I beg to move,
That this House
recognises the importance of stability in Central and East Africa to the security of the United Kingdom;
welcomes the Government’s continued engagement in the region and commitment to the spending of development aid to ensure good governance and the eradication of corruption and extreme poverty;
deplores the use of violence or terror by any party to secure political aims;
and calls on the Government to adopt further measures, together with the international community, to prevent civil war and ensure that the rule of law is maintained.
The motion stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy. In many senses, this debate, which I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for having granted, is opportune, but in some respects it has come on extraordinarily quickly, given that it was only asked for last Tuesday. Many Members who would have wished to speak are not here because the International Development Committee is currently in Brussels. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for responding to the debate, but, as I understand it, my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa is also currently overseas.
I myself returned from east Africa this morning in something of a hurry. I should record my considerable thanks to the hon. Members who threatened—if I can put it in those terms—to stand in for me, had I not managed to make a rather convoluted journey from Nairobi to Addis Ababa and back to London. In particular, I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Richard Benyon), for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) and for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), who, in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, all offered to move the motion if I was not here.
The UK’s diplomatic and developmental policies in Africa are a wide topic, which, in one sense, has been made no less wide by limiting the debate to two regions. Although patterns in their experiences can be seen across the continent, the nations of east and central Africa have particular problems that call for consideration in the House. It is important, therefore, that the House has a chance to debate the issues and how the UK’s response can best achieve peace and stability not only in the region, but for us.
Everyone in the House knows that Africa is growing, but recent UN estimates have changed how we look at the continent’s demography. In 2004, the UN predicted that Africa’s population would grow to 2.3 billion by the end of the century, within a global population of 9.1 billion. It now estimates, however, that the global population will in fact be 11.2 billion and that almost all of those extra people will be in Africa. According to the UN, the continent will be home to 4.4 billion people—an increase of 2 billion on its previous estimate.
If the new projections are right, the effect on geopolitics across the world will be huge. It will mean that by the end of this century almost 40% of the world’s population will be African. To put it in perspective, that is four times the share of Europe and north America combined and almost the same as the share of Asia. Currently,
Africa has only one of the world’s 10 most populous countries, but the UN says that by 2100 it will have five: Nigeria, Tanzania, Niger, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. All of them, of course, feature in the regions being considered today.
Much could change over the next eight decades, and things might be different by the end of the century, but at present none of these countries is either particularly prosperous or has demonstrated incredible stability over the last decades. Even if they make progress, the pressure caused by a quadrupling of their populations will, at best, hinder their efforts to secure that stability and, at worst, derail them entirely. Those pressures will be felt by every country in the region in different ways and at different times.
We and our constituents might ask why that should be a problem for the UK. Even if we set aside the humanitarian and moral considerations, which I know many people in the House and the country do not, we have to understand that this is not just a problem for Africa; it affects our own security, because, if population pressures are not properly dealt with and if African Governments do not embrace stable democracy and tackle corruption, the continent will not move forward, and that will have implications for us. Stable economies are not possible without stable government, and only stable economies can lift people out of the poverty endemic in the region and allow them to live dignified and meaningful lives.
Corruption and political infighting are rife across east and central Africa—indeed, across the entire continent—and if nothing is done to tackle them, things will not only stay the same but get worse.
One of the advantages of this sort of debate is that it allows us to raise constituency problems. My hon. and learned Friend will know of my constituent, Nicholas Monson, whose son, Alexander Monson, was beaten to death—the evidence is overwhelming—in a police cell in Kenya. Will he encourage the Minister to go on encouraging our high commissioner in Kenya to ensure that justice is done and that Kenya has a proper judicial system? This poor boy lost his life.
As my hon. Friend says, I do know about the case, and I am very happy to encourage the Minister and his colleagues in the Foreign Office to do everything they can to ensure that the Kenyan authorities do everything they can to bring those responsible to justice, not just for the family but for everybody who has sustained some injustice in Kenya or elsewhere in the developing world.
As we have seen on our shores in recent months, another problem caused by increasing populations across Africa is people wanting to travel here in search of a better life. We know from past and present experiences that their numbers are increasing. The House has to grapple with this issue. Ensuring stable development, democracy and politics across east and central Africa is most definitely our problem, because without it we will see more of the sort of migration we have on our shores now.
The region is wide and comprises many states—right hon. and hon. Members will no doubt wish to discuss a number of them—but I want to concentrate on eight.
Four are extremely fragile: Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The other four are doing rather better but are at risk of instability: Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. While each nation is perhaps unhappy in its own way—to borrow a phrase—patterns and themes emerge that play out not only regionally but across the continent. We must recognise those themes, some of which I have already highlighted, if we are to play a successful role in helping Africa to develop and thrive, for its benefit and, as I hope I have made clear, ours.
