnership with which there was a hope of tackling stabilisation, and a concentration on state-building and the provision of aid without having addressed the first-order issues of peace-building and reconciliation in that fractured society. The upshot has been the misuse of our efforts by newly empowered elites. Just because Governments in the region talk back to us in language that we like to hear and comply, on occasion, with our counterterror objectives, that does not mean that all is well. Not infrequently, the support we provide may conceal actions by Governments that undermine the values we advocate and ultimately come back to bite us. After all, as a recent Human Rights Watch report reminded us, stabilising or securing the periphery and eliminating rebellious or unacceptable groups, sometimes with cruel brutality, has a long tradition in the region.

Interventions must be carefully designed for each specific situation. They have to be the individually tailored right mix of development, reconciliation, peace-building and state-building, with each element carefully phased into the programme. Other stabilisation measures without all this are destined to failure. If I have learnt anything in a lifetime of work with organisations operating in depth in the field, it is that enduring peace and stability can seldom be imposed, especially by corrupt regimes. They simply have to be built from the grass roots upwards. Micropolicies are therefore every bit as important as macropolicies. We have to ask ourselves repeatedly: who, what and why are we stabilising?

What are the lessons for the future? The Horn’s development and sustained emergence from conflict will take a generation. It is therefore imperative to focus on both the short and the long term in complementary ways without giving distorting precedence to either. There must be a readiness to engage in new approaches. The high-level diplomatic peace conferences that have endeavoured to broker central-level power-sharing Governments for Somalia have become part of the problem. The priority now is to concentrate on lower-level work and to support bottom-up peace-building and reconciliation. In Kenya and Sudan, direct budget support and sector support have been badly misused. What is needed is conditional assistance and carefully selected individual projects. Alongside development assistance, non-aid instruments, such as smart sanctions and the International Criminal Court, may well have a part to play.

It is essential to work with more than just Governments. The rush to build states by concentrating on building Governments and state capacity is understandable, but can too easily fuel corruption if not well thought through and monitored. Kenya, Sudan and Somalia all provide evidence of this. It is vital to understand elite incentives and conflict drivers. Accountability emphatically matters. The generation of a strong civil society is therefore indispensable. Analysing and appreciating the root causes of conflict should be an invariable starting point. Absolutely all assistance should always be planned in the light of the outcome of such analysis and research.

The rule of law costs money. There has to be proper provision for legal infrastructure, qualified and well educated lawyers and judges, sound administration and adequate physical facilities. Penal systems, as in the UK, must foster rehabilitation and responsible citizenship. It is madness to foster alienation.

Finally—here I endorse very much what has been said—British influence in the region will be most effective when working with others. Co-ordination with the like-minded is crucial when dealing with such complexity. We should seek all the time to widen the number of the like-minded. Targets and partners for this could well include the EU and its individual members, the Arab League, the United States, the ICC, OECD donors and, one hopes, Brazil, Russia, India and China, all of which have great potential significance in the future of Africa. I look forward to the response of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, to this debate.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, on initiating this timely debate on such an extremely significant subject. I shall focus on northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, together with the Nuba mountains, as my small NGO, HART, is privileged to be working with partners in those areas.

Having visited them in recent months, I can convey some of the concerns, fears and hopes of the people there, where the aftermath of conflict has left a legacy of widespread devastation of infrastructure, an acute shortage of essential services including healthcare and education, and many vulnerable people and decimated families, scarred by indescribably traumatic experiences. Security is a prerequisite for the rehabilitation of societies and individuals. Without some degree of stabilisation, developments essential for the restoration of communities and the healing of individuals cannot effectively be implemented.

We began our work in northern Uganda while the LRA was active and we witnessed the horrors that it created, terrorising the area for 20 years, displacing more than 1.6 million people, killing and maiming innocent civilians, and abducting at least 25,000 children, brutalising them and forcing them to become soldiers. I shall focus on the importance of education in this context, for post-conflict stability and personal healing.

Disturbingly, DfID’s 2009 annual report claims that Uganda is off track in relation to achieving millennium development goal 2. It is a matter of special concern that, despite some significant improvements in primary school enrolment and gender parity nationally, northern Uganda is still lagging far behind the rest of the country. For example, there is still a shortage of schools: 76 schools in Pader District were destroyed during the conflict; those that do exist are in poor condition; 47 of the 238 primary schools there are still “under trees”. There is also a significant lack of teachers in the north, especially female teachers. A 2008 government report identified a shortfall of more than 19,000 teachers in the northern region based on a target student-to-teacher ratio of 50:1, with a debilitating student-to-teacher ratio in Pader of 91:1 and a pupil-to-classroom ratio of 126:1. These difficult working conditions, lower salaries than elsewhere, poor facilities, high pupil-to-teacher ratios and lack of teacher accommodation all make recruitment and retention of teachers even more difficult. Despite the Ugandan Government’s assurance of prioritising the northern region, it still receives less funding per capita than the rest of the country.

I wish briefly to give two examples of the ordeals suffered by children abducted by the LRA to highlight the urgent need for good education for these young people who have suffered so much. First, I relate an all-too-typical story of a teenager whom I met. I shall call him John. He was abducted by the LRA when he was in his early teens. He was beaten, force-marched, kept hungry for days, trained to use weapons and had to use other children as target practice. One of his friends who tried to escape was recaptured and staked out on the ground. John and other teenagers had to trample their friend to death. Eventually, John managed to escape and the LRA killed his father as a punishment, so he goes around feeling guilty for the death of his “Dad”. Secondly, a young teenage girl told of how she had been forced to kill another child with a panga knife and drink his blood. She said that she still has nightmares, but asked me, crying, “What else could I do? It was either him or me”.

These young people and so many like them, who have suffered indescribable horrors at the hands of the LRA, desperately yearn for education in order to try to build a future for themselves and put the past behind them. Many cannot afford it and are left in desperation and despair. Such a situation is not only a tragedy for them but prevents the development of the region and may create a situation of potential instability, with young people left unemployed, psychologically traumatised and vulnerable, in desperation, to re-recruitment to militias who could bring renewed violence and instability to the region. Will Her Majesty's Government urge the Ugandan Government to ensure that all such young people have access to education? Also, will they consider other ways in which they could further assist the Ugandan Government to improve teacher training, and particularly train more women teachers?

This time last week I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker in a conference in Abuja on the empowerment of African women. A recurring theme throughout the whole of that conference was the urgent need for more education of girls and for teachers in many African countries. Returning briefly to Uganda, will Her Majesty’s Government also, in accordance with DfID’s 2009-14 country plan, urge the Ugandan Government to manage their resources more effectively and invest more public funding in the north?

Finally, in response to the fact that the LRA and other rebel groups are apparently mushrooming in the DRC and across the region and are a threat to regional stability, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey has already emphasised, will Her Majesty’s Government ask the UN/UPDF to increase military pressure and presence to protect civilians in LRA-affected areas?

I turn now to Sudan, declaring an interest as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan. This is a critical time, with many threats to the comprehensive peace agreement. The National Congress Party is widely believed to be deeply opposed to the referendum as it does not wish the south to secede. There is widespread belief that the south will vote for independence. Serious concerns have been expressed over the lack of progress in post-conflict reconstruction in the south, but it is important to appreciate the extent of destruction and the low baseline from which the Government of Southern Sudan have had to start to rebuild all aspects of infrastructure and civil society. Despite the enduring problems facing the people of Southern Sudan, most of the population continue to put their faith in the Government in Juba rather than in Khartoum. The latter have lost all credibility there.

There are widespread fears that the Government of National Unity may be instigating inter-tribal fighting in parts of Southern Sudan. While skirmishes, with traditional weapons, for scarce resources such as land, water and cattle have been historically commonplace, recent conflicts have been exacerbated by the use of militias with more sophisticated weapons, such as AK47s, which local leaders believe may have been provided from Khartoum in order to create terror and destabilise the south.

