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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:09 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 7:09 pm, 30th March 2009

Yes, and my hon. Friend has delayed my expressing it by 35 seconds. As a former colonial power, we have both an advantage and a disadvantage. That has allowed people such as Mugabe to blame all their deficiencies on British colonisation. Now that Africa has seen off European colonisation, one thing that I would not like to see is its sort of recolonisation by other entities. We have heard about China. We have problems with our expeditions into other countries; using armed forces in other people's countries is very dangerous. I would love it if that could happen in Zimbabwe, but I am afraid it is not going to happen. I can see the advantage of the proposal, but I feel that it would exacerbate matters.

While there must be a lot of endeavour from the international community—I will mention that in a moment—one would hope that the pressure for democratisation would come from below. I say that because in the past 15 or 20 years the role played by the trade union movement in Africa has been very significant in the process of helping to overturn not only colonisation but in some cases the appalling regimes that followed the lowering of the flags of colonial countries. Some of those involved have become Prime Ministers, so civil society is very important.

I hope that the process of democratisation may be spurred by assistance. I do not mean assistance to create a revolution, albeit a peaceful one. I am talking about assistance from so many organisations in the world, such as the United Nations, the European Union, national Governments, non-governmental organisations that are greatly funded by their national Governments, and institutions such as the Commonwealth and La Francophonie. I hope that that will help to create knowledge, awareness and expertise among good people in NGOs operating in civil society, and in banned parties, that will bring about the flowering of democracy—not in the Swedish style immediately—rather than its being imposed from outside.

One of the ironies in examining what the British Government have done can be found when considering a very good effort being made by the Department for International Development. I have said the following before, but it still causes me amusement. If one looks in the annual report, which is a very thick document, one finds that the only reference to democratisation in its index relates to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is as though DFID is too timid to mention that it is in the business of helping to promote democracy, so it hides that behind good governance, human rights and so on.

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