Category: Africa

Ivory Coast

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have given to victims of the conflict in the Ivory Coast.

Baroness Verma: The Department for International Development’s (DfID’s) humanitarian partners including UN agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) are responding to the needs of an estimated 20,000 internally placed people in Ivory Coast and 30,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia. DfID is closely monitoring the situation in Ivory Coast to check that the needs of affected people are being met as effectively and efficiently as possible through these agencies.

Ivory Coast

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of claims for asylum from countries which share a border with the Ivory Coast.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The table attached shows the number of asylum applications received in the UK, excluding dependants, for nationals of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Mali between 2005 and Quarter 3, 2010.

Information on asylum applications is published monthly, quarterly and annually in the Control of Immigration bulletins and monthly asylum applications tables available from the Home Office’s Research, Development and Statistics website at: www.homeoffice. gov.uk/rds/immigration-asylum-stats.html.

Asylum applications (1) received in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, 2005 to Quarter 3 2010, nationals of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Mali

Country of nationality

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (P)

Q1 to Q3 2010 (P)

Burkina Faso

10

*

5

5

*

*

Ghana

230

130

120

140

140

130

Guinea

165

170

120

80

115

70

Liberia

175

50

40

20

15

15

Mali

10

5

5

5

10

5

Total

590

355

290

245

280

220

(1) Figures rounded to the nearest 5 (- = 0. * = 1 or 2) and may not sum to the totals shown because of independent rounding.

(P) Provisional figures.

Africa: Post-Conflict Stabilisation

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 those 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.

Zimbabwe – Debate

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for securing this debate. Africa is a continent close to my heart. I was born in Kenya and spent my childhood in Uganda. His Excellency the Ambassador of Zimbabwe is in the Chamber, and I welcome him to your Lordships’ House.

About three weeks ago, I was asked by my Chief Whip to attend the sixth Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the Rule of Law, which was held in Uganda. I chaired and spoke in the session where the main speaker was the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. We discussed the situation in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda.

I am a businessman who cares greatly about humanitarian issues. As a nation, Zimbabwe has fallen short of expectations since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. Zimbabwe was once a prosperous state. However, civil unrest, which still hinders the nation’s progress, has largely contributed to its unfortunate descent. Democracy and the rule of law have been overlooked in favour of tyranny. The penal system does not always function fairly and there have been many incidences where justice has been lacking. Farms belonging to white citizens have been seized and are being seized as I speak. This brings back memories of the situation when General Amin seized the assets of us, the Asians, in the early 1970s, and there was mayhem in the country until he was removed.

In Zimbabwe, prisons are overcrowded, prisoners are severely undernourished and the lack of adequate sanitation contributes to the spread of disease among inmates. The recent arrest and alleged torture of gay rights activists is wholly unacceptable. The Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has described same-gender couples as “lower than dogs and pigs”. Last December, I raised this issue in your Lordships’ House when I referred to a Private Member’s Bill in Uganda that seeks to criminalise same-gender couples. There has also been a well documented case of a couple in Malawi who were sanctioned for that reason. The rampant homophobia in certain African nations is a huge concern for us. Will the Minister tell the House what steps the Government are taking to address this issue in African countries that are members of the Commonwealth?

Although there are many areas where Zimbabwe needs to make swift improvements, it is important to recognise the recent progress made by that nation. The acquittal of Roy Bennett, the treasurer-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, is a testament to developments in the Zimbabwean judicial system. The decision to remove the ban on independent newspapers is a momentous step forward for Zimbabwe: the media have a right to exist without fear of intimidation. This development is all the more significant, as it was made by the new media licensing authority formed by the coalition Government. Following a High Court ruling, the South African Government has been asked to release a report on the disputed 2002 Zimbabwe elections. I welcome this decision, as there were widespread allegations of intimidation and irregularities. It is in the best interests of both nations to address the discrepancies in the statement made by the international observers and the then South African Government.

Zimbabwe‘s mineral wealth has the potential to make a significant contribution to the nation’s economic recovery. However, there have been many deaths and human rights abuses at Marange diamond field in particular and at others in the east of the country. What steps will Her Majesty’s Government take to investigate the widespread allegations that profits from the diamond trade are fuelling hostilities in Zimbabwe? In Sierra Leone, the international community witnessed the use of precious minerals in the pursuit of power to devastating effect.

We have a moral duty to ensure that Zimbabwe does not follow this path and be certified by the Kimberley Process to sell diamonds. It has seen a marked recovery in manufacturing, mining, agriculture and tourism. Its economic growth suggests that it is meeting the requirement of the Southern African Development Community to work towards achieving economic liberation, as stated in the Lusaka declaration. It achieved a gross domestic product of 5.9 per cent in 2009, which strongly suggests that the economy is started to show signs of long-term recovery. I welcome the African Union’s efforts to enforce good governance with proposals to sanction heads of state who engage in unconstitutional behaviour. Greater interaction among African nations could contribute to stability and economic growth on the continent.

The result of studies published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union reveals that trade among African nations accounts for just a maximum of 12 per cent. The African Union has a greater role to play in fostering better regional integration. South Africa, as the largest investor on the continent, can play a leading role in ensuring that this becomes a reality.

The Commonwealth, too, can play a prominent role to encourage trade among the member states. I would like plans to be put in place to ensure that this becomes a reality and that active trade is generated between the various countries. It is estimated that every day close to 300 Zimbabwean migrants cross the Limpopo River into South Africa seeking asylum, and there are close to 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa as a result of the dire social and political situation in Zimbabwe. The high number of Zimbabwean migrants has exerted great pressure on South Africa, which in turn has created social problems that have resulted in violence and death. Constructive dialogue is needed between the Governments of South Africa and Zimbabwe to address this mass migration.

The terms of the global political agreement include requirements that Zimbabwe must produce a new constitution and has a duty to hold democratic elections by next year. It can be argued that this latter requirement can be met only if international observers are allowed to carry out their duties in the absence of bribery or coercion. Although I would like Zimbabwe to gain readmission to the Commonwealth, this should be granted only on the proviso that the ruling coalition can meet the terms of the global political agreement.

Commonwealth countries can be more actively involved in conflict resolution in member states. We all appreciate that the Commonwealth is a unique organisation that values equality, and that the spirit of commandership can be utilised to settle disputes. At present, the Zimbabwean healthcare system is underresourced and underequipped. HIV and AIDS are endemic. Zimbabwe has become one of the most affected countries in the world. Commentators have attributed this to a number of reasons, including a lack of resources and community awareness. The Zimbabwean Government have not shown adequate leadership in addressing prevention and care in tackling the HIV epidemic. What plans do Her Majesty’s Government have to assist Zimbabwe to combat this deadly affliction? The Zimbabwean people have suffered violence and degradation for far too long. It is the duty of regional partners and the international community to ensure that these abuses and impunity for the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes are brought to an end.

The battle against apartheid in South Africa and the support of neighbouring states given to those involved in the internal struggle for justice was paramount to achieving freedom against oppression. The people of Zimbabwe deserve the same consideration in their quest to lead their lives free from intimidation and oppression. The social and political changes which face this country can be resolved with combined efforts from a democratic Zimbabwean Government and other countries, most notably with help from South Africa. We have historic ties with Zimbabwe and we can play a vital role in achieving the objectives.

Africa: Governance & Law

 

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.