Lord Avebury: My Lords, we owe a tremendous debt to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who has been indefatigable in raising the question of Darfur since before he went to the territory in 2004. He has repeatedly raised the matter in this House and never more graphically or passionately than he did this evening in a speech that was somewhat critical of the United Nations. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will give us a frank analysis of why it is taking so long to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which was passed five months ago to strengthen UNMIS. In spite of the grave deterioration of the security and humanitarian positions in Darfur, the Security Council has yet to take firm action to shore up the AU force, to provide some protection for civilians facing attacks by Sudanese warplanes and the Janjaweed, or to bring greater pressure to bear on Khartoum than it has done so far to facilitate the deployment of the hybrid force, to which Khartoum agreed last August.
Last week, the Leader of the House said that the new UN Special Representative for Darfur, Mr Jan Eliasson, was visiting the region and once his report was received, that would be the opportunity for the Security Council to look at the issue again. In fact, Mr Eliasson left Khartoum on 15 January, and there is still no sign of action by the Security Council or of any report to the Security Council by the Secretary-General based on Mr Eliasson’s advice. Meanwhile, Sudanese bombers are killing villagers, displaced people are being attacked in the camps and, increasingly, aid workers and UN civilians are being physically assaulted and arrested by Khartoum’s troops. The Minister, who has just returned from the African Union summit—as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, pointed out—will, no doubt, be able to tell us something about the timing of the next moves and what we can expect from the Security Council.
The Secretary-General has expressed deep concern about the renewed use of bombers and has condemned the attacks on UN personnel and NGO and AU staff. It is worth reminding ourselves that over the past six months, 30 NGO and UN compounds have been attacked by armed groups,12 aid workers have been killed, five are missing, and hundreds of staff have had to be relocated for their own protection. However, their plight is as nothing compared with the decimation of the population. According to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been
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displaced. In addition, there are 90,000 displaced people in eastern Chad and 150,000 in the Central African Republic. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked what the United Nations is doing about those situations. I am aware that the Security Council and the AU have been looking at the inter-relationship between those conflicts because there was a presidential statement on 16 January about the continuing instability along the borders between the three states that referred to the preliminary recommendations on the deployment of a multi-dimensional United Nations presence in Chad and the Central African Republic and called for a report by the middle of February on the size, structure and mandate of such a presence. Is that work being aligned, as far as possible, with the planning for the hybrid force in Darfur and would it be sensible to look at common logistics for the three operations?
Last August, following al-Bashir’s refusal to accept a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, the Security Council decided to strengthen the existing AU force by adding to it 17,300 military, 3,300 police and16 formed police units. No timetable was laid down for the deployment of these reinforcements, but three months went by and the only sign of movement was an agreement to set up a tripartite mechanism between the UN, the AU and Sudan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1706 but in practice allowing Sudan a veto on the injection of any further international peacekeeping forces into Darfur. President al-Bashir wrote to the UN Secretary-General on 23 December reiterating his agreement to the first two stages of the UN proposal, but even the first stage of the proposal, the light support package, has yet to be completed because of Sudanese obstruction. It is expected that by tomorrow only47 UN military, 30 police and 10 civilians will have arrived, with another 20 scheduled to arrive by the end of January, which is about half the total numbers projected in the first phase of the operation.
On 24 January, the UN Secretary-General wrote to President al-Bashir setting out the proposals for phase 2, which had been previously agreed by the UN and AU. At every stage, permission has to be sought from Khartoum. Even then, the arrangements for the transit of people and goods have to be accepted by Khartoum one at a time. At the tripartite meeting on 24 January, the discussion focused entirely on the implementation of the LSP, and when the Secretary-General met President al-Bashir last Sunday, he received no answer concerning the phase 2 proposals. The next chance to discuss that will not be until7 February, and it would be useful to have the Minister's assessment of the way forward. Are we going to have this perpetual postponement for weeks at a time of the arrangements for each of these phases?
If the Sudanese continue to insist that the troops for the hybrid force must only be Africans, I suggest that the African states which have provided contingents to UNMIL, UNOCI and MONUC might be able to help, as those operations prepare to wind down; though in the near future, it will be very hard to expand the Darfur operation while at the same time getting a new peacekeeping operation
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under way in Somalia. President al-Bashir hasinsisted also, in his letter to the Secretary-General of 23 December, that the finalisation of the plans for the hybrid operation have still to be negotiated, including the size of the force. One obstacle has been cleared out of the way, as your Lordships have already heard in the debate, in that President al-Bashir will not become president of the AU for the next year; but it looks as though he is playing for time until the AMIS mandate runs out at the end of June.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that the United Nations must take a robust line against the killers and the bullies who are holding a whole people to ransom. A few Apache ground attack helicopters would do wonders against the Janjaweed. If only a non-African state could provide such munitions, they could nevertheless be operated under the AU/UN memorandum of understanding of 25 November 2006. Experience shows clearly that when the hybrid force goes in, it needs a mandate that allows far more active military protection of civilians.
Over the past three and a half years, as the crisis has escalated, it has been considered necessary to use kid gloves with the Sudanese Government over Darfur—first, to get their co-operation on signing the CPA, and, latterly, on implementing it. The time has come when the UN cannot allow Khartoum to block effective means of stopping mass murder and ethnic cleansing.