There is also concern that the donor community has not fulfilled its 2005 commitments. Only a small fraction of the $4.8 billion assistance that was pledged has reached essential infrastructure projects, as humanitarian aid for Darfur has absorbed most of the money. Consequently, many parts of Southern Sudan and the marginalised areas have been off the radar screen for many major aid organisations and the international media, resulting in largely unreported humanitarian crises of enormous proportions and some of the worst health statistics in the world—one in seven children dies before their fifth birthday and one in seven mothers dies in pregnancy and childbirth. Less than 20 per cent of the population are protected by immunisation leaving 83 per cent vulnerable to preventable diseases such as polio, tetanus, measles and TB. Four years ago, we discovered unidentified leprosy in the eastern Upper Nile.

There has also been a lost generation of children unable to receive schooling because of constant bombardment and other effects of the war. Even now, less than half the children in Southern Sudan receive even a five-year basic primary education and 85 per cent of adults are illiterate, with an even higher figure of 92 per cent for women—an appalling figure. With an infrastructure devastated by war, there is a desperate need for rebuilding roads, without which people cannot move freely, especially in the rainy season, to reach towns for healthcare and education.

Other marginalised peoples continue to suffer from humanitarian crises. For example, the plight of the Beja people in eastern Sudan remains so serious that the southern Sudanese, whose own predicament is dire, undertook an investigation and claimed that the Beja people’s plight was even worse than their own. I ask the Minister whether EU and DfID funding could include an appropriate weighting to provide essential assistance to these all too often forgotten people in the marginalised areas.

The Government of Southern Sudan remain concerned over the erratic transfer of resources due from Khartoum and by the continuing refusal of the Government of National Unity to provide information on oil revenues. Especial concerns have been identified in SPLM-administered areas of southern Kordofan, or the Nuba mountains—I use that phrase because the people prefer it. Here people claim that they have received no peace dividends from the comprehensive peace agreement and say that they are,

“worse off since the CPA than we were during the war”.

Another cause for concern is the lack of any clear interpretation of the content of the consultation provided for the people of the Nuba mountains and other marginalised areas by the CPA instead of a referendum. Many leaders have emphasised that they would never wish for another war, but they may be driven to it, as they are worse off since the CPA and fear that its provisions will not provide them with protection from Khartoum’s perceived agenda to force them into a political and cultural assimilation designed to destroy their African history and identity. Will Her Majesty’s Government, in co-operation with the Joint Donor Team, other donor agencies and NGOs, do more to ensure the provision of essential supplies of water, land and food to these communities to reduce competition and conflict for those scarce resources and to promote more effective distribution of healthcare and education throughout all regions of Sudan?

Finally, I turn to problems of violence and insecurity in Southern Sudan, which claimed 2,500 lives last year and displaced 350,000 people. The notorious LRA has been responsible for many deaths, injuries and abductions; inter-tribal fighting has been responsible for the rest. There is widespread dismay and anger over the role of UNMIS—the United Nations Mission to Sudan. Requests and representations referred by local leaders have not even been acknowledged. Will Her Majesty’s Government support a reconsideration of the role of UNMIS to undertake a more proactive civilian protection role, in accordance with its mandate, and to define more clearly the circumstances under which it will provide protection, with appropriate intervention, rather than mere observation? Another civil war would be devastating for the Sudanese people as well as for neighbouring countries and, indeed, the entire horn of Africa.

The people of Sudan, both north and south, still look to the UK for support as they believe we have a special understanding of their situation and, to some extent, responsibility for their current predicament. I believe that this debate can reassure them and the people in the region that we in this country care and will do all we can to support them in endeavours to promote and maintain the post-conflict stability that is essential for reconstruction, development of civil society and peace between and within these nations in this volatile and vulnerable part of the great continent of Africa.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, on getting this debate and on his perseverance over Questions, oral and written, on this region of Africa. It is a privilege to follow those who have spoken. The debate is timely not only because the DRC is celebrating 50 years of independence—celebrating, noting, whatever word may seem appropriate—but because there will be elections there next year, or at least we trust that they will happen. There are elections currently in Burundi, with a variety of difficulties attending them. There will be elections next year in Uganda and Kenya. Both places are much more fragile than is often realised in this country at a time when political space is narrowing right across the region in very worrying ways.

I come to this debate fresh from two recent experiences. On this day last week I had the privilege as an office holder, like the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes, of chairing a round table on the DRC 50 years after independence and its prospects for stability, with people from Congo itself, a human rights lawyer from Goma, people from the Foreign Office, DfID and NGOs, and academics. It was not at all an encouraging three hours. After Easter, I had eight days in the DRC in and around Bunia in the east, with Congolese from all over the country.

My contribution to your Lordships’ debate will focus primarily on the DRC but necessarily, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, and other speakers have noted, also on the region and the international level. It is important to realise that the breadth of international engagement in the region every year—British, European and other diplomacy—must grow. “International” means not only the region but South Africa, the Middle East, Malaysia, China, South Korea, India and Brazil, as well as the EU and the US. My strong sense, and that of others who work in the region much more than I do, is that there is an urgent need for a much tougher, more front-foot diplomatic effort by Her Majesty’s Government and a range of allies if the major financial commitments of the British Government through DfID are to be fully useful.

Nothing in the Foreign Secretary’s recent tour d’horizons of Foreign Office commitments noted the critical character of this region for peace more widely in Africa and elsewhere, or of British diplomacy. Yes, the 2004 Africa report was the work of the previous Government, but it was significant. They had lost sight of it, and I fear that the present Government have as well. The reality is that if roads, financial investment, education, employment, health, justice, and working financial and commercial systems are ever to appear in the DRC, then security and the confidence of the people must be right at the fore. That is largely a diplomatic question that requires quite fresh levels of diplomatic energy. Security and confidence are of course dependent on regional peace, as well as on the efforts of the Kinshasa Government. Their efforts are barely discernible anywhere in the country outside Kinshasa.

We must also understand that significant areas of the DRC are not yet post-conflict. A survey conducted by Oxfam in April this year showed that 60 per cent of the people in the Kivus in eastern Congo judged their security levels as markedly worse than last year. That figure is much higher among women in that area. Congo is 176th out of 179 on the Humanitarian Development Index. It is not remotely near reaching any of the millennium development goals.

As has been noted, a growing range of military groups are raping, looting, mutilating and killing. People cannot work the land or get to market if it is simply not safe. That is true for all ages and both genders, but it is obviously especially dangerous for women and children. Others have spoken of the LRA in the north. In spite of recent US legislation and US training of the Ugandan army, the situation remains very serious right across northern Congo, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

A recent meeting of church leaders and government representatives from Southern Sudan, northern Congo and Uganda pressed Governments to take the security of their people more seriously. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, mentioned real difficulties in the UN operations, both in northern Congo, where they are barely represented, and in Southern Sudan. There are difficulties co-ordinating their mandates across the borders.

The wars in the east are still extremely serious. All the neighbouring powers still have fingers of one kind or another in the pie in north-eastern Congo. Looming over the region is the Rwandan genocide and what many people in Congo see as the British Government’s still bland sense of approval of Rwanda and extreme difficulty in noting where critical things need to be said of Rwanda. That goes down really very badly in eastern Congo.

The FDLR is still there. For most people, it is not now really a threat to Rwanda, but it is still a source of profound threat to local people. Its leaders, whether in Congo, elsewhere in the region, Europe or North America, are still hard at it exploiting minerals and gaining land. A range of other groups, the failure of the wars of the past years and a chaotic lack of discipline in the national army all make for fearful effects on hundreds of thousands of people.

There are those who say that the decreasing political space in Rwanda is again forcing people across the border back into Congo and with a renewed political commitment to the wars in eastern Congo. Still fuelling Congo’s present want of stability is the almost completely uncontrolled exploitation of Congo’s immeasurably rich mineral, forest and now oil resources. Now, as variously since 1994, these are in the hands of armed groups and are beyond the reach of the Government, fuelling violence and misery. We need a quite fresh regional and diplomatic energy as well as energy on the part of the UK Government in relation to UK-based or part-UK commercial mineral enterprises. There is an urgent requirement for a much greater level of insistence on due diligence regarding provenance, supply chains, and end smelters and end users. “Blood diamonds” gained currency as a term in Sierra Leone, but Congo has blood diamonds, blood tin, blood gold, blood coltan in our phones, blood timber, and now blood oil. All these things largely bypass anything remotely beginning to resemble a tax system in Congo. Some of them are flown straight out, not even going to the Congolese comptoir, to elsewhere in the region, the Middle East, South Africa, Malaysia, Europe or North America.

