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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:13 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary 4:13 pm, 30th March 2009

All friends of Sierra Leone, in all parts of this House, should be concerned about the situation there. The Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend Mr. Lewis, will be travelling to Sierra Leone tomorrow, and I know that this question will be high on his agenda. Throughout government and in civil society, there are profound links between Britain and Sierra Leone and we all want to see progress there. I am sure that my hon. Friend will report back to the House after his visit.

Right hon. and hon. Members took a lot of interest in the situation in Kenya, and I shall address that, given the focus on conflict. We remain concerned for the country's future. There are signs that the reform process begun 15 months ago might be losing momentum. Insufficient efforts have been made to end the climate of impunity, and the failure of the Kenyan Parliament to agree the formation of a special tribunal was a setback for efforts to secure justice for victims of the post-election violence. Corruption and mismanagement are still significant problems; recent allegations underline why Kenyans are calling for their Government to show that they are accountable and transparent, and to uphold the rule of law. Unless the pace of political reform picks up, the outlook is bleak. We want progress on the national accord in order to prevent a repeat of last year's violence.

Elsewhere, it is clear that a strong international role is needed. In Sudan, the UK is a strong supporter of the Darfur political process and the African Union-United Nations chief mediator, Djibril Bassolé. We will continue to support efforts to reach a lasting political settlement with security established and civil society engaged. We shall work for a lasting political accommodation between Khartoum and Juba that ensures full implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement.

I want to say a little about the International Criminal Court. Sudan's response to the ICC's issue of an arrest warrant for President Bashir is no excuse to derail the objectives of securing long-term peace. I urged the Government of Sudan to engage fully with the court, reiterating the UK's consistent support for the ICC, and calling on all parties to avoid escalation. That raises the question of humanitarian support in that country, given the announcements by President Bashir.

The UK pledged £330 million for Sudan for 2008 to 2011 at the Sudan consortium of international donors in May 2008. The immediate concern is the human suffering created by the dismissal of international non-governmental organisations. Initial estimates suggest that those non-governmental organisations provided 50 per cent. of the current humanitarian relief effort in Darfur alone. Their expulsion could result in 1 million people losing access to clean water and sanitation, up to 1.5 million losing access to primary health care and disruption to food distribution for up to 1.1 million people. We will continue to urge the Government of Sudan to reverse their decision and are working closely with the UN and NGOs on contingency measures to get aid to the most vulnerable. That will continue throughout April, when key decisions will have to be taken in Khartoum by the Government of Sudan, and any response by the international community, whether in New York or elsewhere, will have to be forthcoming, including issues to be considered by the African Union, based in Addis Ababa, and the Arab League.

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