WEDNESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2001
Donald Anderson, in the Chair
BARONESS AMOS, A Member of the House of Lords, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and MR ANDREW POCOCK, Head of African Department (Southern), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.
(Baroness Amos) Thank you. It is my first appearance.
(Baroness Amos) Chairman, thank you. Can I say, first of all, that I went with the Secretary of State to Abuja and I went with members of the Commonwealth Group to Harare and I think that is an important distinction that the Committee will want to know. As the Secretary of State said to the Committee last week, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe. I think the very important thing that has happened is that the attempts which have been made by the Government of Zimbabwe to say that what is happening in Zimbabwe and the concerns which are being expressed by the British Government - which are purely matters between the Government of Zimbabwe and Britain - have changed dramatically. We have seen the concerns being expressed by the Commonwealth, not only through the Abuja process under the direction of President Obasanjo, but the concerns, as you rightly expressed, of SADC, also of the European Union and also of the United States and other international partners. In terms of the pressure which I think will have most impact on the Government of Zimbabwe, I think the concerns which have been expressed by the Presidents of South Africa, of Malawi and Mozambique and other SADC partners are extremely important in this process because it remains our view that the pressure which is being put by SADC and the concerns which are being expressed by Zimbabwe's neighbours is the thing which the Government of Zimbabwe will listen to most but that other international pressure coming behind that, in the sense of the Commonwealth process, the European Union process and other international pressure also has an important role to play.
(Baroness Amos) I am not sure if the Committee saw the press today but there are reports in the press today which have been confirmed by our own staff in Harare that President Mugabe has indicated that the elections will be held in March, although a date has not been agreed. He has stated, also, that election observers will be welcome although it has been made clear from those reports in the press that EU observers will not necessarily be welcome, although observers from individual European countries will be welcome. Our concern in relation to the elections has always been to say, with our international partners, that if the Government of Zimbabwe has nothing to hide then a commitment to having election observers and ensuring that those election observers are able to be in the country in sufficient time so that they are able to see that not only the election itself on the day but the processes leading up to the election are not marred by violence and intimidation is extremely important. I think the fact that international election observers will be allowed into Zimbabwe is important but I think that the timing of that remains a concern.
Chairman: We will be coming back to the elections later but Mr Olner has a series of questions.
(Baroness Amos) As the Committee knows, CMAG has the ability to make recommendations to the Heads of State of the Commonwealth. There has been increasing concern within the Commonwealth about what is happening in Zimbabwe. CMAG has discussed Zimbabwe on a number of occasions and indeed made a recommendation that a team from CMAG should itself visit Zimbabwe. This was not agreed by the Government of Zimbabwe and it was as a result of that the broader Commonwealth process emerged which was facilitated by President Obasanjo. So there has been ongoing concern within CMAG and I think what we would like to see happen is that there is a discussion of Zimbabwe at CMAG and out of that discussion will come a recommendation to Heads of State of the Commonwealth about the way in which CMAG has seen the process in Zimbabwe and perhaps some recommendations with respect to the elections in particular.
(Baroness Amos) As Members of the Committee know matters of expulsion from the Commonwealth are very narrowly defined so that Commonwealth Heads of Government would themselves have to consider this but the terms of the Harare Declaration make it clear that that this can only be considered in cases where a legitimate democratic government has been overthrown. This has been a cause of some concern in Commonwealth countries and there has been a high level group which has been looking at the role of the Commonwealth in general and in particular as to whether or not the remit of CMAG, for example, should be broadened and whether the grounds on which Heads of the Commonwealth would make a decision about possible expulsion of another Commonwealth country would be considered. That report will be considered at the March meeting.
(Baroness Amos) It is extremely serious for all Commonwealth countries but I think it is important, also, for the Committee to remember that the Commonwealth operates by consensus. Commonwealth members are very keen to ensure that they do not work outside their terms of reference, as it were, which is why the High Level Group's review is such an important part of this process.
