TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003

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Members present:

Donald Anderson, in the Chair
Mr David Chidgey
Sir Patrick Cormack
Mr Fabian Hamilton
Mr Eric Illsley
Mr Bill Olner
Mr Greg Pope
Sir John Stanley

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Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Examination of Witnesses

BARONESS AMOS, a Member of the House of Lords, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, DR ANDREW POCOCK, Head, Africa Department (Southern), and MR TONY BRENNAN, Head, Zimbabwe Section, Africa Department (Southern), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.

Chairman

  1. Baroness Amos, may I welcome you again to the Committee. It seems a very long time since you were with us on the last occasion, I notice it was 14 May of last year; following that, the Committee produced its report in July. I notice, from the recent BBC News, yesterday, the heading: "Brutal Zimbabwe Crackdown." Amnesty International asserted up to 500 people have been detained in a "new and dangerous phase of repression." The BBC's Barnaby Phillips says that all the evidence points to a new crackdown of unprecedented brutality, and so on. Today, the BBC News, the Zimbabwean Government is using "unprecedented violence against political opponents, say the United States." So it looks, on the face of it, as if, since our meeting in May of last year, there is more, and worse, of the same. Would you, perhaps, with your two colleagues, whom I welcome, we have with us Dr Andrew Pocock, who is Head of the Africa Department (Southern), of the FCO, and Mr Tony Brennan, again, the Head of the Zimbabwe Section of the same Africa Department; so if you would begin, please, by giving us an update?
  2. (Baroness Amos) Thank you very much, Chairman. As you say, it is some time since I addressed the Committee on Zimbabwe. I think it would be fair to say that the situation has got worse. What we have seen in the last few days, since a major stay-away, which was organised by the MDC, and over 80 per cent of Zimbabweans participated in that, in Harare, is that the victimisation and harassment of MDC supporters since that stay-away has got very bad indeed. As the Amnesty report says, there have been over 500 arrests, 250 people have required hospital treatment, we have seen an increase in human rights abuses, and that is why we were so pleased that the Commonwealth agreed, through the Troika and through a statement which was issued by the Secretary General on 16 March, that Zimbabwe's suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth should continue until December, when there will be consideration of this issue at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It is clear to us that Zimbabwe is violating the principles of the Harare Declaration.

  3. Can you help on this. You mentioned that there was an increase in human rights abuses, well evidenced by Amnesty. When Amnesty gave ample evidence of human rights abuses in respect of Iraq, the Government produced a Government document setting out the nature of those abuses, which had two cheers, I think, from Amnesty, saying, "Why now?" and "It needed to be done." Well you would not be subject to the same criticism of the timing of the publication if you were to produce a similar document in respect of Zimbabwe. Have you considered this?
  4. (Baroness Amos) We have considered a range of things. What we have done is produce one document which sets out very clearly the history of our relationship in relation to the land reform process in Zimbabwe. Committee members will know that the Government of Zimbabwe have sought to indicate that the issues of concern to the international community, around human rights abuses, the breakdown of the rule of law and the problems with last year's flawed elections, are all to do with a bilateral problem between the UK and Zimbabwe, stemming back to land reform. So we have produced a document that sets the record straight, with respect to land reform.

  5. When was that published?
  6. (Baroness Amos) That has been in existence for some time, for well over a year, and has been updated on a number of occasions, and we have shared it with colleagues; certainly, it was produced before last year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, because we shared it with Commonwealth colleagues.

  7. Why not a document of a similar nature setting out the scale of the human rights abuses?
  8. (Baroness Amos) One of the reasons that the Government has not produced such a document is because the information exists already in a number of forms, including from Zimbabwean NGOs, but I am very happy to take that suggestion back.

  9. Would you write to me, say, in 14 days, to say whether you will be doing that?
  10. (Baroness Amos) I would be very happy to do that.

  11. The other area is that of corruption. It is pretty clear that, far from assisting the landless Africans, much of the land which has been expropriated, appropriated, by the Zimbabwean Government goes to friends and relations of the President and the leading politicians, and this, I believe, has been criticised by not only at least one senior politician but also many people inside Zimbabwe. Why not give at least some indication of the nature of the regime, by putting in clear terms what is the corruption which is there, what has happened, in fact, to the land?
  12. (Baroness Amos) Could I just clarify, were you asking why we have not produced a report on what is happening to the land?

  13. Yes, in terms of setting out the stall, the case of the Government, in respect of its criticism of the Zimbabwe regime?
  14. (Baroness Amos) That is certainly something that we could add to our current document, which we update on a regular basis with respect to land reform. As the Committee will know, we are very, very concerned indeed about the outcome of the fast-track land reform process, it has led to the humanitarian crisis that we are seeing in Zimbabwe at the moment. There was an internal audit, which was produced within ZANU-PF, which indicated very clearly that, much of the land, there were a number of people within the administration who were benefiting from the land reform process and had more than one farm, including the Information Minister, Jonathon Moyo, the Air Marshall, and also Robert Mugabe's sister, Sabina Mugabe, and indeed there are allegations that Grace Mugabe herself has benefited from this process. The Committee will know that it is very important for us, if we are publishing information, that we are able to identify that the information is correct. This information, which has come to light with respect to the allocation of land, has come to light as a result of a document which was sent to Africa Confidential, earlier this month, so this is new information.

  15. That sounds a pretty credible source, if it is an internal audit.
  16. (Baroness Amos) That is absolutely right; but, as I was saying to the Committee, it was only earlier this month, and, of course, we will continue to make this information public, because it is important for people to know not only that - - -

  17. You will continue to make it public; well, in what way have you made public the corruption?
  18. (Baroness Amos) I have certainly made it public, in answers that I have made in the House of Lords to questions which have been put to me.

  19. Can we end my questioning, for the moment, just on this point. You will consider the publication of a document, setting out the current position on land reform, human rights and possibly something in respect of the corruption?
  20. (Baroness Amos) Yes; and I will write to you within a fortnight.

    Sir Patrick Cormack: Just on this very point, I would like slightly to toughen up, if I may, Baroness Amos, the questions from the Chairman and ask you to do this specifically, because all this information, as you rightly say, is available, but it has not been collated, and I do think that parliamentarians, not just on this Committee but in both Houses, ought to have a document, which then is available to the public, the press, and so on, just documenting precisely what this man has done to abuse the rights of his citizens, and on the question of land reform et al. Of course, you must be careful that everything you say is accurate and vouched for, but please will you do it, and do it as soon as possible.

    Chairman: Thank you, Sir Patrick. Mr Olner, please.

    Mr Olner

  21. Basically, Chairman, my questioning goes along the same route, because it is relatively well-established that human rights atrocities that are being committed by the Mugabean regime are listed and they are known, but it is not known generally about the anti-corruption methods there are. Are there any contacts you have with members of the opposition, or even with members of the ruling ZANU-PF party, that they are concerned also about the corruption that is taking place?
  22. (Baroness Amos) Certainly, in the context that we have heard, it is clear that there are some in ZANU-PF who are concerned, and there are people of course in the opposition who are very concerned indeed about this. The Africa Director in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made a very recent trip to Zimbabwe and some of these issues were raised with him, and indeed my colleague Tony Brennan was in Zimbabwe only the week before last and again had contacts with a variety of stakeholders in Zimbabwe and concerns were raised about some of these issues.

  23. But is that feeling strong enough to start to create an undercurrent that Mugabe could be replaced by the leading members in ZANU-PF?
  24. (Baroness Amos) I think that members of the Committee will know that there have been suggestions, over quite a long period of time, that there are concerns and splits within ZANU-PF; indeed, towards the end of last year there were suggestions that meetings had been held between members of ZANU-PF and the MDC to talk about the way forward for Zimbabwe, this was confirmed by Morgan Tsvangirai, but not confirmed by ZANU-PF, those members of ZANU-PF involved in the same way. I think that what we can see is that there is a great deal of concern. I think what has happened as a result of the stay-away, and the fact that the Mugabe regime has come down so harshly against MDC supporters since that stay-away, is an indication that they feel very threatened by this and that clearly there are some cracks within the regime. I think it is very difficult for us, as the UK Government, to be able to identify the extent and depth of that, but it is something that we are monitoring very closely indeed.

