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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:31 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud 9:31 pm, 30th March 2009

I shall be very brief, to give Simon Hughes at least a few minutes to say something. I heard the speech on Darfur made by my friend, in this respect, John Bercow. I intend not to cover the same ground, but to talk about Sudan for three or four minutes, because Darfur is not the totality of Sudan.

This is an absolutely key year in the great country of Sudan, which has the largest land mass and the sixth largest population in Africa. Later this year, in July, elections are supposed to start that will lead to the referendum on whether the north and the south finally split in 2011. It is vital that those elections take place according to a proper timetable, and that we in the UK and the west give sufficient support to ensure that they take place and are properly monitored, so that we can get the best possible result—an outcome that is fair and proper.

The country has a number of difficulties at the moment. We have heard about Darfur from a number of hon. Members; but of course, tensions exist between the north and the south. Much of that tension is to do with the failing price of oil, which brings with it much peril to Sudan's population, because people have become dependent on that money. I should like to say that we in the west have a proud record in being willing and able to provide foreign aid to support those oil moneys. I exonerate the Government of this country, but too often, sadly, the promises that have been made—in Oslo, for example—have not been delivered, and Sudan has therefore failed to have sufficient resources to do what it needs to do to bring some stability and peace to that bedevilled country.

My plea, which goes via the DFID Minister and to the Foreign Office, is that we do what the people of Sudan always ask us to do—not to lose sight of them, given all the other great tragedies of the world. As Sir Nicholas Winterton so clearly laid out before us, Zimbabwe brings its own tensions to Africa and the wider world, but when we go to Sudan, we are always requested to remember that, too often, it slips down the agenda. This is the year more than any other when our eyes and—dare I say?—our budgets should be concentrated on ensuring that that country, which has had so many problems not least in Darfur, has a chance to move forward after so many years of conflict. I for one will hold the Government to account, and I hope that other parliamentarians will do likewise, to ensure that we play our part and that the great country of Sudan can do what is needed with the elections, and subsequently the referendum.

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