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18 May 2006 : Column 378WH—continued

Hilary Benn: I do agree. There is a connection, because the LRA has also been present in Sudan, which we are discussing. The five—Kony and Otti and the other three—had plenty of time to give up if they wanted to. The fact is that they did not. Now the ICC has indicted them and, as I said to President Museveni when I spoke to him on Tuesday, there is a responsibility on all of the countries now affected—northern Uganda, southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the bulk of them are now to be found—to get together. This is a threat to regional security. Those individuals have to be found and shipped off to the Hague where they belong. The rest of the fighters should come back into society
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because President Museveni has very wisely said that he will consider an amnesty in relation to them.

Finally, may I say to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, who made an extremely thoughtful and important speech, that the insecurity that women face is one of the characteristics of this terrible conflict. One question that occurred to me when we went to the camps—I do not know whether it occurred to him—was why the men do not go out with the women when they are collecting the fire wood. That might act as a deterrent to those who attack them. It is a real problem, and in the absence of sufficient AU patrols—they have had police stations in the camps and are trying to increase their number—it is something that people could do now to ensure that their women are protected.

The hon. Gentleman made a really important point about elections and referendums, not because they are not important—they are desperately important—but because, as he said, some people do not like the results. That tells us that there has to be a culture that comes with the use of elections and referendums as a means of resolving debate and argument. That means that, like it or not, sometimes one loses and the other side wins, and if one is not able to accept that there can be real difficulties.

John Bercow: Some of us have had more practice at that than others.

Hilary Benn: I did not hear the whole of that comment. The official Opposition have had a lot of experience recently.

On the permanence of the camps, we might find—it has certainly been the case in the camps around Khartoum—that some people choose to stay where they are living. That will have to be worked through. When I spoke to people in the camps in Khartoum a couple of years ago it was clear that the younger generation did not fancy going back—they had been there for a long time because of the length of the north-south conflict and it was the only life they knew—whereas members of the older generation were keen to return to the homes that they had lost. On arms imports, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West is right. That is why we want an arms embargo.

My final point brings us back to where the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield started, and to the powerful
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points made by the hon. Member for Buckingham and others. We should reflect on Kosovo, Iraq, Pol Pot and Rwanda. We should ask where the international community was when 200,000 or 300,000 people were shot in the head and dumped in the desert. Rwanda sticks in our minds. I do not know whether other Members have seen the film “Shooting Dogs”. I watched it and I wept. The most painful part of that film—an excruciatingly painful and raw piece of film making—was a scene at the end in which a we saw a hapless spokesperson from the United States Administration of the time struggling not to use the word “genocide”. That really brought into stark relief the point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham.

In the end, we asked the international commission of inquiry to go and do its work on behalf of the United Nations, and it reported on what it found. Whether we describe that as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, what matters is whether we are prepared to do anything about it. What has been at the heart of our debate today is how, as an international community, we have struggled to turn the fine desires that we expressed in words and resolutions at the millennium review summit into doing something to prevent such things from happening to people. That is the biggest challenge that the world faces so far as peace and security are concerned. We have an institution whose job it is to do it, but if it cannot reach agreement and somebody exercises a veto, nothing happens. On the other hand, when countries decide to take unilateral action, others tut and say that that should not happen. Such action should have legitimacy only if it is taken by the international community through the institutions that we have created.

We have been discussing what happens when crises, suffering and pain fall between the cracks of the system that we have created. I come back to the point that I made at the end of my opening remarks. In the end it is down to two things: have we the will to do anything about it, and are people prepared to contribute—to play their part? I say that not in the sense of trying to pat the British Government on the back; that would be wholly inappropriate, although we have tried hard to do our bit. Do we all need to do more? Yes, we do, because the fact that the suffering in Darfur continues is to the shame of every one of us.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at sixteen minutes past Five o’clock.

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