  25. Is there any realistic prospect that Mugabe will agree to step down, should the chorus become too strong over there?
  26. (Baroness Amos) I think that there is one contextual point, which I would make clear to members of the Committee, which is that there are five by-elections pending for Parliament in Zimbabwe, we have two which are coming up over the weekend and another three where dates have not been fixed but there will have to be by-elections. If all of these are "won" by ZANU-PF, it will mean that the ruling regime then has the two-thirds majority that it requires to change the constitution. Now, under the current constitution, if a President were to step down from office, it would require an election within 90 days; however, if the constitution were changed to enable a sitting President to step down but to hand over to someone of their own choosing, it would mean that a presidential election would not happen until 2008. So it is entirely possible, if ZANU-PF were to get the majority that they require, that they would look to change the constitution. So your questions about is it possible that there might be a change and what might that change be, I think that there are a number of different factors, which are coming together over the next few weeks, which could have implications for that question.

    Mr Hamilton

  27. Baroness Amos, the humanitarian crisis is acute. I wanted to come back on to the political situation, because it seems to me that there are a number of countries in the world, one of which is Iraq, where we have an authoritarian regime that is starving its population, that is using the most brutal forms of repression, as is happening in Zimbabwe. And I want to know what our Government is doing to bring the United Nations further on board to put further pressure on Zimbabwe to reform its own internal political situation, to stop the kind of repression that is going on, that we know happens in many other countries, and we are at war with one country for that very reason at the moment. And I want to know what we are doing to bring the UN on board, so that the world community can turn round to Zimbabwe and say, "Enough; you're starving your population, you're doing this for political reasons, you're using the most brutal forms of repression, and you're doing that to stay in power as an autocratic dictator with supposed democratic legitimacy, which nobody really believes"?
  28. (Baroness Amos) Well there are three arms of the UN that we have worked with, in this respect, up until now, one is UNDP, the second is the World Food Programme, and a third is the Commission on Human Rights. Before I go into what we have done with each of those agencies, could I come back to your specific point about Iraq and comparisons between Iraq and Zimbabwe, because this is a comparison that many people have made. There are many differences, but the key difference is that Iraq has violated 17 Chapter Seven resolutions under the UN Security Council. Now the UN Security Council deals with issues which are of concern in terms of international peace and security, and, for obvious reasons, they tend to stay out of issues which are considered to be domestic. So until we reach the point in Zimbabwe where the UN Security Council takes the view that what is happening in Zimbabwe is a threat to international peace and security, for example, a mass exodus in terms of refugees, we have some difficulty in terms of taking this issue to the UN Security Council. There has been a steady movement of refugees, but it has been steady, it has not been a mass refugee movement.

    Chairman

  29. You have given the three categories, the World Food Programme, the UN, but I would like to defer it until we come to the humanitarian side, if you would just deal now with the Human Rights Commission?
  30. (Baroness Amos) So that is our difficulty, in terms of getting UN Security Council consideration of Zimbabwe. With respect to the Commission on Human Rights, members of the Committee will recall that, last year, we sponsored a resolution on Zimbabwe which was put before the Commission on Human Rights; it was not voted on because there was blocking action by the African states, which meant that it could not even be put to the vote. The Commission on Human Rights is sitting currently, there is an EU resolution, again on Zimbabwe, which has been sponsored by the European Union, we hope very much that at least it will get to the vote this year.

    Mr Hamilton

  31. Do you think it is because Libya is in the Chair of that organisation that you are not being successful?
  32. (Baroness Amos) I think, the politics of the Commission on Human Rights at this point in time, the fact that there are differences in the international community about what is happening in Iraq, all of these are things which will come into play. So it is very difficult to say to the Committee that I think we will be successful, but we will of course make every effort, because, as I said, the humanitarian situation, and the human rights situation, has got worse. We hope that the Commonwealth Secretariat will publish very soon their own assessment of what has happened since 19 March last year, which was when the Troika made their judgment about Zimbabwe, and we think that this is something that the international community really needs to tackle head-on.

  33. Can I come back, just briefly, on the UN point, because one of the most compelling arguments the Prime Minister made, in the last few weeks, about the reason to take action against Iraq, and I accept all the arguments that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and that was the issue for the Security Council, but one of his most compelling arguments was the extraordinary repression and the human rights violations of the population of Iraq by its leader. Surely there are similarities in Zimbabwe?
  34. (Baroness Amos) Clearly, there are similarities, in the sense that there are human rights abuses in both countries; however, as you say, Iraq is a regime with weapons of mass destruction, this is a regime that has annexed a neighbouring country, this is a regime that has used chemical weapons against its own population. So, whilst there are human rights abuses, the differences are quite stark. And if I may just give you some examples. Fifteen per cent of the population of Iraq have fled Iraq, there were one million casualties in the Iran/Iraq war, 100,000 Kurds killed or disappeared in the Anfal Campaign in 1988, an estimated 900,000 internally displaced, and, as I said earlier, there are the issues about the Security Council resolutions and their violation. In Zimbabwe, the Human Rights NGO Forum lists 84 politically-motivated murders between 1 June 2001 and 30 June 2002, 484 cases of torture, 215 of political assault, and I said earlier that, since the MDC's successful stay-away, we have seen more than 500 members arrested and 250 people requiring hospital treatment, clearly a case of human rights abuse, but the scale, in terms of comparison with Iraq, is not the same.

    Mr Hamilton: Thank you; that is very helpful.

    Sir John Stanley

  35. Minister, you have made a number of references to what the British Government is doing with various international organisations, the UN, EU, Commonwealth, etc., in trying to delay, avert, the appalling decline from democracy into near tyranny that is taking place in Zimbabwe. Can you just focus on the bilateral position between the UK and Zimbabwe, and the Committee understands the inherent difficulties for the British Government in this respect, but we do have responsibilities as well as difficulties, and, if it is appropriate in this public forum, can you give us details of any specific measures which the British Government is taking, bilaterally, to try to support, maintain, uphold, democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, in Zimbabwe, bilaterally?
  36. (Baroness Amos) We are doing a number of things. We are supporting a number of Zimbabwean civil society organisations which are concerned with human rights, with good governance, with the maintenance of the rule of law. I would prefer not to go into the detail of the nature of those organisations. Members of the Committee will be aware that there have been human rights organisations in the past, for example, which have been funded by organisations outside of Zimbabwe, and there has been a crackdown on those organisations and an attempt to close them down. So we are engaged in supporting civil society organisations, we are engaged in discussions with a wide range of stakeholders in Zimbabwe, to try to see if there is any way that we can support those who are trying to bring about a change in that country so that people's human rights are upheld. We are working also through our bilateral programme, we have a specific bilateral humanitarian programme which is seeking to work with rural communities and those dying from HIV/AIDS, because again we think it is important to try to ensure that, in particular, teachers and others who are important for the sustainability of the country are not dying too quickly from HIV and AIDS. And, of course, we have a bilateral dialogue with the Southern African Development Community and individual countries in Southern Africa, as well as with Nigeria and others who are seeking to work with the Mugabe regime and with the MDC to promote a national dialogue.

    Sir John Stanley: Chairman, could I request that the Minister gives the Committee a classified paper which enables the Committee to have more detail than the Minister wishes to show us in this public forum; and I agree entirely with the Minister's concern to protect those who are fighting very bravely for human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe.

    Chairman

  37. That would indeed be valuable; would you do that, please?
  38. (Baroness Amos) Yes.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  39. Could I just follow that, and again I do not expect you to say too much here, but we have all been concerned at seeing the way in which the political opposition has been treated in Zimbabwe, and I take it that you are monitoring this as carefully as you can?
  40. (Baroness Amos) Indeed, we are monitoring as carefully as we can, and the Committee will know that there are charges currently and a trial against Morgan Tsvangirai and two of his colleagues. It is absolutely clear from monitoring the trial that the state has no case, in fact their chief witness is absolutely laughable, but even in those circumstances it is impossible to judge what the outcome of the trial will be, because it is clearly politically motivated.

