Month: March 2012
A Wake Up Call For Executives And Trustees – delivered in 2004
John Ruskin once wrote that “a nation cannot last as a money making mob.” Most of us would concur with that view and would want to see wealth used ethically and creatively. The movement in favour of the ethical use of money and socially responsible investment has taken that impulse and turned it into corporate mission statements, government policies, and investment decisions. Ruskin would surely have approved.
Throughout the 1990s a range of organisations campaigned for this change to come about. The Ethical Investment Research Service (EIRIS) and the UK Social Investment Forum – through their “Tomorrow’s Company” campaign deserve to be mentioned in despatches but so do those charities and pressure groups who have been involved in promoting a combination of ethical consumerism and disinvestment campaigns. And so do singular individuals, such as Russell Sparkes, whose authoritative writing on these issues has given the argument clear definition. Russell cogently demolishes the myth that investing ethically and acting in a socially responsible manner is incompatible with good business returns. Indeed, the reverse is often true.
There is no doubt that many more companies and institutions do now routinely consider their responsibility to their stakeholders and the wider community.
Yet there still remains a gap between the impulse and the practice, the rhetoric and the reality.
We all know that SRI can very easily become just another piece of public relations and window dressing; that, as Stuart McGreevy has argued, it can be seen as a “nice to do” rather than as a “must do activity”. That would be to misunderstand both the public mood and the new legal obligations that no longer leave SRI as an optional extra.
This is especially true for those of us involved in charities and non-governmental voluntary organisations. I speak to you today as someone who is himself a trustee and patron of several charities: and therefore acutely aware of the conflicting pressures, priorities and competing demands that those who run charities have to face.
Yet, for the reasons I will adumbrate it would be a huge error to leave SRI compliance as a subsidiary issue relegated to the backwaters of long agendas. Nor is it an issue that can be abdicated to the fund manager with trustees washing their hands of their own responsibility to ensure SRI compliance. The Trustee Act and Charity Commissioners now impose a duty on charities to include ethical as well as financial considerations with their standard investment criteria. Yet, this time last year, some 60% of the UK’s top 100 charities still had no written ethical or socially responsible investment policy, and two thirds of those were unable to say what plans they had to address the issue.
Because of the new statutory obligations every trustee needs to know how SRI impacts the objects of their charity: they need to appraise investment performance, legal obligations, the moral standpoint, compliance obligations and risk management.
Trustees have to lead on this issue by example – and also consider carefully the implications of not doing so. On the down side, a failure to engage properly in SRI will back-fire on disengaged charities, and will jeopardise their reputations, standing, donations and goodwill.
Many of you will have followed the recent debate about the decision of Campaign Against The Arms Trade to name 63 charities who own shares in arms exporters. These include major players in the charity world, including Cancer Research UK, the MS Society and the RNLI.
It was deeply revealing to hear the explanation given by the MS Society: “We never made a conscious decision to invest in the arms trade. We simply have a discretionary portfolio which means that our fund managers decide our investments for us. We can’t exclude any investment because our constitution doesn’t allow us to.”
Another charity said: “We don’t knowingly invest in any shares. Our investment managers manage our portfolio to the returns that we want, but how they invest it is down to them.”
But is it?
And can trustees any longer legitimately try to pass the buck?
In the past trustees have simply cited their fiduciary duty to get the best possible returns. But times and the laws have changed.
Sophie Chapman, speaking on behalf of the Charity Finance Directors’ Group says that “The Charity Commission now accepts that an ethical investment policy may be entirely consistent with the principle of seeking the best returns. For instance, trustees may be of the view that companies that adhere to ethical criteria are less risky and will perform better in the long term.”
In fact, Charity Commission guidance quite specifically permits a charity to exclude investments that “might hamper its work by making potential beneficiaries unwilling to be helped because of the source of the charity’s money or by alienating supporters.”
Failure to take SRI seriously can become a public relations disaster. For instance, following Campaign Against The Arms Trade’s disclosure about RNLI, the agency who organise al of their street fundraising, Dialogue Direct, have terminated their contract with RNLI.
The RSPB also fell foul – if I can use that phrase – of a decision to invest in a company responsible for an oil spill that killed thousands of birds.
I was recently in correspondence with a major national charity who have been leading calls for disinvestment in The Sudan while some of their own pension fund investments are
tied up with major interests in that country. Clearly this is extremely damaging for a charity’s reputation and, of course, donors may well move their donations to other charities if they feel aggrieved.
Nor is the old shibboleth about SRI producing far lower returns true. Half of Barnardo’s pension fund has been invested ethically since 1999 when the charity introduced changes to its general investment policy. Their finance director says: “We monitor the returns carefully and it’s actually been running slightly ahead of the market as a whole.” A 2002 report by West LB Panmure into the SRI market found that there was no sign of “systematic performance disadvantage.” Richard Stroud, the Chief Executive of The Pensions Trust adds: “Trustees must recognise ethical investment will give a different – which isn’t to say worse – return than conventional funds.”
For today’s discussion Stuart has identified six key barriers which have stood in the way of pushing SRI up the charity agenda. I hope that what I have said this morning helps to overcome some of the barriers and reinforces the urgency of taking SRI seriously.
If, as John Ruskin put it, our only interest is in being “a money making mob”, it will diminish the vitality of the charity, disillusion supporters, and be significantly out of step with the mood of most people in this country.
Why Human Cloning Is Wrong : Text of A Statement Made By Lord Alton of Liverpool to the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cells on Monday 19th of November, 2001:
Text of A Statement Made By Lord Alton of Liverpool to the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cells on Monday 19th of November, 2001:
May I first of all take this opportunity of thanking the Committee members for allowing my colleagues and I to present our evidence to the Select Committee today.
I am joined by Professor David Prentice from the Department of Life Sciences, Indiana State University, Professor Neil Scolding, Burden Professor of Clinical Neurosciences, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, Dr. Michael Antoniou, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, Division of Medical and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Guy’s Hospital and Mr. Gareth Williams.
Before we respond to your questions, I would like to summarise the position which we hold in relation to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001. In the light of the decision of the High Court last Thursday and the decision of the European Parliament on Wednesday last, in relation to the use of EU funding for experiments using human embryos for cloning, this is a timely moment to revisit these issues.
On April 28th 1999, in a debate which I initiated on the floor of the House, and subsequently during a debate with Lord Winston organised by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee on December 13th 1999, and then, in opposition to the Orders, on January 22nd last I set out my principled reasons for opposition. I argued that the Orders were unethical, of dubious legality, and unnecessary and that, at an international level, they placed us at variance with most civilised opinion.
In January I moved an amendment calling for the creation of a Select Committee to meet prior to primary legislation and I questioned both the pell mell rush – which Lady Warnock described as the “bullying of parliament” –and the use of unamendable Orders piggy-backed onto inappropriate legislation as a means of achieving the Government’s objective.
A former Law Officer, Lord Rawlinson, warned the Government that their approach was open to contest in the Courts and the outcome in the High Court last week more than vindicates that opinion.
Although grateful for this opportunity to submit oral evidence, I stand by my criticisms of the process that has been used. While admiring many of the members of Your Lordships Committee personally, I cannot believe that you are easy with the principle of creating retrospective Select Committees. As I said in the House of Lords in January:
“Imagine a court of law where the judge gave out the verdict and sentence before hearing the defence, the prosecution and the witnesses. Such a process would be held up to ridicule.” (Hansard, House of Lords, 22.01.01., Col. 23)
In addition, the objectivity of the whole embryo research and human cloning debate has to be called into question. When the HFEA and the HGAC asked a Committee of four people to act as an advisory body it appointed them knowing that all four were from scientific backgrounds, that all four had previously expressed support for cloning, and that two had links with the pharmaceutical industry. The Prime Minister recently put the value of the European bio-tech industry at £70 billion; others have put it at £100 billion. It therefore wields incredible and disproportionate influence and power.
By contrast, the Chief Medical Officer’s 14 strong Expert Working Group on Therapeutic Cloning did not contain any dissenting voices. It has always troubled me that anyone who upholds the sanctity of human life from fertilisation is automatically excluded from the debate, and especially from key committees.
A further illustration of this problem has been highlighted by Dr Elizabeth Allan, who has submitted written evidence to you, that the first license application for work with human embryonic stem cells has been sent by the HFEA for peer review to scientists already working with animal embryonic stem cells. Such scientists have a clear interest in approving the application and may be in ignorance of the advances made using adult stem cells.
The legitimacy of the consultation process has therefore been seriously undermined and does nothing to assuage the concerns raised by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee that the ethical debate and scientific debate are out of sequence and that public opinion is therefore being alienated. They said “Science’s relationship with United Kingdom society is under strain.”
Today you will hear oral evidence from those who are opposed to the Regulations. You will today hear from Professors Scolding and Prentice, and Dr. Antoniou. But there are others who would have been happy to submit oral, as well as written, testimony. These include Dr. Elizabeth Allan, who has submitted highly detailed and impressive written evidence, Dr. Phil Jones of Oxford University, Dr Michelene M Roth of Harvard Medical School, and members of the Campaign Opposing Exploitation of the Disabled, whose patron is Baroness Masham. This organisation wrote to Peers in January expressing its concerns over the manner in which disabled people were being exploited. Lord Darendorf rightly said in the debate in January that it is wrong to caricature people who oppose the use of human embryos in destructive experiments as being in favour of human suffering.
One does not have to believe in the sanctity of human life, or that life begins at fertilisation, to be concerned about the general commodification of human life. Every generation is tempted by the seductive and tantalising prospect of universal happiness as a trump over all other values and principles, but human dignity must always be defended against the abuse of scientific techniques. These Regulations, in allowing embryos, new human beings, to be created, manipulated, impregnated, disembowelled and destroyed, remove from them the last vestiges of respect that the Warnock recommendations were supposed to have left them. Exactly how can the “special status” of the embryo be reconciled with these Regulations? .
Lest anyone believe that there is any theological justification for the way we treat embryos in the UK, I refer the Committee to the written submission by an ad hoc group of Christian theologians from the Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed tradition. They conclude:
“In asserting that life must be defended from conception, twentieth century Christians were in continuity with the belief of the early Church that all human life is sacred from conception. This view has been constant in the Christian tradition, despite disagreements over the origin of the soul and the legal penalties thought appropriate for early or late abortion. The only exceptions to this constant view have been the Roman Catholic laxists of the seventeenth century and some Protestant and Roman Catholic writers of the late twentieth century. The great weight of the tradition, East and West, Orthodox, Catholic and Reformed, from the apostolic age until the twentieth century, is firmly against any sacrifice or destructive use of the early human embryo, save in the context of seeking to save the mother’s life.” (See attached list of those who endorse this statement – Appendix A)
Furthermore, the extent of religious, not just Christian, concern over these Regulations was graphically illustrated by an unprecedented joint letter that Lordships received in January. The signatories were 11 of our religious leaders, headed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. They included the Chief Rabbi, the Cardinal Archbishop of Glasgow, the President of the Muslim College, the Director of the Sikh Network, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and other leaders of the Christian denominations.
As I said in my address to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in December 1999, to treat the “human embryo as just another accessory, to be created, bartered, frozen or destroyed – has taken us a long way from the traditional belief that life is a gift from God, and to be treated with reverence and accorded profound and deep respect.”
Yet not only are the regulations unethical, they are also illegal in so far as the attempt to authorise experimental or as the Government likes to call it, ‘therapeutic’ cloning.
In our Response to the HGAC/HFEA consultation paper, Cloning Issues in Reproduction. Science and Medicine’, in April 1998, the Parliamentary All-Party Pro-life Group stated that:
“The HFE Act defines an embryo as ‘a live human embryo where fertilisation is complete’ and ‘references to an embryo include an egg in the process of fertilisation’. (section 1(1)(a) & (b)) Since a cloned embryo has not undergone fertilisation, it might be argued that a cloned embryo is not an embryo for the purposes of the Act. If the courts were to adopt this interpretation, it would follow that the HFEA has no power to regulate the creation or keeping of cloned embryos.” (APG)
– a view endorsed in the High court last week.
Professor Ian Wilmut of ‘Dolly’ fame supports this view. In his book, ‘Second Creation’ at p.299 he comments on cloning;
“..the essential part of the creation process – the fusion of eggs and sperm – is missing. Fertilisation is replaced by another process: that of nuclear transfer.”
Section 3 of the 1990 Act imposes restrictions on what may be done with ‘embryos’. Having said that an embryo cannot be kept after the appearance of the primitive streak, section 3(4) defines the primitive streak as appearing 14 days after “the gametes are mixed”. However, CNR does not involve the mixing of gametes. It involves (and as the female egg is evacuated this itself is arguable) only one gamete. Therefore, if section one is interpreted in the light of section 3(4), cloned embryos cannot be subject to the 1990 Act.
The HFE Act specifically prohibits cloning by the nuclear substitution of a cell that forms part of an embryo. (section 3(3)(d)). In 1990 it was assumed that cloning would involve the nuclear substitution of a fertilised egg. The ‘Dolly’ technique was then unknown. Parliament intended to cover all forms of cloning, whether live birth cloning, or, as the Government has rebranded it,‘reproductive’cloning or experimental cloning. (from APG submission to Select Committee para 2.7.)
The Minister, Yvette Cooper, acknowledged;
“It is true that Parliament in 1990 did not envisage the possibility of cell nuclear replacement.” (Hansard, House of Commons, 19.12.00 Col. 215)
Yet this is what the Government wanted to authorise through the Regulations. Furthermore, even though the House was debating something which Parliament had not envisaged in 1990 we were told by Miss Cooper that “I do not believe that there are fundamentally new moral issues at stake that were not raised in the debate on the 1990 Act.” (Col. 215) Many of your lordships House and the High Court were of a different opinion.
I submit that the law, as represented by the HFE Act, has fallen way behind the science, and is in urgent need of repeal, or at the very least, comprehensive review. The possibility of human embryos being produced without eggs is a real one (see Dr.Allan’s submission, pp. 63-65), reiterating the need for a new and comprehensive definition of the word, “embryo”. Legislation is also required to prohibit all possible combinations of human and animal genetic material in embryos and I am concerned that the British Government, unlike its US counterpart, have no plans at present to collect centrally information on the importation and use of stem cells. (Written answer from Lord Hunt, 12.11.01 PQ 1949/2001/2002 – to be circulated as Appendix C)
On 27th of July, 2000, Lord Hunt in an earlier written answer (PQ4105/99/2000 to be circulated as Appendix C) said that “the importation of embryonic stem cell tissue is not regulated by the HFEA 1990.” It should be.
Finally, from the legal perspective, the regulations approved by Parliament earlier this year authorise licences to be issued for new purposes. Therefore, they raise new principles, a point which the Committee may wish to pursue with us.
Amongst other things, we must consider:
increasing knowledge about the development of embryos;
The basis of the ‘safeguards’ provided by the 1990 Act is that research on human embryos would be allowed only if directed towards clinical goals deemed sufficiently worthy, a utilitarian calculation with which I disagree. But the new regulations allow pure research for “increasing knowledge about the development of embryos” and undermine the need for justification to be given for certain research projects, despite what Ministers in both Houses may have said. ( see Y Cooper, House of Commons, Hansard, 19.12.00, Col. 214-215, Col. 219, Cols. 260-261 & Lord Hunt, House of Lords, Hansard, 22.01.01, Cols. 18-19)
Once again, I draw members’ attention to the written submission of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-life group;
“Any well designed experiment that a scientist might want to conduct on a human embryo would be licensed under the new regulations. Despite the fact that we have always maintained that the principles of the 1990 Act were incoherent, and that the “safeguards” provided were illusory, we find it most significant that those principles are now being quietly abandoned.” (APG Submission, para 3.9)
To summarise so far, the 2001 Regulations are both unethical and of dubious legality. Thirdly, however, they are unnecessary. There is no need to conduct embryonic stem cell research.
During the earlier debates I was pleased, Lord chairman, by your own remark that if alternatives existed then they should be pursued. My scientific colleagues will expand on the detail but it is now abundantly clear that adult stem cell research shows more clinical promise than embryonic stem cell research.
I will circulate some graphic examples of the ethical alternatives which offer common ground to all who wish to see scientific progress without the destruction of human life.
Clearly, the scientists will go into greater detail, but I would like to stress that we are not trying to ‘hype’ adult stem cells as Anne McLaren accuses us in a recent issue of ‘Nature’ magazine. (1.11.01, p.131) but it is not unreasonable to question the over exaggerated emphasis placed on the use of human embryos. For example, Yvette Cooper spoke of the 2001 Regulations as giving a chance to the paralysed child (Hansard, House of Commons, 19.12.00, Col. 221) and helping the Parkinson’s disease sufferer (Col. 222), as though those of us who opposed the Regulations were impervious to their suffering.
“For many diseases and conditions, it holds out the only hope anywhere on the horizon.”(Hansard, 19.12.00, Col. 260)
As my colleagues will testify, astonishing progress is being made in treating diseases and conditions using adult stem cells. Yet where are the advances with embryonic stem cells? Impatience with the inflated claims of some scientists seems to be building. For example, the Geron Corporation’s failure to make sufficient progress in developing medical treatments using embryonic stem cells has led the University of Wisconsin’s patent licensing foundation to threaten to revoke at least part of Geron’s exclusive commercial rights related to embryonic stem cells. (New York Times 02.11.01)
Furthermore, the use of embryonic stem cells carries serious and unpredictable medical risks. They include teratoma and teratocarcinoma formation (including hidden abnormalities), and the tendency towards unregulated growth. I am sure members of the Committee will have read of the disastrous side effects in patients with Parkinson’s disease following their treatment with foetal cells. Well, the medical risks attached to the use of embryonic stem cells are even higher. These risks can be avoided through the use of adult stem cells. Such cells are readily available, in contrast to the difficulties in obtaining a sufficient supply of eggs for experimental cloning, they are not liable to immune rejection, unlike foetal cells, and have demonstrated a far greater range of differentiation than previously anticipated.
May I conclude by referring to international opinion.
By passing regulations authorising unlimited embryonic stem cell research, Britain is dangerously out of line with most civilised opinion. By our pre-emptive actions and by failing to create international consensus we are endangering the opportunity to create a world-wide framework of law and regulation.