One pattern that emerges strongly when we look at the region is that of democratic process. We all know that elections are extremely important, and we need to continue to encourage democracy whenever we can. When there are problems with the process, they can become a flashpoint for violence and instability, particularly in this part of the world. Multi-party democratic states are touted, where they are set up, as a way of ensuring peace and prosperity for individual nations. When those in charge are seen to be flouting the rules or feathering their own nests, as is sometimes the case, populations understandably react.
A particularly prolific source of violence at the moment stems from the continued attempts of some of those who hold political office to extend constitutional term limits. It happened, for example, in Chad, where the two-term presidential limit was scrapped in 2004 by President Déby, who has now been in charge since 1990 and is expected to win again comfortably in the elections taking place this April. He has a tight grip on power, and it is fair to say that he strives to silence dissenting voices. Amid heightened social tensions and the regional spread of Islamist activism from Boko Haram in Nigeria, Chad will remain vulnerable to destabilisation attempts. We have to be aware that although violence has thus far been minimal, there is a risk of more widespread instability that could give safe haven to armed militias and violent Islamist groups.
An example of the serious instability to which the extension of presidential constitutional time limits and tinkering with them can lead, is currently being played out in Burundi. It began in April last year when President Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term, arguing, as Members know from the debate led by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, that he had not reached his constitutional two-term limit because he was appointed rather than elected for his first term. It was a position with which few agreed, but he stayed in office none the less.
While he was out of the country in May, there was a failed army coup, and he was easily re-elected in July. Since then, we have heard a familiar tune, with independent media shut down, opponents murdered and opposition-leaning neighbourhoods raided. Young men are taking up arms in a way that we have not seen since the 1990s, which is extremely concerning for those of us who are old enough to have witnessed the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. In Burundi, of course, there have been attempted assassinations, and we know that security forces have gone from house to house, murdering suspected opposition fighters.
The UN estimates that more than 200,000 Burundians have fled since April, with many going to Rwanda. Rumours are flying that Tutsis forced to leave Burundi will join with their fellow tribesmen in the Rwandan
Government to intervene against the Hutu-dominated Burundian regime. The whole region is therefore something of a flashpoint. Memories of the genocide are all too recent. Thankfully, a descent into out-and-out ethnic violence has so far not happened, but the fears are well placed and widespread, as I know from spending the last three days in Kigali, where, I should make clear to the House, the better part of team Phillips is currently working for the Government.
I thank my hon. and learned Friend. It is a tale of woe that he is telling about Burundi. It is perhaps more within the British sphere of influence than Chad, which is part of the more Francophone part of Africa. He is imparting to the House his intimate knowledge of this particular area, but what about the solutions? Many of our fellow citizens will throw their hands in the air, thinking that this is a hopeless case and wondering what we are doing putting yet more money into general budgets for these sorts of nations. Although it is not a view with which I would agree, there is that sense of despair. Does my hon. and learned Friend have any idea how, slowly but surely, we can play our part, along with other UN partners, to ensure that we get a better state of affairs in Burundi and in the wider region?
I am grateful for that intervention. A number of things could be done in the long term, some of which I shall come on to. Deterring the corruption that has been rife in Burundi is one of them. Having proper enforcement of the anti-corruption convention and, indeed, the African Union’s convention on preventing and combating corruption would assist not just in Burundi, but elsewhere. Specific things could be done immediately, too.
I would like to commend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend James Duddridge, who has responsibility for Africa, for travelling to the region just before Christmas and speaking to the Burundian Government about some of the language used, which was reminiscent of the language used prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. I am also very pleased to see in his place on the Front Bench the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend Mr Swayne. He will know that as a result of the corruption in Burundi, his Department withdrew its support for the Government. One issue that the Government need to look at and consider is restoring that support. Without it, it is fair to say that the UK will have a voice that is less likely to be listened to by the existing Government of Burundi and elsewhere.
A number of us were privileged to hear Bill Gates speak earlier today. One thing he said was that, generally speaking, the better off a country is, the more it is inclined towards democracy, good systems of government, health care and everything that flows from it. My right hon. Friend Mark Field asked about solutions, and clearly one key point is that we should be focused on trying to improve the economic state of these countries and, therefore, the systems of governance that flow from that.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; I agree with him. Perhaps when the Minister responds to this debate, he will tell us that that is a particular focus of the Government, which I think would be a useful thing for the Government to say.
