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7.54 pm

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): There have been some excellent speeches on both sides of the House today. As I have sat in my place, my blood has boiled in fury at the lack of action from the international community and everyone involved, but most at the Sudanese Government. We look to them to be part of the solution, but without a doubt they are at the heart of the problem.

The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) mentioned the issue of asylum seekers from Darfur. One only has to hear the evidence of the Sudan Organisation Against Torture to realise what is happening, in Darfur and in other parts of Sudan. Students who are protesting have been attacked and killed. People have had their eyes gouged out—I saw photographic evidence of that when I was there some years ago. I have no doubt that the Sudanese Government’s actions, then and now, are at the heart of the reason for the suffering and misery of the people in Darfur.

People wonder what the Sudanese Government’s plan can be. Part of that plan must be the continued destabilisation of Darfur so that they can remain in power in Khartoum, unchallenged by an organised opposition. I hope that the elections in Sudan in 2009 will provide an opportunity for regime change in Khartoum.

John Bercow: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is therefore imperative that our policy should be
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logically consistent from one Government Department to another? He rightly referred to the issue of asylum seekers, but does he agree that if we simply chuck back to Khartoum and other parts of Sudan people who have good reason to fear that they will be tortured, we give the impression to the Sudanese Government either that we do not think that those people will be tortured—which shows us to be gullible—or that they might be and we do not care very much? That is not good enough.

John Barrett: I agree. We have to be clear. I can understand the need for diplomacy from the Foreign Secretary, but she said that China, Egypt and Libya were key to any solution. However, we only have to look at the actions of those countries in the past to see that Libya flooded the region with weapons and used Darfur as a military base; Egypt attacked Sudanese protestors on the streets of Cairo, killing people; and China, as I will make clear later, is at the heart of funding the Sudanese regime, its military and the oppression of the people of Darfur. Front Benchers have to speak the language of diplomacy, but if one is dealing with thugs—and that is what many of these people are—one has to be forceful and let them know what one thinks.

We have heard much about the suffering in Darfur and how much more the people living there can be asked to take before there is some effective action from the international community. Excellent work is being done on the ground by NGOs and aid organisations, but their workers’ lives have been put at risk. Save the Children withdrew from operations in Sudan because two of its workers were executed at a roadblock. The World Food Programme, Oxfam, UNICEF and Médecins sans Frontières do an excellent job.

We have heard the figures of an estimated 400,000 dead and 4 million depending on aid. The earthquake in Pakistan killed some 73,000 people and the world rallied to help quickly. We must move more quickly than we have been doing in Sudan.

Every ingredient for misery is present in the area—civil war, too many guns, corrupt government, lack of basic water and sanitation, ethnic tensions, famine, refugees in camps, armed militia and problems resulting from climate change. They are combined with oil wealth and an international community that often stands by as the tragedy continues to unfold. What part is the international community playing? China is playing a key role in funding the Sudanese Government, getting 10 per cent. of its oil from Sudan—500,000 barrels a day, which is predicted to jump to 3 million barrels in two or three years’ time.

One might have thought that a peaceful Sudan would be to China’s advantage, because it could develop its ties with the area, but China has a track record of working with Sudanese soldiers, who cleared areas for the oil industry to work in southern Sudan. The oil revenues are used to supply the army and the militia, the Janjaweed. At least the talk of a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has made China more aware of its actions in that land. One hundred members of the United States House of Representatives have protested to the Chinese Government, warning of the risks to the Olympics if they do not think again on
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Sudan. Every action should be taken to highlight China’s involvement in the tragedy that is unfolding.

Along with China, Russia has been involved in supplying MiG-29s and attack helicopters. Antonov bombers, Kalashnikovs and gunships are not made in the Sudan. Both countries have effectively sabotaged UN Security Council proposals for harsh sanctions against Sudan. We do not need to wonder why.

British companies, too, such as Rolls-Royce, Weir Pumps and others have continued to support the oil industry in Sudan. It is no good, even indirectly, helping to fund the regime and then being outraged at what it is doing. Britain’s role in supporting the United States of America in Iraq has also changed the view of many who might have supported more and quicker effective action in Sudan. Looking at the disaster that is unfolding in Iraq, who would want to risk repeating that again, anywhere?

Even the guns in the hands of the militia could have come through the UK. We imported 200,000 assault rifles and machine guns from the Balkans in 2005. They are not here, so they were probably re-exported. Despite repeated attempts to find out where they went, I have been unable to get answers from any Department or Minister. If any have ended up in Darfur, those responsible will have blood on their hands. People around the world are looking to their leaders to act. They have seen the suffering on television and some have witnessed it first hand. It cannot be allowed to continue.

Life in the refugee camps is misery for many, and life in the villages came to an abrupt end for many when they were attacked from the air and on the ground at the same time. I have no doubt that the Sudanese Government are responsible for the suffering of many of their own people. While we debate whether it is genocide or not, people have had their houses attacked from the air and their family members killed and have been attacked by armed militia on the ground. They are then moved to a refugee camp and described as displaced persons. It does not sound too bad. Whether it is technically genocide or not, it is murder by the Government of the people of Sudan.