The current US administration have stated their opposition to destructive embryonic stem cell research,
President Chirac has said , “I do not favour the authorisation of therapeutic cloning….It leads to the creation of embryos for the purposes of research and the production of cells and, in spite of the ban, makes reproductive cloning practically possible and leads to the risk of trafficking in eggs….The ever-present search for the right ethical balance should not be balkanised at the national or European level, or it will be bound to fail.”
In Germany a member of their Parliament’s Ethics Committee likened experimental cloning to “cannibalism” and another warned, “We don’t want to repeat the dreadful genetic experiments made by the Nazi Regime.”
Dr Volker Herzog, director of the German Institute for Cell Biology has described work on embryo cells as a “fall from grace” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 08.07.01) On the 13th November the German federal parliamentary inquiry commission, ‘Law and Ethics of Modern Medicine’, resolved by 17 votes to 26 to prohibit the import of human embryonic stem cells. With this the commission rejected research on embryonic stem cells in Germany as this could proceed legally only with imported stem cells.
European Parliament Resolutions of 14th April 1997 and 15th January 1998 are unambiguous in their opposition to cloning.
I will now circulate an extract from Resolution, B5-0710, 0751, 0753 and 0764/2000, (which states that“..’therapeutic cloning’, which involves the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes, poses a profound ethical dilemma, irreversibly crosses a boundary in research norms and is contrary to public policy as adopted by the European Union”) and the text of the Resolution passed last week (which banned EU funding for experiments using cloned human embryos)..
I will also circulate an extract from the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine which prohibits human cloning. Under Article 18 (2) of this Convention the creation of human embryos for research purposes is prohibited. Furthermore, the Additional Protocol to the Convention For The Protection Of Human Rights And Dignity Of The Human Being With Regard To The Application Of Biology And Medicine, on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings is categorical in its prohibition on cloning;
“Article 1 (1): Any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead, is prohibited.
Article 1 (2): For the purpose of this article, the term human being “genetically identical” to another human being means a human being sharing with another the same nuclear gene set.”
I hope that your Select Committee will be calling Government Ministers in order to establish how they intend to reconcile their publicly declared intention to sign this Protocol and Convention while promoting the 2001 Regulations. They are clearly incompatible.
Members of the Committee should be in no doubt as to the extent of British isolation from the International community. Why else would a maverick like Severino Antinori, who has only last week declared his intention to attempt the first production of cloned human embryos within the next few months (Reuters, 05.10.01), be seeking to work here?
The Government has expressed its opposition to live birth, or ‘reproductive’, cloning but the knowledge of early embryonic development acquired through experimental cloning inexorably paves the way for full live birth cloning.
The French and German governments have recently petitioned the UN General Assembly to place the cloning issue on its agenda so that negotiations to prohibit human cloning could begin as soon as possible.
I will now circulate some further corroborative evidence:
Dr Alan Trouson, animal cloner and human IVF specialist has said; “The Creator’s (a pseudonym for a pro-cloning scientist) spirit has been awakened by the historic moment we’re in right now; a convergence of under-the-radar pro-cloning agitation, falling taboos, and the inexorable march of science. These fears are overlapping so neatly that human cloning could be done tomorrow”.
In addition, Dr Michael Bishop, President of Infigen, a company specialising in animal cloning has claimed: “Last spring, I attended a secretive summit which attracted every known human cloner. One evening after dinner, some of us were talking, and there was not one of us who believed it (human cloning) had not already happened.” (both quotes from Garrett’s book, ‘Human Cloning and the Abuse of Power’.)
Lest these two scientists be dismissed as reckless mavericks, a recent Sunday Times report (Oct. 28, 2001) – ‘Monkey test breakthrough brings human clones closer’ – revealed that Scientists have created the first embryonic clones of an adult primate and are preparing to implant them into surrogate mothers.
As the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-life group said in our written submission to this Committee, the licensing of CNR projects works directly against the Government’s. stated objective to stop ‘reproductive’ cloning; “..it is not unlikely that the main technical hurdles to reproductive cloning would be overcome by British researchers working under licenses granted by the HFEA.” (APG Submission para. 4.4)
To conclude, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001 are unethical, of dubious legality, unnecessary and out of line with civilised international opinion. As I am sure that your lordships will recognise, the mass destruction and trivialisation of human life – and its corrupting effect on society as a whole – is the supreme challenge of our times.
Finding Somewhere For the Birds To Sing.
People take various routes into politics. Mine was the well trod path from local government into the House of Commons. I now sit as an independent in the Lords.
Throughout the 1970s I served as a member of the Liverpool City Council and the now defunct Merseyside County Council. Beginning life as the council babe – as a precocious 21-year-old student, and the council’s youngest member – at various times I served as the Council’s Deputy Leader, as Chief Whip and Chairman of the Housing Committee.
Election to the House of Commons, in a bizarre by-election held the day after the Callaghan Government lost a vote of confidence, sent me to the Commons, once again as the enfant terrible (ital), but also as the shortest lived MP. Only two or three days elapsed before the House was prorogued and MPs headed off to fight the 1979 General Election that brought Margaret Thatcher to power.
Four weeks later, having endured two election campaigns and two election counts – I was one and a half stone lighter, and finally able to take stock of my new role: Member of Parliament for Liverpool’s Edge Hill Division, and one of just 11 Liberal MPs, the rump of what was left of Mr.Gladstone’s patrimony.
I was struck by the powerlessness of the backbench MP in a tiny minority party. Margaret Thatcher enjoyed a working majority, the desultory Labour opposition was in a state of collapse and Marxist neophytes, in cities like my own, were beginning their long campaign of attrition to seize control of Labour. Meanwhile, the former Liberal leader, Jeremy Thorpe, was before the court on charges of conspiracy to murder, and it seemed very unlikely that a handful of diehard Liberals could make much difference in Parliament.
I compared the resources that I had enjoyed in my local government role with those available to me now. As Housing Chairman, and as the Council’s deputy leader, I had access to officials and resources: decisions I promoted through the Local Authority ( on issues such as building low cost homes for sale on inner city sites, promoting housing co-operatives, designating the biggest housing action area programme in Britain) made a real difference in the lives of under-privileged people. The contrast between being able to deliver inside sanitation and hot water to homes that had previously been without them ( 50% of the homes in my Council Ward were without these basic amenities) and the ineffectual banalities of political slanging in the House could not have been greater.
My part-time secretary, a dingy office, wholly inadequate resources to properly service the needs of constituents who deluged me in the desperate hope that I could put right some injustice, seemed a poor substitute for the realities of local government. And yet, and yet.
Early on during my time in the Commons I decided that as well as playing a role in my party, I should simply take the opportunity that the Commons offered to pursue the causes about which I cared and to relate the symptoms I saw on the ground in my constituency to the legislative causes: to become “a good constituency MP” and “a good parliamentarian”. In short, to use whatever time I had in the House to achieve small things.
In retrospect, this was the right decision. Too many people now seem to go into Parliament in the mistaken hope of becoming something else – one of the great political panjandrums, climbing ladders that with another the of the dice take you back to where you started. The parliamentary game has many more snakes that propel you down than ladders to take you up.
Enoch Powell was broadly right when he said that political careers end in failure, and the parliamentary landscape is littered with the wreckage of frustrated and failed ministerial careers. Festering bitterness followed by years of back-stabbing, seems a poor substitute for the satisfaction and fulfilment enjoyed by “campaigning” MPs.
Parliament is also better for having more independent voices. The post-1997 Parliaments have been characterised by a slavish, unquestioning adherence that it took a War inIraq to end. This is not healthy for a parliamentary democracy. They say that for the pearl to emerge from the oyster a bit of grit has got to enter in. We need many more bits of grit in our House of Commons.
E.M.Forster, says in “Two Cheers for Democracy” (ital) that the saving grace of our parliamentary system is the cranky, often idiosyncratic MP who by dint of effort perseveres and get some injustice put right. No doubt dictatorships are easier systems to run operate but totalitarianism has little else to commend it.
Democracies can be judged by the vigour and effectiveness of their oppositions: when the Loyal Opposition is in disarray and consumed by internecine warfare (pace Labour in 1979 and the Conservatives in 1997) it weakens the process of accountability. When, during those same periods, internal opposition within the governing parties is stifled by the unedifying sight of aspirant career politicians waiting in the queue for buggins turn as a parliamentary under secretary of state, it makes matters even worse.
If the unhappy soul, the aspiring politicians, only finds their voice when they have been passed over for the umpteenth time or sacked to make way for someone else, it isn’t usually conducive for the credibility (or for the quality of the views they then express). And hell knoweth no fury like a politician spurned.
I am not arguing that there is no role point in taking on arduous part responsibilities in politics, and that no one should ever leave the backbenches. Quite the reverse. If parties did not exist bands of independents would rapidly coalesce and for them. Alliances are the only way to create majorities capable of delivering votes and priorities. Independents inevitably have to sacrifice something from their own agenda in order to gain acceptance for a key objective: it is often described as the clash between purity and power but it is much more subtle than this and perfectly honourable. The sin is to surrender every last principle for the unalloyed pursuit of power and to forget why you probably came into politics in the first place.
Phrases like “serving the people”, “public duty” and “civic responsibility” are now routinely scoffed at; but when I first entered Parliament there were a lot of Members (many of whom came into the Commons after serving in the forces during World War Two|) who genuinely and passionately believed in those virtuous reasons for engaging in politics. And who will say that the MPs who appeared before the House of Commons Privileges Committee, during the 1990s when I served a member investigating the “cash for questions” scandal, were driven by higher ideals?
Although I am no longer a member of a political party I do not despise party politics. I do not condescendingly see it as “a necessary evil.” Parties are an indispensable part of the political architecture. If you can find one in which you can happily live, you should join a party and, if you are fortunate enough to hold elected office, work through the party to serve the needs and interests of your constituents. Churchill – who was a Conservative, a Liberal and a Conservative again – said a man should not be without a party for too long. I agree but would simply add the caveat that it is not worth staying in a party at all costs.
I measure politicians by their causes – not by whether they are left, right, or centre. If they don’t have a cause of any kind then they are usually there for all the wrong reasons. And if they surrender or forget their causes, simply to make political progress, it isn’t usually good for them or, in the longer term, for their party or democracy generally.
For thirty years I was myself a party member. At various times, as Liberal Chief Whip, Chairman of its Policy Committee, its Finance Committee, its By-Election Unit, and its Candidates Committee, – and as its parliamentary spokesman on a whole raft of issues – I worked hard for its progress.
As a Parliamentary Spokesman on Home Office, Environment, Local Government,Northern Ireland, and other portfolios, I did my fair share of “front bench” jobs in the Commons. On numerous Standing Committees – where I served as a lone minority Member – I shadowed vast Bills on everything from telecommunications to Immigration. Getting the balance between these duties, and being a “good constituency MP” – as well as pursuing non-party causes – was always difficult but one activity fed into and cultivated the other. I often found that the personal issues I was hearing about at weekly advice centres (which would often last for most of a day) would form the basis of an amendment to a Bill or a campaign.
The more that politics is about a shelteredWestminsterexistence – informed only by the chatter of the Islington dining rooms and where PC stands for political correctness rather than political conviction or political courage, the less likely it is that politics will be relevant to ordinary people.
If you want to know why only 6% of the people bothered to vote in a local government by-election; why only 1 in 3 voted in one inner city constituency at the last General Election; and why we have see the rise of groups like the British National Party – it is because politicians have abandoned grass-roots affinities with local communities and replaced day to day contact with real life and real issues with marginal fringe concerns.
Politics has become obsessed with tick-box agendas driven on by well financed little lobby groups who pursue issues that are largely irrelevant to the vast majority of British people.
I began my own interest in politics at seventeen as the Chairman of my local Young Liberal branch, later became the federation chairman and President of the National League of Young Liberals. I was also involved in the student movement and my college student union. The issues of the day – the Soviet oppression of the Prague Spring,Vietnam, British troops inNorthern Ireland, famine inWest Africa, and domestic legislation like the 1967 Abortion Act were all questions that fired my conscience and engaged me in the life of politics. And then came my engagement in inner city community politics, getting elected to the City Council while I was in my final year at College
My first real clash with my party came when I was 23 and fighting my parliamentary seat for the first time. A local councillor (one of our own) used his position to advance applications for housing grants and planning permissions on properties he owned. I exposed this and a motion was moved to expel me from the Party. No action was to be taken against the miscreant. Happily, the local members saw the paradox and voted with me, against the party leadership, but it was nevertheless a useful baptism of fire.
During the years that followed I rarely had any major differences with my colleagues over issues of principle.
As Chief Whip I insisted that Members had the right to follow their conscience but that if they intended to vote against the spokesman’s position they had a duty to come and explain that to him and to me in advance. This worked very well and most of the time we able to be reasonably united without stifling independence. That said, I never lost sight of the good advice that I was given when I was first elected to the Commons: “Don’t ever forget, David, over there sit the opposition: and all around you, that’s the enemy.”
This period – the 1980s – was a less happy time for members of the Labour Party, which had become riven by Left-Right warfare on a whole range of ideological issues.
In the end, significant political players, such as David Owen, Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins, left Labour to found the Social Democrats. They were unable to accept, any longer, the attempts to coerce them into unacceptable gyrations on key questions such as the operation of a social market,Europeand defence.
As Liberal Chief Whip during much of the period of the Liberal-SDP Alliance I saw, at close quarters, the destructive effect that Labour’s attempts to impose ideological straight-jacket had on many of their own members. It also subverted the role of an MP. Many of them returned to their constituencies only to be confronted by small gaggles of activists attempting to intimidate and deselect them on a regular basis. The Birkenhead MP, Frank Field, spent most of the 1980s doing nothing other than fighting members of his local party who were determined to remove him as their MP. these battles threw into sharp relief Edmund Burke’s old question about whether an MP is a delegate or a representative.
Ironically, although groups like the Trtskyite entryists, the Militant tendency, were ultimately defeated by Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair, New Labour is also prone to move power away from constituents into the hands of party activists albeit more surreptitiously and subtly.
For instance, Labour’s decision to elect Members of the European Parliament by the closed-party list system vests huge power in the hands of a few hundred party activists. The electorate, for the very first time, have to vote for a take-it-or-leave-it party list and can no longer vote for individual candidates. This subverts Burke’s dictum and entrenches the hold of a party over their delegate. It dangerously erodes democratic accountability and saps the independence of the MEP. Many in the Labour Party have indicated that they would like to see the same system replace the first-past-the-post constituency system forWestminster. This will merely entrench the power of the parties and the alienation of the voters.
Blind allegiance to a political party should not be the bedrock of our political life but there is no great virtue in staying outside the flow if you can comfortably feel you can enter it.
. Historically, there have been a whole host of political players who have left their parties over shifts to left or right or because of individual issues of principle. Our two greatest Prime Ministers, W.E.Gladstone and Winston Churchill were amongst them.
In trying to square political realities – pragmatism – with some sense of principled politics, I have personally adhered to what might be called the fifty per cent plus one rule: that is, if you can broadly agree with a majority of a party’s platform it is possible to remain a member but when you find yourself in disagreement with a majority or significant part of its policies – or a particular issue of principle – then it is time to go.
In 1992 I was faced with a dilemma that led me out of party politics. For the first time, the party decided to make abortion a matter of party policy. At the morning session of the party conference delegates had passed a policy resolution on animal welfare – that included protection for goldfish on sale in fun fairs and amusement arcades. In the afternoon they then passed a resolution supporting the taking of life of the unborn, including the lives of disabled babies, who could be aborted up to and during birth. Unable to accept this, I announced that I would stand down and when that Parliament expired I did not renew my party membership.
Having kicked off the dust from my shoes and accepted a chair at Liverpool’s John Moores University – where I have been director of their Foundation for Citizenship – I was startled to be offered a life peerage by John Major in the dissolution honours list in 1997. I opted to sit as an independent Crossbencher.
The Upper House was just about to be “reformed”, so the ensuring seven years have given me plenty of food for thought about the role of the second chamber and its members.
One of the traditional attractions of the Lords is that those who sat there – whether hereditary or life peers – had a healthy independence and willingness to send back Bills to the House of Commons. During Margaret Thatcher’s years the only time she suffered parliamentary defeats was at the hands of the unelected House of Lords. Tony Blair, on issues such as trial by jury and fox hunting, has suffered the same fate.
Labour had a manifesto commitment to abolishing the hereditary peerage. Their failure to say what they would put in its place led some of us to vote against giving them a blank cheque until they spelt out what reform would mean.
The Prime Minister’s attachment to an all-appointed House vests great power in the hands of politicians who will generally use their patronage merely to reward “services rendered” – everything from donations to party coffers to unquestioning loyalty. Clearly this will not deliver independence or a robust bicameral legislature. I voted against such a system and voted, instead, for a fully elected House. Of the various options on offer (in all, seven variations, all of which were rejected by the House of Commons), a small elected House, modelled on the US Senate, perhaps with a one-term membership of seven to ten years – would be better than a House lampooned for “cronyism.”
It would be absurd, though, to suggest that the Lords has proved incapable of change or evolution.
Until the seventeenth century Peers sat in the House in strict order of precedence – the Lords Spiritual on the right of the throne (and Church of England bishops still sit there until this day) and the Lords temporal on the left. Increasing membership led the authorities to put in more seats to accommodate the newly arrived Viscounts and Barons of the day.
In 1876 the Appellate Jurisdiction Act allowed Law Lords to sit as Life Peers and in 1958 the creation of life peers created a permanent change in the composition and balance of the House. Earlier, in 1911 the Parliament Act – following a confrontation between the Liberal Government and the Lords – had seen its powers emasculated.
The changes made by the Blair Government in the 1999 House of Lords Act – ending the automatic right of Hereditary Peers to sit and vote – were only the latest of these changes.
Personally, I am always saddened that beyond the debate about political legitimacy that so little is ever said about the role played by individual hereditary peers who have often given devoted and non-partisan public service. I am also cynical about an argument for abolition that rested on democratic legitimacy and replaced hereditary peers with appointed peers. Owing your seat to a dead ancestor may even make you less biddable than owing your seat to a living Prime Minister.
