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Helen Jackson: The hon. Gentleman is giving an interesting exposition of the potential failings of the ANC in government in South Africa, but does he recognise the great leadership that the ANC has shown in insisting that there is good representation of women at every level of power from the smallest local council to the Parliament, the Cabinet and Ministries? It is the only party in Africa that I know of that has set out to achieve the goal of 33 per cent. representation for women, and it has managed in 10 years to achieve something that we still struggle with in our democracy.
Alistair Burt: The hon. Lady is entitled to make her point, and it is a perfectly fair one. However, I am not making a point about individual components of the ANCfar from itand I am not denying the successes of the past 10 years or the years before that. If she will stay with me for a moment, I will get to my point.
I raise this issue because I believe profoundly that democracy constitutes a set of absolute propositions. There can be no allowance, simply because a regime has emerged from an authoritarian past, for breaches of democratic principle. Unless the same rigour is applied worldwide, abuses of democracy and, in consequence, human rights abuses inevitably follow. South Africa must become not only Africa's leader but, perhaps, the dominant force among developing nations throughout the world. The good will associated with its transition is almost unique in our political experience, and that is why our expectations are so huge and important. That is why we care so much about the nation's governance and its pluralism.
I commend the work of the Department for International Development and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in supporting the projects designed to encourage democratic growth in South Africa. Colleagues may be interested to learn that the foundation has supported 62 projects since 1998. All the major political parties have been involved, and colleagues may like to know that the Liberal Democrats ran a regional workshop for skills in local election campaigning. I suspect that most of us who have been involved in by-elections could probably tell people more about the Liberal Democrats than they themselves could do.
Labour colleagues ran a very good seminar entitled "Follow-up fund-raising training", so look out grand prix entrepreneurs and people in the media, because you are going to be tapped. With some trepidation, I tell the House that the Conservative party ran a seminar on message development urgency, about which we might also claim to know quite a bit.
To conclude with a serious point, it is important that those who want a pluralist society to continue in South Africa take the most careful note of current developments to forestall the sort of problem that we have seen on its northern border. I visited Harare in 1986, when there were worries that Zimbabwe might be moving towards greater intolerance and that the removal of guaranteed seats for whites in the Zimbabwean Parliament was the top of a slippery slope. There was also some anxiety about press freedom. However, a blind eye was effectively turnedthere were surely all sorts of good reasons for Robert Mugabe's regime taking a little longer to accept the pluralist traditions that were common in other parts of the world. The consequence of the blind eye is the hunger, terrorism and destruction of human rights for many people in Zimbabwe and the cruel loss of the dignity that, ironically, Robert Mugabe had symbolised when he freed his people.
We are a long way from that in South Africa, but the warnings of South Africans who fear the return of a chill wind of intolerance should be heard and respected. The international community was not a critical friend to Zimbabwe at a time when it most needed it. We must thereforethis point is addressed directly to the hon. Ladybe a critical friend to South Africa now because so much is expected of it. Its people, resources and aspirations are second to none. I described the love that my hon. Friends and I have for South Africa because of our visits there, our friendships and relationships. If it can become a beacon for pluralist democracy in southern African and an unimpeachable model for others, if it is prepared to work with other African nations to solve local tyrannies, the prospects for African development proceeding in a manner that will benefit not only its own people but the world must be strong, and the world itself will be stronger as a result.
Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): May I thank the Secretary of State for remaining in the Chamber throughout our debate? Not many people do so it sends a welcome message to Back Benchers, for which I express appreciation. I hope that such behaviour will help me in future as well.
In our debate on African development strategies, I wish to raise a single issuethe fact that the discovery of natural resources in Africa has led not to wealth but to poverty for its people. Although there have been enormous riches for a corrupt elite and riches for western companies, that has been at the expense of many people in southern Africa, which is now the poorest part of the world. The amount that we have given in aid is minute compared with the capital taken from Africa by Africans. The Abacha family alone took literally billions out of Nigeria's oil fields.
I shall focus on oil, but what I shall say applies equally to diamonds, gold and timber. An initiative to tackle the theft of oil wealth could be conducted that would not require money but simply political commitment by the wealthy of the world, including our own country. Other Members have referred to the fact that we are hearing more and more about the robbery of the Congo's riches
Countries such as Nigeria discovered oil, then made a dire descent into abject poverty. Angola discovered oil, and used it to fund one side in a horrible war, while the other side used diamonds. It should be central to our development strategy in Africa that we stop this gross robbery by corrupt Africans and their partners in crimesome of the big oil companies whose business practices aid and abet the robbers.
