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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): We welcome the statement made on 2 November by a senior member of the Lord's Resistance Army that it is prepared to end hostilities and enter into dialogue. We hope that that development will represent a start towards achieving a peaceful and sustainable end to the tragic conflict, but dialogue will not be easy in a conflict that has lasted 18 years.
Mr. Blizzard: I am sure that all Members welcome that statement, but is my hon. Friend aware that the United Nations emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland, has said that there are more internally displaced people in northern Uganda than in the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan, and that our own UN ambassador has acknowledged that northern Uganda is
I appreciate all that my hon. Friend has done on this matter, but is there not the opportunity now more than ever before for the Government to raise their game even further and take their natural lead in a new international initiative to take advantage of the statement made by the Lord's Resistance Army?
I am well aware of the scale of the catastrophe in northern Uganda because, like many hon. Members, I have been there and seen it for myself. As I said to my hon. Friend when we discussed this issue last month, there is now scope for mild optimism: large numbers of followers of the Lord's Resistance Army are now coming out of the bush and being rehabilitated; some senior members of the LRA have been taking advantage of the amnesty that President Museveni has agreed; and the Sudanese, who have backed that dreadful, evil force in the past, withdrew their support for it some time ago. So, yes, there is an opportunity for a breakthrough and, yes, we are keeping very closely in touch with all the main parties. We will certainly do everything in our power to bring the conflict to an end. In the longer term, there will have to be reconciliation between the Government of President Museveni and the Acholi and Langi peoples in the north, who have been alienated by the events of the past 18 years.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): We remain gravely concerned by the human rights violations taking place in Darfur. We continue to make it clear to the Government of Sudan that they must respect the human rights of all their citizens and that there can be no impunity for such crimes. We are conveying the same message to the rebels. It will be for the United Nations international commission of inquiry, which began its work on 25 October, to investigate the situation in Darfur and determine who should be held accountable.
Mr. Robathan: I do not think that the Minister and I disagree much about this. There is the most terrible situation in Darfur; whether or not it is genocide, which the United Nations is investigating, is one thing, but certainly some 70,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million ethnically cleansed. The most terrible atrocities are taking place. It is important that there is no impunity, as the Minister said, and that responsibility is laid at the doors of those responsible. It was all very well for the Prime Minister to take tea with Bashir and his cronies last month, but the truth is that the Sudanese Government have armed and supported the Janjaweed. Will the Minister ensure that it is Government policy to hold the people who are responsible to accountand that starts with President Bashir and all his cronies?
Mr. Mullin: As I said, it is our view that those responsible should be held to account. I am afraid that, in diplomacy, it is sometimes necessary to meet Governments with whom we do not see eye to eye on all matters. One of the main reasons the situation in Darfur has changed for the betterinasmuch as it hasis that the Sudanese Government have been left in no doubt about the international community's attitude to what has been going on. They have thus been willing to co-operate with the international community to bring the situation to an end.
I would like to draw the House's attention to an aspect of the tragic situation that does not get the attention that it deserves. A growing feature of the problem is that the rebels are making more attacks on civilians, aid convoys and Government installations. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is saying that that is a small matter, but it is not. Mr. Pronk, the UN Secretary-General's representative, said the other day that in the past month the bigger problem had been attacks by rebels, not forces of the Sudanese Government. The rebels attacked Arab tribes that had not been drawn into the conflict. I assume that they did so with a view to
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drawing the tribes into the conflict, which is beginning to happen. There is a danger that the conflict will spread even wider, so the problem is serious.
Helen Jones: When does my hon. Friend expect the UN commission of inquiry to report on what has been happening in Darfur? Does he agree that, as reports have never yet saved a life, it will be the duty of the Government following the inquiry to press for immediate UN action, so that instead of debating the matter we can ensure proper protection for the people of Darfur and that those responsible for the atrocities are called to account?
Mr. Mullin: The UN commission is due to report at the end of January, but no one is sitting and waiting for that. An enormous amount is being done both by the UN on the ground in Darfur and through the effort to get the African Union monitoring force in place. We will make a difference when we can provide security for the people on the ground, which is most likely to happen with the help of the African Union. We are doing all that we can to help it to get its troops in place.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Given that the African Union-sponsored peace talks in Abuja have stalled, principally because of the calculated obstructionism of the Government of Sudan in resisting the proposal for the establishment of a no-fly zone, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is essential both that a no-fly zone be erected in the interests of the people of Darfur and that that proposal must necessarily include a ban on military flights, for we all know that it is Government bombing that has been killing, slaughtering and maiming innocent black Africans in Darfur?
Mr. Mullin: A number of issues are being discussed at the talks in Abuja, the main one being a ceasefire by both sides; the second is to agree a humanitarian protocol. A flight ban is under consideration, but, in a country the size of France, it would be relatively unenforceable. So far as I am aware, there have been no recent air attacks by Sudanese Government forces, so that is not the main problem. The main problem remains getting both sides to agree a ceasefire and then to sign up to the humanitarian protocol. I regret to say that, so far, that has not happened.
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op): But is it not true that British Ministersboth this Minister and the Secretary of State for International Developmenthave taken the lead in humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives in Darfur? What are the French, Germans, Italians, Canadians, Japanese and all the other OECD countries doing? Is it not about time that we said to some people, including Opposition Members, that it is not the responsibility of the British Government to deal with every crisis and problem in the world?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. However, there has been a huge international effort in Darfur and it would be invidious of me to pick out individual countries, but we can hold our heads high because we have been in the lead and have arguably
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done more than anyone else. Many senior members of the Government, from the Prime Minister down, have taken a close personal interest in the situation and will continue to do so.
Mr. Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): Conservative Members are horrified by the atrocities, human rights crisis and human rights violations that are continuing in Darfur. We are also deeply concerned about the peace process in southern Sudan and urge the Government to play their part in reinvigorating the Intergovernmental Authority on Development talks.
We recognise that the Government made a contribution by co-sponsoring UN resolution 1564, but further direct action is required, such as transforming the role of the African Union from monitoring to peacekeeping. What specific discussions have taken place with the Chinese to ensure a strong, multilateral resolution at the UN Security Council, leading to firm, immediate action? When will the Government agree with the US Administration and Conservative Members that events in Sudan are genocidal, thereby ensuring immediate international action?
Mr. Mullin: The hon. Gentleman raises a number of points. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the matter fairly recently with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and there are constant discussions on the way forward in the United Nations between the representatives of all the countries on the Security Council. The hon. Gentleman mentioned progress in the Naivasha talks between the north and south. I understand that they are due to resume on 26 November. We are reasonably hopeful that there will be a successful outcome.
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