The role of the independent Crossbench peers continues to be especially important in trying to hold to account the political machines and government.
In January 2000 the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Wakeham, published its findings and pointed to the pivotal influence of the Crossbenches. Many peers believe that the built-in majority that the Conservative Party had always traditionally enjoyed in the Lords was no longer tenable but if this was not simply to be replaced by a Labour Party ascendancy, the best way to proceed was the creation of roughly equitable numbers between Government and Opposition with the Crossbenches holding the balance.
So who exactly are the Crossbenchers?
Peers in the Lords who do not take a party whip (i.e. they are not told how to vote by a political party) sit on the Crossbenches. They are well known for their independent. non-party political stance. They are people who have chosen not to accept a party allegiance for a whole host of reasons. Some come from outside the realm of politics; some are actively involved in work away from parliament and only come when issues arise where they feel they have specialised knowledge to offer. Others have been in political parties but want the independence that the Crossbenches permit.
Many Crossbenchers have specialist expertise drawn from diverse disciplines – including academia, science, industry, the countryside, the armed forces, and the diplomatic service. Their contributions are always listened to with particular respect when they are speaking about their own discipline – and, in deed, they can have considerable influence on the outcome of debates.
There are about 180 Crossbench Peers (about 150 life peers and just under 30 remaining hereditary peers). The 12 Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the Law Lords) were also included in the Crossbench numbers. they are now part of the separated Supreme Court. In 2001 the Government famously appointed 15 individuals (selected by the House of Lords Appointment Commission) – dubbed by the media as the “people’s peers” – who also sit on the Crossbenches.
During one Session alone some 9,782 amendments were made in the Lords to Bills. The role of peers in scrutinising legislation, in a far less adversarial atmosphere than the Commons, is clearly crucial. Many of those amendments were either enacted or formed the basis for compromise agreements being made with the Government.
Crossbenchers are uniquely placed in drawing together cross-party coalitions. They also take their own initiatives, such as sponsoring private Members’ Bills. They have also regularly chaired the many influential Committees that have prepared reports that have then provided a framework for both legislations and the wider debate about public policy.
One good example of this was the 1999 Protection of Children Act that was introduced by my colleague Lord Laming. Coming from a distinguished social services background he was ideally placed to introduce a Bill that among other things provided for lists to be compiled of those who are unsuitable to work with children.
The Lords is also takes very seriously its role as a scrutinising chamber. A series of committees evaluate all of the legislation that issues from the European Parliament while all UK Primary Legislation (with the exception of Finance Bills) has to come under the glare of House of Lords scrutiny. This is work that will be deepened in the future.
The role of both Houses of Parliament, the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and in the future, to some of the English regions – the role of local democracy and directly elected mayors, and the redefinition of individual citizenship, have been preoccupations of the past decade.
Over the previous twenty five years these issues were largely neglected. Apart from the abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils in 1973, governance issues were rarely concerns of the Conservative governments of 1979-97.
While they were busy modernising industrial law and the British economy, the party of Burke and the Constitution, the party also of Chamberlain’s municipalism, was surprisingly disinterested in re-examining and reforming governance. In retrospect, and as they reflect on the nature of Lords reform and the introduction of measures such as the closed party list system of voting – they may come to see what an error this was.
That the way in which we govern ourselves has once again become a central political concern is something I welcome. What I regret, is that tinkering around with the system now passes for reform, and that gaining a short-term partisan advantage has become a greater prize than entrenching sound democratic structures and real accountability.
Thoreau once said that if you cut down all the trees, there will be nowhere left for the birds to sing. InBritain, our great oaks of central and local government, are something to prize and preserve. Before hacking away at their branches we need much greater thought and reflection.
A JUBILEE REPORT
Darfur: The Genocide Continues
Prepared by Lord Alton of Liverpool and Rebecca Tinsley
1.1 Lord Alton and journalist Rebecca Tinsley returned on Oct 4th from Geneina in Darfur,Western Sudan. This report confirms the World Health Organisation’s estimate that 10,000 people are dying every month from malnutrition and disease inDarfur. Put more starkly, as every hour passes another fourteen people die. By the close of each day another 333 people are among the 50,000 lives claimed in what the UN has rightly described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” In addition to the 50,000 dead, 1.4 million people are displaced. The rate of death is comparable to the death rate inRwanda at the height of the genocide in 1994.
1.2 Over the past nine months David Alton (LordAltonof Liverpool) and Caroline Cox (Baroness Cox of Queensbury) have urged the UN and UK Government to formally declare the events inDarfurto be genocide. Prior to this both peers have travelled independently intoSouthern Sudanand drawn attention to the two million fatalities, and the five million displaced people, since the war started in 1983 (see Jubilee Campaign Report on Sudan 2002 and Hansard). To date, the Security Council has simply established a committee to consider the situation.
1.3 In September 2004 in Parliament David Alton challenged the Leader of the House, Baroness (Valerie) Amos to follow the lead of Colin Powell and the US Administration in making a formal declaration of genocide. The Government have thus far declined to do so, but we strongly welcome the decision of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to visitSudan/Darfurto see the situation first hand.
1.4 In 2002 David Alton called in the House for oil sanctions and a calibrated response againstSudanand in May in the House he warned the Government that they were repeating the failure to intervene inRwanda’s genocide in 1994 (see Hansard).
1.5 During a visit to Darfur, on October 3rd and 4th, he and the journalist Rebecca Tinsley – on behalf of theUK human rights group, Jubilee Campaign – saw for themselves the situation in Geneina.
2.1 The British Government has said it sees no point in declaring the situation inDarfurto be genocide. Ministers have claimed that such a declaration would “add nothing” to theUK’s current actions. The EU mission to Darfur in August 2004 said the humanitarian disaster “fell short of genocide”, as did the UN’s Representative toSudan, Jan Pronk.
2.2 But, as the US has recognised – and as we were bitterly reminded during the taking of evidence in Rwanda immediately preceding our trip to Darfur (see Jubilee Report Rwanda/DRC – The Killing Continues) – when no formal declaration exists the international community feels able to stand idly by or literally conduct “business as usual” with the perpetrators.
2.3 Under the 1949 Geneva Convention Against Genocide any country that names genocide for what it is must then act to “prevent and to protect” and subsequently bring to justice those who commit crimes against humanity (Article 51 of the UN Charter).
2.4 Even if it were concluded that fewer than the 10,000 who died in August died in September 2004, it would not alter the reality of what has already occurred. Nor would it absolve us of our duty to bring to trial the perpetrators – something that will certainly not happen in the absence of a formal determination.
2.5 In any event, we received contemporaneous accounts that leave no room for purile theological debates about how many people have to die before western interests act. The day we arrived inWest Darfurtwo villages had reported that Government helicopters had arrived bringing arms for the Janjaweed. We cite other examples, below.
2.6 We spoke to the Fashir of the eastern district of Geneina, Suliman Dina, who is aged 71 and was appointed to his senior position of local leadership by the former Sultan of Darfur.
2.7 He told us that the build up to genocide began in 1995 and during the years that immediately followed. It began with the usual catalogue of plundering and looting. Cows and cattle were stolen, and rustling was accompanied by sporadic attacks.
2.8 In 1997 the Janjaweed militia began to consolidate their position and build a presence. Nine hundred Janjaweed fighters, formed in three lines of 300 mounted men, and reinforced by a Government helicopter from which guns and mortars were distributed, attacked the 54 villages in the Fashir’s district. 433 people were left dead.
2.9 Suliman Dina told us that of the 54 villages only one, Azena, was not raised to the ground. In Azena 12 people were killed and there was much looting, but it was not burnt. The Janjaweed forces were heavily armed and had land cruisers mounted with guns with which they have been able to control and subject the civilian population.
2.10 The Janjaweed tried to hunt down the Fashir but he escaped across the border (30 miles away from where we met him) with many other villagers.
2.11 In 1998 he returned when the Government said there would be no reprisals: “Instead of killing me, they killed my son inKhartoum.” His son, Adam Dina, was a doctor serving as a lieutenant in the Sudanese army. The Government has also continued to harass the Fashir. Last month he was arrested and released after several days in prison for being outspoken in reporting the events that have occurred inDarfur. His life is undoubtedly in danger, but he told us emphatically that he wanted the truth to be told and for the international community to act.
2.12 When we asked him what was the Government’s motive in allowing the rape ofDarfur, he said, “We have lived on this land for generations, under five sultans, but the Arabs want to empty us off our land and take it from us. Since the creation ofSudanthe Khartoum Government has never wanted us and they behave as if they want to rid the whole land of the tribes people.”
2.13 He added that they suspectKhartoumis fearful that “there are too many of us compared to them. Now that the world is open and we can be educated they fear we will over-whelm them.” Changing demography has accelerated a process driven by racism.Darfurwas always a collection point for the seizure of slaves, and even the Arabic word for their African population reflects this servile relationship.
2.14 The Fashir, and others we met, told us that among the Janjaweed fighters are zealots originally from countries such asChad,MauritaniaandNiger– who have been promised the land and possessions ofDarfur’s tribes’ people. Sheik Adam Abdullah Ismael described his harrowing ordeal. By the end of his account he and the other leaders were weeping. This glimpse of open emotion was itself indicative of the abyss into which these dignified people have been driven.
Sheik Ismael from Hafier Abu
2.15 Sheik Ismael lived at Hafier Abu, the site of a water-pool. In 1997, 15 men and 2 women died after an armed attack. One month later the fighters returned and burnt down the village. He and the villagers who escaped spent 11 hours walking and running, pursued by gunmen, finally reaching a place of safety. After several months they returned and rebuilt their village. Then in 2003, 400 Janjaweed arrived, mounted on horses and camels. “Don’t worry,” they said. “We are just here for the water.” Two days later they started attacking the villagers in the area, stealing every animal and all their property.
2.16 The Sheik went to Geneina to get a vehicle to transport his family and to escape. “If we return we die, if we go back, we die.” He decided to return and was accompanied by an Arab policeman. That night he was forced to watch as the Janjaweed raped 10 of the women. The policeman, who stopped the militia killing the Sheik, told him, “I thank God I am not from this tribe.”
2.17 Sheik Ismael movingly said, “A Government should act as a father – and a father should not love some of his children and not others. A father should love all his children.” He also reflected that “these events have created a climate of fear and a cycle of revenge that will last for generations.” Sheik Zacharia Yahian Ibrahim gave an equally harrowing account of events in thevillageofTerlile, in the east of theprovinceofWest Darfur, in 1999. During the religious festival of Eid three people were killed during an attack, including the 85-year-old sheik of the village. After looting the village, and stealing the cattle, the Janjaweed burnt it down.
2.18 After escaping, the Sheik returned with his wife and children in 2000. In November 2003 the village was incinerated after the men had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to give promises never to speak of these events, never to reclaim their land and never to seek revenge. They were then allowed to leave with only the clothes on their backs.
The refugee Camp at Geneina, Darfur
2.19 Sheik Ibrahim Abaka Yakia described how hisvillage ofGosz Banat – in the north of the province – was also attacked by mounted Janjaweed and 17 were left dead: “Nothing was left. The village just disappeared.” Sheik Yacob De Allah lived in Ushara village, near the town ofGeneina. 200 men on horseback surrounded the village, whiplashed the women and children, and beat the men with sticks. Ushara was one of 13 small villages raised to the ground that day.
2.20 Sheik Ibrahim Adam Suleman told us that if the men now leave the refugee camps they will be killed by the Janjaweed. When the women leave the camp to collect firewood or fodder they are regularly attacked and raped by Janjaweed:
“A few weeks ago a lady went to collect firewood. They raped her, broke her arm and left her. Why? The plan of these people is to force us to abandon our land and never return.”
2.21 We were told of another woman who the day before our visit went to collect branches to make a fence for her small garden by her hut in the refugee camp. She is growing okra to try to support herself. She was carrying her baby on her back. When the Janjaweed fighter stopped her she asked if she could lay the baby on the ground while he raped her. After he did this she produced an axe concealed under her clothes and he fled. The attacker is known to the woman and is from Anjudol area.
2.22 Sheik Suleman said that the presence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the refugee camps had provided a measure of protection inside the camps: “but we are prisoners, denied the right of movement. You can’t go one kilometre from the camps.” Sheik Ismael added: “If it weren’t for the NGOs, we wouldn’t be able to stay here. We would have fled or have been dead ourselves.”
2.23 Never-the-less, the NGOs do not get to every part of Darfur (or to all the areas ofChadwhere refugees have fled). UN Security believes 17% of the population is deemed inaccessible. For instance, in addition to the police permit we had to obtain inKhartoum, travel passes are required to go outside Geneina. The Government of Sudan has recently put one of their senior intelligence officers in charge of security in Geneina and restrictions and reprisals against NGOs may intensify. Two weeks ago, local staff from an NGO were beaten and the local police refused to act “for fear of the army and Janjaweed.”
2.24 In addition to the numerous and repeated accounts of killings, burnings and lootings, we were shocked by the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war. We concluded that in every sense what we saw and heard about inDarfuris genocide and should be named as such.
3.0 Rape as a Weapon Of War
3.1 It is hard to overstate the scale of the continuing suffering of the Black African women and girls inDarfur. At Ardamata Camp, outside Geneina, where 30,000 people live, we talked to families who had fled from Abhasla, a village eight days’ walk to the west.
3.2 In February 2004 heavily armed Janjaweed on horseback swept into the village and killed every man and boy they could find. Their cattle were looted and their homes were burned down.
3.3 Thirty five year old Hawry told us that the men “harassed and beat” the women and girls before they rode off. It soon emerged that these are euphemisms for rape, but in their traditional society it is an unmentionable subject, bringing shame and humiliation on the victim and her family.
Women are at particular risk from the armed militia
3.4 We were told that the “Arabs” carried razor blades and sharp knives with them to cut open the atrophied vaginas of old women before they raped them. They also raped girls as young as 10. When the Janjaweed had gone, Hawry told us, the women abandoned the village. “My family once had 88 head of cattle, but I put one baby around my neck and another child on my back, and I started walking.” Her other three children had to walk for the next eight days, hiding in empty houses when they could.
3.5 When Hawry and the other women arrived at the camp they were just some of the 10,000 refugees who also arrived that same week. She and her girls built themselves a hut using branches, reeds and grass to weave a thatched roof. She draped plastic bags across the roof, hoping to keep the rain out when the season arrived.
3.6 As we sat in her hut she talked about the everyday difficulties of her life. She is grateful for the UNICEF school in the camp, but she is frustrated because she wants to find work. She yearns to return to her old life, but she knows it is not possible as long as the Janjaweed are armed. “And the children are too scared to leave the compound,” she adds.
3.7 We joined a group of 17 women sitting in the shade of a tree, drinking coffee. All the married women were widows, and most had also lost fathers, brothers and sons. They need firewood for cooking and grass for their animals, and are thus forced to go beyond the camp. It emerged that they were all, without exception, the victims of attack and rape by the Janjaweed. Although they are clearly traumatised by the daily risks they run, they speak philosophically about it. “If our men go out, they die. If we go, we are raped. That’s the choice.”
3.8 When speaking about the future, 20 year old Semira said the shame of rape would normally have prevented her from finding a husband. “Since most of the young men are dead, I suppose this isn’t going to be a problem.” Semira’s 18 year old sister, Roda, shrugged in agreement. Like all the other women in the group she wanted education, but our conversation kept coming back to their terror at leaving the camp compound to fetch firewood. “Someone has to take away their weapons,” she said. “They are cowards, and if they see soldiers fromBritainhere they will run away. We feel much safer when there are white faces around.”
3.9 The women agreed it would be best to have a European troop presence. “ThenDarfurcan be an independent country without the Arabs harming us and stealing our cattle.”
3.10 We also met 19 year old Jewa whose parents were killed by the militia, and who is now responsible for a family for six. Unfortunately her situation is common, and when one woman succeeds in getting a job she is expected to support her extended family. Sedeer, who cooks for an NGO, supports all eight families of her dead husband’s brothers.
3.11 Margaret, a nurse at the camp, summed it up when she said, “Life for women inSudanis hard, but it is especially hard for women inDarfur.” Her own parents had been killed in southernSudan, and she came toDarfurbecause she knows how the refugees feel, she says. “I keep telling the girls to get as much education as they can because that is their best hope.”
4.0 The Janjaweed is a pro-government militia.
4.1 It has its origins in the mid-1980s. Sadiq El Madhi initiated a policy of arming Arab Baggara militias in Darfurand Kordofan.(Human Rights Watch: Darfur In Flames). It was originally intended as a counter-insurgency measure against the SPLA rebels in the South and to entrench Tujammo Al Arabi (Arab Alliance) throughout the region, subjugating the non-Arab population.
There are no good roads to Geneina – making access for aid agencies difficult.
4.2 The name of the region is the key to understanding its ethnicity. “Dar” means homeland. In addition to the native Fur people the Massaleit and Zaghawa are among the 30 ethnic groups living inDarfur. Ruthlessly discriminated against and targeted for vicious treatment, the African people ofDarfur began attacking military installations in April 2003 at El Fasher airport.
4.3 The tribal leaders we met were emphatic that the Janjaweed are determined to bring about their annihilation. They cannot understand why other Muslims have attacked them (even as they have been gathered for religious festivals), why they have burnt mosques, raped their women, and killed their people. This troubling question is one also for Muslim leaders who need to appreciate the nature of the genocide against these gentle Muslim people who are living through a reign of terror.
5.0 The Government of Sudan
5.1 The Sudanese Interior Minister, Rahim Mohamed Hussein, has issued a bellicose declaration that “We will not agree to the presence of any foreign forces, whatever their nationality.” Mr.Hussein is part of a government that enjoys single digit support among a population that has been described to us by many people as overwhelmingly moderate in its attitudes (although there is a rump of people who want to see strict Sharia law).
5.2 Mr.Hussein’s attitude reflects his Government’s repeated indifference to international initiatives and a tendency to renege on undertakings given (eg the 1996 Peace Charter), and to allow initiatives to collapse (eg the Ajuba Talks in September 2004).
