My Lords, I was born in Kenya and raised in Uganda, so the subject of this debate is close to my heart. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for securing today’s debate. He and I have recently come back from a trip to Nepal, where, among other things, we looked at good governance in that country.
In 1960, Harold Macmillan said:
“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact”.
The speech, which was made in South Africa, signalled the British Government’s intention to grant independence to many of the African countries.
When the British granted independence to these African countries, they hoped that they would establish a multiparty democratic political system. In 1989, 29 African countries were governed under some form of single-party or military rule, but by 1995, most of the countries on that continent had implemented a form of multiparty democracy and entertained the notion of holding democratic elections. This statistic shows that since the early 1990s there has been a significant change in Africa’s political landscape. Between 1960 and 1992 only three heads of state voluntarily relinquished power, but from 1992 onwards that number has risen significantly, to over 40.
In the mid-1950s, Sudan and Ghana were the first two African nations to gain full independence. Their current plights, however, are very different. On 7 January 2009, Ghana inaugurated a new president, John Evans Atta Mills, who defeated the incumbent president in a run-off election on 28 December 2008. To ensure the integrity of the election process, several hundred election observers were deployed throughout the country. The observers were unanimous in concluding that the electoral commission had conducted the election in a credible manner that was peaceful, transparent and generally free of intimidation and other threats. Ghana has gone a long way to establishing a political system that is made up of multiple parties and holds free, fair and competitive elections.
The situation in Sudan, on the other hand, is not so positive. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his party have controlled the Sudanese Government since he led a military coup in 1989. There is also the ongoing conflict in Darfur, which is adding to the unstable political environment in Sudan. In fact, yesterday the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Elections are scheduled to take place in July 2009 but that is now looking unlikely. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has said that,
“delays in setting up the requisite infrastructure for elections may make this deadline hard to meet”.
The current situation in Sudan is dire and the country will need a lot of international aid and assistance in order to try to implement a peaceful and democratic governmental system.
Zimbabwe is another country that has recently encountered political problems. President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai recently signed a power-sharing deal that aimed to resolve the political crisis in the country. While that was a major step towards restoring the rule of law, there have been problems. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has said that some political detainees are still being held, including a senior member of Mr Tsvangirai’s party. He also said that the disruptions on white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were undermining efforts to revive the agricultural sector and restore investor confidence. He said that as long as these matters remain unsolved it will be impossible for the transitional Government to move forward. The UN
Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that the UN is ready to help Zimbabwe, but he also said that there would be more support if there was political reconciliation.
The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy is another important issue that needs to be addressed. The Zimbabwean Government have asked for a $2 billion loan to try to restore Zimbabwe’s economy and infrastructure. The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, with thousands of people dying from cholera, also needs to be looked at. I would like to hear the Minister’s response to the current situation in Zimbabwe and ask him what our Government’s plans are to provide support for the people of Zimbabwe.
Somalia is another country in crisis. A new president has recently been elected and his aim is to bring peace to the nation, which is promising. But we have to remember that there have been many failed attempts to bring peace to the region, and there has been no effective government in Somalia since 1991. There is no rule of law in the region at the moment and the issue of Somali pirates needs to be urgently addressed. What is the Minister’s response on how best we can deal with the problem of piracy?
I turn to the situation in Kenya, the land of my birth. I was very pleased when the power-sharing agreement was agreed between Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga. There is relative peace in the country, but Dr Kofi Annan has expressed his disappointment that the Kenyan leaders failed to pass a Bill that was to create a special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects. He stated that,
“failure by the Kenyan Government and Parliament to create a Special Tribunal would constitute a major setback in the fight against impunity and threaten the whole reform agenda, upon which Kenya’s stability and prosperity depend”.
I ask the Minister: what support and financial assistance are we providing to Kenya?
I turn to the issue of aid. Many countries that have pledged aid to African countries are falling short of their targets. Aid from foreign countries is essential to the improvement of conditions in Africa. Improvements have been made in many areas, including governance, and some economies are indeed a lot stronger. If the aid entering Africa slows down, all of the good work that has been done in the past decade is at risk of being undone. It is also important that we base our aid on the condition that certain reforms are met, something which the EU and the IMF are increasingly doing.
In 2005, under the chairmanship of Tony Blair, the G8 countries made a pledge at Gleneagles to donate an extra £12.5 billion to Africa by 2010. I ask the Minister: what were the pledges made by the United Kingdom, and to what extent have we fulfilled those pledges?
I turn to the involvement of China in Africa. The Chinese Government have been providing aid to African countries and have also written-off substantial debts owed by various African countries. China’s intention has been to gain access to the continent’s natural resources to promote its development. But unfortunately China’s aid to Africa has been controversial as there are no political strings attached to the arrangements.
The aid has therefore been granted without ensuring that there is good governance in the African states. This scenario is not desirable.
The issue of good governance in Africa is extremely important as without it development of African countries as a whole will suffer. Even though I have given statistics showing vast improvements in terms of democratic elections in African countries, there are still some major issues which need to be addressed: human rights violations, corruption, weak democratic institutions as well as the lack of transparency and accountability in the management of public resources in many African countries. These are the issues that we need to look into to improve the situation.