  41. Thank you for saying that; it is clear, and I am glad that you have been so unequivocal on that. Can I take it that Her Majesty's Government is ready to take all appropriate steps should this show trial produce a grotesque verdict?
  42. (Baroness Amos) I am not entirely certain what you mean by "all appropriate steps".

    Chairman: Serious consequences.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  43. Then I hope that there will be very serious consequences?
  44. (Baroness Amos) As I have said, we are monitoring the trial, we are monitoring other ways in which members of the opposition are being victimised and harassed. We started this session with my setting out what has happened since the widespread support for the MDC stay-away. I think the very important thing that we as a Government need to do is ensure that our colleagues in the Commonwealth and our colleagues in SADC and in other parts of Africa actually understand what is happening in Zimbabwe. One of the concerns that I have, and although I have not been in Zimbabwe for about 18 months, having now been banned from travelling to the country, is that what is clear, from visiting in Zimbabwe, and there are colleagues who have visited far more recently than I have, is that on the surface things appear to be okay. And I think that this seduces a number of people who just visit Harare, do not go out into the rural areas, do not actually see what is happening on the ground, speak to only a narrow range of stakeholders, and members of the Committee will know that if someone visits a country as a VIP visitor then the access that they have to a country and what they can actually see is very often circumscribed by those in that country. This is something that really we need to get across to our African and Commonwealth colleagues, in terms of what is going on, on the ground.

  45. I hope that you are doing everything possible to do precisely that. Would your colleague, Mr Brennan, like to add anything, as he has visited Zimbabwe so recently?
  46. (Mr Brennan) Certainly. I would reiterate what the Minister has said. On the surface level, if you go to Harare and if you have foreign currency, it is perfectly possible to look around and wonder what the problem is, unless you are wanting to buy petrol, in which case probably you would have to queue for a couple of kilometres, or to buy bread from a supermarket, etc., but for a VIP visitor you would not face those problems. So I would say that, on the surface level, a veneer of normality remains in place in Harare, less so in the rural areas. Certainly, two weeks ago, when I was watching emergency food aid being delivered to local communities, being delivered by the World Food Programme, totally transparently, administered by a Rwandan, which I found a very telling piece of symbolism, that is not so normal. And I calculated, one day, through a programme which had been set up for me by the British High Commission out there, I think I met ten people who had been arrested in the previous three months, none were charged, some were beaten but none were charged, so beneath the surface you do not have to look so far before you get to a level of abnormality.

  47. Thank you. May I ask just a final question of you, Baroness Amos, I am grateful for what you said about monitoring the trial and all that, are you carefully monitoring also the appalling treatment being meted out in Matabele land to the natives of that area?
  48. (Baroness Amos) Yes, we are, but I do think it is very important to say to the Committee that the pattern that we have seen is not so much ethnically based as politically based. The intimidation and harassment and the abuses are focused very much on people who either have supported the MDC or there is a perception that they have supported the MDC. Now in Matabele land there is a high level of support for the MDC, but the intimidation and violence tend to be politically motivated, not ethnically motivated.

    Chairman

  49. Baroness Amos, before turning to Mr Illsley to open the discussion on humanitarian aid, may I round off on the internal situation this way. We have touched on the corruption, but only insofar as land distribution; surely it goes much more widely than that, in terms of, for example, the activities of the military in the DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Onyx Company, and so on. So I hope, when you consider exposing what is going on, you talked of, I think, a moment ago, 'our colleagues must understand what is happening,' and in terms of 'transparency being the best disinfectant of exposing what is going on,' perhaps you would ensure that corruption covers not only land reform but also the industrial corruption and mineral resources corruption which is a clear part of what is happening?
  50. (Baroness Amos) Yes. Chairman, if I may say just one word on that. The Committee will know that a number of allegations were made in the UN Panel report with respect to individuals profiting from the situation in the DRC. We pushed fairly hard for a continuation of the UN Panel's mandate, because in a number of instances allegations were made in the report which were not necessarily backed up by the batch of information which was required. The mandate of the UN Panel has been extended for six months from 3 March. They will be publishing a report, I think, on 20 June, and we have asked the committee to give us more detail on the allegations which have been made against certain individuals in UK companies in the report, and also I am aware that certain individuals named in the report have sought similar information, because it is difficult for us to take action without having the information to back up the allegations.

    Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr Illsley, please.

    Mr Illsley

  51. Baroness Amos, as the Chairman has indicated, we are now going to open it up to talk about the humanitarian situation. And, as you are aware, the International Development Committee published its own Report on 11 March on the Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa and made a number of references to Zimbabwe: 52 per cent of the seven million population in need of food aid, 35 per cent HIV-positive, it referred to Zimbabwe's poor government, its badly-planned land redistribution, the politicisation of food aid, and also it referred to Zimbabwe being a major cause of the crisis and referred to, over the last few months, allegations of deliberate starvation of certain sections of the population. So could you give us your latest information in relation to the extent and severity of the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, and your colleague, Tony Brennan, referred a few moments ago to the World Food Programme, could you say just a few words as well regarding the allegations which have been made to this Committee that some of the food aid programmes are being taken over by ZANU-PF, in particular, Save the Children and the actual World Food Programme itself?
  52. (Baroness Amos) I would be very happy to do that. The latest estimates are that 7.2 million Zimbabweans will continue to require food aid. We have a current situation where the World Food Programme is feeding some 4.5 million people, and we are contributing to that. The Committee will know that we are the second-largest bilateral donors after the United States and we have contributed some 51 million. In addition to that, we are engaged in supplementary feeding programmes for some 1.5 million people in Zimbabwe, mainly children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and those who have been thrown off the farms, the farm-workers and their families. With respect to the issue of politicisation of food aid, I know that this is an issue which has concerned many Members of Parliament. I think it is important for me just to identify the two different aspects of this, because the food aid falls into two different categories; there is that which is being administered on behalf of the international community by the World Food Programme, and their principal delivery mechanism is through NGOs, including NGOs like Save the Children. I am aware that there are some allegations that there was Millimeal in Save the Children Fund bags which were being sold in a local market. Save the Children have investigated this, they are very clear that there has been no leakage as far as they are concerned, and their only explanation for this is that there is much reusage of plastic bags in a country like Zimbabwe, and perhaps what has happened is that bags that originally were used by them were then used subsequently by the Mugabe regime's sources, and that was what was being sold in the market, they were absolutely clear about this. The World Food Programme, where there have been many allegations of politicisation of food, have suspended their programmes immediately, this has happened on a couple of occasions, they have investigated and they have only restarted when they are absolutely confident that this is not happening. The other food aid is that which is distributed by the regime itself; we have absolutely no control over that. None of our money goes into the aid or the additional food which is bought by the regime. We have pushed for them to allow the private sector to become involved, because what is happening is that the Grain Marketing Board have a monopoly on the purchase of grain, it all goes through their sources, which is what then allows the distribution mechanisms to be politicised. And there are many reports, and indeed there was a programme by Peter Oborne on Channel Four which showed aid being given only to those who were carrying ZANU-PF party passes. It is very, very important indeed that the Committee understand that there are two distinct and different channels, and we are confident that the money that we are giving through the World Food Programme for food aid is not being politicised in that way, and, the supplementary feeding programme that we have, we are confident that that is not being politicised either.

  53. I accept the information Baroness Amos has given us. The allegation against Save the Children was that their trucks were being manned by people in youth militia uniform of the ZANU-PF, and the allegation regarding the World Food Programme was that the NGO delivering part of that programme, the Organisation for Rural Associations for Progress, or ORAP for short, was actually delivering the food aid, and that was controlled by a ZANU-PF MP. So my question is related to the part of the food aid programme which was coming in from the World Food Programme and administered by NGOs, rather than the ZANU-PF-controlled part anyway, but are you happy that the food programme aspect of that is completely free of any form of corruption or infiltration by ZANU-PF?
  54. (Baroness Amos) As I have said, where these allegations have been made, they have been investigated immediately; where the World Food Programme have not been happy, they have suspended the programme and they have restarted programmes only where they are sure that any kind of misuse of food aid will not continue. Obviously, in an environment of the sort that we have in Zimbabwe at the moment, allegations will be made. We work very hard, as do the World Food Programme, to make it as watertight as possible, and, as I say, we are pretty confident that the politicisation of food aid, through the World Food Programme, and through the NGOs that are being used by the World Food Programme, is not occurring.

