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Westminster Hall

Tuesday 14 November 2000

[Mr. Michael Lord in the Chair]

Great Lakes

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.--[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

10 am

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham): It is an honour to introduce my first debate in Westminster Hall, which is on the prevention of genocide in the Great Lakes region. That issue is not only vital in the context of international development, but of great significance to my constituents, both black and white. The fact that between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed in 100 days purely because of their ethnicity should challenge anyone's conscience, but hon. Members will appreciate that I represent Britain's most multi-ethnic constituency, in which communities from all over the world live and work side by side. How could any Tottenham person remain unaffected by the genocide that took place in Africa in 1994 and the conflict before and since?

I recognise the great strength of diversity in our community, but I also know how fragile such diversity has made communities throughout the world. We must learn the lessons offered by the Great Lakes region. This Adjournment debate was requested as a result of a fact-finding visit to the region that I made with my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucester (Ms Kingham) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne). We made that journey under the auspices of the all-party parliamentary group on Rwanda--Prevention of Genocide. The visit was sponsored and facilitated by Christian Aid. I give particular thanks to Ben Crampton, the co-ordinator of the all-party group, and Richard Burge, the regional co-ordinator of Christian Aid. My hon. Friends and I saw many projects on which Christian Aid's dedicated staff were doing incredible work in difficult circumstances. The visit was a chance for us to gain an understanding of the concerns and aspirations of people living in the region. We returned with a report, published last Wednesday, that makes sensible suggestions for improving policies in the region.

The strong view among the people whom we met was that conflicts in the region--the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the current civil wars in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo--should not be viewed as separate; they are inextricably linked. The deaths of the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda were hugely destabilising for the region. They preceded genocide in Rwanda and increased violence in Burundi. The Rwandan genocide justified the tight rein on power held by the Tutsi ethnic group, which returned to power after a coup in 1996. The perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda crossed the border into the DRC from where they continue to mount attacks into Rwanda. They have become involved in fighting a civil war in the Congo. We cannot regard war in one of these countries as an internal matter. It is not possible to address conflicts in one country without looking at the causes and implications of conflict in neighbouring countries.

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We should also apply a regional interpretation to our aid policies in the region. People living in Burundi find it hard to understand why the British Government are prepared to give so much aid to Rwanda compared with the resources that they have granted to Burundi and the DRC. In 1998-99, UK gross expenditure on aid in Rwanda was £13.7 million. The DRC received about £1.5 million and Burundi just over £300,000. During the visit I was proud of the British Government's role in rebuilding Rwanda post genocide. Of course one would not want to lend too much ear to squabbling over humanitarian assistance, but it was difficult to explain why our assistance should be so great in one country compared with the others. Clearly, we in Britain cannot do everything, but we must encourage our European partners to play a full role in the other countries in the region.

If we cannot achieve parity of aid and funding across the region, I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development to continue to press our international partners in Europe to do more. It is particularly distressing that the French Government are currently blocking international attempts to offer Rwanda debt relief. British policy in the region needs to be co-ordinated with other Governments in the European Union. Although the EU is often criticised for putting more aid into eastern Europe than Africa, it is by far the most important donor to development work in central Africa and its aid to sub-Saharan Africa has continued to increase as the volume of world aid to the region has significantly decreased.

A co-ordinated approach to aid between European Governments is vital to development in Africa and so too is fast tracking of that aid. All too often we heard tales of financial assistance offered in one month that would turn up 18 to 36 months later. I hesitate to parody Opposition Members, but this is the worst example of European bureaucracy.

Our visit to the region was also a personal odyssey for me. My forebears come from Africa and I was preceded in the Tottenham constituency by Mr. Bernie Grant, who was clearly one of the greatest Africanists in the House. That makes the subject personal and important for me, but all British people can be proud of their commitment to the African continent.

The trauma in Rwanda defies imagination, which brings me to another of the report's recommendations. I struggle to describe the work of a group called AVEGA--the Association of Widows of the Genocide. Esther Mujawayo, one of the founders, provides a self-help group and an empowering philosophy for widows, which have dramatically changed the lives of the women and children involved. Not only does it provide physical and emotional space, but it is now able to fund co-operative financial projects for women to secure their livelihoods. Its work cannot be underestimated because women have traditionally been considered second class and were the easiest targets of the war. They lost husbands, were sexually exploited and returned to their villages marginalised and alone.

AVEGA believes that dialogue is important for mental health. Images of horror remain bottled up inside these women until they are able to speak about their experiences. AVEGA has managed to document cases of more than 1,000 women and girls as young as

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seven and as old as 70 who were raped during the genocide. If it can be believed, in the national trials only two people have been charged with sexual violence. Among the women who experienced rape, an estimated 66 per cent. are HIV positive. About 80 per cent. are clearly traumatised and 32 per cent. have become physically handicapped and unable to cope with family life. About 80 per cent. have had no help whatever. Sadly, only two of AVEGA's staff are professionally qualified in counselling.

In areas subject to conflict, we must invest in people's minds and souls as well as in their basic needs. Psychological assistance is not a luxury but essential if we are to ensure that history does not repeat itself for the sake of the children who witnessed such horrors and ran timid when I approached them because of their experiences at the hands of male adults, and for the sake of the many hundreds of thousands of prisoners who still fester in local jails.

