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Concluding Statement 13th CMAG 2 May 2000

Thirteenth Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) Marlborough House, London, 2 May 2000

Concluding Statement

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) held its thirteenth meeting at Marlborough House, London, on 2 May 2000. This was the Group's first meeting since the Durban Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 1999 which had renewed CMAG's mandate as custodian of the Commonwealth's fundamental political values. The Group welcomed its new members - Australia, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

The Group elected The Hon Lt Gen M S Merafhe, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Botswana, as its Chairperson and The Hon Billie A Miller, MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Barbados, as its Vice-Chairperson. Other members who attended the Meeting included The Hon Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, The Hon Abdus Samad Azad, MP, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, The Hon Lloyd Axworthy, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada, The Hon Tan Sri Dato' Musa bin Hitam, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Malaysia to CMAG, The Hon Sule Lamido, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, and The Rt Hon Robin Cook, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom.

The Group reviewed developments relating to the countries within its remit - The Gambia, Pakistan and Sierra Leone and reached the following conclusions:

The Gambia
The Group confirmed the Commonwealth's continued support for the process of democratisation in The Gambia and again urged the Government of that country to foster a more inclusive political environment by repealing the Schedule to Decree No 89 proscribing certain political parties and individuals.

The Group decided to send a fact-finding mission to The Gambia in response to the invitation by President Jammeh at Durban for CMAG to visit The Gambia to make a first-hand assessment of the Government's compliance with the Harare principles. The Group deputed the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, The Hon Sule Lamido, and the Hon Tan Sri Dato' Musa bin Hitam, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Malaysia to CMAG, to visit The Gambia at the earliest opportunity.

Recalling the Communiqué of the Durban Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the Report of the CMAG Ministerial Mission to Pakistan, CMAG reviewed developments in Pakistan since the Durban CHOGM. In the context of its mandate it decided to keep the situation in Pakistan under review and to recommend further measures if there was no speedy progress toward the restoration of democracy.

The Group noted that while the military regime had announced a timetable for non-party local government elections to be held later in the year, it had given no timeframe for provincial and parliamentary elections. The Group expressed concern about the proposed exclusion of political parties in the local government elections and at the continued suspension of the Constitution; as well as with regard to various restrictions imposed on democratic activities, processes and institutions, particularly the prohibition on demonstrations.

The Group also expressed concern over the circumstances surrounding the trial and sentencing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the removal of senior judges following their refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the military regime.

In the absence of tangible progress towards a speedy restoration of democracy, CMAG decided to remain engaged with the Pakistani regime in pursuit of a definite commitment on a clear timetable for a full restoration of democracy.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General would visit Pakistan for the purpose of apprising the military regime of the Commonwealth's concerns. CMAG also decided to invite the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to the Group's next meeting to clarify Pakistan's intentions in regard to holding democratic elections at the provincial and national levels.

The Group expressed the Commonwealth's readiness, in the context of meaningful democratic process, to assist Pakistan with technical assistance in the area of democratic institutions and electoral reform, including the strengthening of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Sierra Leone
The Group reviewed the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and Commonwealth assistance towards the reconstruction of Sierra Leone.

The Group noted that while the Government of Sierra Leone had attempted to fulfil its commitments under the Lomé Agreement, the RUF had still to show an adequate commitment to the provisions of the Agreement and to play the part expected of it in this regard. The Group urged the RUF to proceed, without further delay, to disarm and demobilise its combatants in accordance with the provisions of the Lomé Peace Agreement, release all prisoners and abducted persons and allow unhindered access to UNAMSIL and humanitarian organisations to the areas under its control. The Group also urged the RUF to co-operate fully in the peace and reconciliation process in order that security and stability might be restored in Sierra Leone without further delay.

The Group agreed that, as one of the guarantors of the Lomé Peace Agreement, the Commonwealth be involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the Agreement with a view to contributing to building confidence and ensuring effective and durable peace in Sierra Leone.

The Group reiterated continuing Commonwealth readiness to assist in all practical ways towards the reconstruction of Sierra Leone and the consolidation of its democracy. In this context, the Group welcomed the Accra Declaration on War-Affected Children in West Africa issued on 28 April 2000, resulting from the West Africa Conference co-hosted by Ghana and Canada, and undertook to bring it to the attention of Commonwealth governments.

The Group discussed the desirability for Commonwealth countries to provide competent cadres to assist Sierra Leone in the restoration of the appropriate conditions for its social and economic development.

Next Meeting
The Group decided to hold its next meeting in New York in September 2000.

Issued by the Information and Public Affairs Division,
Commonwealth Secretariat,
Marlborough House,
Pall Mall,
London SW1Y 5HX,
Tel: 0171-839 3411;
Fax: 0171:839 9081;
Telex: 27678

00/29 2 May 2000

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