(Baroness Amos) I think the first thing to say is that those principles remain the corner stone of our policy towards Zimbabwe. I think the other thing I would want to make absolutely clear to the Committee, which I said in my very first answer, is that it is important that we are working in concert with our international partners because there has been such an attempt by the Government of Zimbabwe to make this into a bilateral issue between the Government of Zimbabwe and ourselves. In terms of the influence that we have with the Government of Zimbabwe, I think that we have to appreciate that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state, that politically the Government of Zimbabwe has used what it sees as its bilateral difficulties with the United Kingdom as a corner stone of its own domestic internal politics so that Britain is often held up as the country which is working to subvert the way that other countries and international partners see the Government of Zimbabwe. The influence that we have, I think, comes through the work that we do with our SADC partners, with our Commonwealth partners, with our European Union partners. We do have, I think, a minimal degree of influence with the Government of Zimbabwe itself in that they would wish us to support through resource flows the land reform programme in Zimbabwe. What we have said absolutely clearly, and which is part of the Abuja Agreement, is that if the Government of Zimbabwe meets the commitments that it has made with respect to the restoration of the rule of law, freedom of expression and adhering to the Harare principles then we, as the UK Government, following a UNDP visit to actually look at the technical aspects of land reform, would consider supporting that land reform process. We have made it absolutely clear that we would only do that if the Government of Zimbabwe met its commitments. So I think I am saying to the Committee that our bilateral influence depends on the Govenrment of Zimbabwe wanting us to support that land reform process but that the influence is minimal in that respect and that our influence is greater when we are working in concert with our international partners.
(Baroness Amos) Can I say, first of all, that I hope the Committee did not take my remarks to mean that we cannot engage directly. The question I was asked was specifically about the degree of influence that we have with the Government of Zimbabwe. We really continue to engage directly with the Government of Zimbabwe. The Secretary of State, for example, most recently, through our High Commissioner in Harare, made a very strong démarche with respect to the treatment of journalists in Zimbabwe, for example, so we continue to engage on an almost daily basis with the Government of Zimbabwe through our High Commissioner and also through the work that we do here in London which is different, I think, from the specific point about the degree of influence that we then have as a result of those bilateral relationships. I really do not want the Committee to go away with the idea that we do not continue with our bilateral relations, we do, and we have given some very hard messages to the Government of Zimbabwe with respect to this. I think the other side of it, which is to what extent do the Government of Zimbabwe then listen and what influence do we have, is a slightly different point. Coming back to the more specific question about what degree of influence do we then have in relation to these five principles ----
(Baroness Amos) ---- with the international community, clearly the countries in the SADC region are increasingly concerned about the economic instability in Zimbabwe and the impact of that economic instability on their own countries. We have seen what has happened to the South African rand which today is standing at something like 15.8 rands to the pound. So quite a fall in the value of the rand, some of which is attributable to the situation in Zimbabwe. So, working with our SADC partners we are working to try and ensure that the kind of prosperity and stability that we want to see economically in Zimbabwe comes to fruition. We are working with our Commonwealth partners on issues like the rule of law, ending political violence and these are areas which are also of concern to our SADC partners. On land reform, we have seen the UNDP mission, who have recently completed that mission, they are now back in New York, and we are expecting their report shortly. Of course, we are working with all the stakeholders in Zimbabwe, NGOs, human rights' activists, members of the opposition who really want to ensure that the upcoming elections are free and fair, free of harassment and free of violence.
Sir John Stanley
(Baroness Amos) First of all, can I say that the MDC are going to court today to challenge some of the provisions which have been made in that new electoral law. We are, of course, waiting to see the outcome of that challenge. What we, as a Government, are doing and will be doing with our European Union partners, with our Commonwealth partners and with the United States is clarifying exactly what needs to happen for us as an international community to be able to judge that the elections are free and fair. I think it is extremely important that in the run up to the elections we have been saying to the Government of Zimbabwe that it is very important that observers are there in advance to meet the concerns which have been expressed internationally about violence and intimidation, if this does not happen and if international observers are only allowed in to Zimbabwe at the very last minute then I think it is important that we have very clear standards against which we can judge, as an international community, whether we have considered those elections to be free and fair. We have a very good model to work from which is the SADC model which was agreed by the SADC parliamentarians which make it absolutely clear the basis on which they consider that elections should be run in the Southern African region. I think it is very important that those kinds of very good standards are coming from within the Southern African region itself.