5.3 The Machakos Naivasha Protocols (2003), while a hopeful moment in the Government’s relationship with the SPLA, have been used by the Government of Sudan as a means of stifling international criticism. The talks, which are to resume this month, have become yet another bargaining chip.Khartoumhas threatened to withdraw from the north-south dialogue if the international community takes action against it overDarfur.
5.4 Throughout the gathering humanitarian disaster in Darfur, the Sudanese government has let it be known that it will restrict or deny humanitarian relief access if the international community asserts itself in waysKhartoumdislikes.
5.5 For the international community, the question is whether to accept such blatant blackmail or to make it clear that it will not tolerate genocide against a civilian population. The choice is between appeasement or decisiveness.
6.0 The United Nations
6.1 There is no United Nations peace-keeping presence inDarfur. The Government of Sudan have bitterly opposed the presence of “foreign troops” although the reincarnated African Union (AU) has sent a small force of Rwandan soldiers (something their President Paul Kagame, told us he is very proud of when we met him a week earlier in Kigali, and especially given the international community’s failure to respond to genocide in Rwanda in 1994). There are also troops fromTanzaniaandNigeria. Tribal leaders told us they would also like to see European and Commonwealth soldiers deployed.
6.2 Based at El Fasher, the main role of the AU peace-keepers has been to guard the UN monitors sent to Darfur. The UN has said that at least 3000 soldiers are needed and that they must have a robust mandate. The UN Security Council Resolution of September 18th 2004 committed the Security Council to do little more than think about possible penalties in the event of Sudanese intransigence.China,Russia,Pakistan andAlgeria abstained.
6.3 Despite at least eighteen months of atrocities inSudan, the international community has yet to take a single positive action against the Sudanese Government.
7.1 In 1898BritainandEgyptformed a joint government forSudan. The south, with its Christian and traditional religions, gravitated towards British East Africa, and the north toEgyptand Islam.
7.2 By 1947 – as a prelude to independence –Britainhad fused the two regions and handed power to the north. For the south independence resulted in a change of colonial masters. Within two years the army had taken power and begun a campaign of forced Islamisation. The cycle of displacements and refugee crises had begun. In turn the SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) and other factions of resistance were spawned. InDarfur, the emergence of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) – although acting independent of the SPLA – has now become a potent force. It has armoured vehicles and weapons, in many cases taken from their attackers during reprisal campaigns. Tribal leaders told us, “If we were given weapons, we would fight,” but then added, “We would prefer to go back to the way we were before all of this began.”
7.3 There is a real danger of linkage between the insurgents inDarfurand SPLA. Such a violent escalation could lead to the implosion of Sudan, a coup in Khartoum and the emergence of an even more authoritarian regime (an attempted coup by the Muslim Brotherhood occurred last month), and derailment of the Machakos protocols and the north-south process. The UK Government will want to emphasise all these consequences of the continuing genocide inDarfur.
7.4 Fashir Suleman Dina reminded us ofBritain’s historic links with Darfur, including a treaty with Sultan Mohamaed Baharadin that provided for westernDarfurto opt out of the state created in 1898 if it so wished. He said, “We never really thought about this before but if you are experiencing genocide then you would have to think of anything that would allow you to escape from this.”
8.0. Child Soldiers and the plight of children
8.1 We heard evidence that children as young as 10 have become child soldiers. We also had a chance to speak to Daniel Toole, Director of the office of emergency programmes for UNICEF worldwide about the plight of children. For instance we learnt that one child had joined the rebelSLAafter his father was killed. TheSLAand Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) inevitably attract marginalised, disaffected young people.
Omar was eight years old when he escaped on a train from Darfur to live on the streets of Khartoum.
8.2 Many children have also been left as orphans. In the camps children join the food lines for they are now the heads of their families. We were pleased to learn that the Government of Sudan has been supporting the immunisation programme inWest Darfur (especially against measles). However, polio has begun to reappear and also TB, and we were told that more needs to be done to combat it.
8.3 The worst health threat appears to be malaria. In one refugee camp we visited we were told that malaria is at its peak at present, with an average of one person per household suffering – and over 4000 cases in that camp alone last week. Chloroquinine treatments are not working due to high resistance, and other treatments are limited by their cost.
8.4 We learnt that before the genocide stable villages had been very positive participants in health improvement programmes for children, and although the camps were continuing their work children in inaccessible villages were greatly at risk.
8.5 An immeasurable problem will be the impact of so many babies born due to rape by the Janjaweed. While the women we spoke to would eventually open up somewhat about the horrors of their attacks by the militia, they would not even discuss what the future holds in store for so many children. “They want to dilute our blood, you see,” one woman said. “They hate black people.”
9.0 The IDPs
9.1 There is a traumatised, helpless mood of resignation in the camps. Sometimes it boils over, as, for instance, at Otash camp, near Nyala, when a policeman was recently lynched. A woman recognised him as one of those who massacred her family.
9.2 Some IDPs, an estimated 200,000 have fled toChadand 70,000 more toKenya. The other million have left their homes for makeshift camps that have sprung up in many parts ofWestern Sudan. This exodus has been precipitated by the Janjaweed’s reign of terror. We learnt for example of a boy aged 11 whose mother had been killed, leaving him to care for his three brothers in the camp in which he is living.
9.3 Over one million IDPs have been herded into camps which are run by the Government. Some of the policemen who patrol the camps are Janjaweed militia who have been given police uniforms. This understandably terrifies the people living there.
9.4 Stifling temperatures, soaring to a regular 45 degrees centigrade, food and water shortages, illness and makeshift sleeping quarters, all conspire to rob people of their dignity. They have already lost their land, their homes, their independence and self-sufficiency for which they were noted.
9.5 The irony is that a nutritionalist inDarfurworking for the UN earns $10,000 a month to oversee the distribution of grain and supplements to malnourished children. We are in grave danger of creating vast numbers of dependent people out of the previously self-sufficient.
10.1 Targeted oil sanctions should have been imposed at least six months ago. The failure to do so and the abject failure to control the flow of arms into Sudan has lulled Khartoum into believing (rightly thus far) that the world community would allow the Janjaweed militia, with their deep associations with the Sudanese Government, to continue to act with impunity.
10.2 It is extremely disturbing that countries with direct interests inSudanhave used their votes on the UN Security Council to soften the world’s response to the crisis inDarfur.China’s National Petroleum Company controls 40% ofSudan’s oil andIndiacontrols about 25% (through the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Ltd).Malaysia’s Petronas Company controls a further 30%.
10.3 One Sudanese – from the south – who has survived nine attempts on his life, told us that, “every barrel of your oil is half filled with our blood”.
10.4Sudanproduces 32,000 barrels daily – worth $1m. In 2001 the Congressional Reserves Record estimated that this same sum, $1m, was what the Government of Sudan has been spending each day on arms.Chinahas sold AK47s, mortars, ammunition and rocket propelled grenades toKhartoum. We heard descriptions of such weapons in use against civilians inWest Darfur.
10.5 The elders whom we met – among the traditional leaders ofDarfur– told us that their greatest desire is peace and an end to the genocide.
10.6 In WestDarfuralone 600,000 of their people live in sprawling camps. There are 120,000 IDPs just in and around Geneina (doubling its previous population). Throughout Darfur – a land mass the size ofFrance– a colossal 44% of the population is directly war-affected.
10.7 Mercifully the rainy season this year was very light. Extensive flooding would have jeopardised humanitarian operations. Of course, this small mercy will also mean a modest harvest – so it is a mixed blessing. And no-one should under-estimate either the seriousness of the situation or the inadequacy of our response.
10.8 The elders said that security remains their greatest concern. They called for five things:
1) The disarmament of the Janjaweed
2) The restoration of looted livestock
3) The return or rebuilding of property
4) A resolution of the land issue
5) Freedom to move about
Above all they told us that the genocide must end.
10.9 Sheik De Allah put it well when he poignantly said, “We are a simple people. We know our farms and cattle and that’s all we want. The Government created Janjaweed and have created this situation. We are desperate and pray that the international community will intervene.”
1) The British Government, The European Union, The United Nations and the Arab League must immediately acknowledge that genocide has occurred in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan has supported the perpetrators, universally referred to by the people ofDarfuras the Janjaweed militias.
2) Targeted economic and military sanctions must be imposed uponSudan, and in particular oil sanctions, must be applied immediately. The international community must prevent the flow of arms intoSudan, and impose an immediate no fly zone overDarfur, enforced by an armed international force, mandated by the Security Council to use force to prevent over-flight of the region by the Sudanese Air Force or its proxies.
3) The Governments of Rwanda,TanzaniaandNigeriamust be applauded and supported for committing their troops to an international peacekeeping force inDarfur. International leaders must act upon their consciences by committing troops, resources and funding to assemble an armed peacekeeping force, mandated to use appropriate force to defend civilians, internally displaced people (IDPs), monitors and NGO staff in Darfur, and IDPs in camps in neighbouringChad.
4) The Government of Sudan is urged to immediately stop its military, materiel and financial support of the Janjaweed, to allow international peacekeepers to disarm the militias, and to guarantee the unconditional return of displaced people toDarfurwith the participation of the African Union. The Sudanese Government must begin constructive dialogue with all sides of the community inDarfurto institute a federal power-sharing system of government based on constitutionally enshrined equality for all citizens irrespective of race, religion, sex or ethnicity. As soon as feasible there must be a referendum on the future sovereign and legal status ofDarfur.
5) The Sudanese Government must immediately stop recruiting people perceived by the local people as Janjaweed into theDarfurpolice force. The international community must apply pressure on theKhartoumregime in this regard.
6) The international community must press the Sudanese Government to stop the intimidation and imprisonment of NGO staff and community leaders inDarfur.
7) The Sudanese Government must immediately drop its requirement for NGO staff to obtain travel permits to travel aroundDarfurprovince. NGOs must have freedom of movement to reach isolated areas at will.
8) Punitive financial penalties must be applied to international companies or governments involved in orchestrating or facilitating military sales toSudan. These penalties must also be applied to companies violating oil sanctions againstSudan.
9) Recognising that the genocidal terror campaign in Darfur has prevented crops being planted this year, the international community must prepare and adequately fund relief operations to feedDarfur’s displaced people. Given that the UN believes that theDarfuremergency is likely to continue for at least 18-24 months, planning is needed for returns and rehabilitation.
10) Recognising the burden being borne byChad, the international community must provide assistance and support to the Government of Chad.
11) We learned that the US Government had promised emergency food aid in the spring which finally arrived in September. There clearly exists a need for a mechanism by which governments who promise aid are held to their commitments.
12) The 135 signatories of the 1949 Genocide Convention must affirm that once genocide has been determined, action to “prevent and to punish” is required. This action must be commensurate with the magnitude and urgency of the catastrophe.
13) We commend the Sudanese Department of Health for its immunisation programme. Working with UNICEF and its NGO partners, two million children inDarfurhave been vaccinated against measles, out of a total target of 2.3m. Polio vaccination has been even more impressive, reaching 97% of the target. But at the same time theKhartoumregime must be condemned for its deliberate, cynical and racist neglect ofDarfurover decades. In all ofWest Darfurthere is one stretch of paved road; clinics go without supplies for three years before getting medicines; doctors and teachers are unpaid for months; and are expected to cope with minimal infrastructure. While the people of Darfur are resourceful and stoical, it is clearKhartoumhas brought the rebel insurgency on itself through the contempt with which it has treatedDarfur.
14) It is intolerable forKhartoumto impose Sharia law on the people ofDarfurto whom it is alien and unacceptable. The international community must insist the Sudanese Government requires the broad consent of the people for laws enacted and applied.
15) We recognised a profound need on the part of the people ofDarfurto give testimony about what has befallen them. We owe it to survivors, and those who will not survive because of hunger, AIDS or attack, to collect their testimony into an archive. We commend Human Rights Watch for compiling evidence to be used in judicial proceedings, but believe the voices ofDarfur’s persecuted people must be recorded if we are to learn from current failings.
16) On a practical level, there is desperate need for interpreters because the NGO community does not have enough Arab speaking personnel to communicate effectively.
12.0 Contact Details
Jubilee Campaign St Johns Cranleigh Rd Wonersh Guildford GU5 0QX
Tel 0044 1483 894 787 Fax 0044 1483 894 797
A JUBILEE REPORT
The Killing Continues: A path to peace
1.1 Between September 19th and October 2nd 2004 a delegation sponsored by the British charity, Jubilee Action, visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) andRwanda. The delegation included LordAlton ofLiverpool, Canon Anthony Harvey, Sam Burke and Raphael Mpanzu.
2.0 Purpose of the Visit.
2.1 Jubilee is involved in advocacy on human rights and the promotion of dialogue and conflict resolution in many parts of the world. Jubilee Action also supports projects aimed specifically at alleviating the plight of street children, many of whom are often left orphaned, destitute or homeless as a consequence of conflict.
Lord Alton and Raphael Mpanzu talk to some children from the orphanage
2.2 In arranging a delegation to the DRC, Jubilee was responding directly to an invitation by the Congolese Government and was welcomed by the Vice-President, Yerodia Ndombasi. InRwanda, the delegation was welcomed by the President, Paul Kagame, and by senior Ministers.
2.3 Political, social, and economic progress in DRC is inextricably linked with conclusively ending the conflict betweenRwanda- a country that faces its own daunting but by no means insuperable challenges. We are indebted to the individuals and agencies that we met (Appendix 3) and to all those who went to so much trouble to make our mission productive.
3.0 Narrative and History.
3.I The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
3.1.1 After becoming independent from Belgiumin 1960, the DRC has been blighted by instability, by debilitating and incessant conflict and by corruption. We heard many allegations that, to this day, with the complicity of western governments, European quartermasters continue to fuel the conflict by the sale of weapons. This continues a tradition begun in the 16th century by French and Portuguese traders and pursued in the nineteenth century with ruthless zeal by King Leopold II ofBelgium (who literally sold the country – his personal possession – to the Belgian government in 1908).
3.1.2 The country’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Professor Mbwinga Bila, told us that as a consequence of the long corrupt and rapacious rule of President Mobutu and the almost incessant armed violence since decolonisation “the decaying infrastructure we have today is the one we inherited at the moment of independence. In fact, we have even less now than we had then. The only change is that in 1960 the infrastructure supported a population of 14 million and today the population is closer to 60 million. We have had 35 years of bad government followed by 10 years of armed conflict.”
3.1.3 Many Congolese told us that it is futile to simply blame the past and that it is now time for the country to move on. In doing so it faces enormous challenges and has great possibilities.
3.1.4 DRC is the third largest county inAfricaand the fourth most populous. Per capita income is $107 dollars.Congohas been benighted by exploitative rule, and by callous and corrupt leadership.
3.2 The Consequences of Conflict
3.2.1 According to the United Nations in the four years after 1998 more than 3.5 million deaths “occurred from the beginning of the war up to September 2002. These deaths are a direct result of the occupation byRwanda andUganda.” Put another way, 2,000 people a day were killed in a war that has been likened toEurope’s Great War. As the DRC saw this staggering loss of life, catastrophic conflict has rendered social development impossible.Congo became a text book example of a failed State – with marauding war lords vying for power and central government barely in control of the capital’s government buildings, let alone its far-flung provinces.
3.2.2 As the country was disfigured by the mass killing of civilians, by the end of 2003 3.4 million people remained internally displaced. Rape has been used as a weapon of war, accompanied by torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and the widespread use of child soldiers, some as young as seven.
3.2.3 From the moment of its birth DRC was plunged into civil war, with army mutinies, the attempted secession ofKatangaprovince (richly endowed with minerals) and the assassination of the first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. By 1965 the head of the army, Jospeh Mobutu had installed himself in power, renamed the country Zaire, and initiated conflict with Angola.
3.2.4 Uniquely, the DRC has nine neighbours –Angola,Zambia,Tanzania,Burundi,Rwanda,Uganda,Sudan,Central African Republic, and the Republic of theCongo. At various times in its turbulent history the DRC has either been at war or in alliance with most of its neighbours. Internally, its sprawling landmass – covering an area half of the size ofWestern Europe– is occupied by ethnic groups who have invariably been at war with one another.
3.2.5 The Mobutu regime squandered 30 long years in an orgy of violence and corruption of a high order.
3.2.6 It was toppled by a rebellion in May 1997. This led to the installation of Laurent-Desire Kabila as President. A year laterRwandaandUgandasupported a rebellion against him while troops fromZimbabwe,Angola,Namibia,SudanandChadintervened on Kabila’s side. The stage was set for continued blood-letting in which the prize has always been the DRC’s huge potential mineral wealth. Sometimes the conflict is described in shorthand as a conflict between DRC andRwanda(and some of its other neighbours). Minister Bila reminded us that DRC “is 80 times bigger thanRwandaand we have no territorial ambitions inRwanda. They have no natural resources that we could possibly want” – and we were inclined to believe him.
3.2.7 Throughout the 1990s groups of militias and counter insurgents were spawned everywhere. The Rassemblement Congolais pour la democratie (RCD), the Mouvement pour le liberation du Congo (MLC), and the Mai-Mai all emerged in this climate. The instability and violence, particularly in the east of the county, was intensified by the exodus to DRC of 1.2 million predominantly Hutu refugees who had fled from during the genocide of 1994.
3.2.8 With impunity the perpetrators of the genocide used the cover of the camps to escape arrest. The Interahamwe militia used DRC as their base while they continued to mount incursions intoRwanda.
3.2.9 In 1999 a ceasefire was agreed. Intermittent fighting continued and it culminated in Kabila’s assassination in January 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, assumed power.
3.2.10 Meanwhile,RwandaandUganda– former allies – fought each other for control of the strategically and commercially important city ofKisangani. 1400 Congolese civilians were left dead by the time the city fell to the Rwandans.
3.2.11 In 2002 President Kabila secured the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops from the Ituri district of theOrientaleProvince. Rwandan troops also withdrew from the east of the country (although around 10,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels – Forces democratiques de Liberations du Rwanda (FDLR) still roam the highlands ofSouth Kivu).
3.2.12 An agreement was made with the external parties involved in the conflict, accompanied by the creation of a coalition government of national unity (GNU). A National assembly – comprising 500 deputies and senators – was convened. A pledge was made to promote a new constitution and a promise of democratic elections for 2005. A rare window of opportunity for DRC had been opened.
