HL Deb 19 May 1994 vol 555 cc352-4

3.25 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in the Security Council of the United Nations and elsewhere to ensure the protection and care of refugees from the genocide in Rwanda.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, on 16th May the Security Council adopted Resolution 918 which authorises an increase in the UNAMIR force to 5,500 troops with a mandate to support efforts to achieve a cease-fire, to monitor developments and contribute to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk.

Lord Judd

My Lords, while the whole House will welcome that sadly belated decision taken by the Security Council, but not before between 200,000 and 500,000 men, women and children have been brutally slaughtered, does the Minister agree that it is essential that the 5,500 troops should be sent to Rwanda as soon as possible? Can the Minister also assure the House that the Government will give the fullest support to the Secretary-General in mobilising the troops and logistic support? Further, does the Minister agree that it will not be enough to provide protection for civilians in the border areas and Kigali and that there is also a desperate need to provide protection in internal areas like Cyangugu, Gitarama, Kabgayi and Gisenye? Will the Government do everything possible to strengthen the UN presence in neighbouring Burundi so that there is no danger of a repetition of the nightmare that has taken place in Rwanda in that country as well?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am sure that all Members of the House are appalled by the terrible bloodshed that has taken place in the bitter friction in Rwanda. It is indeed true that many hundreds of thousands of people have probably been killed. I can assure the noble Lord that the Secretary-General will send troops as soon as possible. Indeed, he has already approached a number of African heads of state for troops. He has also approached the West for logistic support—a request we are ourselves considering at present. The Secretary-General is well aware that it is not simply the border areas that need attention: it is internally in Rwanda. He is also aware of the very tenuous situation in Burundi.

I shall be taking up such matters with the Secretary-General next week. In the meantime, an ODA mission which is leaving London tonight will be going to both the border areas and into Rwanda. Therefore, in about 10 days' time we shall be very much better informed. We shall then be able to provide even more help than the £3.3 million that we have already contributed.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say which African countries have already signalled a readiness to help?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, a number are examining the balance of the forces available for Rwanda in the light of the forces they already provide for the conflict in Liberia, while some still have forces in Somalia. I cannot give my noble friend the exact figures because we are still at a tentative stage. However, when I have that information I shall send it to him.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, does the Minister accept the need for forces to be earmarked and available to the United Nations? In such a situation, people are dying in their thousands every day. Meanwhile, the United Nations is scraping around trying to collect the troops it requires. Does the Minister accept that that is an urgent requirement in the organisation of the United Nations?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am well aware that the United Nations is looking at ways in which it can use the preventive presence of troops in a number of potentially troublesome areas. But there are no means whereby one can have large numbers of troops earmarked or standing in readiness when the resources of the United Nations are already under enormous pressure, given the number of conflicts that exist at the present time. I believe that the discussions that are going on within the UN about how to deal with so many conflicts simultaneously will give us a better indication of how they can be dealt with more quickly in the future.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, bearing in mind that Resolution 918 included explicit reference to the appalling breaches of human rights in the massive killing of people that has occurred, will Her Majesty's Government raise the matter at the human rights commission later this month and have they particularly thought of appointing human rights monitors so that those aspects can be dealt with as well as the matter of relief?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, these matters will indeed be raised at the next commission meeting. The appointment of human rights monitors in the current situation is difficult, given that we shall have to think hard about how even the troops going to Rwanda to try to make and keep the peace can operate. Human rights monitors would be obvious targets for the killing gangs still marauding throughout Rwanda. However, I take careful note of what the noble Lord says because it is of great concern to us that there are so many groups literally mad with killing fever in that country still.

Forward to