(Baroness Amos) The Committee will know that we have and will continue to deplore the violence and intimidation which we have seen in Zimbabwe. I think it is very important Bulawayo in particular has been mentioned, although there has been violence and intimidation in other areas as well. We were particularly concerned in the Bulawayo context that the violence was not just limited to one political party. We made it absolutely clear that we deplore all political violence regardless of party. What we have to be absolutely clear about is the basis on which we would judge elections in Zimbabwe to have been free and fair. It is very important that we do that with our Commonwealth partners, with SADC, with the European Union, with the United States and other countries which have expressed deep concern about this. I would be very happy to come back to the Committee at the point at which we have looked at all of those guidelines and we have made some decisions with our partners following, for example, the CMAG meeting next week, following the meeting which is happening today between Presidents Muluzi and Chissano where they are going to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe, following the meeting which the SADC security organisation is having in Rwanda next week. It is very important that all of those processes come together and as an international community we have an agreed basis on which to judge the outcome of those elections and I will be very happy to come back to the Committee once we have done that.
Sir John Stanley
(Baroness Amos) I think that the international community will want to set some standards against which it will make that judgment but would have to think very carefully about making those judgments even before an election had taken place.
(Baroness Amos) I think that I must put a caveat to the Committee which is that my understanding is partly as a result of what is reported in the newspapers and partly as a result of what we are hearing from our own staff on the ground in Zimbabwe but what is coming out of Zimbabwe continues to be a little unclear. My understanding is that the Government of Zimbabwe have done two things. They have said that the election monitors will be Zimbabwean public servants, that election observers can include international observers from the Commonwealth, from SADC and other African countries and also from Europe but not from the European Union. That is my understanding today as a result of the reports which have been coming out as a result of the statement made by President Mugabe. We are still waiting for confirmation of that from our High Commission in Harare.
(Baroness Amos) I will happily do that.
(Baroness Amos) Our interest is in ensuring that the people of Zimbabwe are able to exercise their democratic right in a way which allows them to express that right in a situation where they are free from harassment and intimidation. If the Government of Zimbabwe say to the British Government "We do not want any British citizens to be part of an international election observer team", I think we would go back to look at the core part of our policy which is to work to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe are able to exercise their democratic right in a way that is free and fair and we would use that as the test.
(Baroness Amos) There is one press report that I have seen which states that but the information that I have coming out from the High Commission in Harare is not as clear as that, which is why I am unable to give the Committee a definitive answer in relation to that.
(Baroness Amos) It would be consistent with the attacks on Britain which have been a consistent part of the Government of Zimbabwe's attitude to the British Government.
(Baroness Amos) Can you clarify when you say assistance what form of assistance you are talking about?
(Baroness Amos) Well, the British Government have consistently made it clear to the Government of Zimbabwe, and we have not been popular for doing this, that we think there should be an independent media, that there should be an independent judiciary because these are all institutions which are an important part of a transparent democracy. Our European Union partners have done the same. Through the Abuja discussions and the discussions that the Commonwealth team had in the follow up visit to Harare this was made clear also. I think this was something that we have made clear in our bilateral relations with the Government of Zimbabwe as well as making clear through our involvement in other international processes.
(Baroness Amos) I think that when the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Committee last week he said that he thought it was important that we did not speculate about the possibilities of the end of the Article 96 process. That process has given 75 days for dialogue between the European Union and the Government of Zimbabwe. There is a meeting scheduled for I think the 19th December between the European Union and the Government of Zimbabwe as the first part of that dialogue process. I think it is very, very important that we actually await the outcome of that meeting. Dialogue failed under Article 8 which was why we moved to Article 96. What Article 96 allows is for that 75 day period and at the end of that period, depending on the outcome of the dialogue process, for the European Union then to consider and - I quote - "appropriate measures". So at the December meeting I think it is very, very important that we see what the outcome of that meeting is between the EU and the Government of Zimbabwe.