I am conscious that my hon. Friends want to participate in the debate, but I want to refer briefly to other countries in the region. In the DRC the Lusaka accords were signed in July 1999 by Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and the various rebel groups. The accords pledged the parties to call an immediate ceasefire and to implement demobilisation and disarmament. They agreed to accept the interposition of monitors, followed by a UN peacekeeping force. The peacekeeping force--MONUC--has been put in place, but it is too small to be effective. The promised ceasefire and demobilisation never happened and the current UN force on the ground is tiny, with only 90 military liaison officers scattered between Congo and the capitals of the countries involved.

In a country as huge and undeveloped as the DRC--as so many African countries are involved in conflict, there are no easy solutions--if nothing else, the Lusaka accords provide a framework for military withdrawal and recognise that the forces responsible for genocide in Rwanda--the Interhamwee and the FAR--are now influencing Congo's civil war. I urge that development and aid continue in the areas where it is safe and that the international community continues to put pressure on President Laurent Kabila to allow more human rights monitors into the country. Our priority must be to promote justice as well as peace.

After seven years of civil war in Burundi, the Arusha accords brokered by Nelson Mandela and signed during August and September this year provide a blueprint for Burundi's reversion to peace and democracy, fragile though that is. At present, details of the ceasefire and implementation of the transitional administration are unclear, but when the Arusha accords begin to work, Burundi will require developmental and humanitarian aid proportionate to the level of aid received by Rwanda. Although financial limitations are likely to ensure that the United Kingdom can never, on its own, be Burundi's main partner, I emphasise that the UK will have an important role in Burundi to ensure that assistance is forthcoming from our European partners.

Although many of my comments have been about aid, I preface those remarks with the assumption that unless education and the resolution of conflict through

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peaceful means is a priority in Africa, African countries will never achieve parity with their international neighbours. None of us can take comfort in what is sometimes perceived as a paternalistic status quo and we must work to ensure that those countries can take a fully mature place in determining their histories.

I hope that Departments, especially in education, are taking steps to ensure that our children learn about the histories of the region. Too often, when we talk about genocide, we refer to the atrocities of the second world war, and it is right that we do so. However, two days after Remembrance day, it is vital that our children recognise that such atrocities continue--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : The h Lady knows how strongly the hon. Gentleman feels about these matters.

Mr. Lammy : The atrocities continue; a black life is as a valid as a white life and it is important that our children learn what has taken place within the past 10 years.

10.19 am

Ms Tess Kingham (Gloucester): I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate. I apologise for the fact that, as I have explained to Opposition Members and my hon. Friend the Minister, I shall have to leave halfway through, for a Select Committee meeting. That is no reflection of the importance that the debate has for me.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) mentioned, our visit to the Great Lakes region in July and August was sponsored and facilitated by Christian Aid. It was my second visit to Rwanda and my first to Burundi, but it was probably my 13th or 14th visit to a country in conflict. This time more than any other I realised the importance of what my hon. Friend has explained about the interrelationship between conflicts in that region.

I was pleased by the British Government's relationship with the Government of Rwanda and the extent of the aid and support that we have given that country in the aftermath of the genocide, towards rebuilding and reconstructing society. However, I also experienced some forebodings and wondered whether all the effort would be in vain if nothing were done about the conflicts in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I noted the close connection between those countries and societies, the similarity of the tensions in them and the deeply ingrained suspicion and hatred among some sections of society there.

I have been gratified in recent years by talk of post-conflict reconstruction and conflict prevention, in British Government Departments, the European Union, the United Nations and even the World bank. That focus on and prioritisation of world development and world relationships is right, but it distresses me that much of our foreign and international aid policy is still linked to the days of the British empire and colonial relationships. That is true of other countries besides

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Britain, but often our relationships with respect to aid, and our support in international relations, focus more on countries with which we have a historic relationship. That is understandable, but it means that we miss opportunities for joined-up thinking and for regional approaches that could contribute to conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction.

I hope that the Government will pursue the recommendations in the report produced by the all-party group in an attempt to persuade the European Union and the United Nations to adopt a more joined-up and regional approach to the Great Lakes area. I have in mind in particular, after the Rwandan genocide, securing an adequate early warning system, co-ordinated by the United Nations, for the whole region rather than for individual countries. We should learn from the well-publicised mistakes made in relation to the Rwandan genocide that emerged from internal investigations carried out by the United Nations and countries such as France.

I should like the international community to contribute to the dissemination of the peace process into civil society in countries such as Burundi. We had excellent meetings with the United Nations special representative for the Great Lakes region and many other players in the peace process. It was obvious from speaking to them and speaking to members of civil society that resources had not been provided to ensure that society was engaged fully in the peace process. The process was not, in Burundi, making its way from top to bottom. The ingrained deep hatred and suspicion that we encountered in a meeting with a group of Tutsi whom I would describe as extremists, in a meeting facilitated by Christian Aid, knocked me for six. Any influence by such people on communities bodes badly for the peace process.

The involvement of Nelson Mandela in the peace process was very welcome and the United Nations provided considerable resources, but I was distressed to learn that little thought had been given by the UN and member countries to providing adequate funds for the demobilisation of combatants in Burundi and their reintegration into society. In my experience of working with aid agencies, I have been told repeatedly that if ex-combatants are not properly integrated back into society and given livelihoods and land, the cycle of violence can easily start again. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the new Africa conflict fund will now consider conflict in Africa together. I consider that new grouping to be an excellent example of joined-up government from this Government, and I hope that it will consider some of the issues in-depth and focus on Burundi and the Great Lakes region.