3.3 An Impossible Task?
3.3.1 Kabila appeared to have been given an impossible task. Most observers believed the GNU’s life would be short-lived. The four vice presidents who were appointed to serve under Kabila each represent different parties to the conflict and seemed at best to be uneasy bedfellows and, at worse, belligerent parties who would only be interested in preserving their own position. It was suggested to us that this formula of “one plus four equals zero” but we saw encouraging signs that opposing factions have tried to make the process work. DRC is a fragile if no-longer a failed State and can best be characterised as “a situation that is not as bad as it could have been.”
3.3.2 DRC desperately needs peace. In a huge country of 2.3 million kilometres (about a quarter of the size of theU.S.) there is a population of 58.3 million – 65% of whom are` under the age of 25. Minister Bila told us that “only 3 million have a regular supply of drinking water and the same is true of electricity.” Life expectancy is put at 40.6 years; 1.3 million are living with HIV/AIDS, and infant mortality is 94.6 deaths for each 1,000 live births.35% of the people are illiterate. An estimated 3 million people have been displaced from their homes (accentuating urban drift and urban squalor). Inflation in 2001 peaked at 135% and bundles of Congolese Francs are still needed to buy basic things. Resources are virtually non existent for public services (the national budget is just $820 million). The social infrastructure is in a state of collapse.
3.3.3 We cite two examples, one a hospital and one a school. We visitedKinshasa GeneralHospital. Built in 1912, we were told that it had once been one of the finest hospitals inAfrica. With around 1700 beds it remains the biggest hospital \in the DRC. Dr.Diabeno Tombe, the hospital’s medical director, told us that the 160 doctors, 1,100 nurses and 1200 employees regularly go for months on end without remuneration: “This has led to us losing doctors to countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, because they have no salaries, no equipment and little else but disillusionment.”
3.3.4 Dr.Tombe said “patients have to pay on arrival and 4 out of 10 cannot pay. Sometimes people are removed from beds when there are not enough spaces or they cannot pay. Half the patients have HIV.”
3.3.5 He painted a grim picture, which we can confirm, of dedicated staff working in impossible conditions: “most of our equipment is useless, in our trauma service we have no artificial limbs; families have to bring in food to feed patients, or they would starve.” We saw what had once been the hospital’s kitchen – now an overgrown jungle, strewn with detritus and debris.
Two abandoned children at the Kinshasa general hospital. We later learnt that they had passed away.
3.3.6 In the premature baby unit there were nine incubators; most were occupied by tiny infants. Only two of the incubators were working, the others were no better than glass boxes. One of the babies, Mayamba – which means Welcome – had been born by Caesarean Section at 38 weeks gestation. Like her country, Mayamba’s situation was fragile and her future uncertain. We later learnt Dr.Jose Loumpze said, “We don’t even have nappies for the babies.”
3.3.7 The broken-backed facilities – a dearth of resuscitation equipment, malfunctioning aspirators, wholly inadequate equipment – is a stain on the reputation of the DRC’s government. Dr.Loumpze told us: “Yes, I feel anger and sadness to see the way the hospital was before and the way it is now. Every day children are losing their lives – lives that could have been saved. Officialdom is forever promising us improvements but seems paralysed and never delivers on its promises. They just don’t care about life. The big problem here is that no-one seems to respect the dignity of the human being.”
3.3.8 We were encouraged by two small signs of hope – one part of the hospital had been renovated thanks to a contribution from Shell and we learnt that the Knights of Malta and the hospital’s Catholic chaplaincy provide free medicines for many patients and pay for a medical team who attend the hospital each day.
3.3.9 If health provision inKinshasais minimal, it pales alongside the situation in the East of DRC. We heard from the co-ordinator of the (US) Presidential Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (PEFFAR), Colette Cunningham, of a medical worker who literally has to carry patients to her clinic on her back, and who has a complete dearth of medicines. She said that donors are reluctant to commit any funds because they simply believe it will be looted.
Orphaned schoolchildren attend classes.
3.3.10 In Kinshasa, we also visited a school, Mbenseke Futi, situated about 50 kilometres from the centre ofKinshasa. There are about 300 children in the school – including 50 street children, many of whom have lost parents during the conflict. Fernand Matabo, the headmaster, showed us decaying buildings, including a wing that had been storm damaged in 1991. The dangerous collapsed roof had never been repaired. The squalid kitchens had long since been abandoned and the children’s meals – usually nothing more than a pea broth – was being prepared in pots over an open fire. The dedicated teachers are unpaid and have to raise their own salaries by asking for donations from parents and there are few books and little equipment. We were especially moved by the school dispensary. Posters emphasised the importance of immunisation programmes but when we asked the elderly man who cared for the dispensary what drugs and medicines he had, he told us that he had nothing and simply pointed to a row of empty bottles. There was nothing to treat the malaria that affected all of the children – and the sleeping conditions, wooden slats in bunks placed in filthy dormitories, were an absolute disgrace.
3.3.11 Minister Bila told us, when we asked him, that this was not an untypical situation: “In our schools books don’t exist, parents have to pay and the buildings are in ruins.”
3.3.12 He was quite emphatic about the cause of the decaying hospitals and schools: “the real problem is the war. It has destroyed the infrastructure.”
3.3.13 It would be tempting for the outside world to see the DRC as an impossible situation. This was not our conclusion and we concur with the view of the All Party Parliamentary group on The Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention, expressed in their report “A Break in The Clouds”, October 2003, that there is “a moment of hope” in the DRC.
The roofless buildings of the orphanages.
3.3.14 If the hope is to become a reality and the catalyst for social change it will be because of the resolution of the conflicts that have scarred the face of the DRC. Only then will the exploitation of the country’s natural resources become a means of raising the standard of life of its people rather than a cause of fratricide.
3.3.15 The UN Security Council Panel of Experts have pin-pointed the continuing stripping of resources that are benefiting insurgents and outside interests (includingUKcompanies: cf Corporate Watch for examples) – not the people of DRC. Although ratifying and signing the Kimberley Process on blood diamonds and a Mining Code, these formularies are largely honoured in the breach and are unlikely to be enforced until security and the rule of law stabilise DRC. The pre-requisite for the long-term development of DRC is an end to conflict and the demobilisation of the competing marauding militias.
3.4 Demobilisation and the International Community
3.4.1 Despite the ceasefire and the shared power arrangements of 2002 and 2003, there are at least 200,000 men still under arms. And the violence is far from over. In May and June 2004 a battle ensued for control of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu (DRC’s province abuttingRwanda). The renegades – the RCD, who were backed byRwandaduring the earlier war and who have been opposed to reunification – were doubtless encouraged by the military supportRwandais known to have given to several Kivu militias at the end of 2003.
3.4.2 The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in July 2004 thatRwanda“gave some of its old allies the belief that they could maintain the status quo.Kigalihas given the impression that the restoration of effective Congolese sovereignty generally orKinshasa’s authority in the Kivus specifically is not in its interests. Rwanda’s governing elite has developed important commercial interests in theCongothat alone may be sufficient to motivate continuing involvement in its internal affairs.”
3.4.3 The DRC’s transitional government has been mandated to form an integrated national army and to demobilise and to reintegrate into civilian life those combatants who will not be taken into the national army. Simultaneously, the international community has been represented by the UN Mission for the Congo (MONUC), and it has deployed peace-keeping troops inCongo(4800 deployed in Ituri).
3.4.4 In September 2003 the Security Council, in Resolution 1493, gave Chapter VII powers (“all possible means”) to the UN force in Ituri. This followed fighting in Ituri’s capital, Bunia, including the massacre of patients in a hospital. The same powers do not obtain elsewhere and the failure to forestall the unrest in the Kivu provinces has been blamed on MONUC’s apparent impotence, inadequate mandate and manpower and confused strategy. We also heard disturbing allegations about the behaviour of MONUC soldiers towards the civilian population, especially in relation to the sexual exploitation of young women and children.
Street children in Kinshasa
3.4.5 The ICG commented that MONUC’s shortcomings, which were evident during the Bukavu crisis, need to be overcome, and it must implement its mandate more assertively.” About 10,000 militia remain at large in the Kivus.
3.4.6 The criticism of MONUC was shared by members ofKinshasa’s diplomatic community who told us that “there are significant gaps” and an urgent need to strengthen capability and manpower. Some of the militias remain larger than the UN force and the different terms of reference within the mandate is a recipe for confusion and paralysis.
3.4.7 When we put the criticism of the ICG to Peter Swarbrick – who deals with demobilisation issues for MONUC, he warned that an over-assertive approach could lead to years of fighting against militias who would use the jungles and hostile terrain to their own advantage. Having “picked up all the low hanging fruit” he said that the fighters who remained to be disarmed were particularly “hard men who thrive in abnormal conditions.Rwandahas exported their genocide into theCongo. Just how are we supposed to tell the difference between the competing combatants?” He believed that the key to disarmament lies in normalisation.
3.4.8 We were told by a MONUC representative that normalisation is being impeded because “Rwandais not playing straight. They don’t believe that a resolution of this conflict is in their interests. But they are wrong. A stable DRC is in their interests.” It was put to us thatRwandaacts both covertly and overtly to cause instability.
3.4.9 About 6,000 men have been sent back to Rwanda thus far (about half of whom were combatants) but we were told that the most reluctant to return are those who would face genocide charges in Rwanda and that they had every personal interest in fighting on to avoid the inevitable jail sentences that would await them. We were told that about 5-15% of the militias at large in the Kivus are “serious criminals.” The MONUC representative told us that he believed “a climate of confidence and security will make them wither away. Pinstripe suits, not guns, will giveRwanda access to all the assets they want – not this futile war in which hundreds of thousands have already died and hundreds of thousands more will die unless it is permanently ended.”
3.4.10 During the course of our visit, the political crisis in the DRC was among the issues that dominated the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly. On his return toKigali, the Rwandan Prime Minister, Bernard Makuza, said that the Security Council will set out clearer measures by which the Interahamwe militia and other rebels will be disarmed and returned toRwanda. He said that “The insecurity that is being caused by Interahamwe militias inCongo is comparable to the terrorism that is currently rocking the globe.”
3.4.11 He also confirmed that under the mediation of the UN Security CouncilRwandaand the DRC had signed a joint agreement aimed a wiping out the Interahamwe problem. He also claimed that MONUC was allied to the militias and that until the Security Council honoured its promise to investigate this alleged link it would not be possible to disarm successfully.
3.5 DRC and the International Community
Lord Alton and Raphael Mpanzu meet with Minister’s of the Christian Churches
3.5.1 No huge investment will be made in DRC until the conflicts and instability are seen to be resolved. Mark Bensberg, British Charge d’Affaires inKinshasa told us that without a legal framework for investment it is very difficult to persuade investors to engage commercially in the DRC. Risible levels of trade with theUK are indicative. In 2003 the tenth largest export to DRC from theUK was a second hand Mercedes. The bribes required by police officers at road blocks on the road to Kinshasa airport and the chaotic and anarchic arrangements at the airport itself would be totally unacceptable to legitimate western business interests but conducive to the corrupt. The Kinshasa Government could do worse than inviting the management ofNairobi’s Kenyatta airport to offer advice and they should prioritise the training of airport personnel and police officers on the main routes in and out of the city.
3.5.2 Corruption is not confined to DRC nationals. InRwanda, for instance, we heard allegations that, despite UN prohibitions, European companies (with, at best, the implicit connivance of some governments) are still selling weapons to parties involved in the conflict.
3.5.3 In this very complicated and difficult environment we were impressed by the high standing of theUnited Kingdomand the widespread belief in its probity and its enhanced commitment to the development of the country. We were impressed by the calibre of the British officials we met, their commitment to the country, and the clarity of their Engagement Plan.
3.5.4 Augustin Amisi Wa Lika and Rachel Brass, of the Department for International Development (DFID), outlined what is a new programme “aimed at supporting the peace and transition process” targeted particularly at vulnerable groups including displaced people “many of whom are women and children and child soldiers.” The DFID programme ranges from strategic macro-level interventions in Security Sector Reform, work for elections, support for the World Bank-led Multi-Country Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme (MDRP) of £25 million over 5 years.
3.5.5 We were pleased to learn of DFID’s decision to fund a peace and reconciliation programme throughout the Great Lakes countries, including DRC, which will be organised by the British Catholic Aid Agency, CAFOD and their international partner CARITAS. Christian Aid will receive £666,000 over 2 years to facilitate democratisation and human rights work in the Kivus. In addition, Christian Relief Network has been granted £697,000 over 3 years to provide relief assistance to 20,000 Rwandese Hutu refugees located in 8 transit camps in eastern DRC.
3.5.6 We agreed with DFID’s assessment that “faith based organisations have an important strategic role in the country as well as having influence at the local, micro and practical level.” DFID told us that “The Catholic Church in DRC is the organisation with the broadest reach down into the communities” and that “religious leaders have played a major role in promoting dialogue between the warring factions in promoting peace and bringing human rights violations onto the agenda.” We are also painfully aware that when the Church does not have such an appreciation it can remain silent and even a negative force.
3.5.7 DFID has also earmarked £5 million to assist with the election promised for 2005. Trish Hiddleston of UNICEF told us that DFID’s assistance had been pivotal in getting their programme for the demobilisation of child soldiers off the ground – “it saved us”, she said.
3.5.8 Beyond the diplomatic and NGO communities, the DRC’s ties with theUKhave been sparse and sporadic.
3.5.9 Minister Bila reflected that “far too few visitors come to DRC from theUK.” He was pleased that the All Party Parliamentary Group had visited and intended to return. We commented that it would be helpful for the Inter Parliamentary Union to strengthen ties with the National Assembly and to invite a Congolese delegation to visitWestminster. The IPU might also arrange a round-table discussion betweenDRC,UKand Rwandan representatives.
3.5.10 Patrick Merienne, Director of the NGO, Search for Common Ground, told us that there was a desperate need for civic education, formation of citizens, and in facilitating the rapprochement of conflicting groups.
4.0 DRC and Human Rights
4.1 Jubilee’s triple mandate of advocacy, conflict resolution and protection for children, led us to concentrate on these three areas.
4.2 DFID told us that “There is documented evidence of appalling human rights violations in the country including murder with impunity and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Human rights are violated in all spheres – economic, social political and cultural.” We particularly commend the reports by Human Rights Watch (January, 2004), “DRC: Confronting Impunity” and “DRC: War Crimes in Bukavu” (June 2004) and Amnesty International’s 2003 Report “DRC: On the Precipice – the deepening human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ituri.”
4.3 Among the gravest reports we heard was one from the UN who estimates that between October 2002 and February 2003 some 5,000 women had been raped inSouth Kivu– an average of 40 women each day. Many were raped by men with HIV/AIDS.
4.4 Combatants operate with total impunity. We heard of a combatant who broke into the home of Kavira Muraulu I Mangangu, near Beni,North Kivu. Kavira was raped. She reported the crime to the Governor. She was then attacked again by the alleged rapist and four other soldiers – who beat her and stabbed her with a bayonet.
4.5 We learnt that serial human rights abuses and violence, particularly in Bukavu, the wider Kivu region, Ituria andKatanga, continues to this day. These include abuses by pro-government forces.
4.6 For instance, we were told that following the violence in Bukavu in May 2004 , forces under the command of General Mbuza Mabe killed civilians of the minority Banyamulenge (Congolese whose ancestors migrated from Rwandaand Burundi) as a reprisal following the death of a soldier. Between May 26th and May 28th at least 15 civilians were killed. These included six university students, two of whom were student leaders. They were stripped, tied together and beaten to death. Their bodies were thown into shallow graves. Among the dead were Ruhimisha Mahirwe Manege, Mahoro Ngoma, and Mande Manege.
4.7 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) subsequently estimated that 3,000 Banyamulenge fled toRwanda– many with gunshot, machete and knife wounds.
4.8 The militia if the Rally for Congolese Democracy – Goma (RCD-G), supported by Rwandaand loyal to Colonel Jules Mutebutsi and Brigadier General Laurent Nkunda responded with their own orgy of violence. For instance, in Bukavu their soldiers shot a fifty-five year old man in his home wile they looted and plundered it. On June 3rd six soldiers raped a mother and another raped her three-year-old daughter in the centre of the town – forcing her husband and other children to look on. They then looted their home.
4.9 This violence and the mutual recriminations between DRC andRwandaled to the closing of the border in June of this year.
4.10 We also heard of retaliation against those who report these events or who champion human rights. For instance, N’sii Luanda Shndwe spent nine months in prison as a prisoner of conscience at the Centre penitentiaire et de reeducation deKinshasa. He was never formally charged with a criminal offence but was detained because of human rights activism. He was released at the end of January 2004.
4.11 InKinshasawe met an impressive human rights lawyer, Amigo Ngonde, who is President of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights. He told us that the Government of DRC had “signed and ratified all their UN obligations but has not acted upon them.” He said that “The justice system is not working – resources are not made available for salaries, the magistrates work in intolerable conditions and there is widespread corruption… we have been at war since 1996 and this has paralysed our justice system. So many crimes and so many criminals have never been punished. There is a culture of impunity.”
4.12 He pointed to the wholly inadequate judiciary, the need to train human rights lawyers and judges, and an international tribunal (as in the case ofBosnia), including some DRC magistrates, to properly investigate and try the perpetrators of the massacres and human rights violations.
Delegation meets with Mr. Ngonde
4.13 He asked why the international
community suffered from myopia when it came to theCongoand why there is no universal applicability of the rights of man.
4.14 Mr.Ngonde is involved in promoting human rights information through the country’s churches and is developing programmes in schools, teaching duties, responsibilities, rights and obligations. He passionately believes that “without justice the conditions necessary for reconciliation and harmony cannot be satisfied. There has to be an honest facing up to the past. When members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (established in 2002) have themselves been accused of human rights abuses, it is difficult to see how it can do good work. They will be partie prie. If it is compromised, it cannot facilitate reconciliation. Nor should its existence prevent the administration of justice.”