    (Mr Brennan) If I can complement that. Again, from visiting one of these feeding schemes a couple of weeks ago, certainly, there, the employees of the World Food Programme, this was a feeding programme administered by Care International, and the people from the WFP were making it very clear to me there that they have a zero tolerance policy on any corruption, anything apart from the aid being given on the basis of need. They made the point that there were the two cases last year where in an atmosphere of impending by-elections they found road-blocks, etc., impeding the delivery of World Food Programme's food, so they stopped until they got satisfactory guarantees that they could go ahead. So certainly my experience on the ground is that they run a zero tolerance policy.

    Mr Hamilton

  55. Can I press you further on this organisation, ORAP. I accept what you say, that the World Food Programme is very, very careful not to use any corrupt distribution, but have you looked into this allegation that Mrs Sithembiso Nuyoni, a ZANU-PF MP, is involved with the distribution, have you examined that in any detail?
  56. (Baroness Amos) I was not aware of this specific allegation until it was just made, and we will look into it. What I was aware of was an allegation that Save the Children food was being sold in the market in Zimbabwe, and that has been investigated, and the explanation I gave to you is the one that we got from Save the Children; but this we will certainly look at.

  57. But it is an allegation that has been made, and do you know anything more about this ORAP organisation at all?
  58. (Baroness Amos) I do not, no.

  59. Is that something that you could inform the Committee about?
  60. (Baroness Amos) I will certainly write to the Committee. I will find out all I can and I will write to the Committee about it.

    Mr Hamilton: Thank you, Baroness Amos.

    Sir John Stanley

  61. Minister, could you tell us what is the British Government's current assessment of just how serious the food shortage situation is in Zimbabwe, and what is the British Government's current assessment as to how close to serious malnutrition people in Zimbabwe are, what sort of numbers, and any evidence of people actually dying because of starvation; just how serious is it, in your assessment? There have been many articles that have been written, I saw a report from Christina Lamb, of the New Statesman, on February 24, she was travelling in the southern part of the country, she said, "I saw children hunting for a frog or a sparrow to roast on fires." Just how desperate are the people there, in your assessment?
  62. (Baroness Amos) The assessments that we have, as I said, indicate that some 7.2 million people require food aid; we are getting to only just over half of those, the World Food Programme is feeding some 4.5 million people, so clearly there is a gap between the numbers and the numbers being fed by the World Food Programme. It is difficult at the moment to get a proper assessment of the extent to which this would move from a food shortage situation to a famine situation, which is the thing that we all dread; and part of the reason for that is because it is compounded by so many other, different factors. You have a situation where 75 per cent of the population are living below the poverty line, a situation where 35 per cent of the adult population is infected by the HIV/AIDS virus, which means that, people's physical ability to withstand food shortages, obviously they are greatly weakened. And this is why we have continued with a bilateral HIV/AIDS programme, because we think it is very important to try to work with people with respect to their HIV/AIDS status, as well as looking at the urgent humanitarian needs in terms of food. We need to be concerned particularly about the old, the young, and you mentioned children hunting for food, children going to school, obviously this will affect their capacity to learn, the vulnerable and the sick, but we are not yet at the stage where we are facing a famine as normally we think about it. Normally, we think of those images of Ethiopia, for example, we are not yet at that stage, and partly that is because the work that the World Food Programme are doing is helping to prevent this; but the situation is chronic and it is being compounded by economic mismanagement. Members of the Committee will know about the level of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, there are shortages in terms of fuel, the currency is now pretty worthless, so there is a parallel market operating, and all of these things are compounding the humanitarian crisis, which means that we have really to be vigilant about this, we have to support the World Food Programme. But, more than anything else, we need to have an administration in Zimbabwe that actually cares about what is happening to its own people, because if you do not have the right kind of economic policies in place, when you have the whole of the commercial farming sector denuded, which used to produce 40 per cent of Zimbabwe's grain, you have a real problem. So our policies cannot be just short-term, in terms of working with the humanitarian crisis, we have to think medium and long term of ways in which we can support the people of Zimbabwe so that the kind of outcome that we want to see, this is a country that can feed itself, indeed it used to feed the region, so it is not impossible to do. But I hope that this is a wake-up call not just for those in Zimbabwe who are suffering the effects of this, but a wake-up call to the countries in the region which really need to take the Mugabe regime to task.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  63. We are grateful to you for making this clear, that here is a ruler inflicting disaster upon his own people. Have you made any assessment as to how long it would take for these despoiled acres, thousands and thousands of them, to be brought back into proper production, do you know how far back he has set his country?
  64. (Baroness Amos) The assessments we have relate to the wider economic situation rather than just to the situation with respect to the fast-track land reform process, and the figures that we have been given are that for every year that the situation has got worse it will take ten years of recovery in terms of the economic situation in Zimbabwe. It is very easy to plunge a country into economic decline, it is much, much harder to help that country to recover from that state of economic decline; because what you have now are economic indicators in Zimbabwe that are much worse than for pretty much any other country in Africa.

  65. So what you are saying really is, it is going to take half a century to recover from the last five years?
  66. (Baroness Amos) It could take as long as half a century, yes.

  67. May I ask you just one final question, Baroness Amos. Let me say that I accept fully the Government's good intentions here, I accept fully the Government's sober analysis, but it is being said by many people that not enough priority is being given by the Government to Zimbabwe, that we have historic and, indeed, under the Lancaster House Agreements, moral obligations to Zimbabwe. Now how do you counter those charges?
  68. (Baroness Amos) I do not accept those charges. I think that this Government gives a great deal of priority to Zimbabwe, and indeed not just the Government, I know from the number of letters that I have to sign off to members of the public and Members of Parliament the depth of concern there is in the country with respect to the situation in Zimbabwe. But I think that there are two different difficulties, which mask the Government's policies and what the Government is trying to do. The first thing is the use by Robert Mugabe of the kind of ruse that this is all a problem between Britain and Zimbabwe, it is not a problem that the whole international community signs up to; and what this means is that the international community's response is sometimes variable, and indeed that sometimes the response that we get from some of our African interlocutors is not clearly understood in a UK context, so people feel very frustrated and feel that the UK Government is not doing enough, that we are not getting our messages across clearly enough. I do not think that that is the case. I think that what is the case is that this is a situation which is complex, I think that there are countries across the world that have different historical relationships with Zimbabwe, I think that Zimbabwe touches all kinds of different nerves, if you like, across the world, there was a liberation struggle, it is an ex-British colony, so there is a whole set of factors and parameters that cut across this. Sometimes the allegation is made that the British Government is not being tough enough on Zimbabwe because we fear that, as the old colonial power, we will be dubbed, as we have been by Mugabe, as interfering in his country; again, I do not accept that. I think that our policy actually is probably pretty right, in the sense that we are being attacked on the one side for not doing enough and being attacked from the other side for being colonial in our approach. The second problem I think that we have is the fact that Zimbabwe is a sovereign country, we all know the problems with the institutions, the problems with the judiciary, their politicisation, but even without that we did have a parliamentary election which, if you take away the 30 seats that are allocated by Robert Mugabe, actually you had a pretty close election outcome. And so when I say to Members of Parliament and others that this is a country that does have an opposition, even though it is an opposition that is being harassed, intimidated, facing abuses, there are a whole number of ways in which we have to respect the independence of Zimbabwe and the fact that we are dealing with a regime that cares absolutely nothing about its own people, and that makes our task and the task of the international community very difficult indeed.

    Chairman: Thank you very much. Before we open the new subject area with Mr Chidgey, I believe that Mr Olner and Mr Hamilton have brief questions.