Another subject on which I want to focus is post-conflict psychological support for societies, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham. I have visited places such as Kosovo, El Salvador and Mozambique, and there increasingly seems to be a terrible lack of support for people who have suffered from conflict and its traumas. In Rwanda, mothers had to watch their whole families being wiped out. One of the workers that we met from AVEGA--my hon. Friend mentioned her--counsels widows of the genocide every day, yet she herself saw six of her

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children and her husband being hacked to death. Day after day, she responds to the needs of other women in the same situation. If the issue is not tackled when we deal with post-conflict reconstruction, there will be a great gap. The cycle of violence is bound to start again if psychological support at a local level is not given in a strategic way. I do not want non-governmental organisations to go over to do one-off projects, but for there to be a proper, professional and strategic approach.

I shall give an example. We went to a village to meet a woman called Jeanne d'Arc, who was a member of AVEGA. She had to be helped from her house because she was so sedated. As they put it, she went mad every now and then, and had to be completely drugged. On that site, she saw a terrible thing: her husband and all but two of her children being hacked to death. The trauma has been so great that she cannot tend her land. She can rarely get out of bed in the morning and cannot care for her two surviving children, who are very young, in a society in which there is no social help. She is therefore reliant on other people to look after those children. They are deeply traumatised; their eyes appeared dead.

Jeanne d'Arc's case is representative of another 125,000 similar ones across Rwanda. If nothing is done to support those children in a strategic way, I believe that they will go out for revenge, or they will become deeply desensitised. The country's future looks grim if one takes them as representative of thousands in Rwanda's young generation.

Sadly, AVEGA works pretty much in isolation. It deals with 125,000 women, helping them with micro-finance, housing support and counselling, but has few resources. In none of the United Nations programmes for support in post-conflict countries is psychological support seen as so much of a priority as providing water, housing and long-term livelihoods. That message has been endorsed by SURF, the United Kingdom survivors fund for the victims of the Rwandan genocide. It says that the support is simply not there, and that it must be a priority if we truly believe in post-conflict reconstruction.

We were also given the example of a woman--again, the case can be multiplied thousands of times in Rwanda--who was mass-raped during the conflict. Many members of her extended family were murdered, including some of her children. As a result of the mass rape, she contracted HIV. On the day that we arrived at the project, two of her children had turned up at the AVEGA headquarters in a taxi. She had saved enough money for them to make that journey, and also to buy a coffin, because she died that day of AIDS. She told her children that, because of the genocide, they no longer had either their mother's or father's family, and that AVEGA would have to support them. Such cases occur repeatedly across the country. Not only physical support, in terms of livelihoods and material, but psychological support must be provided for the children.

The most pertinent comment made to me during the visit was at a meeting of civil society leaders hosted by Christian Aid, when a very experienced senior Minister told us that Rwanda had a broken heart and the international community must help to heal it. I would like psychological support to be considered by the

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British Government and the international community in a strategic manner, as a fundamental part of post-conflict aid and support.

10.30 am

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) on securing this debate on British Government policy in the Great Lakes region.

Although the problems facing the region are indivisible, our Government's response to them is necessarily divided along departmental lines. One cannot divide poverty from conflict, but departmental responsibility for those problems is divided respectively between the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. While the former will concentrate on humanitarian aid and development assistance and the latter will take charge of areas such as the national strategic interest, arms control and the military, it is clear when examining the situation in the Great Lakes region that all those issues are tangled up in a melting pot. For example, in 1994, when the international community eventually became involved in the disaster, it concentrated on the refugee camps. One might say that they would be the responsibility of DFID, but at the time DFID did not yet exist--the present Government were not in power. Unfortunately, the efforts of the international community did nothing whatsoever to help. The refugee camps were awash with guns and controlled by the militias, many of which had been responsible for the genocide. I would like to use that as an illustration of why the Government's approach to the area must be cross-departmental.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Ms Kingham) in welcoming the new conflict fund that the Government have introduced. However, I would also like to touch on the issue of small arms and their devastating impact on the region. There have been calls to introduce tougher arms legislation--which I support wholeheartedly--to control the activities of arms brokers, for example. One needs a licence to get married, but not to broker arms. If it can be arranged for weapons to be transported without touching British soil, then that is all right, and that is exactly what the British company Mil-Tec did during the Rwandan genocide, by flying Albanian and Israeli guns into the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is just across the border with Rwanda. Will the Minister tell us what the Government's proposals are to bring brokers' dealings more under control? Are we considering a system for monitoring the end use of UK arms exports? Amnesty International and Oxfam have argued--very reasonably in my opinion--that if we can track British beef every step of the way, from producer to consumer, we should be able to track British arms.

In 1998, the Government said that they would tighten United Kingdom arms controls and they deserve credit for that. I believe that such an intention was firm and it would be the first such change to the law since the second world war. Will my hon. Friend the Minister say whether such a policy change will be made in the near future?

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I refer now to the recommendations of my colleagues who visited the Great Lakes region. I was sorry not to be able to go with them. In fact, I have not yet stopped sulking about it. However, I am delighted that, after my first trip to the region that I made with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), the issues contained in the Select Committee's report on conflict have been followed up in the work undertaken by the all-party group on Rwanda, the Great Lakes region and the prevention of genocide. One of the most important aspects that we must focus on is the regional aspect of the conflict.

I hope that Europe will soon be able to have a common policy on the Great Lakes region that will lead to a regional stability pact. The Department for International Development's regional strategy paper should--in theory, at least--complement the policy-making processes of the EU and its member states. I hope also that the Government will support the holding of an international conference on the Great Lakes region after the signing of the Arusha peace accord, which has now happened, and the implementation of MONUC II, which is still awaited. At present, there is a reality gap in Europe and in some of its capitals there seems to be a blanket denial first, of the responsibility that Europe has to the region and secondly, of the lack of action being taken now that could engender a similar situation to that which was witnessed in 1994.

