Thursday, February 14, 2008

One day in the British Parliament…

The UK Government does not recognise Kibaki as the president of Kenya. Now join Siasa Duni as we steal a glance at the Hansard of the British Parliament. Italics and boldfaces are mine.

…On Kenya, may I thank the Government on their various public statements for not referring to Mr. Kibaki as the new President? Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the Government still do not recognise Mr. Kibaki as having been re-elected President? Did the Foreign Secretary share my concern when the US State Department, in the first crucial hours after the poll, rush to accept

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the flawed election result? Has he raised the serious consequences of that crucial error of judgement with the US Secretary of State?

Is it not the case that a rigged election result was both predictable and preventable, when we saw—more than a year ago—the rigging of the Electoral Commission of Kenya by President Kibaki? When in January last year Lord Steel of Aikwood raised the issue in the other place, the Foreign Office said that it would take up the matter with the Kenyan Government. What representations were made and were they made at ministerial level? Does the Foreign Secretary accept that stacking of supposedly independent electoral commissions seriously undermines the task of any international election monitoring mission even before they arrive? Is he aware that with elections due in Angola, Malawi and Ghana in the next 18 months concerns are already being expressed that certain governments will “do a Kibaki”? will he undertake to raise with the relevant officials of the EU and the Commonwelath Secretariat the need to reform election monitoring processes so that they begin with preparatory visits to report on the independence of the election authorities themselves?

I am sure that the Government and the wider international community are right to prosecute the case for political parties to work together, not least to end the violence and prevent further chaos, but does the Foreign Secretary accept that a coalition government can only be an interim solution, not least because President Kibaki has previously reneged on power-sharing deals with Raila Odinga, as the right hon. Gentleman implied? Does not the only sustainable solution lie in fresh elections? Why have the British Government not already called for fresh elections? Does the Foreign Secretary not realise that there is a massive danger of more violence—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must be fair to Back Benchers. I have already made it known that the Liberal Democrat spokesman should have three minutes. The hon. Gentleman has now taken four minutes, so I must stop him.

David Miliband: I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position and look forward to his questions and to our debates. I welcome what he said about Mrs. Bhutto.

The hon. Gentleman raised some serious questions. The policy of the British Government throughout the period in respect of Pakistan, and in respect of other countries, is to support systems of government, not personalities. Before he starts throwing around allegations about whom we have bolstered and how we bolstered them, he should look at what has actually happened in practice. I defy him to find an example of the Government’s supporting the crackdown on the media or the rejection of the development of a state of emergency.

In respect of the judiciary, the judges who were dismissed were precisely those appointed by President Musharraf after 1999, so the hon. Gentleman should be careful about the allegations that he throws around. It is obviously vital an independent judicial process is established and it is obviously right that we assert the case and continue to argue for an independent judicial process. I do not think it would be right for us to try to dictate about individual judicial cases or individual judges. Our position is to defend constitutional principles and the constitutional order.

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In respect of election monitoring, the hon. Gentleman made an important point about the EU mission, which I raised with Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner just before the new year. She confirmed to me that the EU would up the number of monitors to 60 from the 40 who were present for the 9 January elections. Today, there has been some talk of the number being increased to about 100. We obviously want to make sure that, combined with Commonwelath and other monitors, they are able to provide the evidence we need. In addition, I point the hon. Gentleman towards the need for the processes to be very transparent on the Pakistani side, and I am sure he would agree.

I can confirm that we have recognised no new Government in Kenya. In respect of the United States position, I spoke to the Secretary of State on 30, or possibly 31, December. She made it absolutely clear to me that although the United States was happy to congratulate the Kenyan people on the way in which they had participated in the democratic process, it had issued no congratulation to an individual “winner”; that her concerns about the irregularities identified by the EU are serious and real; and that she shares our commitment both to the spirit of compromise to which we referred to in our statement and, critically, to the sharing of power.

On the wider African elections, I referred in my statement to the forthcoming elections, which is why the engagement of the African Union is particularly important at this stage. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) asked about a British envoy. Although there are contingency plans for us to have additional ministers or officials in the region, our first priority has been to try to ensure that an African mediator can go there, which is why we support so strongly the Kufuor mission.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) called for fresh elections. Whatever the irregularities of the recent election, they reveal a deeply divided country, and that will not be overcome however many times the election is rerun. Every allegation of irregularity must be investigated, but the deeper issue—the nature of the constitutional system, and whether a winner-takes-all system is right for Kenya—is one that many Kenyans are debating. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that that is an important part of the mediation process that needs to be under way. Of course fresh elections will be part of discussions between political parties, but they will have to be the end of the process, not the beginning of it.

Hilary Armstrong (North-West Durham) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the people of Kenya are looking to have a Government who reflect the diversity, and not just to one particular tribe that happens to look as though it is successful in an election. Speaking from my experience in Kenya long ago, tribes were always important there, but so too was the ability to work together, certainly in the coastal province where I worked. I would appreciate hearing from the Foreign Secretary about how we intend to work with the international community and local people to get the compromise and accommodation that any democracy with such a diverse population needs to move towards.