    Mr Olner

  69. Yes, two very brief questions, Baroness Amos. Would you subscribe to the view that most of the people that you mentioned earlier that are struggling to get a subsistence or a living out on the land by eating what they can catch, or what have you, actually are the victims of Mugabe's war against them, and the weapon he has used against them is food, and food that we are supplying? And it is said in some quarters that the food that is being supplied is keeping Mugabe in power, because none of his enemies can rise up against him, because he keeps his own people on board because he is able to feed them. The other thing is, and an answer to Sir Patrick Cormack, I think, and I am fairly optimistic that land in Zimbabwe could be brought into existence again as farming land very much quicker, because what Zimbabwe has got is a great huge raft of native Zimbabweans who have been used to working on the land, and the land reform has gone wrong because it is people who do not know anything about the land who have been given the land?
  70. (Baroness Amos) A number of people have said that what the international community is doing through humanitarian assistance is helping to prop up the Mugabe regime, and that, in fact, if we were not doing what we are doing currently with respect to food aid and humanitarian assistance, we would have seen the fall of the regime by now. That may be so, it is very hard to predict, but we feel very strongly that we have a responsibility, and I think that the British people feel that we have a responsibility to the people of Zimbabwe. So I think it is a travesty that the money that we are giving for humanitarian aid could have been money that was given for the long-term sustainable development of the country, and, what we agreed in 1998, in terms of the transparent and fair land reform process, signed up to by everyone, that we were not able to go down that route. With respect to your second question about the length of time to bring land back into use, and so on, let me make it clear that, you are absolutely right that there are thousands of people with the right kinds of skills, the farmland could be brought back into use very quickly, capital would need to be made available, inputs could be made available. I think that, if we saw a different kind of regime in Zimbabwe, one that was committed to macroeconomic reform, one that was committed to dealing with poverty, the international community would get together very quickly, and we could see a kind of exponential, if you like, development and growth. So the kind of 50 years scenario that was mentioned earlier is not necessarily one that will happen, all I was saying was that the degree of economic implosion that we have seen, with respect to not just commercial farming but what has happened to the currency, the lack of availability of foreign currency in the country, the fact that there is negative growth, in fact the economy contracted by some 11 per cent last year, the fact that new investors will not invest in the region, much less in Zimbabwe, that these things pull together, and, if you had the maintenance of a similar kind of regime, could well mean that recovery would take much longer; it does not have to take that long, it could take that long.

    Mr Hamilton

  71. Minister, the US State Department published a document two weeks ago, called "Zimbabwe's Manmade Crisis" and in that they quote Didymus Mutasa, the Foreign Secretary of the ruling ZANU-PF party, as saying, "We would be better off with only 6 million people [out of a total of 12 million], with our own people who support the liberation struggle." Would you like to comment on that?
  72. (Baroness Amos) I have seen those comments, and, even worse than that, the Committee may have seen remarks made by Robert Mugabe on 21 March, where he actually compared himself with Hitler. I think what it points to is what I said before, which is that here is a regime that actually cares nothing about the suffering of its own people and actually is quite happy for countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, which are constantly berated, held up to ridicule by the regime, to be the biggest humanitarian donors in the country, keeping their people from the edge of starvation.

    Mr Chidgey

  73. Baroness Amos, good afternoon to you. Can I turn now to look in a little more detail at relations between the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, in this particular area that we have been talking about. Just to start off, a rather intriguing report that appeared in the Zimbabwe Herald on 13 March, which is, as I am sure you know, the official mouthpiece of ZANU-PF, it carried a report suggesting that the Anglican Church is being used as a channel of communication between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, and, to quote it just quickly, it said: "Zimbabwe's concerns to Britain were presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury for him to relay them to the British Government under a mediation process that seeks to resolve a long standing dispute between the two countries." And that the Head of the Anglian Church in South Africa would be presenting Zimbabwe's concerns, acting as the mediator. Is there any truth in those reports, do you know?
  74. (Baroness Amos) Perhaps I can help the Committee on this. The Archbishop of Cape Town has become very concerned, because of representations that have been made to him, about the situation in Zimbabwe, and he wondered if there were any action that he could take perhaps that would help in this situation. And he came to the United Kingdom as part of a wider set of consultations that he has been undertaking in South Africa, in the region, to see if there were any kind of initiative that perhaps he could initiate which would help with the situation. He saw Foreign Office officials as part of those consultations, he has made, as far as I am aware, two visits to Zimbabwe; the first, he spoke to Robert Mugabe, on the second visit he spoke to a much broader range of stakeholders in Zimbabwe. He has not been back in touch with us, in terms of what his next steps might be, I think his plan was to talk to as wide a range of stakeholders as possible and then to think about whether there were any ways in which he could assist. I am aware that one of the things that he was thinking about was whether he could establish some kind of eminent persons group that might be perhaps of some help, but whether or not this remains his proposal, whether or not his recent visit to Zimbabwe and his discussion with key stakeholders has led him to go down a different path, I am not aware.

  75. Do we know who were the groups or individuals who made representations to him, were they from Zimbabwe, were they from South Africa, were there other nations in there?
  76. (Baroness Amos) I think, on the whole, they were from South Africa, but my colleague, Dr Pocock, met with the Archbishop.

    (Dr Pocock) I am very happy to answer that, because the Archbishop actually saw me when he was in London. He went back to Zimbabwe on 12 March, he saw Robert Mugabe, again, as the Minister has said, but he did see a broader range of people, including the MDC, and various non-governmental organisations and church bodies. His intention was to have a broad consultation, as Baroness Amos has said; his initial contact was with Robert Mugabe himself, and I think he came away with a sense that there was a problem there but he was not sure how big the problem was. Having spoken now more broadly, by no means just to ourselves but within Zimbabwe, which is where it really counts, he has a much richer sense I think that there is more than a bilateral quarrel between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom on the issue of land, it is actually a very much broader question of governance, with a lot of stakeholders who have much to say to him about this, and, as Baroness Amos says, he has come away from his second consultation visit to reflect on how he might take this forward. As far as we are aware, he has not made any decisions on this, but he is considering what further steps he and perhaps other church colleagues might take.

    (Baroness Amos) May I add that the Herald now have said, following his second visit and the fact that he saw a wide range of stakeholders, that they do not trust him and that he is anti-Zimbabwe.

  77. I see; thank you. A slight change of subject matter, within the same area, Baroness Amos. You have mentioned already, to a degree anyway, contacts with various UN organisations, and I note that in the FCO memorandum to the Committee it was pointed out that the UNDP briefed the Security Council on Zimbabwe in December. What I would like to ask you specifically is if, with the help of your colleagues, you can tell us this, how many times in the past year has the Government raised the situation in Zimbabwe at the United Nations?
  78. (Baroness Amos) It was the World Food Programme that addressed the Security Council in December, it was James Morris, the Head of the World Food Programme, who addressed the Security Council on the humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa, including in Zimbabwe.

  79. You mentioned also, earlier, the question, quite robustly, about the situation in Zimbabwe, and you gave a comparison, I think Iraq was mentioned, on the question of famine, and so on, you gave the example that, I think, 84 politically-motivated deaths occurred in Zimbabwe, comparing those with a million elsewhere. It does raise the question really, that if you could give us your view on, how bad does the crisis in Zimbabwe therefore have to get before the Security Council is invited to pass a resolution?
  80. (Baroness Amos) As I tried to explain earlier, the Security Council tends to intervene when there is a concern that what is happening in a country will have an impact on international peace and security. The situation in Zimbabwe at the moment is very much contained in Zimbabwe, although there has been a steady move of refugees into other countries, but it has been a steady flow, it has not been anything like a mass movement of refugees. South Africa, as we know, have faced a particular problem in terms of Zimbabweans trying to get into South Africa illegally, but it is not judged to be a threat to international peace and security. And that is the difficulty that we have, in terms of getting Zimbabwe onto the Security Council agenda, not through the humanitarian crisis but as a political issue, because the Security Council tends to shy away from issues which are seen as being internal, domestic, political issues.

