Last week in Parliament
Frank Roy (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of peacekeepers deployed to South Sudan by China.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): We welcome the Chinese contribution to UNMISS. The UN Mission in South Sudan has a contingent of 351 Chinese peacekeepers. 338 of them are based in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal State where 275 are engineers and 63 support a medical facility. The remaining 13 are military liaison and staff officers in the United Nations Mission in Southern Sudan (UNMISS) headquarters in Juba.
William Bain (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the upcoming expiry of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan’s mandate in that country; and what representations he has made regarding its renewal.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): The Secretary-General issued his latest report on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to the Security Council on 20 June. The report sets out the difficulties South Sudan continues to face two years after independence; the challenging security and financial environment in which the mission has to operate; and recommends that the mission’s mandate is extended for another year, from 15 July. We agree that the mandate should be extended. We are at present discussing the mandate renewal in the UN Security Council, where we will be arguing for the UNMISS to focus on the highest priority security and peacebuilding challenges, in particular the protection of civilians.
William Bain (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the future work programme of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): The African Union High-Level Implementation panel has played a positive role in facilitating agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on the majority of disputes between them. We continue to work closely with it and support its mediation efforts, including through the UN Security Council. The panel’s mandate is due to expire at the end of July 2013. We understand that the African Union Peace and Security Council will meet later this month to agree whether this should be extended, to oversee implementation of those agreements already reached, and pursue resolution of all outstanding issues.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Amnesty International, We had no time to bury him: War crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, we are deeply concerned about the suffering caused by the conflict in Blue Nile state. Accounts presented in Amnesty’s report underline our serious concern about the impact on civilians of the military tactics used. Our priority is a cessation of hostilities and full access to the area for life-saving humanitarian assistance. We continue to press both the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North—the SPLM-N—to enter into talks to achieve this.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench): My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in addition to this shocking report, new satellite imagery compiled by Amnesty International shows the sheer extent of the purging of the Nuba people from these areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as the scorched-earth policies being pursued by the Sudanese military—unabated, uncondemned and unobstructed by the West? Can the Minister tell us when this situation was last raised in the United Nations Security Council and whether we support the extension of the current arms embargo on Darfur to the rest of Sudan? Rather than locking out refugees from camps such as Yida, why are we still not collecting first-hand accounts from witnesses that detail the genocide and war crimes against humanity which are carried out on a day-by-day basis?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, the noble Lord asked about six questions, and I am not sure that I can answer all of them. The UN is extremely heavily engaged both in Sudan and in South Sudan, with three UN missions and a number of other UN operations. We and other Governments make entirely clear to the Government of Sudan our horror at what is taking place. However, as the noble Lord knows, access to the areas of conflict is extremely difficult for diplomats at present.
Lord Chidgey (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, more than 18 months ago, Matthew LeRiche found that civilians in the Blue Nile State were living in constant fear because of indiscriminate terror campaigns aimed at rendering the population unable to provide even the basics of daily life. Those perpetuating these crimes with impunity had the backing of President al-Bashir and six other ICC inditees. Does my noble friend agree that unless the ICC arrest warrants are implemented, there is little or no deterrence for the present crimes? Will the Government therefore press this case with the international community with absolute vigour to see a result?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): The question of what is the international community for these purposes is very delicate. Arresting an active head of state in his own capital is not the easiest thing to do without going to war. We are deeply concerned about the current situation, but I should stress that the fighting which broke out in South Kordofan and Blue Nile two years ago was in fact sparked by the SPLM-N and it is the Government of Sudan who have responded in a particularly brutal and indiscriminate fashion.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Labour): My Lords, in an appalling repetition of history, the Government of Sudan have spent the last two years deploying the same brutality that they used in Darfur to crush the rebellions that have been mentioned in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Does the Minister agree that the lessons of Darfur have not been learnt and that the United Nations Security Council is again failing to respond to the suffering of the Sudanese people, who are being bombarded by their own Governments?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, we have to be careful not to assume that the United Nations can do too much. The UN has been actively engaged in this extremely complex series of wars. Let us be quite clear: there are not just two sides on this, as the noble Baroness herself well knows. There is conflict within South Sudan; there is conflict within Sudan itself; there is conflict between groups which are claimed to be supported from across the border. It is now 10 years since the Darfur conflict started. Things are a little better than they were. I speak with some direct experience, having a close friend who has worked both in Darfur and in Abyei in the past three years. Sadly, there are limits to what the international community can achieve, but I assure the noble Baroness that the British Government and others are working extremely hard and providing as much humanitarian assistance as they can in this dreadful situation.