The people of Sudan and Darfur must be asking, “Why have we been forgotten?” Today we are saying here in this place, “We have not forgotten. Action is required to bring this genocide to an end.” If genocide is the calculated and organised killing of an ethnic group, this is genocide.

Men, women and children are all suffering in a way that we could not have imagined possible. When I visited the refugee camps in Darfur and saw Médecins sans Frontières fighting to save women and children, I was struck by the savagery of it all. There were few men, as the camps were mostly full of women, children and older people. When we asked about the men, we were told that they were missing, fighting or dead. It sounded as though they might be the lucky ones when we discovered what life held for the survivors, especially the women.

It was said earlier that rape is a weapon of war. In Darfur, that is the case without a doubt. In a recent advert, Amnesty International showed an image of a knife and two hand grenades as a phallic symbol to indicate the terror of this act. The strategy is simple—rape as many women as possible, as brutally as
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possible, as publicly as possible and as often as possible. That is how the state-backed Janjaweed militia in Darfur is terrorising the population. Young girls have not only been raped but had their breasts cut off to make them suffer more, if that were possible.

Two years ago, reports by Médecins sans Frontières noted that the organisation had treated 500 rape victims over four and a half months. The total is undoubtedly in the thousands. Rape is a weapon of war. Children who witness it are traumatised; men flee from their partners out of shame; and women not only suffer at the time but are in pain for the rest of their lives and sometimes are left pregnant from the enemy, with all that that entails. The UN has confirmed the concept of rape as a war crime. Those responsible should never be free to feel that they will not be hunted down and brought to justice.

Sadly, the use of rape as a weapon follows an established pattern from previous conflicts in the Congo, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, to name just a few countries. Even in Iraq such crimes persist. We know of the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl by American soldiers and the killing of her and her family. The details of the four murders and rape are too horrific to repeat here today.

The question that people are asking is why there is no effective peacekeeping force in the region with a mandate to protect the people. The African Union is there but, as I have seen for myself, Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships are at the airport side by side with the white peacekeepers’ helicopters. There was no doubt then and there is no doubt now that the only people with the fire power are the Government of Sudan. A no-fly zone would help, but perhaps it is too little too late. Travel bans and sanctions should be in place, but so much more is needed. The one thing that we must accept is that the Sudanese Government are part of the problem and are stopping the solution being delivered. Reports of villages being attacked by armed men on the ground at the same time as they are being attacked from the air mean there is no doubt that the Government and the Janjaweed are working hand in hand.

One glimmer of hope is the 2009 national election. It has been said that elections are sometimes one of the most over-rated factors when it comes to delivering peace. During the election period, the violence reduces while everyone thinks they might win. After the result, the relative quiet comes to an end.

If the hope of a change in Government rests on the elections, action must be taken now, as elections are not won or lost on the day. The census and voters’ register must be accurate and the election must be free and fair. Otherwise, all that will happen is that the Government in Khartoum will have the democratic stamp of authority, and that will result in an already desperate situation becoming even worse. One has only to look at Zimbabwe to see that.

If this debate has done nothing else, it has kept the plight of the people of Darfur on the agenda, but we cannot leave it at that. Much more must be done, and done quickly. The people in Darfur and worldwide are crying out for a strong peacekeeping force with a mandate to protect civilians and aids workers and an
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African Union force with logistical support. Sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes on key Government officials and an arms embargo are required. As someone said, an arms embargo is a no-brainer.

There ought to be no let-up in the drive to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court. We must challenge China, Russia and the Arab world and their media to recognise the problem. In much of the Arab world, there is little recognition that there is a problem in Sudan and Darfur. It is good to see a lot of people in the House, in the country and throughout the world speaking forcefully. I should like to pay a compliment to Mia Farrow, who attacked Steven Spielberg for being the Leni Riefenstahl of the Chinese Government by acting as an artistic director for the Olympic games.

Diplomacy is fine, but tough talking is also essential because without it the people of Darfur will give up hope. They cannot live on hope alone, but without it they will give up. We in this country and worldwide have to give them hope.

8.8 pm

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I, like other hon. Members, have seen on television the tremendous suffering of the people of Darfur. Many hon. Members have spoken about the estimates of the number of people who have been killed in this terrible tragedy. I believe that it is about 300,000. That is four times my electorate. It is appalling to think that four times as many people as I represent here in Parliament have been so brutally killed in Darfur.

Darfur is important to my constituents. Many have written to me to express their outrage at the crisis and the savagery and butchery that are going on in that part of the world. The Foreign Secretary showed her usual polished, professional handling of the debate at the beginning, but it masked the Government’s disastrous failure over the past four years to deal with the situation. That barbaric regime should be isolated and we should be using our influence to put the issue at the very top of the international agenda.