It is important to clarify the situation in Burundi. Following the bilateral aid review in 2010, Britain ceased to have the very small programme it previously had in Burundi, partly because the costs of running the programme were so great, but secondly because France and Germany had a much bigger stake in the country. Britain—quite rightly, in my view—prioritised its interventions in many of the other countries that my hon. and learned Friend is addressing, in the interest of focusing on those we could most directly affect rather than those we could not affect.
Having made those decisions, my right hon. Friend will know far more about them than anyone else. I do not say that they were bad decisions at the time, but in answer to my right hon. Friend Mark Field, the UK has probably had something of a lesser voice in the counsels of Burundi than might otherwise have been the case. I have made a suggestion—the Minister may be aware of it—that given his ministerial responsibilities, he might like to encourage his counterparts in China, who do have a strong voice in Burundi, to discourage President Nkurunziza from going down the route that he appears to be attempting to go down.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that one consideration in withdrawing aid from Burundi, which comes through from speaking to British aid workers in the region, is simply the level of corruption and the inability to deliver an aid programme against that backdrop?
I do accept that. Indeed, extensive corruption and the lack of assurance that the aid was reaching its intended targets were among the reasons I gave to explain why aid was withdrawn from Burundi.
I congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman on securing this debate. On my visit to Burundi in 2009, I visited a Save the Children hospital that was helping women who needed Caesarean sections to deliver their babies safely. That was one of the many projects that we funded in country, and it made a real difference in a country where one in five under-fives did not make it to their fifth birthday. I agree that by withdrawing from the country, we have a lesser voice and less influence. I gently say to all hon. Members that what Chad and the Central African Republic have in common is their abject poverty and the fact that they are so-called aid orphans. There are ways to channel aid into those countries through the UN and perhaps through partnering with other Governments. We need to be a bit more flexible in the future.
Order. It is intended that the opening speech lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. We are running over already and many Members wish to speak. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman will want to conclude his speech shortly.
I am grateful for your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady makes a strong point. There is a balance to be struck between deciding whether aid will be displaced and the influence for good that British aid can have.
With your injunction in mind, Mr Deputy Speaker, let me move on to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has similar problems. The constitution says that President Joseph Kabila must stand down this year, but many doubt that he will. He has been in charge since his father was assassinated in 2001. DRC has itself been the subject of an appalling civil war in the past and the worry must be that if he does not stand down, and instead seeks to circumvent the constitutional time limits, that will lead to violence and instability in the region.
There is also concern about the ongoing elections in the Central African Republic. Ongoing violence between rival Christian and Muslim armed groups since 2012 has displaced about 1 million people, and countless different militias control various parts of the country. Although the first round of presidential elections last month seems to have gone well and, thankfully, to have passed off peacefully, no winner has emerged yet and it is not entirely clear what is going on in the CAR and what the state of its Government is. It might be suggested that it is something of a tinderbox—some in the print media have said that—and if there is not a smooth run-off vote, that could spark a new round of violence.
The important point is about political stability. Constitutions are there to be observed, and if they are not—if people treat themselves as having a right to govern and to govern for as long as they want—that is detrimental to fragile democracies and is likely to lead to political violence, and runs the risk of leading to civil war. Such civil war is what Rwanda went through in 1994. One of my earliest political memories is of the appalling pictures we saw on our televisions of the genocide, in which approximately 1 million were killed during a period of several months. We must keep those images in mind, because we must try to avoid such a genocide and the political instability that leads to appalling acts of violence against the people of countries in the region, which in turn leads to our having to go into the region and spend British taxpayers’ money to try and restore order and stability, and can lead to problems on these shores in terms of economic migration and terrorism.
I said I would speak about eight countries, but with your injunction in mind, Mr Deputy Speaker, although I have spoken only about four or five I will conclude, as I know many Members wish to contribute. I look forward to hearing those contributions and the Minister’s position and that of the Opposition in due course.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I congratulate Stephen Phillips—and Jeremy Lefroy, who could not be here this evening, which is a shame—on securing it and enabling us to discuss a wide range of topics.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman has pointed out, the title of the debate could encompass many countries, subjects and themes. I will focus on a few specific issues, on which I would be interested to hear the views of the Government and other Members. I wish to discuss Somaliland, which as many Members will know is of great interest to many of my constituents. Cardiff South and Penarth has a strong tradition of Somalilanders and of a Somaliland community. Secondly, I want to talk about the relationship between the security and development situation there and some of the other less satisfactory examples across central and eastern Africa, and the crucial role the UK can play in responding to them. Thirdly, I want to talk about the Welsh local community contribution to development across the region.
