Category: Africa

Africa Business Safari

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Lord Sheikh hosted an event organised by the Association for African Owned Enterprises (UK) in the House of Lords entitled Africa Business Safari – Bridging the Partnership Gap with Southern Africa. Lord Sheikh made the keynote speech and mentioned his connections with the continent as well as the importance of investing in Africa. There were also representatives from the Zimbabwean Embassy and Zambian High Commission in attendance.

Voice of Kenya

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Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at an event organised by Pritam Chaggar of the Voices of Kenya Union to celebrate 70 years of Asian broadcasting of the Hindustani Service of Kenya. Deedar Singh Pardesi who used to sing on the shows and Pritam Chaggar and Chaman Lal Chaman who were presenters were also in attendance.

Lord Sheikh spoke about his and Lady Sheikh’s connections with Kenya and the fact that he used to listen to programmes broadcasted by Voice of Kenya. He also paid tribute to the various presenters and entertainers who have contributed to the show. He made his speech in English, Urdu, Swahili and Punjabi.

Ghana

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Ghana concerning the Presidential elections there in December.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The UK has an ongoing dialogue with the Government of Ghana about the upcoming presidential elections. Most recently, in his visit in October, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), discussed the elections with Vice-President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, Deputy Foreign Minister, Chris Kpodo, and Trade Minister, Hannah Tetteh, as well as the opposition under Nana Akufo-Addo.

The UK will continue to engage with the Government of Ghana on this issue in the run-up to, and following, the elections in December.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have given any guidance to the Government of Ghana about the implementation of the proposed freedom of information law; and, if so, what that guidance was.

Baroness Warsi: Our high commission in Accra ran a project funded in financial year 2009-10 to bring two freedom of information experts to Ghana to engage with relevant stakeholders as the Ghanaian Government were developing a Right to Information (RTI) bill.

In partnership with local civil society organisations they ran a fact-finding mission to identify Ghana’s requirements and then ran a two-day workshop with senior public servants to draw together ideas for the implementation process.

The key outcome of the workshop was the development of an action plan outlining major activities necessary to work towards the successful implementation of RTI in Ghana, should it be adopted into law.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken through the Commonwealth to support economic growth in Ghana.

Baroness Warsi: The Commonwealth has the potential to contribute significantly to the prosperity of its members given we share the core values, of democracy, rule of law, good governance, human rights and similar legal systems.

In financial year 2012-13, UK contributions to Commonwealth organisations will amount to approximately £40 million, which includes £16 million in funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Economic Division aims to strengthen policies and systems that support economic growth in Commonwealth member countries. This is achieved through helping countries take advantage of opportunities, and improve their ability to manage long-term economic development.

In 2012, the secretariat helped train 220 national facilitators from both Ghana and Kenya in implementing programmes in financial literacy, and supported a conference in Accra on private equity for African institutional investors. In September, the secretariat co-hosted a workshop on venture capital for Ghanaian policy-makers and regulators to help unlock local capital for private sector investment in Ghana.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have given to the Government of Ghana to help it meet the United Nations’ millennium development goals.

Baroness Northover: The UK Government provide financial and technical support to the Government of Ghana in a range of areas to help Ghana accelerate its progress towards the millennium development goals. Examples include assistance to the Ghanaian Government’s national malaria campaign; malaria is the biggest cause of deaths of children under five and a major cause of the death of pregnant women. Last year, UK aid distributed 2.35 million bednets to protect against malaria and help achieve universal national coverage. This year UK aid is providing an additional two million bednets.

UK aid’s programme up to 2015, including the results we will achieve, is outlined in the DfID Ghana Operational Plan 2011-15. These results includes supporting 70,000 girls to stay in school with assistance through both the Ghanaian Government and NGOs, helping the Ghanaian Government to extend their cash grant programme to 100,000 of the poorest people, which will help tackle hunger and malnutrition among other things, and helping 50,000 people to grow their businesses through access to better support and services.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to boost trade between Ghana and Britain.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) teams in London and Accra offer potential exporters a range of services and support, including market research, the identification of local agents and distributors, participation in trade missions, and product launches. In recent months, UKTI has given particular support to companies in the oil and gas, education and construction sectors. During a recent visit to Accra, FCO Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, hosted a breakfast meeting with UK investors and visited a hospital being built by a UK company, which won the contract with High Commission support.