(Baroness Amos) First of all, we have made it clear that we would not in any way consider economic sanctions against Zimbabwe because of the dire impact this would have on the people of Zimbabwe.
(Baroness Amos) I am now going to come to your point about smart sanctions or targeted sanctions. Individual members of SADC have expressed a concern about the possibility of sanctions, be they economic or smart or targeted sanctions. Since the United States Act went through, towards the end of last week, those concerns have been expressed even more strongly. We would have to work extremely hard with our SADC partners if targeted or smart sanctions were considered to be an appropriate part of the agenda.
(Baroness Amos) I would really like the Committee to understand the distinction that I am making. We are now in the process of Article 96 dialogue which is a process between the European Union and the Government of Zimbabwe. It would be inappropriate in the meeting on the 19th of Zimbabwe, which is the first meeting between the European Union and the Government of Zimbabwe, for the European Union side to be saying to the Government of Zimbabwe "We are going to be moving to smart or targeted sanctions" because that meeting is the first part of the dialogue process which is due to be completed towards the end of January. Independently of that, and dependent on the outcome of that dialogue process, the European Union will consider what appropriate measures it should take as a result of what happens through that dialogue process. That is why I am making the distinction between the initial meeting as part of that dialogue process between the Government of Zimbabwe and the European Union and the action that the European Union might choose to take as a result of the outcome of that dialogue press. Might I just answer, Chairman, your question about us being passive observers?
(Baroness Amos) We are not passive observers in this process. What happened when the European Union made the decision to move to Article 96 was that concerns were being expressed by a number of European Union countries about the situation in Zimbabwe reflecting the concerns which we have as the British Government. This is why the thread that I think has been an important part of what I have been saying throughout this morning is that this is not just the British concern, it is international concern about the situation in Zimbabwe, not just in the European Union but in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. What the Government of Zimbabwe has consistently tried to do and has said publicly is that the British Government are the ones who are going around in international fora and making the European Union or the Commonwealth or indeed SADC do these things which is a great disservice to the independence of those countries and the independence of those institutions.
(Baroness Amos) What we are in favour of is looking critically at the situation at every point and as a result of the evidence we have of what is happening on the ground in Zimbabwe to then make decisions within the European context or with our Commonwealth partners. So we have not ruled out any part of the strategy, including the possibility of looking at targeted sanctions, but I am not able to say to the Committee today that the British Government have made a decision that this is what we should do. There are an array of possibilities in terms of where the international community go next. The United States, through passing their legislation, have made it possible for them as an administration to move to the point of targeted sanctions but with a piece of legislation that is very much focused on incentives for the Government of Zimbabwe if they take the right decisions. We will, of course, discuss these matters with our European Union partners and with our Commonwealth partners because what is important to us is that the international support which exists in relation to the situation in Zimbabwe in terms of trying to ensure that the Government of Zimbabwe takes its responsibilities very seriously, that international support and consensus is maintained.
(Baroness Amos) I think that the one key thing that will have an impact on the Government of Zimbabwe is the reaction of its newest neighbours to what is happening in Zimbabwe. On 11 and 12 September SADC Heads of State visited Zimbabwe and saw a number of key stakeholders and they expressed at that point deep concern about the situation in Zimbabwe and, in addition, pressed the Government of Zimbabwe to enter into dialogue not only with the opposition but with other stakeholders because there was a strong feeling from SADC leaders that things would not improve in Zimbabwe if there were not greater dialogue between key stakeholders, like the Commercial Farmers' Union, like members of the opposition, like the Government of Zimbabwe. What we now have is a follow-up mission from SADC foreign ministers and others which finished yesterday and those members of SADC who visited Zimbabwe are now going to give a report to President Chissano and President Muluzi about what they saw and what they found. As a result of that I think that SADC will then make some decisions about their own next steps. I know that some of the things that they have themselves been looking at include the election process.
