Topical debates — Kenya

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 1:37 pm, 17th January 2008

The situation in Kenya is extremely serious, for Kenyans and for black Africa as a whole. Kenya's stability since independence has enabled it to attract inward investment in sectors such as tourism, horticulture, telecoms and banking. It is a low-income country, but not so poor as to count as one of the world's least developed nations.

Just after the new year, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Mr. Speaker to attend the conference of Commonwealth Speakers. I was able to speak at some length with quite a few of the African Speakers and to get their views. They were extremely concerned about what was happening in Kenya, in part for the reasons outlined by Mr. Simpson. Mombasa is the seaport for Uganda and Rwanda, and a great deal of the exports from Burundi also go through it. In addition, Jomo Kenyatta airport is a regional hub for countries in sub-Saharan Africa and around the Indian ocean.

The crisis with Kenya's stability is a problem for Africa for other reasons as well. The unexpected collapse of the rule of law in Kenya has sent a signal to investors in other parts of the world that Africa is not a safe place to do business, and that could have very serious consequences for the continent's development.

Some people in the media and elsewhere in this country—including some Kenyan expatriates living here—have suggested that Britain should do something, such as supervising new elections. Yesterday evening, I attended a meeting on Kenya organised by the all-party group on Africa, and I heard a Kenyan expatriate call for Britain to send in the troops. The Government must be level-headed. We are not the colonial power—Kenya has been independent for almost 50 years. We would not expect to step in to manage the affairs of India, France or the United States if they faced an electoral crisis, and we should not do so in Kenya.

I support strongly the visit of John Kufuor, chairman of the African Union, which seemed at least to damp down the violence, for which we should all be grateful. I hope that Kofi Annan will soon be fit and able to visit the country and start work toward a process of reconciliation. Well respected African leaders are more likely to be able to broker some sort of settlement than a UK envoy.

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