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The House would find it helpful if the Minister explained in his summing up what it is that the Government find difficulty in understanding in the legal definition of genocide, or what it is that they find when, unlike the ordinary lay person who sees what is happening in Darfur, they cannot recognise that it is genocide. What we are seeing there is brutal and savage oppression, where rape is used as a weapon of war; horrific examples were cited by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett).

The statistics have been given by many Members. In the past four years, up to 400,000 people have been killed and a further 4 million have been displaced and are now refugees, living in desperate conditions. In 2001, our Prime Minister said:

Those words were uttered six years ago, and in the past four years alone, we have seen hundreds of thousands of people butchered and millions of people displaced. I am sorry to say that in this instance, six years on, the Prime Minister has failed to act.

We should consider the fact that the 2005 peace deal is now defunct, yet in honour of that peace deal, as recently as April 2007, the Ministry of Defence was training Sudanese military officers at British establishments. That was in support of the 2005 peace deal between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. It is noteworthy that the training is for

It does not require a person of enormous intelligence to recognise that what we have in Sudan is certainly not a democracy.

Many have said that the African Union mission in Sudan—otherwise known as AMIS—is an African solution to an African problem. It is intended to protect civilians from attack by Government-backed militia and rebel groups, but the African Union mission requires assistance, and that has been sorely lacking. Those 7,000 peacekeepers have to police a region roughly the size of France. They are badly equipped and underfunded, and as has just been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), they have not received much-needed funding from the European Union and other rich nations. The staff, including senior commanders, have not been paid for months. That mission should be making 50 patrols a day, protecting women who collect firewood and go to the market. Instead, it is able to muster merely three such patrols a day.

The African Union’s mandate expires at the end of June. Twice in the past 12 months it has been renewed at the last minute, with promises of extra funds and troops, none of which have been delivered. There is, of course, no guarantee that the African Union will agree to renew the mandate once more, but if it does, we must ensure that any promise made is honoured this
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time. We must not forget that that mission is the African Union’s first attempt at peacekeeping. If it fails, it will place a huge question mark over the African Union’s future abilities in peacekeeping missions on the whole of that difficult continent. Therefore, it is vital that any support promised is duly delivered.

I think that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that the aid workers deserve our utmost admiration for all that they do, but given the security difficulties that the country faces, with aid workers regularly being killed or injured, it is hardly surprising that many are leaving the area. We must do more to ensure that there is security for the aid workers, so that they can do properly what they are best equipped to do, and have access to all the people who very much need their assistance. For many of those people, they are the only frontier between life and death.

As for the way forward, no one disputes the fact that this is a complex and difficult problem, but we all recognise deep in our hearts that there is a solution, and we must do whatever we can to achieve it. I certainly welcome the proposed sanctions announced by the US Government. We must also support the Sudan Divestment UK campaign, which seeks to end the global financial support for the Sudanese Government and their military actions through targeted disinvestment.

We have heard much reference to a no-fly zone. We have seen that no-fly zones work in other parts of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) gave a very specific example of one working effectively in protecting the Kurds in northern Iraq. We must continue with all forms of diplomatic pressure. I recognise that the Ministers in DFID and the Foreign Office have been doing their utmost to try to put pressure on China and Russia and other such countries, but we must redouble that pressure where possible.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a very impassioned and well thought through speech, but he mentions a no-fly zone. Does he not accept the fact that to enforce a no-fly zone, sophisticated air-superiority aircraft of the kind that we might supply by way of Eurofighter, for example, are needed? They would need to come from sophisticated NATO or EU countries. Has he considered the implications of deploying an air force of that kind from outside Africa in the middle of the African continent? Is that the right solution, or does he have another solution in mind?

Mr. Vara: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for posing that question. We, as a global community, recognise that there is a serious problem. We in non-African countries are considering sanctions. We are providing financial assistance to solve the problems of Africa, albeit perhaps not as much as we ought to. There is thus no reason why we cannot consider extending our efforts to achieve whatever else is required in Africa, including the establishment of no-fly zones. We must take that on board, consider it effectively and positively—with or without African support—and get on with the job.

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John Bercow: Pursuant to what my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) said, may I put it to my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) that there would be a compelling case for punitive action in the event of a no-fly zone not being observed? I do not baulk at the ultimate sanction—the use of air strikes—to give effect to the multilateral will. After all, are we not dealing with a regime characterised both by foot stamping and by diplomatic sorcery? We are considering not an honest disputant, but people who need to be dealt with in the most punitive fashion in the last instance.

Mr. Vara: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. I do not think that I could add anything to the point that he eloquently put forward. It was a pleasure and privilege to listen to his speech. His reputation, efforts and tenacity on this subject go before him. It is a credit to him that he has persisted with his efforts, and I am well aware that the Government respect his comments.

Let me return to the point that I was making before I took those two interventions. We should be clear that both China and Russia are world powers. However, they must recognise that with the status of world superpower goes responsibility. World superpower status is not simply based on economic strength; it carries with it responsibilities and moral obligations. We must put whatever pressure we can on those Governments, especially that of China, given that the country will host the Beijing Olympics. China has a responsibility to use whatever influence it has with Sudan for peacekeeping purposes, rather than purely to make money.