(Baroness Amos) I think that they have made an impression on the Government of Zimbabwe. We know that there are some differences in the government about the steps that should be taken next, but I think the difficulty for us is that the public statements which are made by the Government of Zimbabwe, by President Mugabe, by the Information Minister, for example, and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs continue to be extremely robust. Members of the Committee will know when President Mbeki made some very strong statements about what is happening in Zimbabwe initially there was a very negative response from the Government of Zimbabwe and an implication that President Mbeki was somehow speaking as a result of pressure from the British Government. I think that these statements are having an impact but it is very hard for us to judge the extent of that impact because the public statements continue to be so robust. What I would like to say to the Committee is that I think the fact that SADC leaders have actually spoken out, and spoken out publicly, about their concerns is a very, very important step because the Committee will know that historically when things are considered either within the context of the OAU or within any of the regional organisations within Africa, what has tended to happen is that very strong things have been said in private but not in public. So the fact that there have been public statements from SADC leaders about their concerns about what is happening in Zimbabwe is a very, very important step indeed.
(Baroness Amos) It does depend on what you mean by "economic assistance". We have development programmes with a number of neighbouring countries to Zimbabwe. We have a big development programme with South Africa, some of which includes work on public service reform, for example, and on enterprise development.
(Baroness Amos) Our development programmes are constantly being reviewed. When we agree a programme it is done on the basis of an agreed country strategy paper which is developed following consultations not only with government but also with key stakeholders where we do an analysis of the economic and political situation in country, we come to an agreement about the areas that we would want to work in and support. We then devise programmes on the basis of that and each of those programmes has a built in way of reviewing those programmes on an ongoing basis. Of course, our staff in countries like Malawi, South Africa and Mozambique, where we continue to have development programmes with those countries, will be talking to those governments on an ongoing basis. The other thing I would want to say to the Committee is this is also having an impact on our trading with the region. Only this morning I was having a meeting with representatives of a number of British businesses with interests in Southern Africa who were themselves expressing concern about the impact of the situation in Zimbabwe on the economies of neighbouring countries.
(Baroness Amos) Can I first of all clarify the figures. We have given over £500 million in financial aid. We have given 44 million for land. In fact, it was 47 million but three million of that 47 million was returned to us, it was not actually used. What we have said consistently since Lancaster House is that there is an urgent need for land reform in Zimbabwe. We want a land reform programme that is transparent, fair and equitable. After the money was returned to us and after there was a kind of hiatus in the land reform process, there was a Land Reform Conference in 1998 which reached agreement on the principles for land reform in Zimbabwe. We signed up to the outcome of that conference but the following year the Government instituted the fast track programme, despite having agreed at the 1998 Conference to the principles of transparency and so on. So we have consistently said that we want to see a land reform programme, and we would support a land reform programme, which adhered to the principles which were agreed in 1998 and which were reaffirmed by the UNDP in a letter to the Government of Zimbabwe.
(Baroness Amos) Can I say that Abuja had two parts to it. It had the commitments which were made by the Government of Zimbabwe and there were also commitments which were made by the British Government with respect to land reform. We made two commitments. One, that if the Government of Zimbabwe met its commitments under the Abuja Agreement with respect to land reform, which included a commitment to a just, fair and sustainable land reform process as agreed by UNDP, and if the rule of law was restored and if there was a commitment to human rights, democratic principles of free press and so on, we would consider not only supporting that land reform process but we would also work to get other donors to give money to support that land reform programme. So our support for land reform in Zimbabwe has been consistent and it remains the same, that we are prepared to support a land reform process but it has to be done under those key principles.