The question for the British Government is how these questions can be worked at with fresh diplomatic energy in the region and more widely. The Congolese Government and others—understandably, as independent Governments—are resistant to being told what to do. On the other hand, this Government and other European Governments have significant levers. If DfID’s investment is to be safeguarded, front-foot Foreign Office work is essential.

The noble Lords, Lord Chidgey and Lord Sheikh, and others have mentioned the 2006 pact on security, stability and development that was ratified in 2008. It says all the right things; the question is whether those who signed it can be encouraged to take some notice of it, reread it and work at it. Then there is the matter of bringing local and international people—financial and commercial actors as well as Governments—to look to the needs and welfare of the people.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, made a point about both the CSAR and northern Uganda. There is a need for a particular and fresh, cross-cutting emphasis on children at every point in these diplomatic and DfID enterprises, because it is on children that future security, education, health and long-term stability depend. The questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, are of critical urgency for all the reasons mentioned, especially in those parts where it is not yet possible to speak of post-conflict; and because those who know this region well seem to be extremely anxious that, right across from Congo to Kenya, conflict may be reappearing, and may reappear more in the next year or two.

My Lords, I declare my interest as an adviser to the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative in Rwanda and other charitable foundations working in this area. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for initiating and securing this debate. I was aware of his passion for both this subject and these regions in advance of entering the House. I share that passion; I believe strongly that peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction are the greatest, most important and, unfortunately, the most difficult development challenges of our time.

In making my maiden speech today, I am conscious of the history and constitutional importance of the House, and of the emerging debate on its future and further reform. I will respect the former and make a contribution to the latter. I hope that, as former First Minister of Scotland, a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Motherwell and Wishaw, and the first MSP who has not previously served in Westminster to join this House, I can bring a helpful perspective to that debate. Many noble Lords have welcomed me to the House and to Westminster in recent weeks. I am very grateful for the welcome I have received. I have friends on all sides of the House and I look forward to working with them in the years to come.

I am particularly proud to have recorded the name of the farm where I grew up—Glenscorrodale—in the title which I received last Monday. There is a real pride and pleasure for me in recognising Glenscorrodale, the successful sheep farm that my father built, and from where he represented Scotland in international sheepdog trials. But perhaps more significantly for me, as I was never meant to be a farmer, the farm was also where my mother built a successful business—a tea room that was nationally recognised and received awards. This was quite an achievement for a farmer’s wife who had left school with an ambition to be a domestic science teacher, which she never realised because of family illnesses at that time. Indeed, I believe there may even be Members of this House to whom I served tea on the farm. One or two have mentioned that I showed early skills at that time in dealing diplomatically with difficult situations.

I thank the staff of the House for their guidance and assistance over recent weeks. I look forward to relying on their experience and knowledge to help me make an effective contribution. I am particularly looking forward to questioning the other Lord Wallace—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, who was my Deputy First Minister in the Scottish devolved Government. I had to defend him as Deputy First Minister on many occasions, as he did for me. It will be interesting, now that he is serving in another coalition, to have the opportunity to ask him questions. There will be many watching that with a smile. Having led a coalition Government for nearly six years—longer than any other person in British politics today—I will use that experience to advise constructively and hold accountable the new coalition Government here. I hope that, in this House, I can also help UK institutions to understand better today’s United Kingdom as a whole—a multinational, multicultural country where our diversity strengthens rather than weakens our communities.

I was interested to learn that the first Scottish life Peer under the 1876 Act, Baron Blackburn, was a mathematics graduate. My earlier career before entering Parliament was as a mathematics teacher. My lifelong passion for education is one of the reasons why I have an interest in post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building. There is no doubt in my mind—and in this I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox—that access to education is fundamental to sustainable development and peace.

As the former Prime Minister’s special representative on peace-building from 2008 to 2010, I had the opportunity to visit, among others, the countries of the Great Lakes region last year. I met former combatants in our highly successful demobilisation and reintegration camp in Rwanda. I met some incredible UN peacekeepers from India, a long way from home, deep inside the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. I met an inspiring youth leader who had sheltered more than 20,000 youngsters in his youth club in Bujumbura in Burundi, and ordinary people still living in a camp for internally displaced persons three years after the establishment of peace in northern Uganda. In these countries there is real progress today, as other noble Lords have noted. Many of those working for local and national Governments, NGOs, the UN, the World Bank, the European Union and individual country donors do a terrific job.

However, all—and I mean all—could do so much more. Levels of poverty, sexual violence and ill health are unacceptable for far too many of the people who live in these countries and the other countries of the wider region. We need to learn from success, but also from failure. We need to understand that building a functioning democratic state under the rule of law and with a growing economy takes time. Politicians are good and bad everywhere. Patience and persistence can be essential in peace-building. We need to understand that development is the mortar of peace. I welcome our new Government’s commitment to maintaining progress towards the 0.7 per cent target for international aid. However, as the UN’s summit on progress towards the millennium development goals takes place in September, supporting our Prime Minister to urge other leaders to keep their promises is a responsibility for all.

The previous Government in the UK made considerable progress in leading the debate on UN peace-building missions and their effectiveness. The UN has also supported the development of the African Union, as has the UK in recent years. I know from recent discussions with the current chair of the African Union—Malawi’s President, Bingu wa Mutharika—that, while its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, had a principle of non-interference, the AU has firmly established its principle of non-indifference. For me, the future of conflict prevention, post-conflict stabilisation and peace-building in Africa lies inside Africa itself. I hope that our Government will continue to help to build the capacity of the African Union and the regional organisations to realise that vision.

Finally, it is undoubtedly the case that the post-conflict efforts of the UN, the World Bank, the EU and many others have too often lacked coherence, been too little too late and underestimated the importance of capacity-building and national ownership. This year—in a review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, a review of the international efforts to build capacity in fragile states, the establishment of the new women’s agency at the UN and the MDG summit in December—there will be real opportunities to improve on this past performance. In Rwanda in particular, but also recently in Uganda, Burundi and the DRC, there have been signs of hope. Let us build on them and help to build a safer and more prosperous world for us all.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, has made a fine, knowledgeable and impressive maiden speech in your Lordships’ House today. When we recently had a conversation, I asked him on which issues he intended to concentrate his efforts. Immediately he mentioned his love of Africa, especially Malawi. As noble Lords would expect from a former teacher, he is passionate, as he said in his maiden speech, about the important role that education plays in the development of countries such as Malawi. The noble Lord brings distinguished service in the Scottish Parliament to your Lordships’ House. He has been MSP for the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency since 1999, becoming both leader of the Scottish Labour Party and the longest-serving First Minister from 2001 to 2007. He has many fine achievements to his credit but I single out his commitment to his promotion of an anti-sectarian agenda in Scotland, thereby tackling an age-old scar in Scottish society and culture. I pay tribute to him for that.

As the coalition Government ponder changes to the voting system, to which the noble Lord referred, and reflect on the required give and take of coalition politics, they could do a lot worse than study how the noble Lord successfully managed a Lib-Lab coalition north of the border. In an article he wrote recently, he gave 10 tips for making coalitions work. Perhaps it should be required reading for all new Ministers. He said in that article:

“The policy detail needs to be underpinned by a shared sense of purpose—and values. The coalition needs to be clear about what kind of country it is trying to build”.

