TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003
Donald Anderson, in the Chair
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(Baroness Amos) I would be very happy to do that.
(Baroness Amos) Could I just clarify, were you asking why we have not produced a report on what is happening to the land?
(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.
(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 - - -
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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
(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.
(Baroness Amos) Yes.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(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.
(Baroness Amos) I am not entirely certain what you mean by "all appropriate steps".
Chairman: Serious consequences.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(Baroness Amos) I do not, no.
(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
(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
(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.
(Baroness Amos) It could take as long as half a century, yes.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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
(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.
(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
(Baroness Amos) Not as far as I am aware.
(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.
(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?
(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.
(Baroness Amos) Yes, they were.
(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.
(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.
(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
(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.
(Baroness Amos) But, if you think I am becoming too diplomatic, I worry.
(Baroness Amos) I hope not.
(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.
(Baroness Amos) They are in no doubt that that is what we think.
Sir John Stanley
(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.
(Baroness Amos) In what sense? It is very much a US...
(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.
(Baroness Amos) Yes, absolutely; and, as I say, we have been working very closely with our colleagues in the United States on these issues.
(Baroness Amos) We have not tried, no.
(Baroness Amos) There is no reason why we should not try, and we will.
(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.
(Baroness Amos) Support, in what way?
(Baroness Amos) If they met the criteria, there would be no problem at all, from our point of view.
(Baroness Amos) This is something that I was told. Certainly, I have no idea how true that is.
(Baroness Amos) I do know, certainly, about that meeting.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(Baroness Amos) I hope that he was referring only to that particular aspect of my evidence.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(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
(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.
(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.
(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.
(Baroness Amos) No. Sending back was suspended, I think, in March last year, and that remains the case; we are not sending people back.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.