HC Deb 29 March 1995 vol 257 cc1009-11
7. Mr. Callaghan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met representatives of the Rwandan Government to discuss the current situation in Rwanda; and if he will make a statement. [14946]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the Prime Minister of Rwanda on 22 February during a visit to Britain. The Prime Minister of Rwanda made plain his thanks to Britain for the assistance that we have given in response to the tragic events in Rwanda. My noble Friend Baroness Chalker announced on Friday further aid commitments to Rwanda of £8.8 million, which brings our total aid to Rwanda since 1 January to £18 million.

Mr. Callaghan

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that, because of the rising tension and crisis in the area, the donor countries should make a long-term commitment to prevent further attempts at genocide there?

Mr. Baldry

We would all agree with that. The Rwandan Government have declared their intention to encourage refugees to return home. That is the highest priority. Of course, that Government clearly need help with reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation policies. We are giving that help. We are providing further sums of money for immediate food aid and humanitarian needs, and looking to the future with financial support for human rights monitors, the war crimes tribunal and the reconstruction of the Rwandan judicial system. We shall continue to press the European Union and other multilateral organisations to respond as quickly and as effectively.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

When my hon. Friend discusses the position in Rwanda, will he take time to discuss the position in the neighbouring country of Burundi, which is much smaller, and where the increasing genocide is causing great hardship to the indigenous population? Will he inquire about what can be done?

Mr. Baldry

We are clearly keeping the position in Burundi under close watch. The position in Rwanda and in Burundi makes clear the need to develop in Africa and elsewhere preventive diplomacy systems to try to identify and avert humanitarian tragedies before they occur.

Mr. Robin Cook

The Minister will know that I have just returned from Rwanda. May I assure him that the top priority is to provide a justice system, as Rwanda has been left with no police, no courts and few judges? I urge him, therefore, to respond positively to Rwandas request for British help in the training of a civil police force. Will he inject some urgency into the proceedings of the war crimes tribunal? Would it not be a disgrace for the international community if the anniversary of genocide in Rwanda were reached without a single ringleader being charged before the tribunal?

Mr. Baldry

I am sure that, following his visit to Rwanda, the hon. Gentleman wishes to acknowledge that Britain has responded promptly and generously to Rwandas need for humanitarian assistance. Of course, this is more than a humanitarian problem. Rehabilitation and reconstruction are needed. We must work for a better future for Rwanda. That is why we are seeking to deal with specific problems, why the United Kingdom was the first bilateral contributor to the fund that was set up to finance human rights monitors, why it co-sponsored the Security Council resolution to establish an international criminal tribunal for Rwanda, why it has pledged £200,000 to fund UK personnel for the prosecutors office and why it is helping the judiciary.

We have recently provided £100,000 in assistance to the Ministry of Justice, which is attempting to reconstruct the Rwandan judicial system. We are responding in every regard to the urgency of the need to build a better future for Rwanda.