Between 2010 and 2011 bilateral trade between the UK and Ghana increased by 32%, to nearly £1.2 billion.

 

 

Angola

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent general elections in Angola.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): In a Statement on 12 September, following the Angolan elections of 31 August, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend the Member for Boston and Skegness, (Mr Simmonds) said:

“I welcome the re-election of President dos Santos and congratulate the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) on its success in the third election in the Republic of Angola. I commend the Angolan people, political parties and civil society on the peaceful environment in which the elections were held.

Despite concerns about the electoral process, such as unequal access to the media, problems with voter rolls, and lack of timely accreditation for election observers, the Angolan authorities’ commitment to take action to address such concerns is commendable. This is an important step toward further strengthening Angola’s democratic institutions and will help to build confidence for future elections.

I look forward to continuing to strengthen our bilateral relationship with the Angolan Government, and to further engagement with the Angolan people”.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to promote democracy in Angola.

Baroness Warsi: The UK firmly believes that democracy is the system of government that provides the best route to building accountable and responsive states which are best able to safeguard human rights and promote development. Our embassy officials in Luanda regularly engage with the Angolan Government on democratic and human rights issues, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has funded a range of projects which have democracy at their heart including:

a project run with Angola’s Secretary of State for Human Rights to promote human rights and democracy among the Angolan population; anda project with a coalition of national election observers to provide funding to enable them to observe and report on the 2012 general election.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the independence of the Angolan Electoral Commission.

Baroness Warsi: The Angolan law on the organisation and functioning of the National Election Commission and the Constitution of February 2010 make clear that the National Election Commission must be an independent body. The commission is made up of 17 members including its chair, who must be a judge, and 16 others designated by the National Assembly. Membership is broad: the commission’s central decision-making body is its plenary, in which one representative from each political party and coalition with at least one parliamentary seat and up to five representatives from political parties and coalitions without a parliamentary seat can participate.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what reports they have received about recent civic unrest in Angola.

Baroness Warsi: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through our embassy in Luanda, carefully monitors the security situation across Angola. Since March 2011, there have been a number of demonstrations and political rallies in Angola, including during August (the month of the recent general election). Some of these gatherings have resulted in outbreaks of violence.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of Angola’s candidacy for graduation from the group of less developed countries.

Baroness Warsi: Since the end of civil war in 2002, Angola has made remarkable economic progress, becoming Sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy. It is important the newly elected Government of Angola make sure that the economic boom benefits as many citizens as possible. I particularly welcome President dos Santos’s pre-election pledge to work on reducing the disparity between rich and poor.

Angola’s aspiration to graduate from the group of less developed countries (LDC) is welcome. If Angola meets the UN requirements and thus graduates, this will help achieve the UN goal set in May 2011 of at least half the current LDC countries graduating within a decade.

 

Middle East: Recent Developments

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Howell for initiating this debate. Although the Motion refers to the Middle East, my contribution will include developments in North Africa. I have visited some of the countries in those areas and have personal knowledge of the situation in these countries.

Noble Lords will recognise that the Middle East and North Africa are commonly referred to as MENA. Therefore, I cannot discuss the former without making reference to the latter. It is vital that Her Majesty’s Government should continue to highlight and condemn instances of violence and discrimination against individuals and groups because of their beliefs, wherever, and whenever, they occur. To that end, I fully support the work of the Arab Partnership.

The Arab spring heralded a new era for many citizens who were living under oppressive regimes. However, it has led to unfortunate consequences that have permeated neighbouring countries; namely, Mali. Tuareg rebels now control two-thirds of Mali, due to the provision of weapons following Colonel Gaddafi’s downfall. Algeria has just celebrated 50 years of independence, which has seen increased foreign investment to the nation in recent years. Libya’s first democratic election has been won by the former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, who led Libya’s National Transitional Council last year. The composition of the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia occurred with little controversy. I hope that the elections in Tunisia scheduled for next year follow that trend.

