|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the relationship between the Central African Republic and its neighbouring countries. 
Mr. MacShane: The relationship between the Central African Republic (CAR) and its neighbours is linked to political and social tensions within the country. There was an attempted coup in May 2001 and fighting in November, and serious economic difficulties continue.
Relations with Chad deteriorated late last year when President Deby granted political asylum to General Bozize, former Chief of Staff of the CAR armed forces, allegedly implicated in the May 2001 coup attempt. There was fighting in the border area, but the two governments are now working to reduce tension.
Relations with the Government of DRC are minimal, but the border area is under the control of DRC rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. CAR's relations with Bemba were reportedly strained because the CAR Government believed that he had supported the May 2001 coup attempt; and exacerbated when 23,000 civilians and 1,250 soldiers fled to DRC. Most refugees have now returned with the opening of dialogue between the Government of CAR and their political opposition.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had and what representations (a) he has made and (b) plans to make on the moving of international sporting events from Zimbabwe, as part of his policy on sanctions against Mr. Mugabe. 
Mr. MacShane: It is for the relevant sporting bodies to decide whether Zimbabwe is a suitable venue for international events in the light of the security, political and humanitarian situation in that country. The FCO travel advice highlights our concerns about political and social unrest and violence in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was discussed at the meeting with Foreign Minister Mudenge on 10 November 2001; and what the conclusions were from that meeting. 
Mr. MacShane: During the meeting my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary expressed concern at Zimbabwe's failure to honour commitments made at the commonwealth ministerial meeting in Abuja in September 2001. There were no conclusions recorded from the meeting.
24 Jul 2002 : Column 1308W
John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the appeal of the UN Security Council President for additional funding for peace building support in Sierra Leone. 
Mr. MacShane: With the assistance of the United Nations, regional countries and the UK, Sierre Leone is emerging from over a decade of civil war and destruction. President Kabbah has appointed a new government following peaceful elections in May. The focus is now moving from conflict resolution to development. The challenges facing the new government have been identified by the UN to include security, reintegration, governance/corruption, poverty reduction and human right/reconciliation. The UK remains strongly committed to helping rebuild Sierra Leone. My noble Friend the Baroness Amos chaired a meeting of the Security Council on 18 July, which considered how best the international community could continue to engage in Sierra Leone and reduce conflict in the Mano River Union.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that the international community continues to protect the peace process in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. MacShane: Ending the conflict in Sierra Leone after more than a decade of brutal civil war and destruction is a remarkable achievement. It comes as a result of the sustained engagement and commitment of the international community, particularly the United Nations, the UK and regional leaders. But the peace will remain fragile as long as many of the root causes of the war are not resolved. This is why it is so important for the international community to continue to support the efforts of the new Government of Sierra Leone, formed by President Kabbah after his re-election in May.
We expect to spend some £100 million in Sierra Leone related activities in 200203, including £36 million in assessed contributions to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). We continue to urge other donors to come forward and help us provide the support needed by the Government of Sierra Leone to meet the many challenges ahead in consolidating the peace and rebuilding the country and the lives of its citizens.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports his Department has received concerning divisions between Sierra Leone's army and the Sierra Leone People's party; and if he will make a statement. 
24 Jul 2002 : Column 1309W
stability in Sierra Leone by (a) President Charles Taylor of Liberia and (b) Revolutionary United Front insurgents and Kamajor militia inside Liberia. 
Mr. MacShane: The role of President Taylor in destabilising Sierra Leone and prolonging the war there through his support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels has been well documented in the reports of the UN Expert Panel on Liberia. Although the conflict in Sierra Leone has now ended and UN sanctions against Liberia have disrupted President Taylor's links with the RUF rebels, we believe that Taylor still has links with the RUF and harbours intentions to cause renewed instability in Sierra Leone.
One of the risks to stability in Sierra Leone is that the fighting in Liberia could spill into Sierra Leone. There are reports of RUF fighters fighting on President Taylor's behalf in Liberia, and of Kamajor (or Civil Defence Force) fighters from Sierra Leone fighting for the Liberian dissident group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). To ensure that our large commitment to restoring peace to Sierra Leone is not wasted, we will monitor closely the threats posed by President Taylor, RUF fighters in Liberia, incursions by armed groups from Liberia and flows of deserters and refugees.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has collated concerning the fairness of the May electoral process in Sierra Leone; and in particular the levels of fraud and coercion; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. MacShane: The legislative and presidential elections held simultaneously in May 2002 were free from violence and generally credible. Eminent international observers representing the EU, the Commonwealth, the OAU and ECOWAS, and the Carter Foundation noted that, while the elections were not flawless, the overall results reflected the will of the overwhelming majority of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.
The success of the elections was a remarkable achievement for a country just emerging from over a decade of war and destruction, and is further evidence of the international community's commitment to resolving conflict and bringing peace to Sierra Leone. Despite Opposition concerns over the conduct of the elections, they have decided to accept the results in the interests of moving the country forward. We have reiterated to President Kabbah our continued support to his efforts to consolidate the peace, improve governance and bring prosperity to Sierra Leone for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs until when the UN Mission and the British military and police training teams are scheduled to remain in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. MacShane: The end of the conflict in Sierra Leone does not mean that sustainable peace has been achieved. Consolidating the peace will require the continued engagement of the international community for the foreseeable future.
24 Jul 2002 : Column 1310W
It is right therefore that the UN Secretary-General re-examine the role and composition of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). As a member of the UN Security Council and a key player in the Sierra Leone peace process, we are taking part in the discussion of UNAMSIL's future. We support the Secretary-General's intention to consider a phased drawdown according to timings yet to be agreed, taking into account the vital role UNAMSIL continues to play in maintaining peace in Sierra Leone.
In December 2001, we announced our intention to re-configure our military presence in Sierra Leone. From the end of July, we will focus our military engagement there on a contribution of about 100 troops leading the International Military Advisory Training Team, which over the next three years, and possible thereafter, will be responsible for taking forward training for the new Sierra Leone army. A police project was designed for implementation over a period of three to five years, commencing December 2000. A review of the project has recently been completed, seeking to ensure that the police are able to fulfil their responsibilities for providing internal security by the time that UN troops withdraw.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to seek to ensure that Revolutionary United Front insurgents and Kamajor militias inside Liberia will not be a threat to peace and stability in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. MacShane: We take very seriously the threat posed by Liberia to peace in Sierra Leone. We have worked with the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure that the new Republic of Sierra Leone armed forces (largely trained by the UK) are deployed in strength on the Liberian border and regularly patrol the border. Some UK military advisers are deployed alongside these Sierra Leonean units. We have also encouraged the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, to maintain regular patrolling of the border areas. Sierra Leonean armed forces and UNAMSIL have successfully intercepted armed groups crossing from Liberia into Sierra Leone. We played a leading role in securing the renewal of UN sanctions against Liberia in May. These sanctions, which include an arms embargo, a ban on the export of diamonds and a travel ban on President Taylor and his associates, continue to put pressure on President Taylor to break his links with the RUF rebels and restrict his ability to procure arms and destabilise Sierra Leone. We have made it clear to the Government of Sierra Leone and the Government of Guinea that they should take steps to prevent the recruitment of fighters, including from the Civil Defence Force and Kamajors, for the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) within their countries. But Sierra Leone's stability will be threatened for as long as there is fighting in Liberia. We are supporting international and regional moves to promote a ceasefire in Liberia.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|