HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc613-4
3. Ms Glenda Jackson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the British Government intend to take in respect of the situation in Rwanda.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

We are joining fully in international efforts to bring a halt to the bloodshed. On 8 June, the Security Council approved the deployment of an expanded United Nations force. We are keen and ready to provide logistic support and we are looking with the UN at ways in which we can contribute. Since the start of the crises in Rwanda, we have given over £11 million in humanitarian aid.

Ms Jackson

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does not he agree that, in the light of the news that reached us early today of another fearful massacre—this time of 60 young boys—and of a letter that was pushed into a journalist's hand by the citizens of Kigali who are begging for help because they believe that they will be slaughtered at any minute, the Government should be bringing pressure to bear to ensure that the 5,500 troops are deployed immediately and not phased in in that war-torn country?

Mr. Hurd

The sooner the better, I agree. However, those troops must be equipped and transported. Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo and Mali are all African countries which have offered troops. The secretariat is seeking to match the equipment and transport with the troops. As I said in my original answer, we are in close touch with it about what help we can give, for example, by providing trucks.

Mr. Lester

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to consider the Secretary-General's observations on the state of the United Nations in respect of Uganda, in which he admitted that the international community had failed in its responsibility and used words such as "deplorable", at least to describe its reaction? What thoughts do the Government have in respect of trying to adjust the United Nations so that it can deal with such situations, which are becoming all too prevalent?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend said "Uganda", but I think he meant Rwanda. The UN had a force there. The Security Council concluded at a certain point that the force was at severe risk and that it was no longer doing a useful job. It was therefore reduced in size. There were second thoughts and it was decided, as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) pointed out, to redeploy an increased force. That is now happening. These are matters of extraordinarily difficult judgment in a civil war. It is not easy for the Security Council or the Secretary-General to decide how and when to intervene. We fully support resolution 925, which provides for the force of 5,500, and we will do our best to see that it happens.

Dr. John Cunningham

Is not the response of the United Nations in the face of this horrendous tragedy deplorably slow? Why was a resolution agreed to authorise a force but not one to deploy it? Why did it take several more weeks to agree to the deployment of the force? Why has that force still not been fully deployed? Tragically, the momentum of the slaughter continues while the laggardly pace of the international response is dismaying communities all over the world.

Mr. Hurd

The Security Council decides that a force should be sent. The Secretary-General then has to find member countries that are willing to contribute troops; then he has to find the equipment and transport to get them there. Of course, that should happen more quickly; it depends on the response of nation states, and it always will.

Forward to