Those are wise words. He went on to talk about the importance of political maturity and setting aside tribalism. Gordon Brown was well aware of the noble Lord’s talents, which is why he appointed him as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Conflict Resolution Mechanisms, in which role he took a keen interest in conflict resolution in Africa. As First Minister, he pioneered the Scottish Government’s efforts to support development initiatives in Malawi, reflecting the historic ties which extend between Scotland and Malawi, going back to the time of David Livingstone. A co-operation agreement between Scotland and Malawi was signed in September 2005. As he has told us, he is an adviser to the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative in Malawi and Rwanda. In bringing this great experience of public affairs, and particularly of conflict resolution, to your Lordships' House, the noble Lord will undoubtedly make many distinguished and thoughtful contributions to our debates. It is with great pleasure that we all welcome the noble Lord among us today.

We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for giving us the opportunity to have this debate. In opening it, he referred to the Lord’s Resistance Army as being the greatest threat to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It could reasonably be argued that it is also the greatest threat to stability throughout the whole of the region. Only yesterday I met a young Ugandan woman who goes under the pseudonym of Juliet and was a member of the LRA. In a letter to the Prime Minister, which she is delivering today to Downing Street, she sets out her story. She says in the letter:

“When I was 12, I was abducted by rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army … I saw many children being killed … At 14, I was forced into a sexual relationship with a man who was above my age”.

She went on to say that, after the death of a baby in childbirth:

“I was lucky and managed to get away. I made it back to my family and got help to rebuild my life … When I was in the bush I missed school for 6 years but I always had the desire to go back to school”.

I promised Juliet that I would tell her story in your Lordships' House today. Her appeal now is for the LRA’s leaders to be brought to justice and for young women like her to be given a fresh chance in life, especially as regards education. I want to say more about the LRA, particularly as regards its role in the Democratic Republic of Congo—which was referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, and my noble friend Lady Cox—but also about the effect of its role operating out of northern Congo, particularly in Southern Sudan.

Fifty years ago, on 30 June 1960, Congo was granted its independence by Belgium. Within days, a military coup was under way and United Nations peacekeepers were dispatched there. They were the forerunners of today’s MONUC, the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, which, from the beginning of this month, has been renamed MONUSCO. In 1960, the peacekeepers were followed by a procession of mercenaries and militias, frequently hired by western interests, especially mining companies. In the ensuing years, 6 million people have lost their lives in the DRC; it is Africa’s World War One.

When I visited the DRC in 2004 and published a report about the scale of the violence there, I talked about our apparent indifference to this haemorrhaging loss of life. I contended that the biggest obstacle to peace has been the control of easily appropriable and highly valuable natural resources by armed groups and national armies from as many as six neighbouring countries. The Congo has more diamonds, gold, cobalt, coltan and uranium—to name only some of its phenomenal assets—than any other country in Africa. In spite of a lamentable catalogue of crimes against humanity, the Congo probably remains Europe’s and America’s biggest supplier of uranium, coltan, cobalt and tin. For rebel groups and militia elites from neighbouring countries, these riches, rather than bringing the populace out of poverty, have become a source of obscene wealth. It serves their interests to encourage the sickeningly chaotic situation. Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda have all been beneficiaries.

The loss of life in these conflicts is incalculable, as is the cost in terms of social and human development. During the 15 years up until 2005, the cost of conflict throughout Africa was around $300 billion—equal to the money provided to Africa in aid during the same period.

Let us think about Sudan for a moment. I visited Southern Sudan during the civil war. Two million people lost their lives there and 400,000 people were displaced, a situation which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has brought to our attention on many occasions. I visited Darfur, where between 200,000 and 300,000 people have died, 2 million people have been displaced and 90 per cent of the villages have been razed to the ground. Next year Southern Sudan will decide in a referendum whether to secede and become an independent nation. On Tuesday last, at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan, of which I am acting chairman, we considered the implications of secession. Again and again, contributors warned that security questions are the most crucial issue facing Sudan and that people were aching for peace and security—a phrase used by the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, who kindly addressed that meeting. I hope that, when the Minister replies, he will tell us what we are doing to help prepare Sudan for post-referendum challenges, not least the danger of a slide back into conflict. One Sudanese contributor remarked that if border and territorial questions are not resolved, it risks repeating the tragedy of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In both Sudan and DRC I have been struck by the lack of resources—food, water, medicines—matched by the seemingly inexhaustible supply of small arms and weapons. A thousand people die each day, victims of small arms; 95 per cent of the Kalashnikov rifles used in these conflicts come from outside Africa. Conflicts are estimated to cost African economies an average of $18 billion a year—desperately needed money which could solve the HIV/AIDS crisis, prevent TB and malaria or provide clean water, sanitation and education.

I have introduced a small Private Member’s Bill, the Re-Export Controls Bill, which received its First Reading on 22 May and has the support of the charity Saferworld. One of its trustees is the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who spoke earlier, and, in another place, the right honourable Tom Clarke MP, who has promised that, if it succeeds here, he will take it through its stages there. The UK’s export controls regime is one of the best in the world, but on this particular issue the UK is behind the curve. The US, France, Germany, Sweden, and many other countries, all use some kind of no re-export without permission clause. In other words, arms from the UK are sold to other countries, which then sell them on into these areas of conflict. We are wrong to resist a belt and braces provision, as we have done thus far, when other principal European Governments have felt it necessary to enact such provisions. I hope to rectify this situation and that the Minister will feel able to support this small Bill. Unless we resolve Africa’s conflicts, stop the flow of arms and develop a secure environment, our aid programmes will continue to be ineffectual.

The desperate need for development is self-evident. I could give the House statistics, but it has already heard many. However, I shall mention just two. In eastern DRC more than 31,400 children are said to have been identified as having acute malnutrition and have been treated, and another 100,000 children are in need of treatment. These children have often been left orphaned as a result of the conflict. Indeed, there are said to be 4 million orphaned children in the DRC today. In the east of the country there have been waves of explosive violence, as the right reverend Prelate said. In north and south Kivu, the FDLR—Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda—continue to maraud. As they displace terrified people, the refugees become fodder for the competing militias. Many refugees are reluctant to return to Rwanda, where a journalist was killed just a fortnight ago, where the opposition has not been allowed to register, and where there has recently been more net migration out of the country than into it. I have admired much that Rwanda has achieved, but in praising its achievements we must be careful not to deceive ourselves about the challenges it still faces in creating a stable and inclusive society.

Many of the 100,000 refugees in the east of the Congo are of Rwandan origin. Kinshasa has tried divide and rule. The divide has worked but the rule has not. At the latest count, a mushrooming of local factions has seen the emergence of 22 different factions. One recent survey, as the right reverend Prelate said, found that 60 per cent of people felt less safe than they did a year ago.

I will end by mentioning the LRA. Since 2008, a military offensive has been under way. I find it extraordinary that Joseph Kony, against whom there is an ICC arrest warrant outstanding, has not been brought to justice. I hope that the Minister will tell us what more can be done to bring him to justice and to end the culture of impunity.

I will also mention the recent killing of human rights defender Floribert Chebeya, about whom the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, answered some of my questions earlier in the week. It is not enough simply to have an internal Congolese inquiry into his death. MONUSCO, too, should be invited to put in hand an inquiry. I hope that the noble Lord will raise that question with them.

Throughout this region of Africa, there has been a culture of impunity. What have we done to encourage the Congolese to extradite Bosco Ntaganda, for whom there is also an ICC warrant outstanding, or to persuade the Government of Rwanda to bring to trial Laurent Nkunda, captured in January of last year, as well as Joseph Kony, whom I mentioned?

In conclusion, as the Congo looks back over 50 deadly years since it gained independence, its people need protection and stability. This will require security sector reform, the disarmament of militias and the restoration of authority based on the rule of law. It is said that the world is growing weary of the endless conflict in the Congo. However tired the world may be, for the sake of the Congolese people we need to remain alert to the country's suffering and engaged with its plight—for the sake of young women like Juliet, whom I mentioned earlier. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to say more about what the international community is doing to end the depredations of the LRA.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for initiating this debate, and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on his energising maiden speech.