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David Miliband: My right hon. Friend raises the key issue. Her experience in Kenya and that of others in the House will be relevant. In the end, the spirit of compromise has to come from the top; that is why our messages have been direct from the Prime Minister to the President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the Leader of the Opposition. There is also a need for a strong civic society, and political institutions at the local level that are able to bring people together. That process seemed to be starting in 2002. The re-emergence of ethnic divisions is obviously something that all of us deplore and want to avoid.

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Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): It is unfortunate that two situations [Bhutto’s assassination and the electoral violence in Kenya] that are wholly different in kind, except for the element of violence, should be taken together. However, since successive British Governments have consistently ignored corruption in Kenyan Governments, may I ask the Secretary of State what attempts we have made to provide practical assistance both to protect the populations who have been abandoned in various areas, and to protect transport from Mombasa to western Kenya, which will not only be extremely difficult to keep up but will meet increasing opposition at various points?

David Miliband: I am sorry to hear my right hon. Friend say that successive Governments have ignored the corruption in Kenya. As I said earlier, the fact that the British Government give no direct budget support for the Kenyan Government precisely reflects our concerns. Our determination to provide significant aspects of funding through NGOs and other trusted civic society organisations reflects precisely the concerns that she and I share. She is absolutely right to raise the security situation for aid convoys. As I said to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), so far those convoys have proceeded without interruption, and that is obviously something on which we want to continue to work…

Peter Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Let me associate those on my Bench with the condolences to the Bhutto family. We very much hope responsible are tracked down and apprehended.

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Ordinary Kenyans believe that they have the power to transform their future, and millions of them turned out to vote to do so last month. They think that their voice has not been heard, and they feel disfranchised as a result. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that what is required is strong, independent electoral commissions in developing countries, and will he work with the international community to deliver them and make sure that they are properly supported and resourced?

David Miliband: Yes; of course, independent electoral commissions that have the confidence of different communities in different countries are important. An earlier question referred to the electoral commission in Kenya. It would be quite wrong for any cloud to hang over the chairman of the Kenya commission, who is long-serving and has done a very good job in difficult circumstances. I accept the concerns that have been expressed about the way in which the bodies are filled. It is certainly an important part of British Government policy to ensure that independent electoral commissions are genuinely independent.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): May I press the Foreign Secretary on the matter, raised by the shadow Foreign Secretary, of those who have fled Kenya to neighbouring countries such as Uganda? Will he give an assurance that, where humanitarian aid is concerned, those who have fled Kenya are also taken into account? A country such as Uganda has its own economic problems; the last thing that it wants is starving and hungry people fleeing from Kenya.

David Miliband: Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right. The international community cannot get into the situation of determining the amount of help that refugees get according to which side of the border they are. We have an active programme in Uganda.

I say to the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) that we do not yet have reports of the issue being becoming a cross-border one. The more that 120,000 or 130,000 people in the Rift Valley remain there; they have not moved from that area, although they have moved from their homes. I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I that Kenya has a strong civic society that provides family and other support. That partly explains why, certainly to our knowledge, the vast majority of refugees are in the country.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Speaking as a Member of Parliament who represents a very large Pakistani community and a not insubstantial community of people who are Kenyan citizens, I believe that the thing that connects the two issues is the sentiment common to all people that if ordinary voters can decide the future of their country, they can have confidence in

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their Government. Ther is an opportunity for that to happen in Pakistan, but it requires not only an independent judiciary, to which other hon. Members have referred, but an open media. What can the UK Government do to help with that, because unless there is open reporting people will fear that the election is not independent?


Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I join the Foreign Secretary in his words of condemnation of the violence in Kenya and in Pakistan and thank him for his statement to the House. In light of the brutal killing of the women and children in the church on 1 January and the fear that that has engendered, what contact has been made by the British authorities with British citizens in Kenya, especially missionaries, and what advice has been given to them?

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point, which I have discussed regularly with the high commissioner. As he probably knows, there is a system of ward outreach to British nationals in Kenya, as in many countries, whereby we try to ensure that the vast bulk of them, if not all, are registered with the high commission. The best means of contact, whether that be telephone or other methods such as e-mail, are established so that they can be kept in touch with actions. If the hon. Gentleman has any contact with missionaries whom he thinks might not be part of that telephone or e-mail tree, I am happy to recognise that. However, we are determined to try and ensure that in all countries, such as Kenya, we have rapid systems for making contact with as many British citizens as possible. So far, the system seems to be working, because although we have put on call a series of crisis teams, the number of calls to the Foreign Office in London and to the British high commission in Nairobi has been relatively limited, usually to single figures on any one day. That suggests that the mechanisms that we have in place are working, but we are always happy to try to improve them.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary rightly drew attention to the rising and widespread growth of inequality in Kenya and Pakistan. Would he care to reflect on the fact that the world is now seeing on its television sets the appalling poverty in the slums in Kenya and the failure of the democratic system to provide any sort of equality of opportunity for many people in Kenya, and that in Pakistan successive military governments have spent a vast amount of the nation’s resources on weapons of mass destruction, which have obviously had an impact on many people’s lives? Does he have any hope that a restoration of a proper democratic system in both countries will help to close this yawning gap, which is at the heart of an awful lot of these problems?

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