I support an EU embargo on the import of diamonds. The Minister has been particularly active on the issue of conflict diamonds and, given that the DRC is the third largest exporter of diamonds in the world, that is of great importance. I am glad that diamonds get into the news when there is a James Bond attempt on the dome, but I would be more pleased if they were in the news because of the suffering that they have caused and because of their impact on the conflict. My hon. Friend the Minister has done more than almost anyone else to highlight that and I hope that the position in the DRC will improve. The position of those in the diamond mines would improve if there were more transparency in the methods that are used to extract the diamonds and get them on to our high streets. Perhaps it would be more accurate for me to refer to the international diamond dealers' warehouses--although that might be an exaggeration, as I cannot imagine warehouses full of diamonds. One of the saddest things is that, because diamonds are so small, and warehouses are not necessary, they can be easily smuggled. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has responsibilities in the FCO, not DFID, but, as I said earlier, it is impossible to draw a line dividing aid and Foreign Office policy in the region. Two years ago, when I was in Burundi, I visited a humanitarian centre where food was given to underweight babies. The babies were measured, and once they had reached a certain level of malnourishment, they were brought into the feeding centre. At the same time, DFID had taken the decision--which I understand, but do not necessarily agree with--to give humanitarian but not development assistance to the region because of a regional embargo on Burundi and the imposition of what some people would describe as a military dictator. The FCO perspective was also involved in making that judgment.

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For whatever reason, we were giving only humanitarian aid. When a baby was brought to the centre to be given aid, a nurse remarked how ridiculous the circumstances were, as the same baby had been treated three months previously. As we had withdrawn what was considered to be a long-term development assistance programme to bring clean water to his village--dropping wells--it was inevitable that that baby would get sick again and be returned to the centre. When a baby has lost enough weight, the Government are able to provide assistance, but until that time, we cannot. In other words, we cannot consider long-term assistance. Consequently, the baby's father felt that, as he had no way of safeguarding his children's health or his family's future, it might be best to take up arms.

Hon. Members might not think that such an anecdote is relevant, but I believe it to be fundamental. Until we can see a continuum, with humanitarian assistance at one point, development assistance at another and peacekeeping operations at the extremity, we cannot have the type of joined-up government that is envisaged in the conflict fund, for example, in enough areas of Government policy. Our humanitarian aid should be both preventive and reactive. That means more strategic and long-term thinking in granting humanitarian aid in the region.

United Kingdom military advisers should assist moves to reform military structures in the region. That has been successful in Mozambique and could be equally important in the Great Lakes region.

I reiterate my thanks to Christian Aid, and to Richard Burge for facilitating our visit. I also thank Ben Crampton, co-ordinator of the all-party group. I welcome Anya Bensberg and wish her well, because the all-party group is exceptionally important in raising issues of relevance to British Government policy in the Great Lakes region.

10.44 am

Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) on securing this important debate, and I commend him on his contribution to it. He carefully and accurately reported our experiences during our visit to the region, and in doing so and in initiating the debate he has done the House a great service.

In my 30 months as a Member of Parliament I have twice had the opportunity to visit areas of conflict abroad, and on each occasion I have had the honour and privilege to meet people of extraordinary dignity and courage. In Rwanda and Burundi the people who fitted that description are too numerous to mention. However, one particular meeting stands out, and the impression that it left will remain with me for ever.

At Cyangugu in Rwanda, on a beautiful hillside overlooking Lake Kivu, one of Africa's great lakes, we met several civil society activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that is in the grip of bloody confrontations between Government troops and disparate rebel forces, which are backed variously by the Governments of Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Burundi. Life for the 50 million innocent Congolese caught in the eye of the storm of that conflict is desperate. Without sustainable peace, the disastrous

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humanitarian circumstances will deteriorate further. Some 14 months ago in Lusaka the protagonists, including all but one of the foreign Governments involved, signed a series of peace accords. However, the war still rolls on, and the civilian population, especially in the eastern DRC, continues to pay a heavy price for it.

In June, shortly before we arrived in Africa, Ugandan and Rwandan soldiers, who are nominally allies, fought a full-scale battle in Kisangani, where over six days a comparatively minor local disagreement between commanders escalated to the point at which opposing troops exchanged artillery fire and fought hand to hand in the streets and houses of their host city. Entire neighbourhoods were destroyed and reduced to rubble, and when the smoke cleared more than 600 civilians and about 300 soldiers lay dead.

In implementing the Lusaka peace accords, the United Nations mission to Congo, MONUC, should by now have 5,500 soldiers deployed throughout the Congo to monitor the ceasefire. Instead it has just 250, and even that token force may soon be withdrawn.

At the end of this month, the UN will have to decide whether to send the promised 5,500 troops to the region. It seems highly unlikely that it will do so. If it pulls out completely, it will kill all chances of peace in that part of Africa.

It was from that environment that several civil society activists travelled to Rwanda to meet us. They had come from Bukavu, the main Congolese border town on the southern shore of the lake. Bukavu is under the control of Rwandan-backed rebels from the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie, but is in effect run by the Rwandan Patriotic Army.