In March last year, I visited the Mtabila refugee camp in the Kasulu district of north-west Tanzania. The visit was part of a wider visit to Tanzania, to learn about the needs of the Anglican diocese of Western Tanganyika on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, with which my diocese of Gloucester is partnered. I mention this because it is worth remembering that, in the post-colonial era when relations between this country and former colonies can, at an official civil level, sometimes be strained, partnerships that have been developed by the churches often provide a fruitful place of dialogue and relationship-building.

As noble Lords will know, there have been two waves of refugees from Burundi into Tanzania and other east African countries over the past 40 years, and nearly 500,000 have been repatriated in the past eight years. When I visited the Mtabila camp, it was the last remaining camp hosting Burundian refugees in Tanzania. The people we met there—many noble Lords will recognise this as a typically African phenomenon—greeted us with laughter, exuberance, singing and dancing, yet spoke with deep sincerity of their grief and sadness. Their grief was not an uncomplicated sadness at being deprived of their homeland. All the children who rushed to greet us had never known life in Burundi, and the fact that the way was opening for them to return to the homeland they had never known was not necessarily good news. The refugee ends up not knowing where he or she belongs.

I do not have the figures on the Mtabila camp, but in relation to two settlements of Burundian refugees in camps in Rukwa and Tabora in Tanzania, I know that in 2008, faced with the choice of returning home or applying for Tanzanian citizenship, 165,000, which is 75 per cent, decided to stay and apply for Tanzanian citizenship, while 55,000—only 25 per cent—opted to return to Burundi. I share this with noble Lords because it is important to recognise that post-conflict stabilisation does not relate only to countries where there has been conflict and destabilisation. Tanzania has been an extraordinarily stable country through the post-colonial era. That it remains such a poor one, despite peace and stability, is a great sadness. We need to honour countries that have played host to refugees and we need to understand the huge challenge to them of the fact that vast numbers of refugees wish to settle in their adopted homes and to become citizens of their adopted countries. We also need to retain our compassion for those who, after years of exile, have no real sense of who they are and where they belong.

I return to the potential of churches and faith communities for peace-building and reconciliation in countries where there has been conflict. The response of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Division, of which I am a vice-chair, to the 2009 White Paper from the Department for International Development, noted that in many situations of armed conflict where the institutions of government have failed or are failing, churches and faith communities often represent the only coherent and effective means of service delivery nationwide. They represent a durable and reliable presence, which illustrates that they are intrinsically part of the community. They remain embedded in areas affected by conflict and crisis long after others have left. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, up to 60 per cent of healthcare is provided by the church, yet the role of the church as a service provider in the DRC hardly warranted a mention in the relevant DfID strategy papers. A greater appreciation by the department of how religious networks operate in conflict situations could see fundamentally different ways of delivering assistance in fragile and conflict-affected countries. At present, this is crucial in the Sudan, where the Anglican and Catholic churches are able to play a key role because of their networks in both north and south.

The difficulty is that there will often be a tendency to marginalise the contribution of churches and other faith communities for the undeniable reason that religion is sometimes the cause of the conflict. In some instances it really is the source: in others, an oversimplistic understanding has portrayed it as the source. Sometimes humility and repentance are required of religious people for their part in creating dreadful conflicts; but it is equally important that government, and all those working for stabilisation and engaged in state-building, do not overlook the role of religion as a force for reconciliation.

More than any other civil society actor, churches and faith communities provide global networks linking north and south, and local to international, that may be mobilised for social justice and advocacy. Churches and faith communities have a visible and living presence among the poor, the marginalised and the most vulnerable in society. Whether it be Zimbabwe with its repression, Sudan with its conflict or Tanzania with its poverty, it is this rootedness in the local community that gives the faith communities the right and the opportunity to challenge injustice and to work for the restoration of human dignity and flourishing where this has been lost.

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is absolutely right to draw attention to the positive role of the churches in many conflict situations in Africa. I had much to do with various church initiatives in South Africa and Namibia during the 1980s, and I am confident that the history of South Africa and Namibia would have been very different without them. Obviously Madiba had a great role, but the underpinning and foundations were laid across the racial barriers by the South African Council of Churches and the council of churches of Namibia, with Protestants and Catholics working together.

I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, on his initiative, and my noble friend Lord McConnell on his magnificent maiden speech. He shares a passion for Africa with the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, with whom I worked on a number of initiatives. His hands-on experience as a civil engineer in Africa is the foundation of his own commitment.

My first experience of the region that I can recall was reading, as a young diplomat, the dispatch of our ambassador in Ethiopia, Mr Galbraith, at the inaugural meeting of the Organisation of African Unity in about May 1963. He concluded as follows:

“The aged Lion of Judah is sitting on the fence with both ears to the ground as the wind of change is howling around the Horn of Africa”.

Haile Selassie gave way to Mengistu. For many in Africa, the wind of change was an ill wind that brought dictatorship, although often with the very best of intentions. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is in his place. From the work that he has done in Eritrea, we have seen the decline of noble aspirations and the current reality. As I said, the ill wind brought dictatorship, and it brought corruption and civil war. There are some glorious exceptions around Africa today, such as Ghana and South Africa, but on the whole power has corrupted massively and gone unchecked. There is the roll call of disasters and dictators from Rwanda through to Sudan and the Congo. There was a recent debt write-off of $10.8 million in the Congo, but there are still very dubious practices there. In Kenya and Uganda the story is better, but there is still a need in those countries for post-conflict reconciliation.

The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, made a strong plea for evaluating aid effectiveness. Obviously, for the region money is necessary but insufficient, and institutional reform is important but insufficient. There is a need for a spirit and practice of give and take and togetherness, which often the churches have been able to provide, together with good governance, accountability and transparency, and the rule of law with honest and competent judges—something that we in Europe often take for granted. Alas, fewer lawyers from the region are now trained in the UK. However, the importance of good governance, transparency and accountability is increasingly recognised by international agencies, including DfID, although there is some concern that DfID may be too inflexible in giving some of its grants.

A number of us, led by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Jay, have expressed concern about the reduction in the FCO stabilisation fund, and there is a fear that there will be further cuts in that budget when the autumn cuts come. As we heard in last week’s statement, the government-funded Westminster Foundation for Democracy lost about £400 million. At parliamentary level, there is the work done by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association internationally and by its UK branch. Much has been done in the new Commonwealth country of Rwanda. Immediately after the genocide of 1994, I had the privilege of chairing two reconciliation conferences and saw some of the inheritance of the Government of Rwanda. Yet, given that inheritance and in spite of concerns about press freedom, the direction of travel is pretty good.

Equally, great work has been done by the CPA UK branch in Uganda and Somaliland, although the latter is not part of the Commonwealth. Good work has also been done in Kenya, although it is sad that Kenyan Members of Parliament have this week voted themselves to be the highest-paid Members of Parliament in the world. One fears that, following the general election that will take place there in 2012, there will again be a real danger of post-election conflict. Much needs to be done by their Government to prevent that.

Below the official level of DfID and other EU contributors is the work of British NGOs and others at both the micro and macro levels, which is often ignored. I give two examples from organisations of which I am a patron. At the micro level, the Christian International Peace Service is a small specialist peace-making organisation specialising in, and living and working at, the grass-roots level. Its work in north-east Uganda began in 1991 following the growing conflict between the Iteso and Karimojong tribes. That conflict peaked between 1984 and 2005. The organisation has a small team which lives at the economic level of the people and works in the buffer zone between the two tribes, creating mixed settlements totalling 25,000, and providing stability, enabling people to become self-supporting. By placing team members in difficult areas, it has shown that reconciliation is possible. Already, the support and co-operation of the authorities in both districts has led to real progress. There have been more than 20 intermarriages, which is remarkable, yet the organisation receives no official funds—not even from our high commission in Kampala.

The other, perhaps better known, group is Concordis International, which is working in Sudan and therefore has relevance to the wider east African region. Its work is vital as we now approach the referendum in the south. Concordis has been working on cross-border relations between north and south, which remain a crucial component of peaceful co-existence. The organisation is a British, Cambridge-based peace-building NGO, with offices in Khartoum and Juba, working to support a peaceful and stable transition through the potentially turbulent years ahead. It has a major EU-funded focus on relations between tribes and communities on either side of the north-south Sudanese border, and works on current issues which will continue to be faced after the referendum and which have been exacerbated by years of conflict in the border area.