Many hon. Members will know that I have long been a supporter of recognition for Somaliland and Somaliland people. That is a long-stated objective of Somalilanders. There has been a referendum that made that very clear. This is a long, complex, historical situation, which has lasted ever since the 1960 decolonisation when Somaliland declared independence first from the UK—it was a British colony—and then the rest of Somalia took its independence and eventually they came together in one country. There has been a long history of tragic conflict between the different parts of the horn of Africa and particularly in that region, and we have come today to a situation where there is a de facto functioning independent Somaliland which has a strong record of development and growth and of looking after its citizens, and indeed of fostering democracy and a plural political system, which is sadly lacking in many other areas across the region and Africa. I pay tribute to the Government in Somaliland and the work they have done over many years, particularly recently, to foster that, and to the commitment of all Somalilanders, including many in the diaspora, who have made a contribution to that both financially, through political support and by getting engaged in the prospects of their home country.
There have been some very positive developments in recent months. Last year we saw a crucial Somaliland trade and investment conference, which was supported by the UK Government. We saw much interest from business and others in investing in Somaliland and taking part in fruitful trading relationships with it. Positive engagement in that region is where stability and growth and support for wider development is going to come from. That was welcome progress. We have also seen a welcome development here in the UK, with cities such Cardiff and Sheffield, and boroughs such Tower Hamlets in London, recognising Somaliland and that historical relationship between Somaliland and the UK, and fostering those links and taking them forward.
However, we also see the risks. We have obviously seen the insecure situation in the rest of the horn of Africa. We see threats from terror groups such as al-Shabaab. We see the instability caused by refugees fleeing the terrible situation in Yemen, for example, across the Red sea, and other such situations in the region, whether in Eritrea, Djibouti or elsewhere, threatening the stability of a region that does have one beacon of stability within it. It is important to recognise the crucial role the UK Government have played through support from the Royal Marines, through training security forces and preparing them to deal with threats to international security—piracy off the coast, for example—and by ensuring there are well-resourced and trained security forces there that can respond to threats not only to the stability and security of Somaliland citizens, but to the wider region.
There are two crucial issues that I would be interested in hearing the Minister’s comments on. First, elections in Somaliland have been postponed until next year. That is not unusual in Somaliland, but it is important that elections continue and that we continue on that democratic path and ensure the people of Somaliland can have a democratic choice about their future Government. I understand from contact with the Government in recent days that the crucial task of voter registration has started, but I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on what the international community can do to ensure that registration continues and that we have a passage to important presidential and parliamentary elections, and on what we can do to observe and make sure those elections go forward.
There have of course been elections in the past in Somaliland with very close results whereby just a few thousand votes separated the two candidate, and power has transferred peacefully and effectively, so I think the hon. Gentleman will want to make it clear that this present glitch does not besmirch a very considerable record in respect of elections in Somaliland.
The right hon. Gentleman, who knows a lot about this issue, makes a crucial point, and all of us who care about Somaliland want to see that progress and stability continue. It has a vibrant political scene with active political parties. I have met representatives from a number of the different parties in recent weeks and they all want to see this go forward. We must play whatever role we can in ensuring both voter registration and elections go ahead.
Lastly on Somaliland, I want briefly to touch on the talks between Somalia and Somaliland being held under the auspices of the Turkish Government. There were some important high-level talks in Turkey between senior representatives of the Somalia federal Government and its Somaliland counterpart in 2014, and there were various contacts over a series of confidence-building measures and practical issues that could be addressed around aviation and telecommunications and so on. However, there has been a fall-back since those talks, and I would be interested to know the Government’s view on the status of the talks and whether they see them as having any value. If not, could other confidence-building activities take place between Somalia and Somaliland, in the light of their very different positions, to encourage contact between the two countries?
The hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham rightly highlighted the wider trends in security and development across eastern and central Africa, and I want briefly to mention a few countries that are of great concern to me and to other hon. Members. We had an excellent Adjournment debate here in the Chamber a couple of months ago on Eritrea, secured by my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook. The debate rightly highlighted the grave situation in that country and the many human rights abuses that are occurring there. I know that the Government share those concerns, and I would be interested to hear from the Minister how he sees that situation developing. I am also deeply worried by the activities of Eritrean
Government representatives pursuing Eritrean citizens here in the UK for payment of taxes, and for other reasons, in allegedly intimidating ways. We do not want to see those kinds of activities on these shores; they certainly do not contribute to the fostering of good relations between the Eritrean diaspora and the country itself.