  81. I quite understand, yes. So is it the case, therefore, that, unless there was a considerable degree of concern raised by the neighbouring countries about probable instability, reaching beyond Zimbabwe's borders into their countries, that really would be the only way that it was likely to get onto the Security Council agenda?
  82. (Baroness Amos) That is one possible method. We continue to look at whether or not it is something which could be raised in the UN Security Council; we have to remember that the Security Council is made up of 50 members, they do not all necessarily think the same, as Committee members will know, from recent events. But also coming back to your specific point about how bad do things have to get, I am very wary of making comparisons, and one of the reasons that I am wary of making comparisons, and my African interlocutors quite often raise this with me and say that there are countries in the world that are much worse, I think it is important for us to remember where Zimbabwe started from. So the comparison, in a way, could be Zimbabwe previously and Zimbabwe now, because where we would have expected Zimbabwe to be, had it stayed on course post-independence, certainly is not where Zimbabwe is now, and that is why I am wary of comparisons. Because if the comparisons are too stark and they are made with the wrong kind of countries, I think, quite frankly, it lets Robert Mugabe and his regime off the hook, because what they have done is plunged what was a relatively successful economy in Southern Africa in the opposite direction, now it is the worst-performing economy in Africa, and this is from a country that was the bread-basket of the region.

  83. Thank you very much. Can I just come back to the memorandum which you have provided the Committee with, it is paragraph 8, it is concerning the EU, and the memorandum noted that: "The EU has tabled a resolution on Zimbabwe for discussion at the UN Commission on Human Rights," which is meeting currently. Can we have your view on the prospects of this resolution being passed?
  84. (Baroness Amos) It is very difficult to say. As I said earlier to the Committee, the resolution that was tabled last year was not even put to the vote because there was blocking action by the African countries. The EU has tabled a resolution again, it has not yet been taken, but we do have a situation in the Commission on Human Rights where there are a number of tensions, there are differences, particularly now, with respect to what is going on in Iraq, so it is very difficult to make a judgment.

  85. Baroness Amos, we have had recently an informal meeting with staff from SW Radio Africa, I am sure you are aware of the work that they do. One of the issues that they drew to our attention was the difficulty they are having in raising funds, and that current donors have expressed a wish to our Government that they should help in this exercise, but there seems to have been some delay in the FCO making a decision because they are insisting on carrying out a full listener survey. Can I put it to you that you might wish to examine how that listener survey is being undertaken, because I am sure you understand how the station works; their concern is that if one applies the normal techniques for a listener survey they will not apply because many people will not be prepared to admit that they listen to this radio for fear of reprisals? Can you let the Committee know now, or perhaps later, how you are handling this particular difficult and different situation in assessing the validity, in terms of its audience, of this radio station, and therefore helping to form your decision on giving them aid?
  86. (Baroness Amos) I appreciate absolutely the difficulties if we were to use conventional methods. I know exactly how SW Radio works. We will look at any application. As I said to the Committee earlier, I would much rather give to the Committee in a confidential memorandum details of those organisations that we are supporting in Zimbabwe.

  87. That will be very helpful. I have one final question, which is somewhat different from the earlier ones. Speaking in the Lords on 5 March, you confirmed to those people in the other place that Robert Mugabe is a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, which, as I am sure you appreciate, had a fairly violent reaction in many parts of this country. Can you tell the Committee, will the Prime Minister be recommending to Her Majesty that Mugabe should be stripped of his honours?
  88. (Baroness Amos) I think the Committee will understand when I say that this was brought to our attention, this was an honour that was given in 1994 when there was a state visit, as I understand it. Our priority has been to work on the humanitarian, political and economic issues in Zimbabwe, so this has not been an issue that I have taken up in that way with the Prime Minister. I note the Committee's concern and I will certainly take it back.

    Mr Chidgey: Thank you very much, Chairman.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  89. And separately tell the Prime Minister that he is about as worthy a recipient as Ceaucescu?
  90. (Baroness Amos) I am also aware of the example of Ceaucescu?

    Chairman: We would like to turn now to the European Union, and Mr Pope, please.

    Mr Pope

  91. First of all, could I ask a question about France. It is only just a month ago that Robert Mugabe was invited to Paris as a guest of the French Government, as part of the France/Africa Summit. I was utterly dismayed at the behaviour of the French in doing that, and, across the political divide, many Members of Parliament were just absolutely outraged that the French did that. Could I ask, first of all, did the British Government share that dismay and outrage, and, if so, what protests were made to the French Government prior to the Mugabe visit, and what reasons did the French give for overriding our own protests?
  92. (Baroness Amos) I think the Committee will know that we worked very hard indeed to get the EU sanctions, including the travel ban, and certainly we did not want to see Mugabe, or indeed anybody on the travel ban list, travelling to London, Paris, or any other European capital; so we were disappointed. But I do think that it is important that I make some things clear to the Committee. Our absolute priority was to work for rollover of EU sanctions for a further year. I have been asked a number of times about the use of these sanctions, and, in particular, given that they are not economic sanctions, what is their purpose. A key element of their purpose is to demonstrate to the Mugabe regime their international isolation. Members of the Committee will know that, with 15 EU member countries, taking very different positions about sanctions and whether or not sanctions is the appropriate tool, getting agreement to the travel ban and the assets freeze and the moratorium on arms sales was very important indeed, and getting the sanctions rollover also was important. For the French Government, and again Committee members will know that the French Government historically do not take the same view necessarily as we do about the usefulness of sanctions, the French Government felt very strongly that they wanted to have an opportunity for discussion and dialogue at the highest level about what was going on in Zimbabwe and felt that there were some very strong messages that they wanted to impart with respect to that. Our view was that this would not be helpful, that it would be a propaganda coup for Mugabe, a position that was not shared by our French colleagues. So there was discussion on this. Eventually, we got agreement to sanctions rollover, the sanctions were due to run out on 18 February, the France/Africa Summit was due to start on 19 February. A majority of EU members wanted the rollover of sanctions, we got agreement from all the EU members in the end, we needed consensus.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  93. Did they give him the L_gion d'honneur?
  94. (Baroness Amos) Not as far as I am aware.

    Mr Pope

  95. It struck me, and, in some ways, that is even worse than I thought it was, because I assumed at the time that the French were being as reliable allies as ever they are, but, in fact, it is worse than that. The truth is then that it is not just that the French were being an unreliable ally, it is that we did a deal with the French, so we soft-pedalled our protest on Mugabe visiting Paris in return for renewal of the sanctions measure?
  96. (Baroness Amos) No, that is not true, and I hope that the Committee did not take that as a sense from what I was saying. I was trying to be clear to the Committee that there was a range of discussions in the run-up to the discussion that we had at the EU meeting about the rollover of sanctions. In those discussions, the French made it absolutely clear that they wanted to have Mugabe at their meeting because they felt that there were things that they wanted to say and discussions that they wanted to have. Our priority was sanctions rollover, we did not do a deal, we expressed to the French our concerns about Mugabe's visit, but the French were adamant that they wanted him in Paris. At the same time, and this is what I am trying to explain to the Committee, we needed to have all EU Member States agree on sanctions rollover, or we would not have got it.

    Chairman

  97. Are you not agreeing with Mr Pope, in a different way?
  98. (Baroness Amos) No, I am not agreeing with Mr Pope. What I am trying to explain is that there were discussions which were going on which related to how we could achieve sanctions rollover, but the Committee should not take from that that there was a deal. I want to make that absolutely clear.

    Chairman: Mr Pope, are you satisfied?

    Mr Pope

  99. I can see the point that you are making, and I appreciate that. What I really want is an assurance that the strongest possible protests were made to the Government of France prior to Robert Mugabe being invited, I just want confirmation that that is the case?
  100. (Baroness Amos) We did make it clear. I think that if you look back at the record you will see that the Prime Minister made a statement about his disappointment to Parliament, as did the Foreign Secretary, so it was made at the highest levels.

    Mr Illsley

  101. To Parliament, or to France? You said that the Prime Minister made a statement and the Foreign Secretary made a statement to Parliament; were any representations made to France at the highest level?
  102. (Baroness Amos) Yes, they were.

