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Mr. Drew: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and it is a tragedy that we have not at least had that debate. It is wrong that that issue has apparently always been just pushed away. It is about time that we had that debate, and if it is not to be pursued, we need to know why not.

It is good that the situation has now been referred to the International Criminal Court. Some of the people whom we met in Khartoum should be a bit more fearful, rather than swanning around Khartoum with no thought that anyone would ever chase them for the outrages for which they have been at least partly responsible. What leverage are the Government putting on the Government of Sudan to make sure that the
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people who have been responsible, at least in part, for such outrages, will be cited at the Hague? It is good to know that the Americans have at least been helpful in that regard, even if they will not sign up to the ICC.

In the remaining minutes, I want to move slightly away from Darfur to the wider situation in Sudan, although that backwashes in terms of the peace negotiations. Clearly, it would be good to know what the Government think is happening with regard to the two sides in Darfur, but also how that fits within the comprehensive peace agreement. The good news is that the CPA between the north and the south seems to be holding, notwithstanding Darfur. Some would say that the events in Darfur are a consequence of peace in the north and the south. I do not want to get into that debate, but I want to know that we are still actively engaged. It is very pleasing to hear, for example, that Alan Goulty has been reappointed as the special envoy after his period elsewhere, but how can he play an active part both through the CPA and in trying to bring peace to Darfur?

My final points relate to the amount of aid and other assistance that we are providing. It would be good to know what finance we are putting into the relief effort, but also into trying to bring some security to Darfur. Are we looking to increase the number of personnel in an expert role being moved into that theatre of conflict? There is also the question of how the CPA is not being allowed to wither. Are we ensuring that the CPA timetables are being adhered to? Darfur takes people's eye off that and, as my hon. Friend the Minister will know, there are worrying examples of conflict in eastern Sudan, around Port Sudan in the Red Sea state. Again, it would be interesting to know the Government's engagement with that.

I make no apology for yet again bringing the issue of Darfur back to this place. It is right that we, through the Government and through Parliament, play our part in urging an early conclusion to the conflict and, more particularly, those desperately sad scenes, which should be coming to an end. It appears, however, that that is far from the case.

7.16 pm

The Minister for Trade (Ian Pearson): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on securing this Adjournment debate on Darfur. The high level of interest that he and others continue to show in Darfur, and in Sudan as a whole, is very welcome.

Sudan is at a critical juncture. The opportunities presented by the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement on 9 January are clear: the agreement ends more than 20 years of terrible civil war and paves the way towards a more democratic and inclusive system of governance. We must continue to support the parties in implementing this historic agreement, but, as my hon. Friend explained, we must also remain focused on resolving the conflict in Darfur. With almost 2 million people displaced from their homes, it remains one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

The Government remain gravely concerned about the situation in Darfur and are firmly committed to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. In the last year, there
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have been a number of high-level ministerial visits to Sudan, including by the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has just completed a further visit to Sudan and is in Addis Ababa, talking to the African Union about its efforts to resolve the crisis.

During the visit, my right hon. Friend travelled to Darfur, the south of Sudan and Khartoum. In Darfur, he had the opportunity to see for himself the situation of those living in the camps, and to hear their stories, when he visited Abu Shouk and Kalma camps. He also spoke to United Nations and non-governmental organisation representatives in Darfur. It is clear that humanitarian agencies in Darfur face considerable constraints on their activities because of the security situation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud pointed out, continued harassment by the local government, and attacks by the rebels and Arab militia, are limiting the activities of the aid agencies and restricting access.

Our embassy in Khartoum regularly presses the Government of Sudan on the need to ensure unfettered access for humanitarian workers, and we are also pressing the rebel leaders to stop attacks by their forces on aid convoys. During his visit, my right hon. Friend pressed the First Vice-President on this issue and urged him to prevent intimidation of aid agencies by local authorities. In particular, he raised the case of the two Médecins sans Frontières workers—my hon. Friend also referred to it—who were detained following the MSF report on rape in Darfur. We expect the issue to be resolved shortly.

Access for humanitarian agencies will become increasingly difficult during the rainy season, which has just started. The UN and humanitarian agencies are preparing for this by pre-positioning food and non-food items. They are giving particular priority to areas that will become inaccessible by road. Supply of food remains precarious and the UN is reviewing requirements. It faces major challenges in increasing its response and enhancing its distribution and logistics capability. To meet those challenges, there is a need for timely and significant contributions from the international community. The UK has contributed £75 million to the humanitarian programme for Sudan for this financial year, and we are pressing others to do more. Despite the problems faced by the agencies, they are reaching more and more people, thanks to the phenomenal effort of humanitarian workers on the ground. I am sure that the whole House will want to pay tribute to their work.

My hon. Friend asked about our assessment of the security situation more generally. Insecurity remains unacceptably high, but its causes have changed. The majority of attacks by the rebels and armed militias appear increasingly to be motivated by economic, rather than political, gain. Banditry is on the rise and, against the background of the annual cattle migration from south to north Darfur, tribal tensions are mounting. In recent months, the situation in Darfur has been generally calmer, with a substantial reduction in clashes between the parties, considerably fewer ceasefire violations and a welcome reduction in the number of attacks on civilians. This has been reflected in the UN Secretary-General's monthly reports.
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We welcomed the Government of Sudan's withdrawal in February of their Antonov bombers from Darfur and the fact that, since then, there have been no reported attacks by the air force. The Government of Sudan have also withdrawn from the areas that they occupied in December and January and allowed the African Union's monitors to move in. In his April report, the UN Secretary-General concluded that the Government of Sudan

during that month.

For their part, during this period the rebels also launched fewer attacks against Government forces, although they continued to attack police stations. Recent weeks, however, have seen an increase in activity by the parties involved, particularly the rebels, who are responsible for a number of attacks on aid convoys and for the detention of humanitarian workers. Our assessment is that the increased rebel activity may have been an attempt to strengthen their negotiating position ahead of the resumption of the Abuja talks. Whatever the reason, we have made it clear that it must stop immediately. Attacks on aid convoys are totally unacceptable and seriously damage the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

John Bercow: If there are grounds for genuine optimism, that is to be welcomed, but I put it to the Minister in all sincerity that there is another interpretation of the reduction in violence that he described. Could it not be, as many serious observers believe, that the reality is that most of the population has now been corralled into internally displaced person camps, that there are few villages left to bomb and that the ethnic cleansing of the black African population of Darfur is now largely complete?

Ian Pearson: I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a deep interest in these matters and I will answer his question in due course.

It is right to say that the Government of Sudan have a very long way to go in fulfilling their commitments. They need to rein in the Arab militias and provide adequate security to enable people to return to their homes. The continuing climate of lawlessness and banditry in Darfur has meant that, for yet another year, its people have been unable to plant their crops. The traditional coping mechanisms are exhausted and the difficulty faced by humanitarian agencies in getting to the outlying regions has led to more people moving into the camps.

Until the security situation improves, people will not return to their homes. The AU has a crucial role to play. Where it is deployed, the AU monitoring mission has been effective in improving the security situation and in preventing attacks against civilians. It is providing patrols to enable women IDPs to leave the camps to collect firewood without fear of rape or assault. However, the impact of the AU's 3,000 troops is of course limited, and it has faced management and logistical constraints as well as a lack of capacity. That is why we fully support the AU's recent decision to increase the size of its mission to over 7,000 personnel,
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which will allow the AU to achieve a greater geographical coverage and to provide a more permanent presence for areas where it is already deployed.

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