Rwanda

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th January 1997.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South 12:00 am, 27th January 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further assessment he has made of the effects of conditions attached to aid from (a) the World bank and (b) other sources on the causes of the civil war in Rwanda. [11139]

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The causes of the crisis in Rwanda are complex and go back many generations. However, the report, "Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda", did not conclude that previous development assistance was a primary cause of the crisis in Rwanda.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Does the Minister agree that the five-volume report, which the Minister of State has placed in the Library, makes it clear that there were many factors in the crisis? Is it not true that an over-emphasis on competition, particularly among people of similar ethnic background and in certain regions of a country, increases the risk of armed conflict? Has not history shown that that is true? Would not it be good if in future the World bank, the International Monetary Fund and national Governments paid attention to that fact when drawing up loan conditions?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

It is certainly true that the report's historical analysis attaches some blame to ethnic policies during the colonial period, although the United Kingdom was not primarily involved in that area. Our aid to Rwanda is of a humanitarian nature, and we should remember that people in Rwanda—regardless of which ethnic group they belong to—may be starving. Our primary objective in Rwanda is to deal with its humanitarian needs.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Does the Minister recall that, last week, the Foreign Secretary admitted that the United Nations' arms embargo is not enforceable in our dependencies, which is why Mil-Tec of the Isle of Man was able to supply more than £3 million of arms to the perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda? Will the Minister assure us that no other such violations are occurring, and attempt to close the loophole so that seedy companies in those island boltholes cannot undermine all our humanitarian efforts?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I might have expected that the hon. Gentleman, rather than concentrating on the £175 million bilateral humanitarian aid that the United Kingdom has given since 1994, would try to find the single negative aspect in Britain's involvement in the Rwanda crisis. Customs and Excise is currently considering whether there is a case for more prosecutions, and I am therefore unable to answer his specific question. Should further details emerge, I will write to him. Instead of the pathetic sniping we have just heard, it would be nice if, for once, the Opposition were to praise the United Kingdom for the help it has provided in the Great Lakes crisis, and to praise our non-governmental organisations and those who put their lives at risk.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Is it not the case that the countries of Africa and elsewhere that have complied with programmes suggested by the World bank made very great progress, whereas countries such as Rwanda, which are involved in political expression and racial politics, have not lived up to the standards of the new Africa and new developing countries?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I should have thought that it was self-evident that the political situation in Rwanda is holding back any economic development. There has been much economic movement in neighbouring countries such as Tanzania or Uganda, in which there has been some political co-operation—which, sadly, we have not seen in some of the other countries of the Great Lakes region. I hope that the Governments in the region will co-operate to provide a stable political environment in which economic development can occur in Rwanda. Clearly there must be a regional solution; we cannot impose one from outside, through financial institutions or by other means.