Concordis has a similar programme in Kenya. It currently has a research project to be completed by August 2010, laying the groundwork for a five-year grant-making programme by the United States Institute of Peace for peace-building in the north-south border areas, and there will be a future development along the same lines. I cite these two bodies, of which I am a patron, as examples of the many NGOs which are doing sterling work in those areas.

Finally, it is easy to be disheartened by the negative features of developments in central and eastern Africa. Sometimes there are two steps forward and one step back. However, there are some encouraging signs of hope, even in the Horn of Africa. Somalia is the classic failed state. I have helped to conduct two seminars in Somaliland, the former British protectorate, where, with all the difficulties that it has of being one of the poorest areas in the world, there is a working democracy. Somaliland has a desire to work more closely with Britain, and the CPA has responded to that. There are also some signs of hope with the work of the CPA in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. I hope that, as a House, we will be prepared to pay a real tribute to the work of the very many British and other non-governmental organisations which are deeply and personally involved in the vital work of reconciliation and peace-building in the area.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to be a tail-ender in this debate, and I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for introducing it. His use of the phrase “post-conflict stabilisation” today must come from two sources: a strong desire to see peace in Africa’s troubled regions and, in contrast, an acceptance of the reality of conflict which is ongoing and which he himself has seen at close hand. Many noble Lords in these debates have wrestled with this paradox in Africa.

My noble friend Lady Cox has again shared her amazing experiences from Sudan in one of the finest speeches I have heard from her. In view of the historic links between Scotland and Africa, it is also a pleasure to welcome the noble Lord, Lord McDonnell, to this debate and to know that the spirit of David Livingstone is among us.

I intend to speak about Sudan which should be a model of post-conflict stabilisation, having benefited from the so-called CPA—the comprehensive peace agreement—on which the entire international community has worked hard for five years and more, including our own Government. This enormous country seems permanently on the brink of a political crisis which could still topple this vital agreement. Since April, its leaders have at last demonstrated a new determination to make it work, at least up to the referendum in January. On the face of it, the conditions for the referendum in Southern Sudan, as laid out in the CPA, are not yet in place. Fighting continues in Darfur. In Abyei even this week there were casualties as well as in other parts of the south. The elections in April did not bring harmonious results and there are urgent concerns about registration and citizenship. Who will belong to the north and the south in the future? Wealth-sharing arrangements and disputed boundaries are all matters that still need to be worked out

The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about grass roots development and good governance are critical, as is the involvement of NGOs. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, also mentioned building capacity. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester mentioned the key role of the churches in Southern Sudan. I pay tribute to the work of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury, through his diocesan link. My noble friend Lady Cox also mentioned the poverty of these marginal areas and our failure to bring international aid to people away from the centre such as Juba.

There are always voices of doom, especially from the south of Sudan. The SPLM Secretary-General for the northern sector, Yasir Sa’id Arman, expressed fears last weekend that the CPA was not being taken seriously enough. He said that it was being treated by the north as “any old peace agreement” with dissident southerners, instead of one which demonstrated national reconciliation. He has a fair point. During demonstrations of southerners in Kampala this week the SPLM youth leader Eng Paul Akol blamed the north for leaving the south in poverty. He accused Khartoum of arming militia groups in the south and claimed that a separate south would more easily overcome the threat from the LRA. That is quite a claim.

Meanwhile, the maverick Dr Hasan al-Turabi said that the Government were trying to hold the tension of secession and were already holding a post-mortem without discussing the problem itself. I believe that he is right. No one can confront the issue of secession itself simply because so many problems remain unresolved. The countdown to January continues. The referendum commission has been established and meetings are coming up once again to discuss the vital issues of oil-rich borders such as Abyei, wealth-sharing and citizenship. I ask the Minister to imagine the south voting for secession. What will be the material benefits of independence? Sudan’s national external debt, despite its oil wealth, stood at about US$35 billion in 2009—last year’s figures. According to the IMF, such an economy cannot be sustainable in the absence of debt relief. Southern Sudan on other hand will be among the very poorest countries. It will have a much higher poverty rating in the World Bank charts, which will be reflected in its first poverty reduction strategic plan. Will the south be able to take advantage of the new IMF arrangements, such as the special facility for the least developed countries? Will it qualify for the highly indebted poor countries initiative in its own right? Perhaps it will apply to join the Commonwealth. Once free of Khartoum, it will not be restrained by US and EU sanctions arising from the ICC verdict and will become eligible for international aid from every source.

It would surely not be right to classify the south as an oil state. Who will own the oil in Upper Nile and the other states which will remain in dispute next year as long as its oil revenues are derived from the pipeline to the north and it has no form of export of its own? While a proportion may be accounted for actuarially, it cannot really be treated as southern revenues. Given such ambiguity, does the Minister think that possession of oil reserves will count in favour or against the south?

In conclusion, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, on Uganda and the LRA, and I heard the tragic tales from my noble friends Lord Alton and Lady Cox. I would make only one point about the LRA. The Ugandan army has been seen as a source of great stability and has benefited Southern Sudan’s security. However, I cannot see it making progress without the fullest technical support. What are our Government doing, perhaps alongside the United Nations force, to maintain that technical support and to ensure that Kampala revives its stalled economic programme for the Acholi people who are, after all, the homeland of the LRA northern Uganda? My noble friend Lady Cox has painted another painful image for us of the condition of many children in Uganda. Having visited Uganda on more than one occasion, I can say that while there is universal education for some, many are not included in the north of Uganda. I commend my noble friend’s remarks and hope that the Minister has a reply.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, as everyone else has done, for his continuing commitment to human rights and developments in Africa. I never cease to be impressed by the standard of debates that we have on these matters in your Lordships’ House.

I have known my noble friend Lord McConnell as a friend for many years, and I have every confidence that he will bring to your Lordships’ House enormous expertise. More important is his passion for tackling poverty and inequality wherever and whenever it occurs. He has spent his entire political life fighting injustice and we are pleased and proud to see him on these Benches.

Given the pervasiveness of violent conflict and the ensuing poverty in several African countries, the case for security sector reform and stabilisation is clearly compelling. Many countries that we are discussing today have suffered armed conflict characterised by similar causes, which demand an integrated approach to disarmament, demobilisation and, most importantly in many ways, reintegration. That is the one aspect of DDR which is not functioning as well as it should. Narrowly focused peace enforcement is no longer the right approach to these matters.

In all the countries under review today we can fairly say that it has been in all cases very difficult to advance justice, given the region’s notoriously weak judicial systems. There is also a poor record of accountability for massive and terrible crimes and ongoing insecurity.

Examples abound of failures to prosecute suspects associated with widespread abuses, such as in the DRC. When I was there recently, we saw clearly how many of those abusers had been freely incorporated into the Congolese National Army. There is little consideration of the need for national reparations programmes, or for tackling the fundamental root causes of conflict.

As others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, have said, people want a peace dividend and a marked improvement in the quality of their lives. Yes, they want schools, they want access to health systems and they want land and support for agriculture. Naturally, people are asking for all those things. The continuing conflict in many areas that we have been discussing stands in the way of that progress.

International stabilisation efforts will fail if those matters are not addressed. There is also a failure properly to monitor what is succeeding or failing. The modern mandate is changing. As the International Crisis Group has stated clearly, it is not simply about peace enforcement but must encompass much wider objectives on security sector reform and DDR, as well as on transitional justice, as we move forward from conflict, on gender empowerment, humanitarian assistance, de-mining—the list of things that need to be done is endless. Stabilisation must address the broader security objectives of justice reform and economic recovery. Impunity must be addressed in all conflict and post-conflict situations. Unless people feel that the perpetrators of abuse have been brought to justice, they will never feel that they have the respect that they need and deserve.