4.15 We discussed the parallel withSouth Africaand Mr.Ngonde reflected: “Congodoesn’t have a Mandela. He gave inspiration. Here, we have more than 3 million dead and the killing is still going on. To end this we will have to do without a Mandela but we cannot do without a legal system. The instigators and perpetrators must be brought to account.” These were observations with which we profoundly in agreement.
5.0 DRC and its Children
5.1 One of Jubilee’s central concerns is the children who become caught up in conflict. In the case of DRC we are especially concerned about the use of child soldiers and about the plight of street children.
5.2 Two thirds of the population of DRC is under the age of 25. UNICEF told us that in broad terms about 30,000 children are under arms and comprise about 10% of the armed groups: despite the demobilisation programme “both recruitment and re-recruitment is continuing.” Children as young as seven carry arms – and we cannot adequately emphasise the importance of ending the traffic in small arms from neighbouring states (in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1493).
5.3 Amnesty International reported in December 2003 that “all armed forces in the DRC” had used children as soldiers. In the east of the country children have comprised as much as 40% of the militias. Some were sent into combat, some were used as sex slaves. According to Amnesty, “some were forced to kill their own families; others were made to engage in cannibalistic or sexual acts with enemy corpses. Girl soldiers were raped and some died as a result.” Sexual violence has often been accompanied by subsequent HIV/Aids.
5.4 In January 2004 Human Rights Watch confirmed these reports: “All groups have recruited children, some as young as seven years old, for military service, subjecting the children to the risks and trauma of military operations.
5.5 We heard from UNICEF that as well as being used as combatants, children have routinely been used to clean and carry guns and to collect and prepare food and camps for combatants.
Brother and Sister, some of many children affected by the violence of the Congo
5.6 UNICEF told us that there has been a very small drift of children out of the militias. Sometimes commanders refuse to let them go but many children joined of their own volition – some enjoying the degree of power that a gun gives them, others without families pleased to be given food and camaraderie. Others again were even sent by their families. Many of the children are not interested in demobilisation as they have nowhere else to go and are fearful that if they are returned to communities where their past is known they will face retribution.
5.7 UNICEF told us that a lack of resources is also hampering the demobilisation of children but that the transitional government of DRC has played a constructive and helpful role.
5.8 Domestic laws now prohibit the use of children but paradoxically the demobilisation of children could make them doubly vulnerable unless proper social and educational provision is made. Clearly, children in a school are less likely to be recruited and more likely to be given a protective framework. While teachers remain unpaid, and parents and children are expected to pay for education, this protective environment will remain out of reach for the 30,000 child soldiers of DRC. UNICEF told us that the main-line churches remain the best hope for making such provision. UNICEF has also called for the creation of “convergence zones” where demobilised child soldiers can be helped in properly resourced health and education centres.
5.9 If no provision is made it will undoubtedly accentuate the growing problem of drifting, rootless, children on the streets. Save The Children have initiated a programme to re-integrate children into foster families but, welcome though this is, UNICEF point out that there is no tradition of fostering outside of extended families.
5.10 In the capital,Kinshasa, it is estimated that there are now some 20,000 children on the streets. We met and talked to some of them.
5.11 Like most children of their age they dream of becoming Beckham or Ronaldo. Poignantly, Yvec, aged 14 said “I would just like the same opportunities as other children, but I don’t even have a
football.” Nsimba, aged 13, saw her parents and her twin die. She now cares for her 3-year-old sister, Octavia. She didn’t want to talk about the things that have happened to her on the streets.
Yvec, dreams of a football career
5.12 During our stay we also heard reports about the plight of street children in the East of DRC. 18 children were reported dead by the local media after an incident in a small diamond mining town, reportedly killed by “unofficial” diamond miners and the reason given was that “they had made a nuisance of themselves.”
5.13 One of our delegation, Raphael Mpanzu (RM), is Congolese. After the death of his parents he came to theUKas a refugee and has worked as the project co-ordinator for the refugee and homeless people’s project at Notre Dame de France inSoho.
5.14 RM has established the Jedidah Foundation (named for his six month old son) to help the street children ofKinshasa. The Revd.Dr.Anthony Harvey, another member of the Jubilee delegation – and a retired Canon and sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey, is the President of Jedidah. They have acquired a small, safe, compound in Kinshasa which will house 32 young people and they hope that this may become a model for similar small-scale initiatives that can be taken by voluntary organisations, parishes, groups of friends, companies or parishes who wish to respond to the acute needs and desperate plight of the children of the Congo.
5.15 In addition, we took evidence on the phenomenon of “witch children” cited in the All Party Parliamentary group’s report. Although witchcraft has always been practiced in theCongo, and deep superstitions remain ingrained in their lore, over the past decade a new and disturbing trend has emerged. In a climate of deep poverty families who cannot cope with the up-bringing of their children, or who have a child with behavioural problems or disabilities, declare the children to be witches or involved in sorcery. This is used as a pretext for abandoning their children to the streets.
5.16 The situation has been exacerbated by i) the collapse of many traditional extended families who would have taken in a related child; and ii) the emergence of myriad independent Christian groups which display many of the attributes of cults.
5.17 Trish Hiddleston, Director of UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme in DRC, told us that the linkage of sorcery with disability or behavioural problems was used by self-appointed pastors as a source of income generation. These “dodgy priests”, as she described them, acquire small buildings on main streets, and by holding dramatic “healing” services where they claim to have purged children of their “darkness” reinforce the popular belief that God is to blame for infirmity, disability, or maladjustment and that it is legitimate and even necessary for the good health of the rest of family to be rid of “witch children.” UNICEF estimates that inKinshasaalone there are between 20,000 and 30,000 street children and that 60- 80% of these are “witch children” accused of sorcery.
5.18 AtKinshasageneral Hospital we saw a baby of two months, Mukranda, born with withered hands, and who had been abandoned at the hospital by the girl’s mother when she saw her disability, believing this to be a sign from God. We also visited a shelter for street children inKinshasawhere the only provision was a place to sleep overnight. Most children worked the streets by day in order to get money for food.
Mukrunda, abandoned by her Mother because of her deformed hands.
5.19 We were re-assured to be told that Government Ministers have begun to speak out about the phenomenon of “witch children” and we were assured by Simon Kimbangu Kiangani, the spiritual leader of the Kimbanguist church (founded in 1921 as a national Protestant church, highly influential and accounting for about 10% of the DRC population) that this is an issue he takes very seriously.
5.20 The Vicar general of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa (all the other Bishops being ill or absent) told us the view of the Catholic church which is carefully nuanced. Each case must be examined: there are instances of strange phenomena – a child speaking with the voice of an old man or in a foreign language for example. The causes may be imaginary or psychic or (in a very small number of cases) genuine possession, in which case a church service of prayer may be appropriate. Different churches have different approaches, which makes an ecumenical response to the problem difficult. But all churches, other than the small ones who are exploiting the situation by selling ‘exorcisms’, recognise the gravity of the problem and seek to combat it in their teaching.
6.0.1 Our recommendations fall into the three areas of our mandate: Conflict, Advocacy, Children.
6.1.1. The international community must use its leverage withRwandato end all military involvement in theCongoand to actively collaborate with the DRC and MONUC in disarming the militias.
6.1.2. Western governments should urgently hunt down and prosecute arms dealers and those giving assistance and training, or benefiting from involvement inCongo’s
6.1.3. MONUC’s mandate, capacity and effectiveness (as evidenced by its impotence in the events in Bakuvu in June last) are all in serious doubt and should be radically re-assessed.
6.1.4. The DRC’s unified army and the former rebel groups such as RCD-Goma must exercise more stringent control and discipline over their soldiers, hold them to account when accused of abuses, and accelerate the disarmament process and creation of an integrated professional national army.
6.2.1 The DRC must entrench the rule of law, hold to account those who have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, with special regard to the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Canon Harvey speaks to the Congolese about the need for ecumenical efforts in combating the culture of child-sorcery
6.2.2 The DRC should allow proper debate about the transparency of bodies such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, seek assistance from the international community in the training of more judges and magistrates and police officers.
6.2.3 Human rights advocacy should not be seen as a threat but as a vital component in the upholding of the rule of law, human dignity and the sanctity of human life.
6.2.4 The central role of the churches as a lynch-pin in building civil society, in educating for citizenship, democracy and human rights, and in working for reconciliation should be further encouraged.
6.3.1. UNICEF’s work in demobilising child soldiers continues to be the highest priority and donor countries should remain committed to demobilisation and the creation of convergence centres where children can be helped to make the transition back into normal living.
6.3.2. The international community and DRC should urgently reassess their pitiful support of the DRC’s schools and paediatric facilities. Special attention should be paid to the removal of prohibitive school fees, the non-payment of salaries, the condition of buildings and provision of resources.
6.3.3. Those churches that have been capitalised on or encouraged a belief in “witch children” should be openly challenged by DRC government ministers, main-line church leaders, and the overseas churches that often support them.
6.3.4. An urgent co-ordinated, regulated strategy for the creation of child-headed households, shelters and opportunities for the children of the streets should be agreed between the government of DRC, the donor community and NGOs.
Lord Alton thanks a family for their warm hospitality
7.1 Our delegation was enormously impressed by the hospitality and warmth of the Congolese people. We marvelled at their capacity to endure colossal suffering and pain. We were shocked by the scale of what they have had to endure and staggered by years of indifference by the international community. But we saw signs of hope in theCongo and believe that the transitional government remains the country’s best hope. As DRC approaches free elections there is a moment of opportunity. If this moment is not seizedCongo could drift back into brutal anarchy with horrendous consequences for its people and its neighbours.
8.0 Contact Information
Tel 00 44 1483 894 787 Fax 00 44 1483 894 797 http://www.jubileeaction.co.uk
The Killing Continues – The Legacy of the Rwandan Genocide
1.1 Between Sept 26th to Oct 1st 2004, a Jubilee Action delegation including Lord Alton, and journalist Becky Tinsley travelled toRwanda.
Jubilee Action delegation with President Kagame
1.2 The purpose of the trip was to gain a fuller understanding of the cause and legacy of the 1994 genocide, to visit sites where an estimated 800,000 people were killed over a period of 100 days and to assess the prospects forRwanda’s future. We listened to the testimony of survivors, and visited projects for widows, abandoned children, orphans and people with HIV/AIDS. We also met NGOs, leaders of civic society, religious leaders and politicians to discuss the process of achieving reconciliation and justice, and rebuilding the nation. We learnt more about the residual problems in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where genocidal militias remain in exile with dire consequences for all concerned.
2.0 Narrative and History
2.1 AsRwanda’s colonial power, the Belgians instituted identity cards classifying most of the population as either Hutu, who made up the majority, or as Tutsi. After independence in 1962Rwandawas ruled by Hutu-dominated governments, including a period of one-party rule under the Hutu President Habyarimana between 1972 and 1994. During this time the Tutsi minority (making up 15%) were excluded from power, denied university education, and restricted to a few professions like teaching and nursing. Consequently many Tutsi became businessmen, and comprised a large part ofRwanda’s middle class.
2.2 Discrimination and ethnic hatred resulted in widespread massacres of Tutsi in 1959 after which many Tutsi went into exile, particularly inUganda. Further violence followed, and as a reaction some Tutsi inUganda, including the current President, Paul Kagame, formed the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and its armed wing, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).
2.2 The RPA invadedRwandain 1990 but were halted by the Forces Armee Rwandaises (FAR). Unrest and dissatisfaction continued, and in April 1994 President Habyarimana signed a power-sharing agreement in Arusha, but on his way back fromTanzaniahis plane was shot down.
2.3 This event is widely understood to have been the pre-arranged signal the Hutu militia, the Interahamwe, had been waiting for: roadblocks went up across the nation, and the systematic and coordinated killing of Tutsi and moderate Hutu began. It is thought 100,000 Interahamwe spearheaded the genocide, supported by Hutu peasants who had been indoctrinated with ethnic hate propaganda against their neighbours. Between 800,000 and a million people were murdered, and it is believed at least 200,000 Tutsi women were raped.
2.4 From their base inUgandathe RPA invaded and reachedKigaliby July, fighting off a coalition of FAR, Interahamwe and supporting Zairean troops who retreated intoZaire. Since 1994 they have used their bases in exile to menace local ethnic Tutsi in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as Tutsi inRwandaandBurundi. Their presence in eastern DRC has also contributed to the continuing violence and massive bloodshed there (see previous Jubilee Action report on DRC).
2.5 Meanwhile, in 1994, a government of national unity was formed with Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, as president, and Paul Kagame, the Tutsi commander of the RPA, as his deputy. In effect the RPF have since dominated Rwandan government and institutions, and when Bizimungu resigned in 2000 Kagame became president. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Kagame Government on allegations of inciting genocide.
2.6 In late 1996 the RPA backed a rebellion in eastern DRC (then still calledZaire) which destroyed the Hutu/Interahamwe/ex-FAR refugee camps, and precipitated the downfall of Mobutu Sese Seko. A million refugees returned toRwanda, but many ‘genocidaires’, as they are known, escaped. They remained in easternZairefrom which they continued to attack northwestRwanda.
2.7 In 1998RwandaandUgandatogether backed rebel militia in DRC ostensibly to eliminate the Interahamwe/ex-FAR. They defeated the combined forces ofZimbabwe,Chad,AngolaandNamibiawho were supporting DRC, leading to a stand-off with Mobuto’s successor Laurent Kabila. By the time a ceasefire was signed inLusakain autumn 1999 the rebels had taken large parts of the north and east, at the cost of millions of civilian lives. A further agreement, brokered bySouth Africa, was needed in 2002 before Rwandan forces began to withdraw from DRC.
David Alton pays his respects at the Murambi Genocide site
2.8Rwanda continues to have interests in the vast mineral wealth of eastern DRC, and it is accused of using local militias to impose their will in the area and to fight against remaining Interahamwe/ex-FAR groups who are believed to number about 8,000. EquallyRwanda accuses DRC of arming and supporting Interahamwe/ex-FAR militia and their allies who have been killing and terrorising the ethnic Tutsi population in eastern DRC. We used most of our one hour meeting with President Kagame to raise Rwanda’s continuing conflict with the DRC.
2.9 The Rwandan economy is based almost completely on agriculture (coffee, sugar cane, bananas) of which the majority is peasant subsistence farming. It lacks the huge mineral wealth of neighbouring DRC, or an industrial base. It currently imports goods it could be manufacturing for itself, and there is potential to develop a more value-added agricultural export business, given effort and imagination.
2.10Rwandasuffers from deforestation (another consequence of the war) and soil erosion. Its economy is vulnerable to both world commodity prices, and the cost of oil. The continuing violence in DRC restricts regional trade and discourages inward investment.
3.0 The Consequences of Genocide: Political Freedom and Human Rights in Rwanda
3.1 The Rwandan Government is currently struggling to strike a balance between allowing free speech, and defeating once and for all the genocidal ideology responsible for inspiring millions of people to participate in the murder, betrayal, and looting of their fellow Rwandans.
3.2 Everyday, in every encounter we had, we were reminded that people have good reason to be apprehensive to the point of paranoia about allowing people to make derogatory comments about the ethnic minority Tutsis, or to deny the genocide occurred. We are also sensitive to fears that the exiled Interahamwe and ex-FAR wish to destabilise the country by force. We met many people who either fear for their lives, or are receiving threats, or have actually been attacked by those who believe their testimony will put them in prison. We took evidence of genocidaires released under the Gacaca and returning to their communities to commit revenge attacks on those who testified against them. 30 Tutsi survivors were reported to have been killed in June 2004 in Butare.
3.3 The aspiration of the Government, recited by all and sundry in positions of power and by many NGOs, is that the Gacaca system will bring about justice and reconciliation, given time. We were constantly told that the future lies in all people regarding themselves as Rwandans first, and Hutu and Tutsi second. Although we agree with the importance of national identity, history suggests that trying to wish away ethnic awareness is futile and counter-productive. You can remove ethnic identity from ID cards (good) but not from memory. Co-existence , mutual respect and power sharing would be a more productive course.
3.4 There has been criticism of the dominant role taken by the Tutsi minority in government, the army and throughout society. We would question whether the Hutu majority has a big enough stake in Rwanda’s future, and if there is a role for power-sharing structures, and confidence building measures to bring about reconciliation through practical, everyday cooperation in rebuilding Rwanda. Although acutely conscious thatBritainfailed the Rwandan people in 1994, we suggest that we might now make a small contribution by sharing our experiences of building cross-community institutions inNorthern Ireland(see: recommendations).
3.5 Human Rights Watch recently catalogued its concerns about the suppression of the free press, the imprisonment or exile of political opposition figures, and the 96% (sic) President Kagame received in recent elections. Our impressions, from speaking to people as varied as 14 year old rape victims, Hutu genocidaire prisoners, town mayors, social workers, and government ministers, was that the Kagame administration is determined to silence criticism or divergence from the agreed path forwards. One local health worker in Butare claimed that political dissidents are first warned and then imprisoned for criticising the government.
Category 1 prisoners in Nyanza prison responsible for the worst acts of genocide in 1994
3.6 A vital element in this strategy is eliciting confessions of guilt from prisoners, and encouraging them to provide information on who planned the genocide, in exchange for their freedom: the Gacaca process. In every province, citizens are being trained to chair Gacaca tribunals, to ensure victims are able to confront their attackers, and that witnesses can give testimony. Whilst the planners of the genocide and those who raped are considered category one prisoners, and do not qualify for parole, the rest have the chance to confess.
3.7 We visited Nyanza prison and watched in admiration as the country’s Prosecutor General, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, urged the five thousand genocidaires (male and female) gathered before him in the prison yard, to confess their guilt, submit to the Gacaca process, and go home to their families. Given his own personal loss during the genocide, his commitment to resolving the future of the prisoners was doubly impressive. On a practical levelRwandacannot afford to keep 70,000 genocidaires in prison indefinitely, and if they want to reconcile their shattered nation, we concluded there are worse ways to go about it than the Gacaca process.
3.8 Some doubts remain about the validity of the confessions from the point of view of the victims and survivors. The President of the Rwandan Survivors Fund (SURF) told us of her disappointment when she was able to confront the killer of her husband and children, only to find he felt no remorse. We also heard prisoners say they were under pressure from fellow Hutu not to confess or implicate genocidaires who have avoided punishment so far. Some less skilled Hutu freely admitted they preferred to stay behind bars where they were given three meals a day, rather than to face the economic hardships in the outside world.