Many concerns are also being expressed about the situation in the Central African Republic. The Minister for Africa—the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, James Duddridge, who sadly cannot be with us this evening—answered a question from me recently in which he made it clear that the security situation in the CAR was grave and that outside the capital, Bangui, violence, looting, hostage-taking and human rights abuses continued to occur with relative impunity. These countries do not always make the headlines here or globally, but these matters should be of concern to all of us here in the House as humanitarians and as proponents of development, democracy and good governance around the world. We cannot just pay attention to the countries that make the headlines. If we are concerned about these issues, we should be concerned about them wherever they occur. Similarly, great concern has been expressed about the situation in Chad, and we have also heard at length about the fears about the way in which the situation in Burundi might develop.
All those situations underline the fact that it is crucial that the UK Government continue to pursue a joined-up approach to development, diplomacy and defence and security issues in their relationships with this region. I was pleased to hear the announcement by the Secretary of State for International Development on further investment in fragile and conflict states. I know that Mr Mitchell also pursued this matter while he was in office. Indeed, it was started under the last Labour Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander. I worked in the Department at that time, and we certainly felt that it was important to focus on that issue.
We need to be putting more resources into these situations in order to do preventive work, rather than simply responding to conflict. That could include supporting the development of democratic governance, the rights of women and girls, elections and electoral processes, low-level security measures and justice measures. All those things give confidence to populations and enable us to get on to the important issues such as health, education and the wider development that is absolutely crucial. Our development assistance plays a crucial role in that.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I suspect that he would agree that the Government have got it right in this regard and that the new aid strategy is a definite step forward in trying to integrate security, intelligence and defence with what one might call the slightly more traditional aid and international development goals. Does he agree that we have got the balance right in ensuring that roughly 50% the Department’s budget goes into those fragile nation areas, rather than repeating what happened in the past, with un-earmarked amounts of money finding their way into more general budgets that could not be properly accounted for?
Yes, I agree with the hon. Gentleman in principle. It is important that we focus on those fragile countries that are affected by conflict, but I would gently make two points. It is important to support Governments directly, albeit with important criteria attached. Unless we support the development of strong governmental systems—for example, in healthcare and education—we will not see the necessary consistency and co-ordination of approach involving the non-governmental and international organisations operating in the country. In this country, it was only through forming the national health service and a unified education system that we were able to make the necessary progress in our own history. So I would not want us to move completely away from providing Governments with support, but it is important that it should be properly scrutinised and accounted for.
It is also important that considerations such as human rights should be taken into account. I remember a particular example that the previous Labour Government were involved with, when the then President of Malawi was proposing to spend an awful lot of money on a presidential jet. It was made very clear that that was not acceptable, and the money was subsequently funnelled through alternative channels to ensure that it got to the people who needed it rather than being used for that sort of corruption.
It is probably fair to say that virtually everyone here in the Chamber tonight is a great supporter of the Government’s strategy of allocating 0.7% of GDP to international aid. However, we should also accept that there is probably a silent minority in the House, and a rather less silent majority in the country at large, who do not buy into that idea. Having a strategy along the lines of the one that the Government have put in place will therefore make it easier to sell the idea, not only in our own self-interest but in recognition of the fact that there is a dangerous and uncertain world out there, and that the security and defence aspects of our policy have an important part to play and need to be integrated into our entire development budget.
I agree was the broad point that the hon. Gentleman is making. When I am speaking to my own constituents about these matters, I regularly make clear the links between what happens in those countries and what happens on our own streets. We have historic links with those countries, but there have also been tragic occurrences involving, for example, young men from my constituency trying to travel abroad to fight for al-Shabaab and an individual who had studied in Cardiff going to Nigeria to become involved with Boko Haram. What happens in those countries can have a direct and serious impact on what happens on own streets. It is always been clear to me that development is primarily a moral duty for us, but it is also in our common interest across the piece. It is in our common global interest and in the common national interest of this country, and I am never afraid to make that point.
The hon. Gentleman made an important point about co-ordination across Departments. Again, I agree with that in principle but I have experience of certain figures from certain Departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, looking at the DFID budget with an eagle eye and saying, “Well, you can have so much for this and so much for that.” There is sense in having co-ordination and co-operation, but they should not be seen as a way of hiving off chunks of funding and re-labelling them as something else. I know that those on the Opposition Front Bench will be doing an awful lot to scrutinise these matters and to ensure that we see real co-operation rather than the hiving off of parts of budgets for other purposes.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we do not do enough to tell people when we get things right? One such example is Ethiopia, where the UK’s support has reduced child mortality by a quarter, put 4 million more children into primary school and protected almost 8 million people from needing humanitarian food aid. Perhaps if we shared more of those positive stories about getting it right, it would enable people to understand the donations that we make and to appreciate what we are doing overseas.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. Many Members taking part in the debate tonight also put forward that argument. It is crucial that we continue to build confidence in that way. I have seen with my own eyes the impact that UK aid can have not only on helping people directly but on fostering stability, development and security, which in the end benefit the whole of Africa and indeed the whole world.