The DfID/FCO Stabilisation Unit has promoted such an approach, and I very much hope that the coalition Government will value and promote its work. Will the Minister clarify how the Government view proposals that we heard from the Conservatives before the election for a military-led stabilisation and reconstruction force? Does he agree that such an approach, mixing the military with the humanitarian, is inappropriate and unhelpful?

I have visited the Great Lakes region many times since 1994, just after the Rwandan genocide. Although there has been progress between the neighbours, between Kinshasa and Kigali, it has still not provided the peace and security which it should. Divisions and tensions remain. The mistrust of the people in the Kivus in Congo of the Rwandanese remains very strong. I was in Bukavu in May, and visited the Panzi hospital, where a wonderful, selfless doctor cares for women victims of sexual violence. He wears a badge which says, “Do not stand idly by”, and we should all bear that in mind when we discuss these issues. He acknowledges that much needs to be done for the long-suffering people of the Kivus.

I met three women who, in the three days before I was there, had been brutally raped by FLDR militia. It was so striking to talk to them and feel their emotion, but also their strength and resilience. I sat there listening to them. All that they wanted to ask me was: would we help to find their children? They did not ask for any sympathy. They just said: “We need to find our children”. Clearly, we cannot and should not look away. We must reform the security sector, because that is the way to secure long-term peace.

In Darfur, Chad and Congo, systematic rape is a feature of military campaigns. The UN commander in the DRC said last year that it is more dangerous to be a woman in a modern conflict than to be a soldier. Thousands of women were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocides. Only eight convictions for sexual violence were prosecuted by the international criminal tribunal. Despite UN resolutions, violence, especially sexual violence, continues unabated. The underlying causes must be tackled. Fundamentally, that means addressing the issues covered by millennium development goal 3 —that is, dealing with the widespread low status and low value accorded to women. Violence against women is not a parallel issue; it is an intrinsic security issue. As I have seen, after such brutal attacks have taken place, the stigma suffered by women who have endured sexual violence often leads to a total rejection by their families and communities. Indeed, none of the three women whom I met had had any visits from any members of their families.

Women have to be part of the security force, as they are in Liberia, for instance. We have a very good example of a woman president in Liberia, who understands how we should address the needs of such women after such violence—how they need respect and interest taken in them. If they do not get that, the essential link to the community is lost. If we do not involve women, that community experience will be lost. The engagement of women is a key determinant in the potential success of any peace process. They should be at the table—currently, they rarely are. The leadership of women must be supported and encouraged, as must be the participation of women in the decision-making and peace processes.

Will the Minister clarify whether the Government will appoint a Minister tasked to work on violence-against-women issues across the three departments, DfID, the FCO and the MoD? He may be aware that I had that responsibility under the Labour Government. I hope that a similar initiative will be taken by the coalition Government.

As other noble Lords have said, child protection is essential. I will refer to the demobilisation of children, which others have not raised. They need long-term support so that they can come to terms with the horror and trauma that they have experienced. Proper child protection systems and structures are needed, and families and communities need to be part of the integration process. That is urgently needed in the Congo and in Sudan, where the UN has reported that for many years, as a matter of course, young children, including girls, have been recruited into the ranks. Turning things around for those people will require time and, I fear, endless patience.

Governments in the regions that we are focusing on today need to grow in confidence and earn legitimacy. That is essential for stability. We see that central and east African conflicts are contagious. Refugees move across borders, so do armies and so does economic collapse. In the Horn, in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan, we see the tensions that reverberate around access to the sea and to ports, about livestock on the borders, about energy, water and land rights. All of those are sources of tension and conflict. A recent Chatham House report described that as the economic driver of those conflicts. In both central and east Africa, the task is to build governance, reconciliation and economic development.

The problems are huge but, given the political will and the assurance of the resources to assist the Governments of those countries in the efforts that they need to make, they are not insurmountable. Working with regional organisations—with the African Union as the way forward, as others have said—the United Kingdom and the European Union can play a strong and important role.

The human tragedy that we see across the region is not a statistic; it is a continuing and terrible tragedy. The resilience of the people of those countries has been spoken of by many noble Lords. That always reminds me that we cannot be full of doom and gloom about what may happen in Africa; we must be optimistic, as the people of Africa have to be in the circumstances in which they find themselves.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Chidgey for opening this fascinating debate in which I have learnt a lot. I have spent my professional career much more on a broader Europe than on a broader Africa. We have certainly spread our debate across Africa, from Zimbabwe to Somalia.

I particularly welcome the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. My namesake and good friend wishes me to say, in particular, that he apologises very much that he is unable to be here today. He had indeed sent me the article from Scotland on Sunday on the virtues of a coalition Government, and I hope that the noble Lord will ensure that it is circulated on all Labour Benches. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote another short section of the article, where the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, asks,

“can a pragmatic deal between two previously warring tribes really work for the benefit of the country?”.

His answer is:

“I would argue that, if managed properly, coalition can produce strong, stable government and deliver transformative public policy”.

I thank him for that constructive remark.

I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Avebury is not able to be with us. I have always regarded him as the one person on the Liberal Democrat Benches who knows even more about Africa than my noble friend Lord Chidgey. I very much hope that he will be back with us soon.

This is an area where there is a huge amount of cross-party consensus. The coalition Government have been in office now for almost two months. We have taken up and hope to build on the contributions and achievements of our predecessors. The United Kingdom is one of the largest donors to all the countries in eastern and central Africa, a record that we are proud to inherit from our predecessors and intend to maintain. This Government have committed themselves to fulfilling our commitments in the millennium goals and to reaching 0.7 per cent of GNP as development assistance in difficult circumstances. I trust that even the most tribalist of Labour’s haters of the new coalition Government will grant us credit for that.

Having said all that, we note that some other Governments have fallen far short and that, sadly, a number of other members of the G8 and beyond do not share Britain’s sense of global responsibility. We also note that British NGOs are among the most active and constructive all the way across this troubled region. There are of course limits to what the United Kingdom can achieve on its own, so we have to work as closely as we can with others both bilaterally and within multilateral groups. We are working in the DRC with two EU missions to train the army and to improve the quality of the police. We are providing finance for the various UN missions in the area. We recognise that co-ordination between those UN missions across frontiers has not always been entirely effective. These are separate missions, which are separately constituted, but we are doing our best to consult our EU partners about how that co-ordination can be improved. We are working as a member of the international contact group on the Great Lakes of Africa, a grouping of donor countries and organisations, which includes, apart from the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, France, Netherlands, the UN and the European Union. We are doing our best in this immensely complicated area.

As has been mentioned, we need to co-opt others as well, including the Arab League, the Indians, who are, after all, one of the largest providers of UN peacekeeping forces in the area, and, even as far as we can, the Chinese, who are themselves beginning to discover the difficulties of working in the area, the risks to their citizens and the dangers of corruption to Chinese economic interests in the field.

The emphasis that my noble friend Lord Chidgey made in his speech was very much on stabilisation. We all of us recognise the links between security, good governance—or indeed government as such—human rights and social and economic development. However, we also all recognise the obstacles to effective delivery. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, asked if we could ensure that no aid falls into the wrong hands. I regret to say—I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, would agree—that no British Government can ensure that no aid falls into the wrong hands. We can put in the best monitoring efforts possible in the hope of minimising how much goes astray, and work with Transparency International, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and others to try to prevent leakage out to accounts in offshore financial centres, which we are all well aware goes on. The despoiling of the mineral riches of the region, in particular of the DRC, is something against which we all have to operate. That has to be done on an active multilateral international organisation level.

Whether our priorities are for direct budget support, as we have done in the DRC, or in micropolicies at the local level, we run into some difficulties. Some time ago my son was teaching at a school in south-western Uganda. Money to pay the teachers at the school had simply not come through for several months. One can work at the microlevel but things occasionally break down.