We can go a long way towards solving the problem if African countries and western oil companies simply publish their accounts as they are obliged to do in this country, America and France. If they simply said what they paid to the Governments of those countries and those Governments said what they received, the emerging democracies and politicians in those countries would have something to bite into. African Governments say many words about that issue, but with few exceptionsdiamonds in Botswana have been mentionedthere is no transparency. The facts about oil and other resources are regarded as state secrets, and the term "state" means the politician who is control. In a recent report, the Catholic bishops of central Africa said:
Nothing would do more to improve governance in such countries than transparency of accounting. The fact is that politics in some African countries is a struggle to get into the food chain and feed at the trough. People go into politics to get rich by gaining access to a country's resources. A couple of years ago, a campaign was establishedit was headed by George Soros and a wonderful London-based campaigning NGO, Global Witness, as well as 60 other NGOs from around the worldto end the cloak for corruption that is a feature of the failure to publish accounts. To their great credit, our own oil companies, Shell and BP, said that they would take up the approach. Of course, they needed the security of knowing that their rivals will play the game as well, or they would have been cut out of those markets. Indeed, I think that BP was threatened with that possibility in Angola.
That campaign is called "Publish What You Pay". The Prime Minister, to his enormous credit, threw his weight behind it and launched a forum at Lancaster house in June. Among his duties, the present Secretary
President Bush has said some promising words about helping Africa, but they will be hypocrisy if he allows American oil companies to act in partnership with political criminals to strip Africa of its natural resources. These companies are hugely powerful. Exxon has recently been negotiating with Chad, and its 2001 revenues were $191 billion, while Chad's gross domestic product was $1.4 billion. That is the difference in power.
At one time, America had little interest in Africa, but increasing amounts of oil are coming from it. We are in a new version of the great game in which the powers are struggling for resources. The Americans are trying to get out of reliance on Saudi Arabia and west Africa is in the middle of an oil boom. I was astonished by the figures: 7 billion of an estimated 8 billion barrels of oil discovered last year were found off the west coast of Africa. West Africa now sends almost as much oil to the United States as Saudi Arabia. With that change comes military interest as well, but I do not have time to speak about that.
Nigeria is the worst case of a country discovering oil and experiencing misery. Following the discovery of huge oilfields, per capita income fell by 23 per cent. since 1975. I watched with interest when democracy took over in Nigeria, but I have seen no further signs of transparency. When we went to Nigeria, it was hard for politicians to find out what was going on. In Angola, more than $1 billionabout a third of state incomedisappears each year and cannot be accounted for.
My favourite example of the relationship between the United States, its oil companies and African states is that of Equatorial Guinea. It is a tiny country of about 500,000 peopleabout a third the size of Northern Irelandbut it sits on oil. In Washington, almost within sight of the White House, there is a place called Dupont circle. There one will find Riggs bank, in which, it is alleged by the Los Angeles Times and corroborated by Global Witness, there is a bank account holding between $300 million and $500 million in the name of the President of Equatorial Guinea. That amount of money can only have come from Equatorial Guinea's oil resources, because oil represents 90 per cent. of its income. The dominant oil companies are Exxon and ChevronAmerican companies that reveal no information about their payments to that country. If they did, we would know about the route that the money followed. The President of Equatorial Guinea is
The magazine, New Internationalist, ranks the world's regimes from one star to five star. Five star is "excellent"; one star is "appalling". It gives Equatorial Guinea one star, saying that all power rests in the presidency and that the president has no political vision beyond self-enrichment, self-aggrandisement and ruthless repression. No one in this place would achieve that record. We used to treat Equatorial Guinea as a pariah state. It is said that around one third of its people have fled. When it had elections last year, the leaders of the three opposition parties were locked up in jail and President Obiang got 99 per cent. of the vote. That gives us a clue that something is wrong. Even the US Department of Energy reports strong evidence of Government misappropriation of the oil funds that represent 90 per cent. of the country's income.
This is just a matter of willpower. It is not about finding resources, but about the G8, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund saying, "When you are a powerful western country, you cannot have relationships with the developing world that are not transparent." If the payments that were made by the big oil companies whether ours, American or Frenchwere made transparent, we could say where the money was going. I remember going to Nigeria with the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan). By that time, we should have been able to ask, "As there is now democracy, where are the schools and the health centres?"but did we find anything? No. It is crucial that the resources of a country go to the people of that country: that is a simple principle on which people could unite. I know that the Minister will not have time to reply to these points in detail, but I hope that we can have a letter or a written statement on what progress is being made on the publish-what-you-pay initiative, because I think that we should hang on to this issue, and push it and push it.