On the question of success stories, may I remind my hon. Friend of the great success of the last Labour Government in setting up the Rwandan revenue collection authority? We sent representatives of HMRC—which has been in the news again today—over to help to design tax collection systems in Rwanda. That £20 million investment by the UK Government has now reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for Rwanda. I suggested a similar scheme to a senior Minister in the South Sudanese Government when I was in that country in 2012 but, to my disappointment, he rejected the offer to help him to set up his own South Sudanese revenue collection authority.
My hon. Friend gives an important example. She makes the wider point that international development matters that affect this country and the rest of the world need to rest across many of our Departments, not just DFID, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. We need to look at other ways, and other places, in which co-operation can happen.
That leads me neatly to my last point, which is the role of the devolved Administrations in development in eastern and central Africa. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of a new partnership that is developing in Wales, the Hub Cymru Africa. It is bringing together the work of Wales Africa Community Links, the Wales for Africa Health Links Network, the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel, Fair Trade Wales and the Wales International Development Hub. Wales has a strong tradition of internationalism and of caring outside its borders. We have many local and Wales-wide organisations that care deeply about matters of development, human rights, international justice, climate change and so on. The sector in Wales is growing, with more than 350 community groups and micro-organisations working on international development. There is a large fair trade movement, supporting Wales as the first ever fair trade nation, as declared in 2008, and a Welsh Government-supported scheme, which delivers grants to many of those organisations enabling them to take their work forward.
Let me touch on a couple of examples that are relevant to this region of east and central Africa. The Hayaat Women’s Trust from Cardiff uses the expertise of Welsh mental health social workers and psychiatrists to provide training for hospital and outreach workers in Somaliland. It offers help in the identification and treatment of serious mental health disorders, depression and stress and post-conflict trauma reactions. Such assistance is particularly important in regions such as Somaliland that have seen serious conflict and human rights abuses in their history, the effects of which may be coming to the fore only now.
SaddleAid, an interesting scheme in Anglesey, has developed inflatable saddles for emergency transport in Ethiopia. Emergency medical facilities can be taken by donkeys or small horses to the most remote areas. It is a very simple and effective way of getting resources out there, and also of transporting pregnant women to the nearest healthcare facility where they might be supported.
Community Carbon Link based in Lampeter is planting half a million trees for Kenyan schools, and it has run grassroots projects in Kenya for more than eight years. Other organisations include PONT, which is well known in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and has had strong links with Mbale in Uganda for the past 10 years. Over that time, it has trained more than 1,000 healthcare workers, supporting a population of nearly 250,000. Many of those organisations, including Hayaat, have a base in my constituency. Another organisation that plays a crucial role is Penarth and District Lesotho Trust, which is based in Penarth in my constituency. Clearly, the UK Government have a role to play, but so too do individual citizens, and I am proud to say that they are playing it.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. Before I call the next speaker, let me say that it might seem as though we have an endless amount of time, but we have eight Members wishing to speak and three Front-Bench speakers, so if we want a fair allocation of time, people need to stick to about 12 minutes, so that we can get everyone in. I call Mr Andrew Mitchell.
I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Interests. I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips on securing this debate today and on his excellent speech, which he must have written in the small hours of the morning at Addis Ababa airport. He certainly launched this debate extremely effectively.
The debate gives us a chance to pay tribute to the outstanding officials and staff from the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development. The DFID officials, whom I had the privilege to lead for some two and a half years, are doing such outstanding work in the area that we are discussing. We should also pay tribute to the many non-governmental organisations and charities that do such dangerous and vital work in desperate parts of the world. We need only to think of the recent injuries and deaths that have afflicted Médecins Sans Frontières to understand why. Our hearts have to go out to all those who have been maimed or worse serving their fellow men and women in a very difficult part of Africa.
This debate is timely. As my hon. Friend Nusrat Ghani said so eloquently, the scale of the difficulties in this part of the world sometimes mask the scale of our development success. The very great difficulties hide the huge differences that international development can make. Let us be absolutely clear that international development works and that Britain is a key mover and shaker in the deployment of soft power.
British initiatives are being copied all around the world—in America, Australia, throughout Scandinavia, and among UN agencies. Even the European Union is beginning to make some progress in this regard. Let us also be clear that this progress from Britain has happened under both Labour and Conservative Prime Ministers.