How far does security need to come first? The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, suggested that we need to be very careful about involving the military, although the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester remarked that security is the absolute key to development in the DRC. There are some real tensions here which, again, the new Government are exploring and discussing how one provides security as the basis for economic and political development. Again on a personal level, last year, while one of my nieces was in southern Darfur working with a British charity, my wife and I developed an extremely active interest in local security, kidnapping and all the other problems. If there is no security on the ground, one cannot begin to provide either emergency aid or the other dimensions, such as education and assistance in economic development, which are necessary.

Delivering effective stabilisation across the region is an extremely complex task. The quality of governance across the region is also very mixed. It is a sad reflection on the quality of government across Africa, but the Mo Ibrahim prize for heads of government who have stepped down in Africa has not been awarded this year because too many are managing to fix their elections so that they can stay on.

We all of us recognise, and we have to inform our public, that this is not just a matter of idealism. There is strong British self-interest in the stabilisation of the region. We have a Somali population in this country which is somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000. It has arrived in Britain partly because of the collapse of that country. We have somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 Congolese refugees. We are conscious that if the security situation in some other countries in the region were to deteriorate further, there would be strong pressure from the educated, from those across the region with links to this country, to come to Britain as well. We therefore have strong interests in providing stability, security and effective government across the region. I share the right reverend Prelate’s fears that, while we have to work hard to improve matters, we risk conflict reappearing across the region as Southern Sudan moves towards independence and as the situation in the eastern DRC appears not yet to be improving.

Perhaps I may say a little about the Lord’s Resistance Army and the about the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that we really should have caught Joseph Kony before now. The noble Lord will be aware that it has taken a great deal of time to apprehend a number of war criminals in the western Balkans in rather more open country and a rather smaller space. These things are not entirely easy. The LRA has been operating across the borders of four countries in which the level of security, information and intelligence is very low. While we may work to encourage closer co-operation among the armed forces of Uganda, Congo and Southern Sudan, this is a necessarily difficult task.

Mention has been made of what is happening in Somalia. We recognise that while Somaliland is, relatively speaking, a haven of stability within this very troubled country, southern Somalia is a source of active concern to all of us. Her Majesty’s Government are providing support to the African Union for its force there. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked what will happen if Sudan does vote for independence—and indeed that is the great question of conflict prevention for all of us at the present time. Her Majesty’s Government are providing the region with emergency aid and assistance so far as we can, and I can tell the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that the UK is providing about half of its £140 million development assistance for 2010 to Southern Sudan to build governmental capacity and that we are also doing our best to assist in the remote regions of east Sudan and the Abyei area. But she will know better than me that none of this is easy in the troubled circumstances and in some of those extremely remote areas. Sudan is the largest country in Africa, even larger than the DRC. We are working with the Government of Southern Sudan to improve the quality and capability of both the police force and the army, and we are consulting other EU Governments on how we can better work with them to manage to catch up with the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Other noble Lords mentioned the situation in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, while one or two even touched on the question of Kenya. We were troubled about the presidential elections in Burundi, which appear to have been blocked by the withdrawal of the opposition and by fears as to how fair those elections would be. Noble Lords will know that the British Government are represented on the ground more strongly in Rwanda than in Burundi, but we do have a liaison mission in Burundi, along with an aid programme. Again, we are working with partners to see what we can do to help.

The situation in Kenya also raises concerns. As Members of this House will know, for a long period the British High Commission has brought to the attention of the Kenyan Government allegations of corruption, and concerns about the extent to which the elite are living off the country and on occasion promoting intertribal rivalries in order to further their own case. We remain actively concerned and engaged in a constant dialogue with the Government of Kenya. So the British Government’s response is clear. I should say that this is not a collection of new initiatives by the coalition Government rather, that we have inherited from our predecessors a worthwhile set of policies. Naturally we are reviewing them, but we do not intend fundamentally to alter them. We hope that the Government’s new National Security Council will provide for a greater coherence of effort.

The Foreign Secretary, in a speech last week, talked about the closer integration of the international departments, in particular the efforts of the Foreign Office and DfID and, where necessary, the Ministry of Defence. The MoD has only a few personnel in these various countries in training roles. Where we can, we want to work with local forces bilaterally and with the African Union to improve the quality of those local forces, but on occasion the UN and others will have to assist. The Government’s Stabilisation Unit, owned by the three departments, is an invaluable source of expertise and is actively engaged with this area. So Her Majesty’s Government are addressing all these difficult issues.

Somalia remains an enormous concern. Perhaps we should recognise that we wish to involve countries that have not shared responsibilities in Africa. The Chinese Government are taking an active part in anti-piracy operations off Somalia and are now co-operating with the multilateral command, so others are being called in. The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia remain sadly weak. We are doing what we can to assist, both financially and in helping them to build a broader coalition for peace and stability. We will remain a significant bilateral donor in Sudan, and that will continue to require immense resources, particularly in Southern Sudan, for the foreseeable future.

We contribute approximately £207 million a year to the Democratic Republic of Congo both bilaterally and through multilateral UN and EU commitments. DfID is now conducting a careful review of both bilateral and multilateral programmes, including which partners we should prefer to work with, as any new Government should, and we expect to have the outcome of that review later this year. There is a parallel review across departments on how best to ensure that sufficient emphasis is given to violence against women, and we hope that that will come to a review later in the year.

Over the next four years, the United Kingdom will provide £1 billion for regional programming across this area. We are of course concerned that weak governance and corruption in all of these countries hampers development and increases longer-term threats to stability. We recognise that NGOs, British and others, have a useful role to play in all this, but we are also painfully aware from experience on the ground that some NGOs get across each other and that when too many different organisations compete with each other, that can add to the problems, as on occasion they have in Darfur. So far as any Government can, we have to encourage NGOs in the field to work together.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester remarked that religion can be a force for reconciliation, as sadly it has proved so often to be a force for division across the region. We are immensely grateful for the useful role played by the Church of England and other churches in the area. Incidentally, as part of my briefing I was told that Muslim Aid is one of the most effective and positive NGOs in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Interfaith operations are precisely the sort of thing we need to be encouraging.

My Lords, could I remind the noble Lord of the question I put to him about the re-export of arms Bill sponsored by myself and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and what he has to say about the flow of arms? I would be grateful if he could write to us about that question, as well as about the culture of impunity. I ask this because, unlike Joseph Kony, others have been caught and arrested, but not brought to trial. I mentioned some specific cases, including the recent killing of a human rights activist in the DRC.

I would be happy to write to the noble Lord about those issues. Indeed, I was briefed on some of them but within the period it is not possible to cover all these areas.

On the question of the arms trade, legal and illegal, the AK 47s that he mentioned do not come from Britain. As the noble Lord knows, they are actively traded across the region and are in sufficient surplus to be relatively cheap. So it is not simply a question of arms re-exports and arms controls, but of how we manage to gain some sort of handle on the illegal trade which goes on across the region.

I would like to thank all noble Lords for their contributions to the debate. I recognise the valuable work done by a number of Members of this Chamber in and across the region, and by encouraging others to contribute and NGOs to work together. I look forward to continuing debates in this House, but I hope not with a deteriorating security problem across the region.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I mention briefly the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, who echoed the need for disbursing our aid in the most effective way, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who drew on his wide experience of working with NGOs and expressed his concern about the need for sensitivity in aid programmes. I refer also to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, with her great experience in Sudan and northern Uganda, and thank her for mentioning again the acute shortage of essential services. She mentioned that the DfID annual report for 2009 states that Uganda is off track. I thank her for that, and I shall make a point of looking that up. Perhaps I may also say that the contributions of the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Winchester and of Gloucester, particularly in regard to the Congo round table, the visits to the DRC and the refugee camps in Tanzania, were very helpful to me.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on his maiden speech and thank him for sharing with us his passion on these matters and his perspective from the Scottish dimension, which was an unexpected added benefit to the debate.

I thank all other noble Lords for their contributions and the Minister for his responses. I realise that some of the questions were deep, difficult and complex, but I am sure, if I ask him nicely, my noble friend will write to us in more detail on some of the questions that it was not possible to answer on this occasion. I am pleased to acknowledge that he has agreed to do that. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.