Burundi

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 10 December 2015.

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Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 5:17, 10 December 2015

I am sure that those comments will be appreciated. They are certainly appreciated by me.

My hon. Friend spoke about the African Union and the EU, and the engagement between the two is incredibly important. We have supported the East African Community in trying to deliver a regional solution. I hope to meet President Museveni and to co-operate with his efforts to effect a regional solution to the crisis in Burundi. We will do everything we can to support him in those endeavours.

We encourage the whole region and the African Union to play a strong role in urging Burundi to take part in an inclusive dialogue outside Burundi. That would do much to pave the way for a substantive solution to the crisis. Peacekeeping will be part of that. I will also be discussing the possibility of a stand-by rapid reaction force with the region.

It was under the UK’s presidency of the UN Security Council that resolution 2248 was agreed. That resolution demonstrates the unity of the international community in its approach to the crisis. We continue to work with the African Union to mobilise financial and political resources to support the mediation process. We will continue to work with our colleagues around the world on contingency options in case things go wrong. We plan to make things go right, but we are also planning contingencies in case they do not.

The Department for International Development is providing nearly £15 million to support the international relief effort for refugees fleeing to countries like Tanzania. That will be channelled through the United Nations refugee agency and the World Food Programme. The Department for International Development is providing close to a further £4 million for the refugee response in Rwanda through the United Nations and non-governmental organisations. That has been used to fund refugee transport, medical care, shelters and food rations.

Perhaps this is a good point to respond to my hon. Friend’s plea for us to do more. I am sure that the Foreign Office would not want me to over-promise, but I think that now is the time to review this situation across the Foreign Office and across the Department for International Development. I am happy to pledge to have a meeting with the Minister in DFID to see whether our response is appropriate, proportionate and co-ordinated. We have made efforts to ensure that it is all of those things, but I am sure we could do more. I do not think that anyone who sat in my office before the Rwandan genocide would have regretted spending more time on that issue rather than less.

The UK strongly supports a sanctions regime for Burundi. Four individuals have been listed so far, and the European Union and the African Union are giving consideration to further sanctions against individuals. I personally have made a number of calls to the Burundian Foreign Minister, Alain Aimé Nyamitwe, following the inflammatory comments made by the President and the president of the Senate, some of which my hon. Friend read out. They were truly distressing and hauntingly similar to words that were uttered in Rwanda before the genocide.

Our work in the region, in the European Union and with the United Nations has undoubtedly had an impact. The Burundian Government have already shown increased restraint in their deployment of the police and security forces, and they have finally accepted the notion of inclusive dialogue through article 96 consultations with the European Union, for which the UK pushed very hard. Under those consultations, the European Union will press Burundi on a range of issues related to the current crisis, including press freedom, human rights defenders and the proper functioning of the judiciary.

Looking ahead, I will visit Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi this month. I will be looking at a broad range of issues, but the main reason for my going is the situation in Burundi and its regional implications. I will meet members of each Government and members of the Burundian opposition, humanitarian organisations and UN agencies. I will listen to regional views on the situation and discuss how the UK and the international community could further support steps towards political dialogue. I will emphasise that the eyes of the world are on Burundi. I will call for urgent action to prevent the country from descending into civil war. And I will give a strong message that the security and safety of the people of Burundi are ultimately the responsibility of the Burundian Government.

To conclude, the UK is doing everything possible to ensure peace and prosperity for the Burundian people, but to achieve that, Burundi must step up and engage with the international community. To that end, we will continue to work with international partners, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the East African Community. I again thank my hon. Friend for giving us the opportunity to debate these important issues in the House, and for his lobbying, which is in large part what is leading me to go to those countries later this month to advocate Her Majesty’s Government’s, and his, cause.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.