Before I come directly to east and central Africa, let me say this: now is the time; we are the generation that can make a colossal difference to these huge discrepancies of opportunity and wealth that exist in our world today, and disfigure it so very greatly. Britain has done extraordinary humanitarian work around the poor and conflicted parts of the world. We think of Syria where Britain’s support for Syrian refugees is greater than all the rest of the European Union added together. We think of the way that Britain has managed to help to get children, particularly girls, into school. In 2000, there were 100 million children in our world who could not go to school, because they did not have a school to go to. Today, that number is heading down from 57 million. The Girls Education Challenge Fund was set up to get 1 million girls into school in parts of the world where there was no state structure in which to do it. It encouraged the private sector, humanitarian organisations, charities and philanthropic organisations to join in that project.
We have been leading the way in tackling disease through vaccination. In the previous Parliament, we vaccinated a child in the poor world every two seconds, and saved the life of a child every two minutes from diseases from which, thank goodness, our own children do not suffer. We are on the way to eradicating polio. Today’s announcement on malaria—the £500 million going forward to 2020—is an important continuation of a policy that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he now is but then was not, announced in 2008 when he said that a Conservative Government would contribute £500 million until the disease was eradicated. He has now extended that promise so that it will last for 12 years.
Britain has taken leadership on family planning. If all countries stick to their promises, we will have, by 2020, reduced by half the number of women in the poor world who want access to contraception and who currently do not have it. There is also the extraordinary success, particularly in the Horn of Africa, in combating HIV/AIDS. With our 0.7% commitment enshrined in law, Britain is clearly continuing to lead the way and putting its money where its mouth is, but the 0.7% spending of taxpayers’ money is justifiable only if we show that it is delivering real results so that hard-pressed taxpayers can see that for every pound that they are contributing to the development budget, they are getting 100 pence of delivery on the ground.
All the way across sub-Saharan Africa and central and east Africa, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham made it so clear, poverty and conflict are breeding instability. There is a belt of misery that is fuelling discontent and anger among very poor people. There is appalling suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in the east. There are 25 or 28 bands of villains going around terrorising the population. It is a rich irony that some of the poorest people in the world live on top of some of the richest real estate.
In northern Nigeria, where DFID has done such good work, Boko Haram has been destroying the lives of ordinary people, although the position has got far more difficult for it under the new President of Nigeria. In Mali, we have seen the terror that has gripped local people. It is worth noting that Mali produces cotton, but, despite excellent attempts by Britain to try to ease trade distortions—particularly because of the American and EU subsidies— it cannot sell its cotton for a living wage, and that needs to be addressed by the international community.
In the Central African Republic, half of the population is now underfed. It is a real flashpoint, with warnings of Islamic fundamentalism from leading Muslims in the country. I wish to praise the work of Aegis that has done so much good work in Rwanda at combating genocide. I say to the Minister that Aegis may well have something beneficial to say about the disorder in the Central African Republic, although it is of course an area very much in the French zone, and we would be looking for the French and the European Union to use their international development spending to tackle those difficulties.
In Sudan, Britain, Norway and the US have done what they can to deal with the extraordinary number of displaced people, as in the south freedom fighters seek to morph themselves into a Government. In Eritrea, as has already been said in this debate, that migration is fuelling the migration that comes across into Europe. Despite international arbitration, the conflict with Ethiopia is still not yet resolved, which I hope the Minister will mention when he comes to contribute to the debate. I believe that Chris Mullin, when a Minister, and I, when a shadow spokesman, are the only two Members of Parliament to have visited Eritrea in living memory. That benighted country certainly needs to see the benefit of order and development.
In northern Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army has caused chaos with decades of war. There are huge numbers of jobless youngsters who do not have enough to eat. Voluntary Services Overseas, an outstanding British organisation, has made a significant contribution. We have seen the way in which terrorism, for example, in Kenya, but also in Tunisia and Egypt, destroys tourism, on which those countries rely. It is not an accident that the terrorists make those dispositions. We have heard about Burundi, where there is disorder and death, and hundreds of thousands of refugees. What a contrast to Rwanda next door, which is peaceful and stable, and an extraordinary development partner for Britain. It has lifted 1 million citizens out of poverty in the past four years, and seen great progress. It is a country where, from the top, corruption is stamped out. We know that it will do exactly what it says with the money that it receives from the international community.
Ten years ago, Rwanda could fund only 38% of its budget; today, it funds more than 60%, and it is an example of the progress that can be made. As I have said, it stands in stark contrast with what is happening next door in Burundi. There is more to do on political and media space, and it has not always been an easy relationship. I shall pass over the extraordinary and wholly wrong imprisonment of the Rwandan director of security under a European arrest warrant issued by Spain last year. We should not forget the essence of this relationship: following the genocide, Britain has been a powerful partner and influencer of the Rwandan Government, and the British people, in their relationship with the Rwandan people, have seen a tremendous growth in security, stability and, increasingly, in prosperity.