Although both the elections in Libya and Egypt were reported to have been relatively peaceful, like most noble Lords, I am concerned with the perceived power struggle between President Morsi and the Special Council of the Armed Forces. What steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking to resolve that tension?

There are many positive developments to highlight in this debate about solidarity among nations in the region. I would now like to discuss the positive points, as the situation is good in certain areas. Bahrain appears to be successfully positioning itself as the Gulf’s shipping centre, following the opening of the Khalifa port and the Bahrain logistics zone. Oman is a founding member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, which was established in 2004. Since Oman’s accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2000, a substantial improvement in its investment environment and regulatory framework has occurred. The 2006 free trade agreement with America resulted in the adoption of International Labour Organisation regulations, further encouraging international investment in Oman. I may add that Oman is important to us strategically and it is our friend.

Reports in the Saudi media last month claimed that Saudi Arabia had rehabilitated an old Iraqi oil line, which could serve as an alternative route to the Strait of Hormuz, should tension increase with Iran. Bahrain and Qatar have engaged in joint economic initiatives such as the proposed friendship bridge project, which would link the two countries. Both nations are also thought to be in discussion about construction of a subsea pipeline to supply natural gas from Qatar to Bahrain. In February 2010, the Emir of Qatar issued a decree which allowed the Minister of Business and Trade to waive the 49% foreign ownership cap in the tourism, natural resources, health, education and consulting sectors. I support this policy as it reflects a desire to attract further foreign investment.

The vast majority of nations in the Middle East are enjoying peace and prosperity. However, Iran and Syria unfortunately do not follow this trend. Iran is in clear defiance of six UN Security Council resolutions that call for the suspension of its uranium enrichment programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concerns about the potential military implications of Iran’s nuclear programme. As such, I welcome the EU’s sanctions against Iran as a means of urging the regime to review its stance. We need to deal with the situation by the application of stringent sanctions and by negotiations. I do not favour any form of military action. What are my noble friend the Minister’s views on military intervention?

I am pleased that Russia has softened its position towards Syria by calling for a three-month extension of the UN monitoring mission, which is scheduled to end on 20 July. Yesterday the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, defected to join the revolution against al-Assad’s regime. His is the second high-profile defection since the uprising began 16 months ago. The Republican Guard’s Brigadier-General Manaf defected last week. These two defections suggest that support for President Assad’s regime is diminishing. I welcome Russia’s decision to suspend defence co-operation with Syria. Russia has blocked two United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria to date.

Last week, Hillary Clinton urged Russia and China to join Britain, America and France to put pressure on Assad’s regime. In May this year, 108 people were killed in the Houla massacre, 49 of whom were children.

More killings occurred yesterday. Kofi Annan’s Geneva initiative does not demand the removal of Assad. It is therefore unpalatable to the Syrian opposition. Reports suggest that more than 17,000 persons have lost their lives since the uprising began 16 months ago. The US Secretary of State has also called for “real and immediate consequences” for non-compliance with Annan’s peace plan.

Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, has expressed his intention to join any effort to end the bloodshed in Syria. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing arms and funds to the Free Syrian Army. Qatar played an important role in providing military and financial support during and after the Arab spring to countries in the Middle East and north African region. Qatar was a founding member of the Gulf Co-operation Council in 1981 and hosts a large American military base. Qatar also has the highest GDP per capita in the world, which is growing at a faster rate than that of any other nation. Qatar successfully acted as a mediator between Yemen’s Government and the Houthi rebels. We should be making more efforts towards further engagement with Qatar in all areas.

Last week I spoke about us undertaking more trade with overseas countries. With regard to the Middle East, there are favourable situations in certain countries and we must make use of these opportunities and do more business in the region. The Middle East is blessed with great mineral wealth and a vibrant culture. However, challenges lie ahead for peace in the region. It is up to Britain, alongside our international allies, to demonstrate leadership in efforts to help the region and achieve lasting peace.