3.9 Whether the Government will succeed in persuading the majority Hutu population that the genocide was wrong remains to be seen. Tutsi unease at the true intentions of their fellow Rwandans is understandable, given the undercurrent of genocide denial, and threats to witnesses and survivors. They are not allowed to keep weapons at home, but the tension within the community was apparent.
3.10 We note the importance of learning from experiences in the formerYugoslavia, where the International War Crimes Tribunal has been careful to hold each community to account for the atrocities perpetrated on each other. Croatian and Bosnian generals allegedly responsible for war crimes against Serbians have been arrested and put on trial atThe Hague.
3.11 Until 2003, Carla del Ponte was the Prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal responsible for bothRwandaand the formerYugoslavia. She believes there was political pressure from the Rwandan Government for her removal because she was urging the investigation of the members of the RPA suspected of reprisal killings.
3.12 If this indicates a subjectivity or an unwillingness to accept that there was retaliatory violence on Hutu civilians, then this would not bode well for theRwanda’s future.
David Alton with the Prosecutor General – Mr Mucyo
3.13 Being even handed, and being seen to be even-handed, could be an important element in trying to assure one part of the community in Rwanda that even though the other part of the community bore the greater brunt of the horrors of genocide, they have not been absolved of atrocities they in turn committed, even if they were smaller in scale. We were struck by testimony from Hutus who suffered greatly in 1994 when up to 100,000 were killed by the RPA when they invaded the country. We also heard of mass reprisal killings in1996, and we believe that until these events are acknowledged openly and justice is delivered, the level of resentment in the Hutu community will severely damage attempts to unite and reconcile the nation.
3.14 We urge President Kagame to embrace the political benefits that could accrue from an admission that atrocities, reprisals, and large scale revenge killings were carried out by the RPA in 1994 and 1996. We were pleased to read an interview given by President Kagame to the BBC during the tenth anniversary commemorations in which he accepted RPA responsibility for killings of Hutu. We urge him to build upon this by bringing to justice those responsible for atrocities in 1994 and 1996, and so to assure the whole community of his government’s intention to apply justice evenly, irrespective of ethnic background.
3.15 We were concerned to learn that six well-respected NGOs who are the subject of a Parliamentary Report have had no opportunity to defend themselves against the extremely serious charges of inciting genocidal ideology. To accuse an organisation of using ‘divisionist’ language damages the credibility of the NGO concerned, and the rules of natural justice require there to be a transparent and fair means of examining the evidence and presenting a legal defence.
3.16 In discussions with officials at the Commission for Human Rights, and with Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the Prosecutor General, we raised this issue, and urged them to allow a full and open judicial process, giving the NGOs concerned the right to defend themselves. Officials were unwilling to explain exactly what the individuals at the NGOs are alleged to have said or done, and we remain concerned that well-intentioned NGOs or other groups in civil society will be subject to harsh and arbitrary punitive measures. We hopeRwandawill study the ways in whichBritainis currently legislating against the incitement to racial and religious hatred. We also trust that reference to our anti-discrimination laws, evolved and refined over decades, might be of some use. We were also concerned that if every criticism of the government were to be labelled as inciting genocide, it would devalue the use of the word and minimise the enormity of what actually took place.
3.17 Similarly, we are alarmed by reports from Human Rights Watch about opposition politicians, who have not previously promoted ethnically divisive views, now being accused of ‘divisionism’. The most startling example of this is the former president ofRwanda, who is in prison awaiting Gacaca, although he was a military supporter of President Kagame during the Genocide. We have also heard of other long-standing members of the RPF and RPA, who faithfully served their cause throughout the years of struggle, and whose credibility has suddenly been challenged, and who are now accused of promoting genocidal ideology.
3.18 Human Rights Watch has catalogued the cases of a number of democratic politicians who have expressed criticism of the Government, and who are now in exile, fearing for their safety and liberty. HRW also questions the reported crackdown on press freedom, and the suppression of healthy, pluralist dissent.
3.19 We were told by the authorities that they come down on genocidal ideology swiftly and surely. While we are sensitive to the reasons why any ethnic slurs or genocidal denial must be firmly dealt with, we are concerned that genuine free speech may be sacrificed, and a system of informing and the censorship of well-intentioned political criticism and debate may arise as a consequence.
3.20 We are pleased there are now several independent radio stations inRwanda, but were dismayed to learn each station had been required to sign a commitment to avoid political subjects. We are acutely aware of the role played by the media in disseminating hate ideology and propaganda during the genocide. For the future, we hopeRwandawill gradually appreciate the benefits of allowing free speech within a framework of legal guarantees for the respect of minority rights, human rights, anti-discrimination and mutual tolerance.
3.21 As friends and admirers of Rwanda we hope our concerns about the slide towards repressing free speech will be taken as they are meant: constructively. We are hugely impressed by the way in whichRwandais being reconstructed, by the lack of corruption, and by the efficiency of the Government which is an example to all in the region. We share the Government’s aspirations to pull all Rwandans together, emphasising what they share, rather than what divides them. But we are also concerned about the potential backlash from an overzealous rewriting of history, and from denying fair comment. From our meetings with politicians, religious leaders and activists acrossRwanda, we are confidentRwandais strong enough to allow full and informed national political debate.
3.22 In Butare we were deeply impressed by the personal friendship and public leadership of the Catholic and Episcopal (Anglican) bishops, Bishop Msgr. Philippe Rukamba and Bishop Venuste Mutiganda. They are both involved in reconciliation and social projects. InKigaliwe visited the Catholic Cathedral, met with Protestant church leaders and talked with faith-led individuals and groups about a whole host of impressive initiatives.
3.23 As mentioned above, we met Antoine Rutayisire of African Enterprise whose book, “Faith Under Fire”, details the stories of individual Christians who resisted the genocide. We heard of pastors who lost their lives , and of a group of nuns who refused to abandon the children in their care, and were brutally murdered.
3.24 Antoine Rutayisire is involved in a coalition seeking to encourage Christian dialogue and engagement. He also told us that “the position of the church is very complex: it has taken many different positions and reconciliation is not a popular concept. It often sits on the fence.”
3.25 It is also clear that during the genocide individual pastors, priests, and Christian leaders either collaborated in the killing or failed to speak out prophetically against the slaughter.
3.26 Fatuma Ndagije, Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, alleged that the deceased Catholic Archbishop, Nsengungiyuva, had been involved in planning the Hutu attacks on the Tutsis. At Nyanza Prison we talked to one of two Episcopal priests who are prisoners, Musominali Paulin, who was accused by a parishioner of betraying her husband. He has been waiting for seven years to be tried for a charge he strenuously denies. He told us that at Nyanza there is a Baptist pastor, and two Seventh Day Adventist pastors, and that a Catholic priest had been in the prison, but under the Gacaca system he had been released (and is back in his post in his parish). Musominali raised an interesting aspect of Gacaca when he said, “some confess to things they have not done in order to secure release. Why should a man confess to a crime he did not commit?”
Murambi Genocide site in South-West Rwanda
3.27 Notwithstanding individual acts of bravery during the genocide, the failure of the church to be more outspoken is partly to do with the over-identification of individual denominations with one ethnic group of the other, and the failure to inform individual believers and parishes/fellowships in the duties that go with Christian citizenship. In facing the future the church must learn hard lessons from this experience.
3.28 Our visit to the Murambi Genocide Site in the south west ofRwandaserved to remind us of the hellish reality ofRwanda’s recent past. Murambi was a technical college, to which children from a nearby orphanage, went there to take shelter. They believed the French garrison there would protect them. Instead, so we were told, the French soldiers stood by and watched as the Interahamwe hunted down local Tutsis, as they are reported to have done throughout the country, delivering them to what became the mass graves of Murambi.
3.29 Fifty six thousand bodies were found there, and we walked from classroom to classroom, viewing 852 remains that have been disinterred. Within a few days of the massacre, a volleyball court had been built on top of one of the mass graves which, we were told, the French then used in their leisure time. We saw the site of where the French raised their flag while the killings proceeded without impediment. Meanwhile, at the UN, French diplomats were working in concert with Secretary General Boutros Ghali (cf family connections) to withhold any information about the genocide from the Security Council as it occurred.
3.30 The French position was unquestioningly supported byBritain’s representative to the UN and in the House of Commons by the Foreign Secretary at the time.
3.31 France’s role in allegedly training FAR, and supplying them with satellite telephones with which to coordinate the killing from community to community, deserves special mention, but equally we were constantly aware on our trip around Rwanda that Britain’s record in 1994 is nothing to be proud of. However, while theUKis now the biggest donor toRwanda(£37m in 2003-4),Francehas given very little, has refused to examine its role in the run up to the genocide and during it, and denies any moral responsibility. We agree with President Clinton’s reflection that the failure to act in theRwandagenocide was ‘the greatest regret of my Presidency’ – a view shared by the British Aid Minister of the time, Baroness Chalker.
4.0 The Consequences of Genocide: HIVAIDS
4.1 “We are a generation in transition, carrying the wounds of the past, and trying to shape the future.” (Antoine Rutayisire)
4.2 With every personal connection we made inRwandawe were reminded that the consequences of the 1994 genocide are still making a profound mark on almost all aspects of life. There is great continuing hardship for widows who survived the war, in particular those who were raped and are now HIV positive. However, because of the genocide women inRwandaare more aware of HIV/AIDS than elsewhere in the region, and we trust this will assist the spread of awareness about the need for testing. In many respects, the fatalities of HIV/AIDS represent a continuing genocide inRwanda.
4.3 There are 260,000 orphans inRwanda, of whom 65,000 are HIV positive, and the President’s office told us they classify one million children as vulnerable. Given that the total population ofRwandais eight million, it is clear the country faces an enormous challenge. Every year, 40,000 children are born to HIV-infected mothers.
4.4 Of the 100,000 Rwandans who need HIV treatment, only 4,000 are currently receiving anti-retro viral (ARV) medicines. Disgracefully the international community decided to prioritise the treatment of HIV positive prisoners, most of whom participated in the genocide, as their victims died of AIDS or struggled to survive, the perpetrators of the genocide received three meals a day and ARV. This perverse situation was compounded by the knowledge that those who could testify against them would die before they could go to trial. This grotesque iniquity is finally being corrected, and the President’s office told us they hope to have virtually everyone who needs treatment receiving ARVs within five years. However there are only 274 doctors serving a population of eight million inRwanda, and we applaud efforts to train survivors and victims to administer home-based care.
4.5 In our meeting with the Minister for Health for HIV, Dr Innocent Nyaruharira, we agreed that a campaign to help school children become AIDS-aware would provide a great opportunity to explain that in the case of consenting sex, AIDS is 100% preventable but 100% fatal. We gave the Minister to “Towards an Aids-free generation”, a primary school level book produced inAfrica. It was agreed this book would be highly appropriate for distribution to every pupil inRwanda. We also gave the Minister a copy of the secondary school level book, “Aids and You” with the same purpose in mind.
4.6 We also met Colette Cunningham of World Relief who is responsible for delivering World Relief’s portion of theUSPresident’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Colette told us that ‘for once, thanks to theUS, there is money. It will change the face of AIDS inAfrica.’
5.0 The Consequences of Genocide: Orphans
5.1 Forty per cent of all 10-14 year olds inRwandaare orphans. 26% of all children inRwandaare orphans and the UN forecasts this will rise to 32% in 2005. There are 6000 child-headed households inKigalialone. The Rwandan Government is encouraging a policy of allowing extended orphan families to live together and manage their own lives, with modest financial support, rather than putting children in orphanages. Many live a hand-to-mouth existence, and are burdened with remarkable responsibilities at a young age, but we were impressed by how optimistic and ambitious the children we met were.
Two orphans at Kabuga
5.2 We spoke to children as young as 14 who were running households of four or five, at the same time as attending school, earning money to support their families, and coping with the legacy of having lost their parents either to AIDS or the genocide.
We visited thePeaceVillage, just outsideKigali, where 52 children live in a community of ten simple but well-built homes. Gratien Gatete, age 24, told us his “mission” was to have a career in which he could create jobs for as many people as possible. During the genocide Gratien’s life was saved by a Hutu man who recognised him and told the Interahamwe he was his brother. The man hid Gratien and five other people for days until he could escape. Of Gratien’s nine siblings, three survived. One of his sisters, Marie Rose, has saved when a Hutu priest rescued her and took her to a doctor: she had been cut with a machete twice on her head, and on her back and arms, and left for dead. The priest’s mother took the girl over the border into DRC, cared for her for two years and on her return re-united her with her brother. Gratien now lives with his surviving siblings and cousins, and they help each other to solve daily problems and to make sense of their experiences, he said. “We have formed a community, and we stick together”.
5.3 Gratien spoke for many we met when he told us he was glad the truth was finally coming out through the Gacaca system of local truth and reconciliation trials. “At least now I know where my parents were killed, and where they are buried.” However it disturbs him to see his brother’s killer on the streets, and wishes the ‘genocidaires’ were still in prison. (Under the Gacaca system, prisoners who confess before village trials are released from prison, unless they are the highest category of killer who planned the genocide or committed rape).
5.4 When we met Jean-Pierre Kanyandekwe at his home in thePeaceVillagehe was still badly bruised from a beating the previous week. He feared his mugging was part of a pattern of attacks on Tutsi survivors who know the identities of genocidaires and might therefore testify against them at Gacaca hearings. The shy, thin 26 year old told us he had faith that the rule of law would deter wide scale reprisals, but, as he said, “We live together in our country but we don’t love each other.”
5.5 Jean-Pierre was 13 during the genocide. He escaped by carrying a sack of cooking charcoal on his back for miles, past Interahamwe checkpoints, pretending to be a trader heading for Burundi. Jean-Pierre does not know who killed his parents, but he understands that the man who killed his brother is in prison, waiting to be released. “He confessed at Gacaca, and he told them how and where he killed my brother, but he did not apologise or ask for forgiveness.”
5.6 Life has been particularly harsh for orphans like Jean-Pierre who were between the ages of 10 and 15 during the genocide because they had to quit school to care for their remaining young family members. Now they have no skills to sell, and cannot afford to go back to school to get an education. Jean-Pierre sells cabbages in the market, but when he was younger he had wanted to be a teacher.
5.7 At thePeaceVillagewe also met Gihozo Christian (aged 4) who is the first child in the village to be born to an orphan. Perhaps Gihozo represents new life for such a traumatised country.
5.8 Every person we met had their own traumatic story of bereavement. Nineteen year oldConstanceworks at a garage during the day to provide for her four siblings. At night she attends computer classes and hopes to one day have an information technology career.Constancewas nine at the time of the genocide, and she survived by hiding beneath the body of a dead boy. As she was escaping the militia, she came across the corpses of her father, aunt and two sisters, but she never found her mother’s body. Constance and her four siblings lived with another aunt after the war, but the aunt got married and the new husband beat the children and eventually threw them out. Constance had heard about the work of the Solace Ministries inKigaliand approached them for advice. They found her a house where she now lives with her family.
5.9Constanceis grateful for having a roof over her head, but she told us it was more important that she had dependable adults she could come to for support. She also finds it invaluable to discuss everyday problems with other child heads of households, although she insisted the most ‘healing’ benefit of her involvement with the Solace Ministry was finally being able to tell her story.
Constance was nine years old when she survived the genocide.
5.10 Another orphan survivor, John Bosco Gasangwa, from Butare, agreed. “After the genocide no one wanted to talk about what had happened, and we children went around with a huge pain in our hearts. For years I felt so depressed and despondent, and I didn’t know what the point of living was. Then I was able to talk to others who had experienced the same horrors, and it was amazingly healing.”
5.11 Although the Rwandan Government favours the creation of child-headed households, the scale of the orphan problem means there are still many orphanages, some of which cater for abandoned babies too. Despite the difficult circumstances at Reverend Ngondo’s Foundation inKigali, we were struck by the determination of the children to make the most of school and become professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Ngondo’s orphanage has 41 children, most of whom are genocide survivors or the offspring of people who have died of AIDS. A few of the children are HIV positive, and we were concerned that there appears to be no special provision in Rwanda for dealing with the medical problems of child AIDS sufferers, or their eventual demise. Although the other children at the orphanage are supportive of the ones with AIDS, we wondered how they were expected to cope with their medical needs.
5.12 There is currently only one hospice inRwandawith just 10 beds and no children’s hospice, something World Relief’s Colette Cunningham hopes to change in the future. However next year World Relief hopes to train church volunteers in palliative care and to support Home based palliative care with HBC kits and volunteer training. She explained that $28m from the PEPFAR has been allocated to the Community Based NGO partners inRwanda, one of which being World Relief. Initially the church, which is still greatly respected in Rwandan life, was reluctant to get involved in AIDS, but it has now committed itself to using its pivotal position in the community to ‘mobilise for life’. Increased financial assistance is being used to train pastors and volunteers in each province to identify orphans and vulnerable children and to make sure they are tested, given nutrition, support and treatment within the community. However Colette Cunningham warned us thatRwandahas a very young population, growing rapidly, and already 16% of the 20-24 age group are HIV positive.
5.13 Another challenge presented by the growing population, and the huge number of orphans, is in education. Before the war teaching was one of the few professions open to Tutsi, and they were wiped out en masse during the genocide. As a consequence there is a now a severe shortage of both educators and school places.Rwandarecently made primary education free for all, and classes of 30 suddenly became classes of 200.
5.14 Many people we spoke to expressed reservations about the quality of the state system. “If you pay $2 a year to go to the village school, what do you expect?” said one parent who prefers to make sacrifices to send her children to private schools. There are not enough places in state schools, so there is a large private sector. We were told a reasonable education would cost $200 a year, a huge sum, given that average earnings are $280 a year inRwanda.
5.15 Church groups running orphanages or supporting child headed households had no choice but to pay for their children to go privately, and to supply uniforms, books and transportation costs. This is a financial burden on already overstretched NGOs caring for orphans, and we hope the international community will earmark funds to enable the Rwandan Government to provide free education of orphans, a vulnerable group which, as has been mentioned, often selflessly put the needs of their extended families before their desire to go to school.
