HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc617-9
7. Mr. Hanson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Rwanda.

11. Mr. Burns

To ask the Secretary of State, for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current situation in Rwanda.

15. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contribution Her Majesty's Government are making to end the killing in Rwanda.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said a few moments ago, we are playing a full part in efforts to bring about a settlement in Rwanda and are providing substantial amounts of relief for the large number of refugees displaced by the fighting.

Mr. Hanson

In supporting the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), may I ask what actions the Government are taking with regard to food and emergency equipment for the 1 million-plus refugees resident on the Tanzania-Rwanda border? That situation cannot be tolerated and all help must be given by the Government.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My right hon. Friend mentioned that bilateral aid of £11 million has been paid since the start of the crisis. It is helping mainly with refugees and with the collection and burial of bodies, including those in Lake Victoria. An Overseas Development Administration team recently visited the region to assess the situation at first hand and will return there in early July.

Mr. Burns

Does my hon. Friend agree that this country is sickened by the grotesque slaughter of men, women and children in Rwanda and that it must end as soon as possible? Will he also confirm that Britain is the fourth largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping forces throughout the world and that the Government will use their influence within the UN and the international community to do all that they can to bring an end to the ghastly slaughter as quickly as possible?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Everyone must agree with my hon. Friend's words. I confirm that we are the fourth largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. We cannot be accused of default on that ground. All along, we have been very active in calling for effective and swift United Nations action in Rwanda.

Mr. Cohen

Did not the Government make a mistake in April when they effectively voted in the UN Security Council for UN disengagement from Rwanda, reducing troops there to just 270? Should not they have been pressing then—as they should now—for the establishment of safe areas in that country and for the forces to secure them?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Secretary-General submitted his report on 2 June following those Security Council decisions in April, and on 8 June there was a further vote to adopt resolution 925 and endorse the arrangements for the deployment of the expanded United Nations Aid Mission in Rwanda—UNAMIR—which is the situation that we now face.

Mr. Jessel

Is my hon. Friend willing to comment on the world's attitude to the colossal number of murders and missing persons in Rwanda? Let us suppose that 500,000 black people had been murdered by white people or vice versa—the world would rightly have been in uproar. But if 500,000 black people are killed by other black people the world seems to regard it as not quite so important.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My hon. Friend has expressed his opinion, and we are doing everything that we can in our way to bring about a change in the dreadful events. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, seven African countries are contributing troops and five countries—including ourselves—are prepared to help with logistical support for those troops.

Mr. Clapham

Is the Minister aware that, in opening the meeting of the Organisation of African Unity, President Mandela said that the Rwandan situation was a stern rebuke for us all and that it reflected on a crisis of leadership? Does he agree that that reproof goes far beyond the African continent to those countries in Europe which have encouraged the Rwandan regime to spend money on arms, rather than to develop services for its people so that there would be some harmonisation in the country? Will he urge the UN to ensure that there is a tighter formulation to govern the behaviour of those countries which export arms, so that we might be able to prevent future Rwandas?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that a crisis of leadership in Britain is responsible for the situation in Rwanda. He is suggesting somehow that the British Government are responsible. We are doing what we can, as my right hon. Friend and I have explained in the most careful terms, to bring about a change in the dreadful situation.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Given the fact that the appalling atrocities in Rwanda are exacerbated and made possible by the large amount of arms that are available —it is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa is importing in the region of $7 billion worth of arms every year—is not there a strong case for making any aid to those countries dependent upon their military spending and the proportion that it takes of their GNP?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) should be aware that the appalling slaughter about which we have read in Rwanda is not the result of arms sales by western or other countries. The crudest weapons, which would be available in any agricultural society, are being horrifically used in the terrible slaughter.