Baroness Cox (Crossbench): My Lords, is the Minister aware that I visited South Kordofan and Blue Nile states earlier this year and witnessed at first hand the constant aerial bombardment of civilians, which deliberately targeted schools and clinics, forcing civilians to hide in caves with deadly snakes and in banks carved out from rivers, and preventing them harvesting crops, with many dying of starvation? Does the noble Lord agree that this aerial bombardment of civilians is being undertaken only by the Government of Khartoum and that, therefore, there is no moral equivalence between the policies of Sudan and South Sudan? What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to call the Government of Khartoum to account for this aerial bombardment, which has been carried out so far with complete impunity?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, we are not the only external actor influencing Sudan. We have to work with the Chinese, who are major actors in terms of external influence on Sudan, the Arab League countries and others. As the noble Baroness will know, there is a tripartite body consisting of the United Nations, the African Union and the Arab League which is attempting to mediate on what is happening in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. I do not in any sense underestimate the horrors of what is happening there. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for sending me some material on what she witnessed in her recent visit. It is the most appalling—I emphasise—series of interconnected conflicts from Darfur all the way across to Jonglei and Blue Nile. Part of the problem is that Governments in both South Sudan and Sudan are weak and do not control the whole of their territories.
Lord Triesman (Labour): My Lords, the Minister made the point that President al-Bashir would be hard to capture in his own capital. That is of course entirely true, but he must be one of the most widely travelled Presidents of almost any country in Africa. He is at meetings and conferences throughout Africa, throughout the Middle East and occasionally completely out of the hemisphere. What influence are we trying to bring to bear on those other countries that he routinely visits and which do not necessarily have an adverse view of bringing a war criminal to justice?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, the noble Lord will be well aware from his own experience as a Minister how complex these issues are. It is not just a question of Sudan and the ICC. There are delicate questions of Kenya and the ICC at the moment as well. Her Majesty’s Government do of course make representations to other Governments whose territories ICC-designated people visit. Unfortunately, Britain does not command as much influence as we might like in a number of countries in the third world.
Lord Hussain (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, I have had the opportunity of visiting South Sudan and Sudan in the past year or so. Does the Minister agree that, according to the comprehensive peace agreement, the Government of Sudan were required to withdraw all their military forces from South Sudan, which they have done, and that the SPLA was required to withdraw its military people and armed forces from north Sudan but has so far failed to comply?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat): My Lords, the border drawn between Sudan and South Sudan has not been entirely settled. Questions remain about who belongs where, because a number of tribes are pastoral and move across the border. Many issues are not entirely clear or settled. That is very much a problem that we face after the prolonged civil war from which the two countries emerged.
Ian Lucas (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much her Department has spent on which training programmes in Sudan and South Sudan in each of the last six years.
Alan Duncan (Conservative): Training and capacity building is an important component of several UK development projects in Sudan and South Sudan. However we cannot provide a breakdown by year as we do not maintain a central record for all training activities across our programme. Examples include:
Training and capacity-building programmes
Sudan (including South Sudan before July 2011)
Total value (£ million)
Providing humanitarian workers with training in security, welfare and programme management
Sudan Safety and Access to Justice Programme
Including the training of police officers, the judiciary and Ministry of Justice Staff
Basic services Fund
Including direct training of 1,033 primary school teachers
Capacity-building trust fund programme
Including training 1,113 participants with accountancy skills
Stephen Doughty (Labour): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the total value of financial flows remitted by diaspora communities via UK-based money transfer services to (a) Somaliland, (b) Somalia, (c) Bangladesh, (d) Pakistan, (e) India, (f) Yemen and (g) Sudan in the latest period for which figures are available.
David Gauke (Conservative): The Treasury does not hold information on financial flows relating to diaspora communities in the UK. The Treasury relies on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for data on UK transfers. The ONS does not publish separate estimates for remittances as they are not considered to be of sufficient quality. Instead, estimates for remittances are combined with estimates for net transfers from UK charities, defined in the UK Balance of Payments (the Pink Book) as ‘other payments by households’.