5.16 The Government ministers we met, such as Angelina Muganza, Minister of State for Public Service, Skills Development, Vocation training and Labour, were acutely aware of the need to skill their young people and encourage them away from the belief that they can work on the land as their parent’s generation had. “Educate the women and you educate the nation,” she said, describing initiatives to get girls to study science subjects in particular.
5.17 The United Nations estimates that 98% of children witnessed someone being killed during the genocide. We cannot begin to adequately evaluate the long term repercussions for both the survivors and those who perpetrated the murders. Ben Kayumba of Solace Ministries put it, “I used to look at every face I passed on the street or in a crowds and wonder if they had killed my family. It took me a long time to stop thinking everyone was evil.”
5.18 Antoine Rutayisire believes many young people are burdened by feelings of great anger that they have been unable to express, not least because others, particularly adults, have wanted to avoid the subject. Groups like Solace Ministries organises forums where survivors can give testimony, but generally there are very few arenas in which young people can confront the past, grieve or express their resentment.
5.19 “How are the children of the generation who committed the atrocities going to make sense of the behaviour of their parents?” Rutayisire wonders. “What are we going to do with children who were so brainwashed by propaganda that they killed their own mothers and desecrated their bodies?”
5.20 John Bosco Gasangwa is a survivor, now at university, who found it changed his life to meet with other orphans to talk about his experiences. He felt profoundly empty and alone until he heard what another boy his age went through. “This boy hid behind a fence when the Interahamwe came for his father. His father was a very tall man, and so the militia first cut off his legs, then cut him in half at the middle, and finally cut off his head. Then the boy watched as the same men attacked his pregnant mother and cut her open.”
5.21 InRwandaevery orphan has a similar horror story, but Rutayisire, who runs African Enterprise inRwanda, is optimistic, and believes young people are now growing up in a much less corrosive environment, without ethnic labels. “Now they may discriminate in private, but hopefully the next generation will put it behind them. We are a generation in transition, carrying the wounds of the past, and trying to shape the future.”
6.0 The Consequences of Genocide: Widows
6.1 The story of one woman we met represents the dire consequences of the genocide still being visited uponRwanda’s women. The past ten years of Bertrude Mukandigo’s life encapsulate all that has flowed from the 100 days of murder. On the day when the genocide reached her town ofGuro, Bertrude was raped by eight different men. On subsequent days she was raped again repeatedly by soldiers who tormented her as if returning and violating her were a game. She became pregnant and HIV positive as a result, and the baby she gave birth too was also HIV positive.
6.2 The men who raped her escaped across the border. One of them returned from the refugee camps in 1996, and when she passed him in the street he was initially afraid she would report him to the authorities. Due partly to the stigma attached to rape inRwandaand due to her decision to forgive her perpetrators, Bertrude told him he had nothing to fear.
Bertrude’s story encapsulated the plight of Rwanda’s widows.
6.3 She married a man who, it emerged was also HIV positive, and they had two children, one of whom has Downs Syndrome, and other of whom is HIV positive. Her husband has now died, leaving her with three children, and no extended family nearby. As if that were not bad enough, the man who raped her began to threaten her, fearing she would go to the Gacaca to denounce him. His threats have become more frequent and frightening, made worse for her by the knowledge that genocide survivors acrossRwanda are being hunted down and intimidated and in some cases killed.
6.4 An example of this intimidation is the story of one of Bertrude’s friends who was attacked and raped with a stick and who is still in hospital. Bertrude is terrified because she is receiving threatening letters, and wants to move to an area where she is among friends and feels safer. Sadly she lacks the money to relocate at will. When asked what the police were doing about the intimidation, she explained that in country areas there are too few police to respond. Jubilee Action has committed to raise the funds to re-house her, but we are acutely aware her plight is shared by many thousands of genocide survivors.
6.5 The Interahamwe systematically used rape as a weapon of war throughout the genocide period, knowing it would shame and humiliate their victims, particularly in a traditional society in which rape stigmatises the female victim. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 200,000 women were raped in the course of the 100 days, and many more were made widows. The rate of HIV/AIDS among widows is twice the national average as a result of the genocidaires programme of ethnic extermination.
6.6 At Solace Ministries inKigaliwe attended a widows’ support meeting at which women listened to each others’ testimony about their experiences during the genocide, and the hardships since. Many had scars on their arms, heads and faces from machete cuts, and some were missing hands. Each had an extraordinary story: witnessing their husbands, siblings and children killed; hiding from the murderers who were often their neighbours and friends who had suddenly turned on them, calling them snakes and cockroaches; travelling across country to try to find refuge; and being raped by genocidaires. Since the killing stopped, some of them they have suffered from the stigma of rape; some have become HIV positive, infected by the men who raped them; most have had trouble finding somewhere to live and work; and all have struggled financially.
6.7 Another feature common to the widow’s lives is the difficulty in coming to terms with what they saw, and talking about their experiences. Solace provides a supportive forum for widows to come together, as well as practical help, training women in handicrafts such as soap-making, toy-making and weaving to help them generate income. They also have a bakery and a pineapple plantation producing 12,000 fruit a year currently, and aiming for 50,000 next year. In addition Solace has fields outsideKigaliin which they grow mushrooms, beans and sweet potatoes.
6.8 We met Patricia, a tall, elegant woman with a quick smile, who is the president of the community association of 35 widows in Kabuga. There the widows make soap and weave baskets to support themselves. They said they feel safer living together in the same community, and they were very aware of the threats to genocide survivors who witnessed killings and are potential witnesses at Gacaca hearings. As she said, “The devil of death is still operating in this region.”
6.9 Jean Gakwandi, who started Solace in 1995, recognised an enormous need for comforting and understanding, putting people in touch with deeply suppressed emotions. He now runs special camps for the most profoundly traumatised, and has found it is only with time that the widows are able to admit what had happened to them. Often it takes months or years before it emerges they were raped, and them Solace arranges HIV testing.
6.10 Those who test positive receive nutrition, and as much medical treatment as Solace can afford. Currently, 23 out of a total of 350 HIV positive widows are getting ARV, with 49 on the waiting list. They all attend twice monthly meetings to share their problems, fears and experiences of living with HIV or AIDS. The cost of treating people is falling, and will be further reduced due to Kenyan-produced generics, but the current $160 a month for ARV alone is a fortune in a country where the average annual income is $280.
6.11 Solace is also training widows to provide counselling and health education to other women in the same situation. In addition they have collected testimony, an activity we increasingly realised is vital to countering genocide-denial charges (see below: Human Rights). Solace make a point of integrating HIV positive sufferers with healthy women in each of their work and training areas, aiming to build support mechanisms for when they become ill and need help. They have found that HIV sufferers survive longer when they live and work with uninfected people, and healthy people in turn lose their fear of HIV and AIDS. Solace also has a home-based programme of support for AIDS sufferers. We were both moved and impressed by the work being done at Solace, and by the commitment, efficiency and humanity of Jean Gakwandi, Ben Kayumba and the others.
6.12 Women have a tough enough time inRwandabecause in their traditional role they carry the burden of working in the fields, walking miles twice a day to fetch water, raising the family and taking care of their house and husband. We were told on many occasions that women are not given enough say in whether or not they consent to sex or marriage or the use of condoms. In some areas custom has it that a widow can be claimed by the male relatives of her dead husband’s family and forced to marry one of them. There is also pressure on young girls to become sexually active at puberty, with little consideration given to their wishes. The fight against AIDS inRwandahas not been helped by hostile male attitudes to abstinence, monogamy and condoms, nor by a reluctance to discuss such previously taboo subjects.
6.13 Josephine Uwamariya of Health Unlimited runs a weekly radio soap opera, called Urunana (hand in hand) which is modelled on the Archers, in which social problems such as HIV/AIDS, rape and domestic violence are dramatised. It is a hugely popular programme – reaching 60% of the population – although men are known to confiscate the household radios in annoyance at its message.
Rwandan Warriors in Butare
6.14 A member of our delegation, Dr Richard Rowland of Judah Trust, has run AIDS awareness programmes acrossRwanda in which sensitive subjects are broached through drama. Despite these excellent initiatives, and the wholehearted commitment of the Rwandan Government to tackle AIDS, general ignorance and truculent male attitudes make it an uphill struggle at a grassroots level. It is very encouraging thatRwanda leads the world in female parliamentary representation (48%) and women government members (30%), and we trust and believe their influence is already being felt throughout society. This partnership of men and women will be required to re-shape attitudes and behaviour.
6.15 When we met President Kagame we asked him if he would spearhead a public information campaign to educate Rwandan men about HIV/AIDS and sexual health. Given the respect in which President is held across the country, we felt it could be invaluable to use his standing to get the message across. He agreed with this suggestion. He was also supportive of an initiative to put primary school books designed to teach children about HIV/AIDS in schools. Dr Richard Rowland gave him an example of the book produced and used inZimbabwetowards an AIDS-Free generation.
7.0 The Consequences of Genocide: the Democratic Republic of Congo
7.1 Another lasting and devastating consequence of the genocide is the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (see opening narrative). Our meeting with the Rwandan president was timely because Prime Minister Bernard Makusa had just signed an agreement with DRC’s President Kabila at the 59th session of the UN General Assembly inNew York.
7.2 When we met President Paul Kagame at his offices inKigali, we encouraged him to pursue and persist with his attempts to build a personal bridge to DRC’s President Joseph Kabila. We referred to the lessons ofNorthern Irelandpeace process, and urged him to put in place confidence building measures such as exchanging diplomatic representatives withKinshasa. He was receptive to attempts to establish and maintain dialogue with Kabila personally, and DRC, and we hope to propose a tri-partite Inter Parliamentary Union dialogue, bringing politicians from DRC andRwandatoBritain.
7.3 We also met the Hon. Evariste Kalisa, a member of the Rwandan Parliament who chairs the Human Rights Committee. He told us of the Amani Forum (the Great Lakes Parliamentary Forum on Peace) which he helped found in 1998. Based inNairobi, the Forum includesRwanda,Uganda,Tanzinia,Kenya,ZambiaandBurundi– but not yet DRC. President Kagame told us that he strongly welcomed such initiatives and said that the ideal way forward would be a bilateral DRC/Rwandan military force to deal with the militia and to assist DRC restore sovereignty over its territory. We were impressed by the President’s commitment to forging a personal and close working relationship with President Kabila.
7.4 Although we are acutely conscious theUKdid nothing to helpRwandawhen it needed it in 1994, President Kagame made it clear to us that he values the friendship and active help of theUnited Kingdom.
8.1.1Rwandadeserves the support of the international community in their concern for the rights of the ethnic Tutsi population in eastern DRC. We call upon the DRC (as we haveRwanda) to commit itself to stopping the flow of arms and support to militia within eastern DRC which continue to harass and kill the ethnic Tutsi population. We also call upon the international community to respond toRwanda’s concerns.
Specifically we urge theUKgovernment to use its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to demand the clarification of MONUC’s mandate in DRC. We call for a consistent mandate to be acted upon and publicised sufficiently to let the local population know what they can expect from UN peacekeepers.
8.1.2 We urgeRwandaand DRC to establish embassies in each other’s countries as soon as possible. We also urge them to begin a process of constructing confidence building measures and joint institutions between the two nations, their politicians, business leaders, civil society groups and churches. Moreover we urge the leadership of bothRwandaand DRC to develop the personal relationships from which so much reconciliation and practical progress can flow.
8.1.3 We welcome the Amani Forum initiative and hope the DRC will support it. We believe it provides a very helpful model of building multinational institutions which can further mutual understanding, air differences and lead to constructive engagement.
8.1.4 We commendRwandafor being the first nation to send peacekeeping troops toDarfur. We urge the Rwandan army to maintain its high levels of professionalism.
8.1.5 We commend the British Government for its overall support forRwanda, and for maintaining relationships between the two countries through regular ministerial visits. However we think it is vital for the Foreign Office to recognise the scale and impact on the region of the conflict in DRC, and therefore to visit DRC and establish equally strong ties.
8.1.6 Leading on from recommendation 5) above, we believeBritainis uniquely placed to act as an honest broker between DRC andRwanda. Just as an outsider, Senator George Mitchell, helped to make theNorthern Irelandpeace process work, so it may be thatBritaincould play a useful role in facilitating dialogue between DRC andRwanda. The British Government should commit itself to playing this role, recognising how interconnected so many of the region’s problems are.
8.2.1 We applaud the training of judges and court officers throughoutRwandato handle the huge backlog of Gacaca trials. We recognise the enormous strides that have been made in rebuilding the nation’s system of justice. We therefore urge the Rwandan Government to strive to protect the human rights of all its citizens through a legal system that is transparent and fair.
8.2.2 We urge the Human Rights Commission to establish and maintain a proper dialogue with human rights NGOs, recognising that an exchange of views can be invaluable for both sides, and thatRwanda’s friends around the world need to be reassured about the country’s commitment to democracy, human rights, and fostering an open society.
We also urge the Human Rights Commission to demonstrate its independence from government by questioning the suppression of constructive dissent and political opposition withinRwanda, and by pressing for the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against all parts of the community during and after the genocide.
We urge them to benefit from decades of trial and error inEuropeby examining existing European Union and British laws which guarantee human rights, and balance freedom of speech with the need to prevent ethnic hatred and discrimination.
8.2.3 We applaud the decision by the international community to provide funding to develop an infrastructure to provide HIV/AIDS treatment for women who were raped and infected during the genocide, however late it might be.
8.2.4 We commend President Kagame for agreeing to spearhead a public information campaign to educateRwanda’s men about HIV/AIDS and sexual health.
8.2.5 We applaud NGO’s such as World Relief for providing books appropriate for secondary schools.
8.2.6 We urge the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Justice to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide from all parts of the community and to apply justice, and what is more, be seen to apply justice equally. We commend the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal in the formerYugoslaviain striving to hold to account members of all sections of the population who violated the human rights of others, and we believe their work should be of interest to the Rwandan Government in its attempts to bring true reconciliation toRwanda.
8.2.7 The central role of the church in promoting national cohesion, reconciliation, and a recognition of human dignity should both be recognised and encouraged. The courage of those who resisted the genocide should be celebrated and taught as an inspiration to others, and where the church failed, appropriate public admission should be made and lessons learnt.
As a priority, western churches should devote resources to helping the Rwandan church, and parish-to-parish, fellowship-fellowship relationships should be forged.
8.2.8 The Governor of Butare province told us that he would like to see Butare city to twin with a British city. Since an admirable proportion of the Rwandans we met are ardent supporters of Liverpool Football Club,Liverpoolwould make a good choice. Its association with Africa and its own suffering during World War II commend it but there are other obvious cities such asCoventry. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office might like to facilitate this request.
8.2.9 We commend the efforts by SURF and the Solace Ministries to compile an archive of testimony from genocide survivors, so long as they reflect the suffering and experiences of the whole community.
8.3.1 We encourage NGOs to actively promote African solutions toRwanda’s problems, pointing out African success stories and projects appropriate toRwanda. For instance we commend the Scripture Union of Zimbabwe’s primary school textbook, “Towards an Aids-free generation”. On women’s issues, we also urge that the success of projects run by African women should be a model for initiatives inRwanda. For instance we commend the work of Dr Phylista Onyango inNairobias a model to create self-help commercial initiatives.
8.3.2 We commend to Dfid the application of the women’s organisation MOGAR, whose President is Josephine Irene Uwarmariya of the proposed project to redress and prevent acts of sexual gender violence.
Child born inside Nyanza Prison
8.3.3 We applaud the Rwandan Government for making primary education free to all. We urge the international community to direct its resources to programmes aimed at providing free education, books and uniforms toRwanda’s orphans. We believe this would remove a great financial burden from overstretched NGOs and church groups struggling to provide for orphans.
8.3.4 We applaud the enthusiasm of the Rwandan Government for cultivating computer literacy. We urge the international community to focus its programmes on supporting and enhancing the teaching of information technology to both children and adults inRwanda.
8.3.5 We recognise that the genocide and the fast rate of population growth have placed great burdens on the Rwandan education system. The decision to make primary education free has meant that classes of 30 have grown to 200. We urge the international community to direct its aid at programmes for training many more teachers, retraining existing teachers, and enhancing the quality of education.
8.3.6 We recognise that the medical profession was decimated in the genocide and we urge the international community to prioritise programmes aimed at training new doctors and retraining existing medical professions to prepare for the challenges of a rapidly growing population, HIV/AIDS etc.
8.3.7 We recommend that World Relief incorporates the cost of printing “Towards an Aids-Free generation” into the current PEFFAR programme, so that every schoolchild inRwandamay receive a copy; and that the proposal for a children’s AIDS hospice inRwandaand the development of palliative care be made an urgent priority.
8.3.8 We welcome the Rwandan Government’s commitment to provide AIDS treatment to street children, and we will be recommending to Jubilee Action that they support the work of the Catholic and Episcopal Bishops of Butare in relation to their work with street children and commercial sex workers.
8.3.9 We recommend Jubilee Action responds practically to assist the orphans of genocide by supporting education, health, housing and IT projects; in addition should continue to promote dialogue internally inRwandaand externally in the DRC.
9.1 We re-iterate our enormous gratitude to our hosts and for their commitment in facilitating our visit and in patiently answering our inquiries.
9.2 We were visiting the country just after Rwandahad commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the genocide.
9.3 At many of the sites where the killings occurred, we saw the words “Never Again”.
David Alton with the first child of an orphan at the Peace Village
9.4 Rwandan people need to forgive one another, if the country is to be healed and enabled to move on, and if such shocking events are not to be repeated in a future bloodbath. ButRwanda should never be asked to simply “Forgive and Forget”. Rwanda does need to forgive but it must also remember. The international community also needs to remember.
9.5 If we learn nothing from our failure to prevent the deaths of 800,000 people – and from what we saw in DRC and later inDarfurthat seems to be the case – it truly will be unforgivable. It would also make a mockery of the cry of the dead that such crimes against humanity should never be allowed to happen again.
10.0 Contact Information
Tel 00 44 1483 894 787 Fax 00 44 1483 894 797 www.jubileeaction.co.uk