One of those activists, a human rights worker, produces a regular newsletter detailing alleged human rights abuses by the RCD and the RPA. He is never short of copy, but he has few friends or allies among the powers that be in Rwanda or Burundi. To meet us, that brave man travelled across the Rwandan border, carrying on his person a letter from the RCD authorities that specifically forbade him to leave the Congolese province of South Kivu. To him it was more important that three British Back Bench Members of Parliament should hear first hand how his people are suffering than that he preserve his relations, fragmented though they are, with the authorities. That man risked his liberty and, perhaps, his life to meet us. It was a humbling experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to him and to the many thousands of other human rights workers throughout Africa who do such work.

From Cyangugu we travelled overland to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, arriving there on 29 July. It was an important time to arrive in the city, because it was between the two deadlines set for the Arusha peace agreement. Nelson Mandela, who took over the facilitation of that agreement, had originally set 20 July as the date for signature. When that date came and went he enforced a later deadline of 28 August, with some degree of success. We entered a city that was in the grip of tension; when we met President Buyoya, he described the feelings of the city and the country as being between hope and fear. The fear in the streets was palpable. There was a fear of escalating violence and constant rumours of violence circulated in Bujumbura

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and other parts of the country. People did not know in which direction the country was going, whether towards peace or into a deep and damaging conflict. For security reasons, we were restricted to Bujumbura, but many people came to meet us there to explain what was happening in their country.

Among ordinary people, there was overwhelming ignorance and some cynicism about the peace process. They felt disenfranchised by the peace process, to a degree, both because it was happening far away and because some of those taking part in the negotiations were felt not to represent anyone in the country. Despite that, some people were actively involved in building links and making peace at a local level. The best example of that approach that we found came in the quartier of Nyakabiga, which is a part of Bujumbura. On our second day, we visited that quartier, having visited other quartiers in the city, and were struck immediately by its cleanliness and orderliness. We were the guests of the chef de zone, Hazikimana Emmanuel, who sported one of the most glorious technicolour jackets that I have ever seen. He was a former Tutsi police officer and had been appointed to the quartier by the mayor.

In 1993, the Hutu population, that represented about 45 per cent. of the population of the quartier, fled Nyakabiga because of attacks by Tutsi extremists, in which some 250 homes were destroyed. After becoming the chef de zone, Emmanuel had striven to rebuild shattered communities. He started on a small scale, running sporting and cultural activities among the community. As his work expanded, he developed co-operation and partnership with local and international non-governmental organisations, arranging for houses to be rebuilt so that returnees could settle back in the area. At great danger to himself, he toured the country and visited refugee camps in Congo to find former residents and persuade them that their homeland was at peace again and a safe place to return to--and they did return. Many British politicians would welcome the adulation and respect that that man enjoyed as he moved around his community; clearly, he was a people's politician.

Hazikimana Emmanuel was a truly remarkable man but, in our experience, he was not unusual in seeking peace. His efforts, however, will be in vain--as will all those other local peace initiatives that we witnessed--if no political deal is struck.

Following Mwalimu Nyere's death, Nelson Mandela took up the facilitation of the Burundi peace talks, and pushed for a settlement. His focused contribution to those talks cannot be underestimated, although many in Burundi thought--and still think--that he went too fast. We heard that opinion from President Buyoya, among others. The deal has now been made, as promised, and signed by all 90 political parties at the negotiations. Unfortunately, however, no immediate peace has ensued, but that does not surprise those of us who practise politics in this country. The deal was part of a peace process, and such processes take time, as we have seen in Northern Ireland.

The major sticking point in the advancement of peace in Burundi is clearly the need for a ceasefire. Some groups that were unrepresented at the Arusha talks stayed at a distance from them until signature; thankfully, those groups are now in discussion with the

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Government of South Africa. The Burundian Minister responsible for the peace process has appealed for international pressure on those opposition groups to agree to the ceasefire and to be bound by the Arusha deal.

I want to draw the Minister's attention to a number of issues and questions prompted by my experience on that visit. Will the Minister tell the House what pressure the British Government can bring to bear on the rebel groups that have not yet signed the ceasefire to enable them to do so and what help can they give to the African initiative to achieve a ceasefire? The lack of a ceasefire continues to cost lives and money, which was made clear by the new refugee movement into Tanzania and will require action by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. What can the Government do to help Burundi when a ceasefire has been achieved? Nelson Mandela, among others, is convinced that there will be a ceasefire and there are some green shoots to suggest that it may be achieved in the near future.

Many people in Burundi and elsewhere in that part of Africa believe that poverty is at the root of the conflict. It was clear to those of us who visited the region that there was much truth in that and that there would be no lasting peace in the area unless the problem of poverty was addressed. I commend the Government's work in Rwanda to build on economic stability to lay a platform for peace. It is not the Minister's responsibility, but will he assure us that he and his colleagues in the Department for International Development are co-operating on plans for the donors' conference on 11 December, the purpose of which is to build upon the peace deal in Burundi and to provide the sort of economic development and financial structure that that country needs to cement peace?

I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that the setting up of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa--COMESA--was good news for the region, because economic development is at the heart of those countries' development. Burundi and Rwanda are not members, but economic development in that part of Africa is good news for them also. What support can this country provide with know-how and trade liberalisation to ensure that COMESA is a success?

Burundi and Rwanda are involved in the war in the Congo, but President Buyoya of Burundi told us that his only interest in the conflict was to fight a war that would otherwise have been fought on his territory and that he had no other interest in the country. What representations have the British Government made to the Governments of Burundi and Rwanda to encourage them to limit their involvement to just that and to abide by the terms of the Lusaka accords for the Congo? Does the Minister believe that Burundi should be a party to that agreement in contrast to President Buyoya's belief?