I can only echo what others have said about UN peacekeepers. We must ensure that the procrastination regarding those soldiers with which the Sudanese Government confront us is dealt with quickly. People are dying and suffering each day that UN peacekeepers are not in that troubled country.

The butchery, rape and genocide in Darfur have gone on for far too long. The Sudanese Government have had four years to stop the slaughter of innocents and the misery of displacement. During that time, men and women of power and influence throughout the world have said all the right things, but the reality is that the genocide is continuing. After President Clinton stepped down from office, he spoke of his regret for his “personal failure” to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. Men and women of conscience must ask themselves whether they will express the same sentiments about Darfur in the years to come, or whether they intend instead to do something about the situation now.

8.32 pm

Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD): As we have heard from many hon. Members, the situation in Darfur continues to worsen, and is spilling over into Chad and the Central African Republic. I use the word “genocide” because I do not know what else to call murder and killing on a scale such as that in Darfur. The Sudanese regime is one of the most brutal and destabilising in the world today. I understand that 400,000 black Darfuris have perished as a result of the measures taken against them by the Sudanese Government and their allied militias.

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Two and a half years ago, the Prime Minister took a stand by saying that the “international focus” on Darfur

That was not his first statement to that effect, nor was it his last. However, last year Salah Gosh, the Sudanese security chief who orchestrates the violence in Darfur, was twice welcomed to this country. That was not another case of the Government failing to recognise who was going in and out of our country, because he was granted a visa to come here for medical treatment. There is a sickening contrast between his treatment in this country and that which he is meting out to hundreds of thousands of Darfuris.

Our unwillingness to act on the violence in Darfur has assured the Government of Sudan that they can commit gross violations of human rights with impunity. The regime in Sudan has played the international community, including us, for fools. I feel that we have been supine in a way, because we have tried to remain on better terms than we should be with the Sudanese Government. Perhaps that has to do with whether we can get information on our key agenda; I do not know exactly, because those things are not given to me to know, but it seems that we have not been as active or as quick as we should have been, given what is going on in Darfur. As we have heard, despite the promises, African Union troops did not get to work, and there are still no United Nations peacekeepers.

So what is to be done? We have heard the mantras from every Member present. There must be a deployment of troops. If we need more leverage on Sudan, we have to get China and Russia to listen to us, whatever it takes, and I do not understand our reluctance to do that. In fact, I have been amazed by the lack of ways in which the world can take action in such situations, even when there is agreement about the behaviour of a nation. There seems to be a lack of ability to do something that will make the countries that could influence Sudan sit up and listen, and take their responsibilities as world powers seriously. Perhaps the Olympics could be used, and I was very much attracted by what the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) said about oil, although he would have to explain it to me again; that would hit states where it matters, and where it hurts.

Another mantra is that we must stop the Sudanese Government bombing Darfur. That would mean a no-fly zone and the extension of the arms embargo. We need to hit those orchestrating the violence where it hurts, through travel bans and asset freezes on the individuals named by the UN’s commission of inquiry on Darfur. We also need to stop the flow of money that Khartoum needs to pay for the genocide, and that means the UK and the European Union targeting companies that provide Sudan with revenue, arms and diplomatic cover. Those are the mantras, and we have all chanted them tonight, but I would like the Secretary of State for International Development to say how and when the Government will apply the measures that we are all requesting.

The matter is not just down to Governments. We should not wait for others to act, as there are actions that all of us of in the House can and should take. We can lobby key decision makers, publicise the need for action, and put pressure on bodies such as local councils,
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which may have funds invested with firms that support the Sudanese regime. I would like the Secretary of State’s assurance that our pension fund investments have no connection whatever with any such companies. I see him looking at me, but I think that that is worth checking. Further measures are necessary, and indeed we have all agreed that we have a responsibility to act—but when we do, we will have to balance the actions that we take, and we should bear in mind the fragile nature of the comprehensive peace agreement that ended the 20-year civil war between north and south, which claimed 2 million lives.

Our focus at this stage must be to change Khartoum’s calculus of its own interest, so that it becomes in its interest for it to act as the world wishes it to. The UK and the USA are pushing for measures to be adopted at the UN, and that is to be applauded, but the support of China and Russia is key if we are to apply any of the sanctions that we have talked about tonight. We have to work hard to make sure that they support us. However, the question should be put; if it is a matter of introducing a no-fly zone, we cannot hang back just because those countries may veto the proposal. We have to be bolder.

Lastly, I return to the figure that I mentioned at the start of my speech—the 400,000 people killed in Darfur. Unsurprisingly, it is hard to get hold of exact population figures, but Darfur’s population is put at between 6 million and 7 million. The United Kingdom’s population is 60 million. If what happened in Darfur were to happen in our country, proportionately that would mean 4 million people being killed, and in my constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green, 7,000 people would die. It massively dwarfs 9/11. We were not so passive when 9/11 happened; we should not be so passive now.

