HC Deb 24 April 1995 vol 258 cc520-2
29. Mr. Sutcliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what immediate plans he has to increase humanitarian aid to Burundi and Tanzania. [18754]

Mr. Baldry

The United Kingdom has committed £89 million to the region during the past year. Specifically, we have provided around £3 million of bilateral and emergency aid for Burundi since November 1993 and £6 million for Tanzania since the start of the Rwandan crisis. In addition, around £13 million has been provided in support of United Nations agencies for humanitarian assistance to refugees in the region, which includes those in Burundi and Tanzania.

Mr. Sutcliffe

I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge the shock, horror and disgust of many people in Britain at the events of the weekend and that what we need is not only continued humanitarian support but a political solution to the problems of Rwanda. Could the Minister use his influence with the United Nations and other countries in the region to find a political solution to the problem by holding a regional conference in the area, to try to get the regional countries, together with the Organisation of African Unity, to start out on the tortuous road to a solution? If that does not happen, I fear that the problem will continue and it will be an indictment of humanity.

Mr. Baldry

We are deeply concerned at the loss of life in the camp at Kibeho. Of course it is a tragic setback for the internationally backed effort for national reconciliation in Rwanda. We still need to establish the full facts. There seems to be no doubt that armed elements have been operating within the camps. Equally it appears that elements of the Rwanda Patriotic Army have overreacted, with severe loss of life, including those of unarmed women and children, which is totally unforgivable. Together with European Union and UN Security Council partners, we are taking the matter up urgently with the Government of Rwanda. We want an urgent inquiry into the events and firm action taken against those responsible.

It is essential that those who have been displaced from that and other camps are brought to safety, to their own communities or rehoused pending a settlement. We are urging the Government of Rwanda to give free access to and co-operate fully with the UN agencies and non-governmental organisations. As the hon. Gentleman and the House can imagine, we have been in touch over the weekend with NGO partners and made clear our support for their efforts. Funds are being provided in response to their direct requests. In most cases, materials, medicines and foods are available, but we are providing extra supplies as requested.