As if to demonstrate that the regional dimension, which is the principal recommendation of our report, is not just rhetoric, human rights organisations and those who work on the ground in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, have banded together to form a regional group--the Ligue de droits de la personne de la region des Grands Lacs. Will the Minister join me in supporting that group?

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Ms Kingham) made it clear that there will be no hope for peace in the region unless ordinary people take

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ownership of it. They need information otherwise rumours fly and lead to conflict. Radio is the most widely received medium, so the BBC World Service has an important role, which the Government in Burundi and elsewhere recognise, in promoting peace, as do others such as Studio Ijambo, a production company that was set up by Search for Common Ground and works under difficult circumstances. I am confident that my hon. Friend the Minister will join me in praising the BBC and all other radio stations that promote peace, but will he assure the House that the BBC's Kirundi service will be maintained while there is a need to promote peace in the region? Will he also join me in congratulating Studio Ijambo on being named a grand citizen of peace by the Burundi Government?

Finally, does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that a lasting peace can be achieved only through the marriage of grassroots peacemaking efforts such as those in Nyakabiga, national peace deals such as Arusha and a regional approach to conflict such as that mooted by the conference on the Great Lakes, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) referred? What steps is his Department taking to promote such initiatives?


Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Thank you, Mr. Maxton. To save time, I shall, with your indulgence, cut out the niceties and plunge straight into my comments on the report.

I am the vice-chairman of the all-party group on Rwanda and, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) said, I have visited the country. Today, the debate has consisted of listening to the experiences of the people who went out there in July, which is important and interesting.

One or two matters arise from the recommendations in the report. First, on psychological aid, I have worked in a British counselling and psychotherapy centre and I know that such aid is enormously expensive. In some cases, it takes years to have any effect on even the relatively mild cases that we have in Britain. In psychotherapeutic terms, I dread to think how long it would take to right some of the wrongs in Rwanda, which is my only reservation about the call for psychological aid. Unless such aid is set against a background of stability, security and prosperity in Rwanda, it will prove to be a waste of money. Before those people can come to terms with what has happened to them, they must have a better place in which to live. That is a rather depressing view, but it is how I feel.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow highlighted the distinction that we make in this country between humanitarian and development aid. I, too, am worried about that. In southern Sudan, the Department for International Development is keen not to dispense development aid because a war is raging and that view is equally applicable to the Great Lakes region. A great deal of humanitarian aid is wasted unless it is backed up by development aid. Minor items such as fishing tackle and farm implements are considered to be development aid, but they should be dispensed with humanitarian aid because they are so useful.

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Education is cheap to dispense as development aid. As I saw in southern Sudan, we need only to supply slates, chalks and a teacher, and to find a tree to provide shelter from the sun. We must emphasise development regardless of the war.

No one has mentioned the appalling judicial situation that we saw in Rwanda during our visit two years ago. We heard many stories there that I could discuss for hours. The prisons were visions of hell--we had never seen anything like it. There were bare racks full of men who had been incarcerated for years, while the yard outside was equally crowded. For a change, the crowds in the yard sometimes swapped places with those in the racks, which were situated in what looked like old aircraft hangars. There were insufficient judges and resources, so there was no prospect of any case being brought to court. I had hoped to hear about the progress that had been made on that front.

Ms Oona King : Does the hon. Lady agree that the Rwandan Government should be supported in their efforts to introduce the Gacaca system, which is a more traditional system of justice, given the crises that we witnessed?

Dr. Tonge : I agree that we should examine that. The Minister cannot hope to answer all of our questions, so a paper that deals with all the issues--in the form of a letter to those participating in the debate--would be useful.

I shall emphasise some of the points raised by the chairman of the all-party group, the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow. If we are to achieve any form of peace in the Great Lakes region, we must look at the root causes of the conflicts, and diamonds are certainly one such cause. According to The Observer, diamonds are financing half of Africa's wars, but that is a modest estimate.

Sudan, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Uganda have their fingers in the pie. We welcome the Pretoria agreement, but can we be certain that the system will be independently monitored? What pressure is being put on trading centres in Antwerp and Tel Aviv to ensure that they abide by the agreement and report uncertified diamonds? I fear that, unless African Governments have full control over their diamond areas, the system will prove ineffective. It would be interesting to study a progress report.

The illegal global trade in diamonds is worth £5 billion to £7 billion, which buys a great many AK-47s or kalashnikovs, and I want now to discuss my favourite topic of arms embargoes, to which the Minister would expect me to refer. Arms embargoes operate in countries throughout the region, but why are they not more effective? We need not discuss again the details of Mil-Tec and other such examples, but when will legislation on arms brokers, about whom I am particularly concerned, be implemented? Huge sums of money are spent on tracking drugs and infected beef. I guarantee that, were we to spend as much money on tracking arms brokers as we spend on tracking drugs, more lives--hundreds of thousands of lives--would be saved throughout the world. Please let us get on with it.

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Finally, as the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) said, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo is isolated. When will the UN sort out that problem? Does it intend to establish a proper peacekeeping force?

Mr. Lammy : Before the hon. Lady concludes, I want to return her to the subject of psycho-social assistance. I am surprised that she does not take a holistic view of human experience. Psycho-social support should involve not merely psychological or psychotherapeutic support in the classic, western sense. We need also to spotlight this issue by recognising that a given community contains many stakeholders, such as priests, social workers and carers, who can provide support. We are talking about general support in the form of counselling, as well as psychiatric support. That is the holistic approach, and I am surprised that the hon. Lady feels unable to support it.