    Mr Pope

  103. Just on the sanctions themselves, we have received evidence from a number of organisations, and I think many Members of Parliament believe that the sanctions do not go far enough; now I am not underestimating the difficulty of getting agreement across the 15 Member States, and I can appreciate it was difficult to get the sanctions renewed. What I really want to ask is, do you share that view, that the sanctions should be tightened further, and, if you do, why were we not able to secure a further tightening of the sanctions when they were renewed last month?
  104. (Baroness Amos) The sanctions were tightened twice last year. The Committee will recall that when the sanctions first came into effect, on 18 February last year, there were some 20 individuals on the list; on 22 July they were tightened so that 52 names were added, and in September a further seven names were added, so the sanctions were tightened twice last year. On a number of occasions we have been asked why spouses and children could not be added to the list. I think that, what I have said to the Committee about the importance of having all EU Member States agree with the action which is being taken, otherwise we do not get agreement and so it does not go through, this is something which has been the subject of discussion. I am sure that the European Union will come back to this issue of whether or not the sanctions need to be strengthened, extended, in any way, but I cannot guarantee to the Committee that in the coming year they will be; but I am sure that this is something that will be discussed again.

  105. Just a final question, if I may, Chairman, to ask whether or not we have been more successful, than clearly we were with France, with other EU states in getting them to withdraw invitations that had been made, or have there been no other examples of people wanting to travel to EU Member States, or have we been successful in getting them withdrawn, or, in fact, have we been rebuffed, as clearly we were with France?
  106. (Baroness Amos) There have been a number of occasions where members of the Zimbabwe elite who were on the list made visa applications to other EU countries, which were turned down. Can I just repeat that we could not stop Mugabe going to Paris. The French wanted Mugabe to go to Paris, and on that basis they were prepared to invite him and have him there.

  107. Obviously, I accept that point completely. The issue I was trying to get at, at the beginning of my questions, was how strenuously did we put our point that we thought it was a disgrace that he was being invited to Paris, and really what I wanted was an assurance that the kind of outrage that many MPs feel was passed on to the Government of France as being the view of the UK Government?
  108. (Baroness Amos) Can I assure you that the concern that you feel was felt by the Government and that this was passed on to the Government in France. Can I add also just two things. One is that, the reason, there was much too'ing and fro'ing, as members of the Committee will recall, about sanctions rollover, France/Africa and EU/Africa, and I would like to reassure the Committee that sanctions rollover was agreed immediately. The ongoing discussion between EU member countries was about the France/Africa Summit, and subsequently about the EU/Africa Summit, which also was postponed.

    Mr Pope: Thank you for that; that was helpful.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  109. My admiration for your mastery of diplomatic language grows with each answer that you give us.
  110. (Baroness Amos) Well I have been in this job now for nearly two years, and I am slightly worried by your saying that, because I always hope that you will think that I am open and honest.

  111. I am sure you are open and honest.
  112. (Baroness Amos) But, if you think I am becoming too diplomatic, I worry.

  113. I think you might have gone native.
  114. (Baroness Amos) I hope not.

  115. But may I ask you just one question about this extraordinary visit to Paris. You said what you said, but have you indicated, since then, to the French President - I am sure the Prime Minister is very sorry he gave him a Churchill pen - that putting up Mugabe in that luxurious accommodation, seeing his wife go out on shopping sprees, every day, was a grotesque insult to the starving and bleeding people of Zimbabwe?
  116. (Baroness Amos) That is a view that we have. As I have tried to explain to the Committee, I do not think that that way of looking at this issue is one which is shared necessarily by our colleagues in France.

  117. No, I accept that, but they are in no doubt that that is what we think of it?
  118. (Baroness Amos) They are in no doubt that that is what we think.

    Sir John Stanley

  119. Minister, can I return to an issue which the Chairman raised right at the beginning of this session. Is it not a rather poor reflection on the Foreign Office that the US State Department has got out its detailed public information booklet "Zimbabwe's Manmade Crisis", where the British Government, with its particular responsibilities, actually has not managed to issue any such similar or comparable publication?
  120. (Baroness Amos) I do not agree with that, and the reason I do not agree with that is that we took the view, and I will look at this again in the light of the promise that I made to the Committee right at the beginning, that there was ample evidence out there from NGOs in Zimbabwe, as well as NGOs like Amnesty International, on the human rights issues in Zimbabwe. So our focus has tended to be, in the documents that we have produced on the history of our relationship with Zimbabwe, focusing in particular on land reform, but also, most recently, on the humanitarian crisis. I take the point which the Committee has raised, which is that maybe this information is not as widely available as it could be, and certainly I will be looking at that; but I do not think that it is a failure on our part at all. The information is there, it is publicly available, we took the view that it was publicly available; perhaps this is something that we should have reviewed at a slightly earlier stage, I am very happy to do that. The European Union has made, most recently on 19 February, a very strong statement about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. We have taken just a slightly different approach, and the Committee will be aware that our assets freeze, and the European Union assets freeze, has been in place for a year. The United States Government made a decision on an assets freeze only recently; again, a slightly different approach.

  121. Did the United States State Department document owe anything to British diplomacy?
  122. (Baroness Amos) In what sense? It is very much a US...

  123. Was British diplomacy behind that State Department initiative, or was it wholly a home-grown, US Government initiative?
  124. (Baroness Amos) I have been, as have officials in the Foreign Office, and indeed the Foreign Secretary, in regular contact and regular discussion with colleagues in the United States on the situation in Zimbabwe, that has been the case since I have been in this job, and certainly before that. So what the United States Government document is intended to do is back up the resolution which is going to the Commission on Human Rights, and we were aware that they were putting that document together, it is to back-up the EU resolution. And I think the United States have put up their own; they are supporting our resolution.

  125. So do we take it that the British Government, though it did not initiate in any way the US State Department's document, warmly welcomes it?
  126. (Baroness Amos) Yes, absolutely; and, as I say, we have been working very closely with our colleagues in the United States on these issues.

    Chairman

  127. Before moving on to the Commonwealth, I would like to round off what Mr Pope began, on the European Union. Is there any prospect, in relation to the sort of document that Sir John has mentioned, of the EU agreeing such a factual document; have we tried?
  128. (Baroness Amos) We have not tried, no.

  129. Should we try?
  130. (Baroness Amos) There is no reason why we should not try, and we will.

  131. I think it was Sir John, or Sir Patrick, raised the SW Radio, and the prospects of funding. Has any thought been given to financial assistance from the EU?
  132. (Baroness Amos) I do not know, actually, whether they have made an application to the EU. Have you any idea?

    (Mr Brennan) I understand they have had some discussions in Brussels, but I do not know where it has gone.

  133. Would we support any such representations application by them to the EU?
  134. (Baroness Amos) Support, in what way?

  135. Support the EU granting the funding to SW Radio?
  136. (Baroness Amos) If they met the criteria, there would be no problem at all, from our point of view.

  137. Just one or two final questions about African solidarity and the Mugabe visit. Is it true that the African countries had made it clear that if Mugabe were barred from Paris they would not attend?
  138. (Baroness Amos) This is something that I was told. Certainly, I have no idea how true that is.

  139. Even if we do not know about Paris, presumably as an EU member we would know about the proposed meeting in Portugal?
  140. (Baroness Amos) I do know, certainly, about that meeting.

  141. And what was the position there?
  142. (Baroness Amos) I attended the Ministerial Meeting in advance of the proposed Heads of State EU/Africa Meeting, which was due to take place towards the end of next week, and it was made absolutely clear at that meeting that the African countries, through the mechanism of the African Union, had taken a decision that if Mugabe was not invited to EU/Africa they would not attend. That was the position that was put to us, on behalf of the AU, by the AU Chair.

  143. Did we point out gently to the AU that that was in contradiction to the sorts of comments and commitments they made at NEPAD, to provide good governance and support good governance in response to the aid and support from the West?
  144. (Baroness Amos) Not only was it made clear in respect of NEPAD, it was made clear also with respect to their relationship under COTONU, that there are principles governing the relationship between the EU and Africa which the European Union would want to see applied, and the European Union apply those principles to themselves, in terms of their relationship, and it is absolutely right that the EU should apply those principles in terms of its relationship with other parts of the world. And that was made absolutely clear.

