Topical debates — Kenya

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:22 pm, 17th January 2008

I am pleased to be able to make a brief contribution to today's topical debate on Kenya and to follow my hon. Friend James Duddridge.

I have never visited the country, and therefore have no personal experience of it, although I have many friends who have visited on business or on holiday and tell me what a beautiful place it is and what great people Kenyans are. However, the results of the recent elections and the subsequent crisis remain of great concern to us all. The humanitarian issues remain tragic and the consequences are very worrying for the future. The indiscriminate violence has been appalling and still, sadly, continues. Without doubt, the top priority for Kenya's political leaders and the international community must be to bring the murder and violence to an end. All Kenyan political leaders have an obligation, and must do everything in their power, to end the bloodshed and to start talking.

As we have heard from many Members in a very good and measured debate, Kenya has been quite different from many of its African neighbours, with relative stability. Surely compromise and all the politicians working together must now be the answer. The efforts of the African Union, the United Nations and the Commonwealth to bring political reconciliation must be supported, and I welcome what the Minister said about that in her opening remarks. We must all be ready to assist wherever possible. I strongly support the questions posed by my hon. Friend Mr. Simpson in his opening speech from the Opposition Front Bench.

While accepting, as the Minister did in response to my intervention, that a political solution is vital and the way forward, the suffering of the people must not be forgotten. In the UK, we must be ready to respond to the appeals from the Kenyan Red Cross for humanitarian support. The displacement of people, the destruction of homes, the violence, the killings and the problems of so many are heart-rending, and we remember that today. The UK-based charity Merlin Relief International has stated, and I hope that the Minister will note, that it needs £300,000 to continue its work beyond the end of this month in Nyanaza province alone. What plans has the Minister made for dispatching aid, especially financial provision, to Kenya and supporting the efforts of UK charities such as Merlin and the British Red Cross? These are vital areas where we should be looking to help. Of course, the political influence that the Government can exert is very important, but the humanitarian aspect is equally so.

Kenyans complain bitterly of Government corruption, stressing that few of their own parliamentary leaders visit the poorest areas and that domestic and foreign aid packages are mis-targeted or appropriated so that they do not reach those in greatest need. Others claim that neither Kenyan nor foreign leaders fully appreciate the problems facing the common man and woman in the country. That hinders the effective application of aid packages. All the issues that have been raised today on both sides of the House have highlighted how critical the situation is, and we urge the Government to do everything possible.