Dr. Tonge : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but we cannot debate that issue now because we are running out of time, although I shall discuss it at length in due course. Suffice it to say that we saw some crass attempts at psychotherapy and counselling during our visit to Rwanda. I should hate those attempts to be repeated in the mistaken belief that they will do some good, because they will not.

It is important that the UN decides whether it is going to keep the peace, or get involved in events in the Great Lakes region. This huge area of conflict needs to be taken seriously. If we are not careful, it is likely to spread throughout Africa.

11.09 am

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): May I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) on initiating this debate? That was his maiden speech in this Chamber and I hope that it is the first of many. He brings great interest and passion to a subject that has been spoken about passionately by hon. Members in Westminster Hall.

I agree with the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) that it is difficult to do justice to the subject of the debate in a mere hour and a half. Indeed, the complexity of the situation in the Great Lakes region has been well evidenced in previous speeches and in the moving accounts of the most recent visit of the all-party parliamentary group on Rwanda and the prevention of genocide, so ably led by the chairman, the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King), to whom I pay a personal tribute: she has been driving forward the agenda of the group with great alacrity, for which she is to be admired. I am sorry that I could not join the visit to that part of the world.

The complex tribal and ethnicity issues are reflected in the violence, genocide and disturbance in the most densely populated region of Africa and hon. Members ably described the war and its consequences. We heard, too, about HIV and AIDS and of the large percentage of the population that is infected. How distressing it is to learn of women who survived the conflict and escaped with their families only to face a slow and protracted

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death from a disease contracted perhaps through rape and the ravages of war. No one could fail to be moved by such stories.

We did not hear about the outbreak of malaria in Burundi. I hope that the Minister will say what help the Government are giving to the area, as the disease is a spreading scourge, which often follows conflict and natural disaster.

We heard about human rights, but there is a vast amount of intimidation and wrongful imprisonment in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there are political prisoners. What does the Minister have in mind on the monitoring of human rights in the region? The arrival of Amnesty International in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was much vaunted when the Government came to power. Amnesty's involvement is welcomed by all hon. Members, who read its reports, take its advice and try to take action. What advice has Amnesty International given the Minister on the region and how does he intend to act on that advice?

We heard about the tribunal and the poor system of justice in the area. The Rwanda tribunal is an extremely expensive process. Millions of pounds go into the justice system, which is bringing only a small number of criminals to book. Does the Minister think that the arrangements for the Rwanda tribunal are effective? Does he have any suggestions or alternatives? Much of the money spent could be redirected--tens of thousands of people in Rwanda are still awaiting trial for horrific crimes. I am not sure that I have the answer, but I want to know what the Government intend to do about it. The latest news from the tribunal is that one of the lawyers, David Danielson, has backed down from defending his client, the former founder of the extremist radio Television Libre des Mille Collines because he has taken instruction from his client not to go forward. Once again, the tribunal cannot even get the lawyers to participate in the legal process. I should be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that development.

We have heard about health problems and genocide, and the problem of displaced persons continues. According to the latest reports on 7 November, 27,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Shabunda, near Bukabu in the DRC. Those people have descended on the town of Kalima, where they remain without humanitarian assistance. That report came from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kinshasa. The frightening aspect of that recent development is that only religious workers operate in the area, which continues to act as a battleground. Will the Minister tell us the latest information about the displaced people? What is being done to deliver aid to the area? What is the latest update on the situation?

The hon. Member for Richmond Park mentioned the control of arms. What is the Government's policy in that regard? Many of the small arms coming into the area are from the Ukraine and Bulgaria. Have our Government made any representations to those Governments with whom they have dialogue? What is the Minister's assessment of the success of his anti-blood diamond policy? It is one thing to discuss the size of the market, but by how much has it been reduced since the initiatives following the Sierra Leone debacle? Little evidence exists to show that the flow has stopped, including in

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Sierra Leone. I have long called for European Union aid to Zimbabwe to be closely investigated and, indeed, stopped while Zimbabwe continues to give aid to that war region, helping to provide weapons, militia and men to cause mayhem and disaster.

Much of the criticism from the speakers in today's debate has come from Labour Members. In many ways, that is far more powerful than any criticism that I could lay at the Government's door. One of the great issues to emerge is the co-ordination between the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Minister must start to face the fact that co-ordination between the two Departments has, to say the least, been poor. In March, the Minister, in response to a written question, stated:

I am sure that the Minister will not be able to answer all of the questions off the top of this head. I therefore echo the hon. Member for Richmond Park in asking the Minister to prepare a written response, in conjunction with DFID, because the aid issues that have been raised are equally important. I trust that the Minister will accede to a reasonable request.

11.19 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Peter Hain ): I welcome you to the Chair for the first time in this Chamber, Mr. Maxton, and I thank you for presiding over the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) on another first in securing it. He is well placed to talk about the issue, given his African ancestry, and I am pleased that he and other colleagues take such a close interest in Africa, particularly the Great Lakes region.

I shall give detailed replies to the detailed questions asked by hon. Members, including the enlightening ones asked by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), and I am sure that Ministers from the Department for International Development will do the same.

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My hon. Friends' recent visit to Rwanda and Burundi with other members of the all-party parliamentary group on Rwanda and the prevention of genocide, which was facilitated by Christian Aid, resulted in the publication of this excellent report, which I commend to the House. In my time as a Foreign Minister, I do not recall reading such a perceptive analysis of the complex situation in the Great Lakes region. I hope that other parliamentary colleagues will take time to read the document about the many serious problems faced by countries in that region. Sadly, some of them have been long forgotten by many people in the outside world. I hope that the report and our debate will raise awareness in Parliament and encourage more people to take an interest in the region.