In her speech, the Foreign Secretary said that Libya and China are key to resolution of the crisis. Today, I met the Libyan chargé d’affaires, Mr. Jelban, and asked him about the role of Libya and Egypt in that crucial matter. Libya, of course, has a common border with Darfur. I must declare an interest at this point: I am the chairman of the all-party group on Libya and feel that the country has a particularly crucial role to play in dealing with the tyrannical regime in Khartoum. My only disagreement with anybody in the debate was with what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) said about Libya.

John Barrett: Does the hon. Gentleman disagree that in the past, as I stated, Libya has flooded the region with arms? That was my specific reference to Libya. My greatest wish in the world is that its people are willing to play a part in the future, but we must accept what happened in the past.

Daniel Kawczynski: I have no evidence that Libya had armed bases in Darfur, nor have I come across evidence that Libya crossed the border and interfered
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directly in Darfur. If the hon. Gentleman has such evidence, I should be grateful if he would share it with me.

The Prime Minister visited Tripoli last week, where he made positive statements about our relations with Libya and the progress that he has made. May we have a statement about those talks with Colonel Gaddafi? What assurances has the Prime Minister been given about what Libya is prepared to do? What actions will Libya and Egypt take to solve the crisis? I hope that the Prime Minister will come to the House to explain what took place in that tent in Sirte when he met the Libyan leader last week.

In a powerful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) mentioned the Libyan peace plan. I very much regret that the Minister for the Middle East is not in the Chamber as I would have liked to ask him whether he has read the plan. I have been briefed on it and it would be sensible for our Government to support it.

In an intervention on the Foreign Secretary, I mentioned the Arab League, which has great influence over Sudan. It has a responsibility to force the Sudanese Government to take action. I urge the Foreign Secretary to send an observer to the next meeting of the Arab League to give a clear message. I realise that would go against all protocols, because we do not normally send observers to meetings of the Arab League, but the tragedy in Darfur is of such proportions that we need a paradigm shift in our dealings with other countries to resolve it. I would even like the Foreign Secretary to attend the meeting. That is a highly unusual step, but when hundreds of thousands of people are being killed we must show how determined we are that the Arab League should take action.

Many Members have spoken about the role of China and Russia in supplying the Sudanese Government with weapons. A recent report in The Daily Telegraph stated that both countries were selling gunships and other serious military hardware to Sudan. The Foreign Secretary said that more UN sanctions need to be considered, but how can we do that when two of the permanent members of the Security Council are behaving so outrageously—selling serious military equipment to and propping up the Sudanese regime?

I am worried about the lack of action by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in tackling the crisis. He should make sure that Russia and China, which are meant to be responsible members of the Security Council, do not behave in that outrageous way. The behaviour of the Chinese is desperately disappointing; they are so hungry for oil and raw materials that they are happy to trade with any pariah to obtain supplies. I agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who said that we should take tentative steps to tell the Chinese that unless they comply with our wishes in this matter we may have to reconsider our participation in the Olympic games.

During the Chinese President’s visit to Sudan, he announced that China would provide an interest-free loan to build a new presidential palace. How on earth can that be a priority when so many people are starving in that country? In relation to Darfur, President Hu said:

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That is wrong, and shows his complete lack of interest. The Chinese simply do not want to upset their oil suppliers.

The African Union armed forces unit has been mentioned. I concur with the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) who said that the solution will have to come from AU forces in the country taking action to ensure that peace is maintained. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) and many others who said that the force is far too small and overstretched for Darfur—a country the size of France.

There are problems with finance and payments for the force. The Rwandan general in charge of 2,000 of the 7,000 AU troops complained that some of his troops have not received their $25 daily allowance. Major Jules Rutaremara told the BBC that the AU mission is reliant on international funding that has not been forthcoming. He said:

That is a grave problem, given everything that has been said in the House today about how seriously we need to ensure that those troops are protected.

John Bercow: Is there not an abysmal contrast between the late and inadequate payment of African troops on the one hand and the timeous and substantial payment by the Government of Sudan to the Janjaweed and other Arab militias on the other?

Daniel Kawczynski: Absolutely. I wholly concur with my hon. Friend. The fact remains, however, that serious allegations have been made about the lack of dependable funding that arrives on time. Given the importance that Great Britain and the EU attach to supporting the AU troops, I very much hope that Foreign Office Ministers will give us an assurance that they will investigate the matter and ensure that the EU sends money to pay the troops on time. I feel passionately that we must do everything possible to support the AU taskforce, in dealing not just with the crisis in Darfur but with many other crises in the continent of Africa. We need to do far more to protect the AU forces, but we also need to support the tremendous peace plans that have emanated from neighbouring countries, especially the Libyan peace plan.

8.19 pm

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): I welcome the fact that the Government have held this debate, which is long overdue, in Government time. It is good to see that, across both the political divides, there is much consensus about the difficulty that we have in that troubled country, Darfur. However, it would help if the Government were to acknowledge what is really happening in Darfur.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the situation in Darfur as a crisis—the term that is being used by the United Nations—but it would be helpful if there was recognition that what we really have is genocide, as defined by article 2 of the
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convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which refers to

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