The latest data from the World Bank’s Bilateral Remittance Matrix estimates remittances totalled US$23.16 billion from the UK in 2011. Remittances to India totalled US$3.90 billion, to Pakistan US$1.34 billion, to Bangladesh US$740 million, to Sudan US$31 million and to Yemen is US$23 million. No comparable data exists for Somalia and Somaliland. Work is under way by the Government and private sector stakeholders to assess the reliance on money remittance services by such communities.
Ian Lucas (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the work of UNAMID in Sudan.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): As acknowledged by the UN Secretary General in his report of 10 April to the UN Security Council, UNAMID could be more effective in carrying out its mandate to protect civilians. Last year’s United Nations review of uniformed personnel highlighted the changing nature of the conflict in Darfur and outlined a series of recommendations to ensure a more effective and efficient use of uniformed resources to better meet the mission’s mandate. A review of civilian personal is on-going, and initial recommendations are emerging. We are supportive of both reviews’ findings and are encouraging timely implementation of their recommendations.
The restrictions on movement imposed by the Government of Sudan remain a significant challenge to the mission’s ability to fulfil its mandate, an issue we raise regularly in Security Council consultations as well as with the Government of Sudan. The primary responsibility for protecting civilians remains with the Government of Sudan.
The UK will continue to support UNAMID, including through considering how we might assist troop-contributing countries to prepare better to carry out the mission’s protection-of-civilians mandate. We hope that the forthcoming renewal of UNAMID’s mandate will also see international partners recommit their support to the mission.
Officials have discussed the effectiveness of the mission on a number of occasions over the past few months with the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous, the Joint Special Representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas, and the incoming Force Commander.
Ian Lucas (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many of his Department’s officials have been based in UK Trade and Investment in Sudan and South Sudan in each of the last six years.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): From 2008-11, there was one locally-employed member of staff working for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) covering commercial relations for the whole of Sudan and based in the British embassy in Khartoum. Following the independence of South Sudan, UKTI retained the officer in Khartoum until March 2013. Over the period in question, there have been no Juba-based UKTI officials.
Ian Lucas (Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implementation of the Darfur Initiative in Sudan.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): We believe the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) can play an important role in resolving the conflict in Darfur, and re-committed our support for it at the Darfur Donors’ conference in Qatar in April this year. However, implementation is significantly behind schedule and Darfuris have yet to see tangible improvements to their lives. We continue to press the Government of Sudan and the Darfur Regional Authority to implement the DDPD without delay, so that Darfuris see the change they so desperately need.
Naomi Long (Alliance): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason his Department has reduced its Sudan unit by one member of staff; and what reports he has received about the recent upsurge of violence in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and continuing instability between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): The reduction in size of the joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Department for International Development Sudan and South Sudan Unit follows an internal rebalancing of resources across a number of priority issues in Africa.
We are greatly concerned at the continued conflict in Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. In Darfur we are urging all parties to allow full unhindered humanitarian access, and pressing the Government of Sudan to honour its commitments under the Doha peace agreement. In Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan we are pressing the Government of Sudan and Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North to negotiate a cessation of hostilities, full humanitarian access and a political process to address the causes of the conflict.
We are being clear to both Sudan and South Sudan that they must honour the agreements signed in Addis Ababa in September last year, and make progress on other issues not covered by those agreements, including Abyei. We continue to provide political, technical and financial support to the process mediated by the African Union.
Naomi Long (Alliance): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how his Department plans to assess the performance of the British Council’s project in Sudan to train journalists working for Sudanese media and the extent to which the project has contributed towards promoting free speech in that country.
Mark Simmonds (Conservative): The British embassy in Sudan is supporting a multi-year media capacity building project in Sudan, delivered through the British Council. The project aims to improve journalistic skills and standards, which we believe to be essential for the development of a more open and democratic society. It also works with print, radio and TV journalists and senior management from the full media spectrum. It will be assessed in line with standard project management procedures against its objective to contribute to a: “better skilled media which increases Sudanese media access and use of information that promotes peace and good governance”. While it has only been running a short time, its positive impact is already evident in increasingly frank questions and reporting.