We fully support the recommendations in the all-party group's report and look forward to working closely with it, non-governmental organisations and the international community to ensure that they are fully implemented. I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Tottenham and for Gloucester (Ms Kingham) and others that the neighbouring countries--the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi--are crucial to resolving Rwanda's future. I also agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Tottenham and for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) about the need for an integrated foreign policy and development response to events in the Great Lakes region.

Notwithstanding the somewhat grudging comments by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, we are working closely with DFID. However, the time scale for implementation of our policy depends on the pace of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow that I will raise her point with DFID. I will also mention the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester about psychological support for victims.

Access and security conditions on the ground, especially in the DRC and Burundi, will affect donors' plans to engage in post-conflict reconstruction in the Great Lakes region. Recent fighting in the Katanga province of the DRC highlights the difficulties that we face in trying to deliver urgently needed humanitarian assistance. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham and others, we recognise the importance of developing that policy with our European Union colleagues and the wider international community to support progress towards long-term peace and stability in the region. We work closely with France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the EU special envoy in formulating our policy. I have had several meetings with my European and United States counterparts to discuss the issues and take matters forward. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester that we will follow up the report with the EU.

The conflict in the DRC dominates the lives of many people not only in that country, but in surrounding nations. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, towns and villages have been destroyed and widespread abuses of human rights have been perpetrated.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne) asked about the deployment of the MONUC II force of 5,500 United Nations peacekeepers. I am extremely worried that the UN may

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decide to put it on hold, even though it has already been on hold for a year, because of the failure of parties to implement the Lusaka peace agreement. My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) asked what we were doing. We continue to work hard to encourage the peace process in the DRC. Properly implemented by all parties, the Lusaka ceasefire agreement and the Kampala disengagement plan could bring an end to the war. We have already provided: six British military liaison officers to the UN observer force in the DRC; £160,000 to help get the joint military commission, which is responsible for supervising the ceasefire and military disengagement, up and running; and £25,000 towards the national dialogue process by providing an expert to work with the talks facilitator, the former president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State appointed a special representative, Douglas Scrafton, to the Great Lakes region and he is present today. He has travelled extensively in the region to discuss progress in implementing the Lusaka and Arusha agreements. One of his tasks is to co-ordinate closely with his EU, US and Belgian counterparts and key African and western colleagues on options for moving forward both peace processes.

We are also committed to doing more to stop wars before they start--not only in Africa but throughout the world. A joint pool of funds was established between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence to support common objectives in global conflict prevention. That is real joined-up government. The fund comes into operation in Africa next year and we hope to use it to further peace in the Great Lakes region.

I want to respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, and the hon. Members for Richmond Park and for Chesham and Amersham, who spoke about tougher arms controls. We are committed to introducing tougher legislation to deal with arms brokers and end use. The legislation is in draft form and we shall introduce it as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.

I note with interest the report's proposal for the introduction of an EU embargo on the importation of diamonds from the DRC--an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow and the hon. Member for Richmond Park. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her acknowledgement of the Government's role and my own. We have led the way and the results can be seen.

To answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, there is some intelligence that UNITA and the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone are finding it much more difficult to secure arms

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because of the difficulties of trading diamonds, but we have much further to go and we shall continue with our attempts.

We have not stood still on the countries in the Great Lakes region where we believe that we can make a difference. As has been acknowledged, on Rwanda, Britain has a clear lead in providing flexible funding and engaging in genuine and open dialogue on a range of complex political and social risks. We recognise the efforts that Rwanda has made in building an accountable and inclusive system. We have expressed our hope to the Rwandese that their commitment to an inclusive Government will remain strong. We have encouraged them to reflect the wishes and aspirations of all Rwandan people and to be committed to working honestly on their behalf.

Where problems are outstanding, we have tried to deal with them with the Rwandans. On detainees, Britain and the international community have expressed concern to the Government of Rwanda about the slow pace of trials and the number of prisoners being held. The Government of Rwanda told us that they plan to use participatory methods of justice to clear many of the cases. We have encouraged them to ensure that human rights standards are observed at all times. This year alone, the international community gave approximately $2 million to support that process.

We do not support the involvement of Rwanda or any of the parties in the DRC war, although we recognise that it has legitimate security concerns. The Lusaka agreement must be implemented in full by all parties. We continue to press all parties, including rebels, to adhere to the agreement that they signed. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun raised that matter. I agree that the BBC--with other local radio stations--has a vital role to play in the peace process.

On Burundi, we shall continue to provide funds to help implement the Arusha peace process. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, we will be part of the 11 December donors conference. I have worked closely with Nelson Mandela--travelling twice at his request to Arusha to give Britain's active backing to his peace facilitation efforts. We are not well placed to become a leading bilateral donor. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham asked for parity of aid, but we do not have close historic ties with Burundi, or any representation in Bujumbura. We are keen to contribute to post-conflict efforts-bilateral and multilateral-led by others who are better placed to take the lead and we will back them.

Ultimately we hope to support an international conference to address all the political, economic and social issues that have blighted the Great Lakes region. That will be of most value once the implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement and the Arusha peace accord has begun. I thank you, Mr. Maxton, and hon. Members for their excellent contributions to the debate.

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