Europe’s leaders have repeatedly expressed their horror about what has happened in Darfur, but they have not taken action. Their words have been rather hollow to date, and it is action—not next week, not next month, but right now—that is needed. Wishful thinking will not stop the atrocities. We have been nice, we have played the good guy, and we have got absolutely nowhere. Excuses will not stop the atrocities, only action will—and I rely on the Government to come forward.

8.40 pm

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): This has been an interesting and, at times, eloquent debate. Members on both sides of the House have expressed similar concerns and voiced huge anxiety about the events that have taken place in Sudan and Darfur, as well as the lack of action by the international community and its woeful failure to make any impression on this terrible problem. There is a clear belief that the House does not want today’s debate to be another well-intentioned hand-wringing exercise. There has been some criticism of the Government’s action and inaction but, equally, it is incumbent on the legislature to say what we expect of the Government. The situation is bleak and dire and we have searched in vain for very much progress.

In setting out what we expect from the Government, there are three important points that it is worth
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making. First, at the G8 summit we expect a ringing declaration of the importance of achieving progress towards a solution of the crisis in Darfur. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) hoped that the matter would be discussed, and I have followed with interest the drafts of the summit communiqué, which have been made available to me not as a result of the Freedom of Information Act, but through the generous help and assistance of various non-governmental organisations that have followed the drafting of the declaration. In the latest draft, dated 1 June, there is not one mention of Darfur—there is nothing at all about the situation there. It would be disgraceful if there were no mention by the G8 of the dire situation that persists in Darfur or no expression of its determination to do something about it.

It would have been a good thing if the Prime Minister, on his farewell tour of Africa—it was great that he went to Sierra Leone and other countries, as his personal contribution in Sierra Leone deserves praise—had gone to Darfur in the dying days of his premiership to express his belief that the world is watching what is going on and to insist that the President take action. I regret that the Prime Minister did not include Darfur in his visit to Africa. Secondly, the House expects the Government to take action by emphasising at the G8 and elsewhere the imperative for a strategic plan to achieve a stable Darfur, as security will not be achieved with 100,000 troops, let alone 20,000, without an effective peace agreement. If progress is to be made in Darfur, it requires at least four key measures: a cessation of all hostilities; a process to identify representatives of all the different groups and parties in the conflict in Darfur; the effective monitoring of a ceasefire; a credible timetable for effective mediation; and a safe and secure environment in which to negotiate. I shall say something about all those points in a moment. The third and final point that we expect the Government to emphasise is the grave damage to the United Nations that has been done as a result of the Sudanese Government flouting the will of the international community, which seriously undermines the UN’s ability to perform effectively in other areas. It underlines the point that the responsibility to protect, about which hon. Members around the House have spoken so eloquently during the debate, and which was enthusiastically embraced in September 2005 in New York with much back-slapping and the flash of cameras at press conferences, means nothing to those living in camps in Darfur.

There are three parts to the resolution of the current dire position in Darfur. The first is the humanitarian situation. No one can doubt that it is deteriorating. The area of Darfur from which relief is excluded is now greater than when I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) were there last year. As recently as last week, the United Nations warned of further humanitarian withdrawals. Between January and March this year, 110,000 people were newly displaced. That is a rate of more than 1,000 every day.

The conflict has been internationalised. For example, there are 235,000 refugees from Darfur in Chad. As a consequence of the conflict, 120,000 people have been internally displaced in Chad. Between 12 and 18 May—only a couple of weeks ago—Dafak village in south Darfur was attacked by Janjaweed militia, who are, as my hon.
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Friends pointed out, armed and paid by the Khartoum regime. The village was repeatedly bombed by Sudanese Government planes. Consequently, according to the UNHCR, 1,500 women and children were driven towards the border of the Central African Republic.

We have lost count of the number of times the Sudanese have promised the international community that the aerial bombardments will cease, yet they continue. The UN recently provided photographic evidence of Sudanese war planes disguised in UN livery, and Khartoum repeatedly breaks its word because it believes it will face no serious consequences because we lack the political will to implement them. There is further evidence of Government harassment, with aid workers who leave Darfur not being permitted to return for six months, along with other visa restrictions in flagrant contradiction of the undertakings on the subject that my right hon. Friend and I were given when we were in Khartoum last year.

The aid corridor proposed by the new French Administration is a welcome humanitarian response. The appeal of the Disasters Emergency Committee so movingly fronted by the respected journalist Fergal Keane is hugely needed, but the key point for all of us tonight is that the humanitarian situation is not getting any better. As all hon. Members have pointed out, 4 million people—two thirds of Darfur’s population—are dependent on humanitarian aid and support, yet as the UN reported only last week, attacks on aid workers increased by 100 per cent. in 2006. According to a leading British NGO:

Chad cannot support the number of people who have been made homeless as a result of the conflict. The humanitarian situation remains dire.

Secondly, we must address the political situation. As a number of my hon. Friends and others have observed, Salva Kiir, who was in Britain not long ago, the President of Southern Sudan and the Vice-President in Sudan’s Government of National Unity, has warned that

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