 

Uganda

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Uganda about its role and responsibilities within the Commonwealth.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): Uganda is well versed on Commonwealth issues, principles and values, having hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007 and having held the chair-in-office role for the next two years.

In July 2010, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham underlined to President Museveni the importance of free, fair and peaceful democratic elections. The Commonwealth Observer Group was invited by the Government of Uganda to observe the February 2011 elections. In a statement issued just after elections, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham urged all political stakeholders in Uganda to reflect on the assessments of the EU and Commonwealth observers, build on the positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Our High Commission in Kampala is in contact with the current Ugandan representative on the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, who is the Commonwealth Youth Caucus’s Africa regional representative.

Furthermore, we have lobbied Ugandan Ministers, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and Information, on specific human rights issues including respect for the rights of sexual minorities, media freedoms and freedom of assembly. We also continue to engage with the Government of Uganda on international security and peacekeeping priorities. As a troop-contributing country to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda is making a major contribution to the international community’s goals in Somalia.

We and our partners were concerned about allegations of corruption around the financing of CHOGM, and are continuing to urge the Government of Uganda to act on the report of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent reports they have received about the political situation in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: Our high commission in Kampala reports regularly on all aspects of the UK’s bilateral relationship with Uganda. This has included full assessments of each stage of the recent electoral process, our bilateral trade, investment and development relationships, the situation with regards to respect for human rights, and security and prosperity in the East Africa and Great Lakes regions.

We also receive representations and reports on all of these areas from key stakeholders in Ugandan politics, including the Ugandan Government, opposition parties and interested non-governmental organisations. Last month, my honourable friend Henry Bellingham, the Minister for Africa, met MPs and Peers to discuss our assessments of the political situation in Uganda.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Uganda about the promotion of equal rights to its citizens irrespective of sexuality.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have made clear to the Government of Uganda on several occasions that we are opposed to actions that will have a negative effect on the human rights of Ugandans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. This includes our opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, tabled by a private Member, which would further criminalise homosexuality if passed into law. We have also raised our concerns to the Ugandan Government over an article that appeared in a Ugandan tabloid newspaper late last year, which apparently incited violence against homosexuals.

Our high commission in Kampala is in close touch with civil society groups that are campaigning for LGBT rights in Uganda, to which they have offered their support.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent presidential elections in Uganda.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My honourable friend Henry Bellingham noted in his statement of 22 February 2011 that we fully endorse the preliminary findings of the EU and Commonwealth observation missions to Uganda, which noted that while there have been improvements in the overall conduct and transparency of the elections, they were marred by avoidable shortcomings in their organisation. We share the observer mission’s concern that the power of incumbency was exercised to such an extent as to compromise severely the level playing field between the competing candidates and political parties.

We will encourage all those elected and all Uganda’s political stakeholders, including Uganda’s Government, political parties and the Electoral Commission, to reflect on the assessments of the independent observers, build on positive developments, and address the shortcomings identified in order to strengthen pluralistic, multi-party democracy in Uganda.

Sudan

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what reports they have received about the political situation in Sudan following the announcement by Omal al-Bashir that he will not seek another term in office; and what is their assessment of that situation.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): President Bashir’s announcement that he would not seek re-election is in line with Sudan’s constitution, which imposes a two-term limit on any President. As the next presidential elections are not due to take place until 2015, the full impact of his announcement is yet to be seen. Other factors will influence the political situation over the coming months, including the likely amendments to Sudan’s constitution following the completion of the comprehensive peace agreement and the secession of south Sudan in July.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what reports they have received about the recent violence in Abyei, Sudan.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are very concerned at the recent clashes in the Abyei region, including those on 27 and 28 February 2011 and 1 and 2 March 2011 between northern and southern groups in the area. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary issued a joint statement with his US and Norwegian Troika colleagues on 15 March 2011 urging both parties to resume their dialogue on post-referendum issues including Abyei. We urge all parties to work to secure full implementation of the agreements made in Kadguli in January this year in order to reduce instability and tension.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Sudan to end discrimination against citizens who are HIV positive.