  145. So, in effect, notwithstanding the damage to the image of Africa, notwithstanding the potential damage to financing, they put African solidarity and Mugabe as their first priority?
  146. (Baroness Amos) I think it is deeply disappointing. Certainly, I have said on a number of occasions, and others have repeated this, in the G8, that we are risking the whole NEPAD initiative here. What we have sought to do is say that we cannot punish an entire continent by the actions of one country; having said that, as the situation in Zimbabwe has continued to deteriorate, I think that there has been an expectation across the world that there would be some acknowledgement of this, in some way, by some of the countries in Africa. What I know, from the discussions that I have had with many countries on the continent, is that there is a great deal that is going on behind the scenes, and, as I said, I think that the public statements that are made very often are at variance with the frustration I know that there is with the situation, they are at variance very often with some of the tough messages that I know are delivered in private. And I think what sometimes we have to remember is that when there is an alliance between countries, either through something like the Southern African Development Community, or the African Union, different kinds of methods are used to express displeasure. The same applies, the Committee has pushed me very hard today on our relationship with France, and I have been accused by Sir Patrick of using diplomatic language.

  147. Do you plead guilty?
  148. (Baroness Amos) I hope that he was referring only to that particular aspect of my evidence.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  149. Indeed.
  150. (Baroness Amos) But the point I want to make is that that is for a very good reason, because there are relationships that we have that we want to maintain, there are ways that we learn about the best way of securing support from allies, for example, and sometimes it is very difficult when outright condemnation is being looked for, and what we are seeking to do is maintain a relationship that allows us to continue with ongoing work. I think we have to recognise that the same applies to some of the countries in Africa that we are looking to say more publicly what we know they are saying privately.

    Chairman: This moves very easily into a discussion of the Commonwealth and Zimbabwe. Sir Patrick, please.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  151. As we are moving probably towards votes in the House of Commons, Baroness Amos, I will be fairly brief, but you referred, at the onset of this afternoon's session, to the continued suspension until the meeting of the Heads of Government at the end of this year. There is obviously a possibility of division and rift within the Commonwealth, which we would all deplore. Can you assure the Committee that Her Majesty's Government is doing everything possible, in concert with other, like-minded governments, to try to ensure that this suspension, or perhaps even expulsion, is the result of the December meeting, unless there has been very, very, very significant improvement in Zimbabwe?
  152. (Baroness Amos) That is very much our view, but, as the Committee knows, the Commonwealth is an organisation that operates by consensus. The Committee will know, from reading the Commonwealth Secretary General's press statement, with respect to the decision that was taken to rollover the suspension from the Councils until December, that having consulted with many Heads there were different views; on the one side, there were those who felt that the suspension should be lifted, and, on the other side, there were those who felt that actually tougher measures should be taken. So already there are differences in the Commonwealth. I think that in the next few months the Commonwealth Secretary General will be working very hard on this; currently, he is in Nigeria, I know he will be going to talk to the Australians, and also I know he has been in contact with President Mbeki. This will not be an easy issue for the Commonwealth; the Commonwealth does not like suspension, it needs to operate by consensus. I know that there is a concern within Nigeria that this issue will dominate CHOGM in December. I think we all have to work very hard in the intervening period to see whether or not we can get the Commonwealth to meet a degree of consensus by December; if it does not, this issue is likely to dominate.

  153. Would you agree with me that the very credibility of the Commonwealth, in which I believe very strongly, is at stake here, or could be at stake?
  154. (Baroness Amos) I do agree with that. I think that we all felt this very strongly at CHOGM last year, that the credibility of the Commonwealth was at stake. There were many who were asking questions about what is the role and value of the Commonwealth, if this is an organisation that cannot even adhere to its own principles. I think it would be a great pity if the Commonwealth were to be brought into disrepute; it is a unique organisation, bringing together, as we know, large and small countries, developed and developing countries, it has a particular place and a particular role, I think, in the kind of world that now exists. I think it has a great value, and we need to do all we can to preserve it.

    Mr Hamilton

  155. I just wanted to ask you, Baroness Amos, about the plight of Zimbabwean refugees in this country; it is partly a constituency issue, but I am sure many MPs have similar problems. What is our official policy towards granting refugee status to those who have fled persecution from Zimbabwe and now are seeking asylum in the UK; do we have a specifically different policy towards Zimbabweans?
  156. (Baroness Amos) Than we do elsewhere; no, we do not. The situation is as it would be for anyone else seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. You would have to seek asylum not from your home country but another country, so either on arrival in the United Kingdom or on arrival in a third country.

  157. And if Zimbabweans fail in their plea for asylum and have gone through all the channels, are we sending them back to Zimbabwe?
  158. (Baroness Amos) No. Sending back was suspended, I think, in March last year, and that remains the case; we are not sending people back.

  159. Where there are families with children and those children attain the age of 18, are we treating them then as independent people and sending them back, if, for whatever reason, we deem that they should not continue to have refugee status?
  160. (Baroness Amos) Actually, I do not know the answer to that. I would be surprised if we were, but could I clarify that with my Home Office colleagues and write to the Committee on that?

    Mr Hamilton: I would appreciate something on this issue, yes. Thank you.

    Chairman

  161. I fear that a division is imminent. Perhaps you could end by giving us a little of your thoughts on Zimbabwe in its region, Zimbabwe with SADC, Zimbabwe with South Africa? They have been telling us, at least, that Chief Buthelezi has been expressing his impatience with developments in Zimbabwe; members of the business community in South Africa, recognising the damage to the investment potential to South Africa, are voicing their concerns. Has there been any discernible move on the part of President Mbeki?
  162. (Baroness Amos) What I can say to the Committee is this, that, certainly in the discussions that I have had, and the most recent discussion I had was with President Dos Santos, in Angola, and Angola currently is chairing SADC, I am aware that there is a great deal of concern about Zimbabwe. And the concern is about the humanitarian crisis, it is about the economic situation, it is about the political situation, also it is about the impact that the situation in Zimbabwe is having on the region as a whole, in terms of possibilities for investment, the stereotyping of Africa and the region from those outside, the kind of Zimbabwe effect. I think also that there is a degree of frustration and a feeling that the leaders promise very often that there will be movement and then change does not happen. But it is quite difficult to know then what to do; partly, it is the situation that I described to the Committee earlier, which is, if you do have a regime that is set on a particular course and actually, for political ends, cares nothing about what happens to its own people, it is very hard to know what levers you have to pull if you are a concerned country or a concerned president or a concerned individual from outside.

  163. The levers will probably be internal.
  164. (Baroness Amos) And I think that colleagues in SADC and in other African countries face very much the same frustrations as do the British Government.

  165. But Chief Buthelezi was speaking, I think, in particular, of the danger of substantial refugee flows from Zimbabwe, not only into South Africa but presumably into its region. To what extent is that a concern?
  166. (Baroness Amos) This has been an ongoing concern, and we have been in discussions with the UN High Commission for Refugees. There have been various stages over the last year or so when we have thought that we would see greater refugee flows; this has not happened. There has been a steady movement, as it were, but it has not been a mass exodus; and I think this is the thing that has surprised a number of people and has made it, in some senses, a little bit more difficult to deal with.

  167. In terms of trying to act as an honest broker, President Mbeki, President Obasanjo, began efforts to bring about an internal reconciliation between the MDC and the ZANU-PF, the Government of Zimbabwe; those appeared to peter out, I think, in the first half of last year. Are we encouraging them to seek to restart that process?

(Baroness Amos) Yes, we are. We have been in regular dialogue with South Africa and Nigeria on this, and President Obasanjo visited Zimbabwe earlier this year, as part of that process of talking to the Zimbabwe ZANU-PF regime about some of these issues, and indeed talked about a range of other issues, but I know there was some discussion of these issues. The difficulty that we have is that the talks broke down because ZANU-PF pulled out of those talks. As I said to the Committee earlier, we are now at a position where it looks as if ZANU-PF could well get the majority that they need to change the constitution, so there is no pressure on ZANU-PF to participate in talks; and, indeed, what we have seen is them coming down even more heavily on the MDC, because of the MDC's recent success with the stay-away.

Chairman: We are very close to a division. I would like to thank you, Baroness Amos, and your two colleagues, Dr Pocock and Mr Brennan. We look forward to the response from the Government, from yourself, to the suggestions made by the Committee; and, alas, no light at the end of the tunnel, the position certainly has worsened, and we only hope, for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, that there will be an improvement soon. Thank you very much indeed.