(Baroness Amos) Can I just say one other thing in relation to that, which is that UNDP have just been in Zimbabwe and they have been doing some very detailed work looking at the whole land reform programme. That has been a very, very important part of the agreement that was made at Abuja, which was that UNDP would go in, they would have the capacity to look at exactly what is happening on the ground and they would then make some recommendations on the basis of that visit. We are waiting for the outcome of that. We have been extremely concerned by the fact that the Government of Zimbabwe have continued with a fast track process, that they have changed the law at points where, in terms of their own land reform process, when it has been judged by the courts to be illegal they have then sought to change the law to make it legal. What we have said is that we will not give money to a land reform programme that we are not absolutely clear and convinced of, that is done on the basis that it is transparent, sustainable and fair, and that remains our position.
Sir John Stanley
(Baroness Amos) The Information Bill will have its Second Reading in the Government of Zimbabwe's Parliament on 18 December. We have said categorically that we find the use of the word "terrorist" in applying it to journalists, who have been extremely brave in working to ensure that the situation in Zimbabwe is brought to the attention of the international community, absolutely absurd. We have made strong representations and protests to the Government of Zimbabwe about this and we will continue to do all we can to support the continued existence of a strong independent media in Zimbabwe. We have seen the importance of a strong independent media in other countries in Africa in terms of ensuring that there is a flourishing democracy, the capacity for people to express their views, and we continue to think that this is extremely important and we will continue to make extremely strong representations to the Government of Zimbabwe on this.
(Baroness Amos) Members of the Committee will be aware that there is an extremely large British community in Zimbabwe and our High Commission has worked very hard to ensure that members of that community are registered with our High Commission. In addition to that, our High Commissioner and other staff keep in regular contact, not just with the British community but with journalists and others who are facing intimidation. If we were approached by those journalists or by the families of those journalists expressing concern about their particular safety and security we would, of course, look at that and we would then think about what kind of support or response we could give to any particular requests which were made.
(Baroness Amos) When there are discussions of smart or targeted sanctions, and there have been many discussions in the press and, indeed, parliamentary questions which have been asked about this, the areas which have been put to the Government tend to be travel bans and asset freezes. These are the two areas which are consistently raised with the Government when there is discussion of smart and/or targeted sanctions.
(Baroness Amos) There is also our broader development agenda. We have, as the Chairman said, over the years given £500 million in development assistance to Zimbabwe. This has now been scaled right back and our development assistance is now limited to the area of work in HIV AIDS and some in terms of rural development. This is an area where if we were confident that the Government of Zimbabwe were meeting its commitments with respect to human rights, the rule of law and so on, that we would look at. Of course, there is EU assistance through the Cotonou Agreement and the United States, through their Zimbabwe Democracy Act, have also talked about incentives, including allocating $20 million for land reform. There are a number of areas in which the international community could give support to the Government of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe in terms of its medium and long-term development but, of course, we would have to be convinced that the Government of Zimbabwe themselves were putting the concerns of their citizens first, were themselves committed to working within an atmosphere where governance, human rights and commitment to the rule of law were the important principles under which they were operating.
(Baroness Amos) I would like to say two things. One, just to finish off on your incentives point, there is of course also the role of the international financial institutions in terms of them putting resources into Zimbabwe. On your second point, I think it is important that we are careful when we talk about this. The reason I say that is what we want to see, and what I think is very important, is that people have the freedom to exercise their democratic right. There may well be instances where people do have that free choice and they continue to vote for the same person over a number of years, and we had a recent example of that in our own country. I think the very, very important thing is that we recognise and realise that people having the freedom to exercise that democratic right is the core of what we are talking about. Having said that, there are some good examples of presidents in the region now who are going. President Chissano has said that he will stand down and President Chiluba of Zambia has done that. Any kind of exit strategy for a leader, we have to recognise that is up to the people themselves. This is not about the British Government interfering in the internal politics of another country, we must make that absolutely clear.
Chairman: Minister, I think of President, Bokassa, President Duvalier and President Amin, all of whom looked after themselves and perhaps do not need our sympathy. Can I say to you that I anticipate the Committee will continue to be exercised about the crisis in Zimbabwe. We welcome your offer to come back to the Committee and thank you very much indeed for sharing your thoughts with us today.