Lord Howell of Guildford: While we have not raised this issue specifically, we regularly raise issue of human rights and specifically protection of minorities with the Government of Sudan, in line with both the Sudanese constitution and with their international human rights obligations.

 

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they are giving to south Sudan ahead of the preparations for independence on 9 July.

Lord Howell of Guildford: The UK is providing developmental assistance of £140 million to Sudan this financial year, approximately half of which is spent in the south, focused on conflict resolution, security, anti-corruption measures, basic service delivery and governance. We continue to play an active role in supporting the implementation of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement.

 

Zimbabwe

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate. The recent developments in Zimbabwe do not reflect the aims stipulated in the historic global political agreement. Progress has been painfully slow with fears of a return to the old regime.

There is speculation that Mr Mugabe has sent serving and retired Zimbabwean military personnel to Libya in support of Colonel Gaddafi. The 46 people who were arrested in Zimbabwe for watching footage of the uprising in north Africa are to be charged with treason-an offence that carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe. The former MP and Labour activist, Mr Gwisai, is among those to be charged.

A magistrate in Harare has since halted the proceedings against these individuals and ordered that they undergo examination for torture. Most worrying is the revelation that among the 46 arrested is a woman who has had three operations for a brain tumour yet was assaulted by prison guards and refused treatment.

These actions have resulted in widespread condemnation, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concerns about civil society in Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe is such that there is hunger, poverty and unemployment among the majority of citizens but wealth is enjoyed by a select few.

The combination of low incomes and a shortage of food have exposed Zimbabwe, among other nations, to fluctuating market prices. The average citizen spends a large portion of his wages on food supplies. A meteoric rise in the cost of provisions has the potential to trigger protests in Zimbabwe as seen in north Africa.

The decision by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to increase tariffs by 30 per cent puts further pressure on the cost of living, especially for citizens on the lowest incomes. Although economic activity has increased over the past two years, Zimbabwe’s headline rate of inflation was still high for January despite the monetary policy statement of the Bank of Zimbabwe warning against the effects of rising inflation on the economy. Zimbabwe caught the world’s attention at the end of 2007 with hyperinflation which led to price increases of more than 60,000 per cent.

The rise in political violence is a cause for concern. Amnesty International has reported that supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change Party have been targeted by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF for a campaign of prolonged violence and intimidation. It has been just over two years since the historic power-sharing agreement was signed by the two parties. Shopkeepers who stock and sell independent newspapers are being harassed and intimidated by people suspected of being members of ZANU-PF.

A new organisation, Wealth to the Youth, which is linked to ZANU-PF, has been looting shops owned by foreigners. I support the decision of the European Union and the United States to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe until February 2012. This is the correct approach to dealing with a nation that does not reflect and does not respect its citizen’s human rights, democracy or the rule of law. These requirements were stipulated under the global political agreement but have not been implemented.

Britain is one of the largest donors to the Zimbabwean state and last year gave the biggest aid package to date. The Government have pledged to increase aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years provided that it holds free and fair elections and successfully implements reforms. I am in favour of this decision as Britain’s development aid reaches the people of Zimbabwe through the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.

I welcome the Southern African Development Community’s efforts to encourage the political parties in Zimbabwe to work towards achieving social and political reforms. The SADC is also playing an important role by investing in projects aimed at improving the infrastructure in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has accused Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank of profiting to the detriment of Zimbabwe’s economy and has threatened to bring them under state control. I should be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to the steps Her Majesty’s Government will take in response to this overt warning.

During a recent visit, the Chinese Foreign Minister called for the withdrawal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. China has signed a deal to provide Zimbabwe with a grant of $7.6 million. It is important to remember that in 2008 China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that sought sanctions against Zimbabwe for violating human rights. Having an ally with the economic prowess of China provides the Zimbabwean Government with limited incentives to implement reforms.

