Burundi

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd November 2000.

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Photo of Ms Oona King Ms Oona King Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow 12:00 am, 22nd November 2000

If she will make a statement on her Department's aid projects in Burundi. [138104]

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

Burundi is still at war despite Nelson Mandela's efforts to facilitate peace. Our support is therefore confined to humanitarian assistance. We have contributed more than £41 million since 1994. We stand ready to provide appropriate support if peace is agreed, but are not in a position to take a leading role in Burundi. We shall also of course be providing considerable support through our European Union contributions.

Photo of Ms Oona King Ms Oona King Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. She will be aware that, since the outbreak of the civil war in Burundi in 1993, 200,000 people have died. What assistance might the Government be able to offer the peace process in Burundi? Might Burundi benefit from funds from the conflict prevention fund for sub-Saharan Africa?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

I agree with my hon. Friend that the suffering in Burundi is great; in fact, 20 per cent. of the population of Africa are affected by conflict. That is devastating for the people of Africa and holds back human development. We must all do more to resolve conflict wherever we can.

We are already helping the Burundi peace process, through technical support and inputs to the peace negotiators. The pooled fund is intended to cause the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and my Department to work more actively together to resolve conflict; some of the funding already provided to Burundi has gone to the notional funding for that, so it is likely that we shall help in that way. However, the point of the fund is to make a strong impact through the UK's efforts in resolving conflict in Africa.

Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

Burundi is one of the least developed countries and would benefit from the everything but arms initiative from European Commissioner Pascal Lamy. That is greatly to be welcomed. Is the right hon. Lady aware, however, that that initiative, which is to be decided as early as 5 December at the ministerial meeting in Brussels, would in fact result in impoverishing some African, Caribbean and Pacific countries—in particular those that produce sugar, bananas, rum and rice?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

The hon. Gentleman seems to be taking two slightly contradictory positions. The least developed countries—most of which are in Africa and thus benefit from the African, Caribbean and Pacific tariff options—make up 0.4 per cent. of world trade. Those are the poorest countries in the world. Pascal Lamy's proposal, which we strongly support, is that those countries should be given improved access to the European market. A campaign has been mounted by countries which produce sugar, bananas and rum, and which feel threatened. We shall obviously look into any adjustment help that is needed. I do not think that the least developed countries—least of all Burundi—will be able to build up their exports quickly—until peace is achieved.

Photo of Ms Tess Kingham Ms Tess Kingham Labour, Gloucester

This morning I had a very enjoyable breakfast with the World Service and heard about the World Service's Great Lakes lifeline project, a regular radio broadcast in Burundi that is funded by the Department for International Development. Does my right hon. Friend believe that such radio broadcasts can contribute to the peace-building process in Burundi, and will we continue to fund peace-building media projects that disseminate the peace message through civil society?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

I hope that my hon. Friend's children enjoyed the broadcast as much as she obviously did. Such broadcasts are very important. In Rwanda, hate radio played an enormous part in building up the hate and lies that generated the atmosphere that led to the genocide. The same sort of thing happened in the Balkans. Now that radio technology has become so flexible, we are increasingly trying to deploy it to get truth through to people in situations where there is a lot of conflict, and a lot of dishonesty that feeds that conflict.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

Does the Secretary of State agree that the continuing war in the Great Lakes region is a destabilising factor in Burundi? Does she also agree that the free flow of small arms into that region is a major factor in continuing that war? What pressure is she bringing to bear on her Government to introduce the promised legislation on the control of arms brokers?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

I very much agree that the war in the Great Lakes is causing enormous destabilisation and involving many countries in Africa in conflict. Small arms are circulating around the continent of Africa that are manufactured within the continent, not imported, so we must do more to extract small arms, using different initiatives such as the one in the Southern Africa Development Community and the one in west Africa. The Government strongly support and will introduce the legislation to which the hon. Lady refers, although I cannot say exactly when.