20 December 1995
Marlborough House, London, 19-20 December 1995
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration held its first meeting at Marlborough House, London, on 19-20 December 1995. It elected the Hon Dr Stan Mudenge, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe, as its Chairman and the Rt Hon Don McKinnon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, as Vice-Chairman.
The Group agreed that its terms of reference were as set out in the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme, namely to deal with serious or persistent violations of the principles of the Harare Declaration by assessing the nature of the infringement and by recommending measures for collective Commonwealth action aimed at the speedy restoration of democracy and constitutional rule. In that context the Group agreed that, while its remit was broadly defined, its initial focus would be on the three Commonwealth countries under military rule -The Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
The Group agreed that it would meet as and when necessary. It would receive written submissions as appropriate. It also agreed that it would review its modus operandi whenever necessary.
The Group noted that the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) of The Gambia had announced a programme of transition under which elections are due to be held by July 1996. It noted, however, that the anticipated progress towards that end had not been made.
The Group also took note of the AFPRC's formal request of 18 December 1995 to the Commonwealth Secretariat for "assistance in the implementation of both the good governance and socio-economic development aspects of the transition programme as stipulated in the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration".
The Group requested the Secretary-General to constitute a Commonwealth Secretariat mission to visit
The Group reviewed developments in Nigeria since the decision taken by Heads of Government at Auckland in November 1995 to suspend Nigeria from Commonwealth membership. The Group agreed that a Mission comprising the Ministers of Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe should be sent to Nigeria to pursue dialogue with the Nigerian Government at the highest level, in order to achieve the objectives spelt out by Heads of Government at Auckland.
It noted that the Government had now established three of the five institutions scheduled to be instituted in terms of its transition timetable: the Transitional Implementation Committee, the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) and the State Creation, Local Government and Boundary Adjustment Committee.
However, the Group also noted that there had been no effort by the Government to engage pro-democracy groups in a genuine dialogue. Despite the specific appeal by Heads of Government at Auckland, Chief Moshood Abiola, General Obasanjo and others remained in prison, press restrictions had been tightened and other civil and political liberties eroded.
In the meantime, the Group noted that the implications of Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth were to:
exclude participation by representatives of the Government of Nigeria at all intergovernmental Commonwealth meetings and nominees of the Nigerian Government in other inter-governmental Commonwealth activities;
from participation in Commonwealth sporting events; Nigeria
Cease all Commonwealth technical assistance to
, with the exception of assistance aimed at facilitating the transition to democracy; and Nigeria
Leave contact at professional and non-governmental levels with Nigerian agencies to the discretion of individual pan-Commonwealth organisations.
The Group welcomed the measures taken by members of the international community since the Commonwealth's decision at Auckland. These included:
Interruption of contacts in the field of sports through denial of visas to official delegations and national teams;
Embargoes on the supply of arms and other forms of military co-operation, including the expulsion and withdrawal of military attaches; and
Restrictions on development assistance.
The Group expressed the hope that the dialogue would achieve the desired results. However, in the event of failure, existing measures could be made more effective by better co-ordination and further measures would be necessary. In this context, the Group requested the Secretary-General to commission a study on possible further measures, to be applied on an incremental basis as the situation demanded. These could include:
a freeze on financial assets and bank accounts in foreign countries of members of the regime, their families and collaborators;
action to prevent new investment, including bank loans;
action against export credits;
a ban on the export of support equipment for the oil industry; and partial trade embargoes, for instance oil sanctions.
The Group recognised the significance of the leadership which the Commonwealth had demonstrated at
The Group reviewed the progress made in implementing the transitional programme announced by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Government in November 1993 and noted that elections were scheduled for 26 February 1996. It welcomed the progress made so far in the transition and the continuing commitment of the Government to the integrity of the process, but regretted the delay in putting in place the necessary legal framework for the elections.
The Group acknowledged that the guerilla war in Sierra Leone posed a threat to the transition to democracy and to the stability and security of Sierra Leone. The Group welcomed the Secretary-General's efforts in collaboration with the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity to bring the parties to the negotiating table and his continuing readiness to assist in every appropriate way in any future talks.
The Group commended those Commonwealth countries which had made financial contributions and provided technical assistance to the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC), but recognised that more resources were required and, accordingly, appealed to Commonwealth governments and the wider international community to contribute generously to the funding of the elections.
The Group stressed that the transition to democratic and civilian rule could best be achieved in conditions of peace. Accordingly it requested the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table and urged the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to enter into talks with the NPRC Government without pre-conditions and without further delay.
The Group agreed to meet again in London in April 1996, when it would be in a position to review progress in all three countries.