It is not only irresponsible but incorrect for Robert Mugabe to blame the sanctions placed on his country for Zimbabwe’s ailing economy. It is more accurate to place a significant part of the responsibility for the nation’s suffering on the violent land-distribution programme that has almost destroyed the agriculture industry. The way that the white farmers have been treated by Robert Mugabe reminds me of how the assets of my family and other Asians were seized by General Amin when we were expelled from Uganda.

The concerns of foreign investors in Zimbabwe are compounded by Mugabe’s Economic Empowerment Act that states that black Zimbabweans should own 51 per cent of companies worth more than £307 million. Any form of discrimination is wholly unwelcome. It does not serve the best interests of Zimbabwe’s economy or society to implement such a blatantly odious piece of legislation that gives rise to racism. I should be grateful if my noble friend could provide up-to-date details of British companies and individuals affected by this law.

 

The recent direction taken by the President of Zimbabwe is hugely disappointing in the light of notable successes. The nation appears to have made progress, given its participation in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The Carlyle Group intends to launch a fund for investment in Africa, with a presence in three African countries, including Zimbabwe. The power-sharing agreement brought a great deal of optimism to Zimbabweans. However, it appears that ZANU-PF is still behaving in a manner that was rejected by the electorate two years ago.

Mugabe’s continued defiance of pressure from the international community is a constant concern. We have an historic duty to engage with partners in the region to work towards achieving the social and political reforms that the people of Zimbabwe greatly deserve.

Finally, I am a great believer in the Commonwealth and would like to see its countries, particularly the African states, do more to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. I have spoken previously in your Lordships’ House on the Commonwealth. It should do more on conflict resolution and promoting trade among its various countries.

 

Ivory Coast

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the situation in the Ivory Coast.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government remain deeply concerned about the ongoing political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. We support the strong statements that have been made by the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union (AU). Both have made it clear that Mr Laurent Gbabgo should immediately and peacefully hand over power to President Alassane Ouattara in accordance with the wishes of the Ivorian people.

We note that the AU reaffirmed its position at the recent AU summit and set up a presidential panel of five African heads of state to resolve the crisis. We hope that the panel will find a solution that allows the democratic will of the Ivorian people to prevail.

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the humanitarian situation in the Ivory Coast.

Lord Howell of Guildford: Internally displaced people (IDP) remain concentrated in the western part of the country. It is estimated that there are 19,500 IDP of which more than 9,300 are children.

There are 14 confirmed cholera cases and six deaths according to anecdotal reports from the Red Cross-we are awaiting further details on this. World Health Organisation (WHO) reports a yellow fever outbreak in the north of the country, with 64 suspected cases and 25 deaths. On 22 January 2011 the authorities initiated a vaccination campaign which aims to target 840,000 people over nine months.

Agencies are worried that food security will become a major issue if the current impasse continues. The price of staples, cooking gas and charcoal continues to rise. The cost of food has increased dramatically in refugee hosting communities in Liberia and other neighbouring countries.

There are now more than 33,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia according to latest reports. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) reports that 600 refugees enter Liberia each day. Refugees are being hosted in communities in approximately 25 communities in Nimba County. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is working to construct three refugee camps in Liberia. Delivery of assistance to refugees in Liberia is being hampered by recent heavy rains and the poor state of roads.

A joint UNMIL/Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) rapid assessment of Ivorian refugees in Liberia is under way and will report back soon.

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to impose further sanctions on the Ivory Coast.

Lord Howell of Guildford: The latest amendments to the EU targeted measures on Ivory Coast were made in Council Decision 2011/71/CFSP which was adopted on 31 January 2011. This targeted further individuals and entities obstructing the process of peace and national reconciliation, and in particular who are jeopardising the proper outcome of the electoral process. EU targeted measures are under constant review and EU member states continue to consider, where evidence is forthcoming, whether either individuals or entities meet the listing criteria as stated above and put in place the necessary measures as applicable.