Finally, I visited Somalia four times as Secretary of State and saw the way in which Mogadishu—in the past, a beautiful city—had been reduced to rubble, with al-Shabaab rampant. That was a direct danger to the UK, and an example of how conflict not only mars and destroys the lives of the people of Somalia but threatens us on the streets of Britain. Not long ago, there were more British passport holders training in terror camps in Somalia than in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Those people were a direct danger to the UK, but now progress is slowly being made. The African Union Mission in Somalia is much better equipped, and the initiatives launched by the Prime Minister at the London conference in 2012, following the dreadful famine, have been very successful, and have made steady if disjointed progress.
In all those countries, climate change hits the poorest people first and hardest. One reason for the massacres in Darfur—the pastoralists versus the crop growers—was the effect of climate change on crops and the ability of animals to withstand the droughts that are increasing in frequency. Britain has made an important contribution in the area of conflict, which has rightly been described as development in reverse. The key aim of British policy is to stop conflicts starting or, once they have started, to stop them, and once they are over, reconcile people. Much closer relations between development, defence and diplomacy, to which Members have alluded, came about because the coalition Government set up the National Security Council. The decision in the strategic defence and security review in 2010 to spend 30% of the DFID budget on tackling conflict—now increased to 50%—was absolutely right although, as I mentioned to the House, it was pretty hard to find ways of spending 30%, and it may be quite difficult to spend 50%.
The third key limb of all of this is prosperity and boosting economic activity with the transformation of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which has invested in some of the countries that we have discussed. The poorest people can lift themselves out of poverty if they have a job and are economically active. The fourth thing that Britain has championed is getting girls into school, which is the single most effective way of changing the world, because girls who are educated tend to be economically active. They educate their own children, they have children later, and they understand the opportunities for family planning. They have influence as a result of their education in their family, in their community and, increasingly, as we see in Afghanistan, in national government as well.
There is much to celebrate in the success and effectiveness of British development policy and the real contribution that it has made. Perhaps everyone in the House should do a little more to make that clear to our constituents who I think, in the medium term, can easily be won round to its importance.
I congratulate Stephen Phillips and Jeremy Lefroy on securing this timely debate, particularly given the situation in Rwanda, on which I shall focus; the fact that this week we are commemorating Genocide Memorial day on
Rwanda has long been one of the UK’s closest allies in Africa and certainly in east Africa. Since the genocide in 1994, the UK Government have helped Rwanda probably more than any other nation. In the past decade or so, Rwanda has experienced some of the highest economic growth rates anywhere in the world. The World Bank report, “Doing Business 2010”, which tracked global business regulation, put Rwanda at the top of the reform table, stating that Kigali had lowered more barriers to investment than anywhere else in the world. When I visited Rwanda, that was certainly the impression I gained.
It is evident that Rwanda has made significant improvements in reducing poverty, as the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield said: 1 million children have been lifted out of poverty in the past four years, and a poverty reduction programme has been under way for more than two decades. Partly as a result of UK aid, partly as a result of UK policy in Rwanda and partly because of our bilateral relationship, we have been able to attract other donors. Crucially, we have managed to get that through general budget support to the Rwandan Government, which has been highly effective.
Our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office country advice states:
“President Kagame and the [Rwandan Patriotic Front] have achieved significant advances in poverty reduction and economic development through a strong vision for the transformation of Rwanda following the genocide. Rwanda has significantly lower levels of crime, violence and corruption than other countries in the region.”
The report adds:
“Rwanda is an open economy and has achieved impressive economic growth. Between 2001 and 2012 GDP growth averaged 8%”.
That contrasts with Burundi, its neighbour, which continues to struggle, with a per capita income that is just 25% of that of Rwandans.
On my two visits to Rwanda, I noticed the number of billboards advertising an anti-corruption hotline. That concurs with the FCO report. FCO country advice is that there is very little corruption in Rwanda due to an ongoing Government commitment to eliminate it. I have personal experience of that, as I was prevented from getting on a flight leaving Rwanda. That was not my fault—due to strict adherence to rules by a junior member of staff, I was not allowed to leave the country.
Today, we find ourselves conflicted on Rwanda, and too easily taken in by those who seek to change Rwanda from the outside and wish to impose the level of democracy that they want, irrespective of the wishes of the people of Rwanda. The recent referendum on an extension of presidential terms is an example. The United States and
European Union warned that the move undermined democratic principles. The US Department of State said in a statement that Washington was “deeply disappointed”, and the US ambassador, Samantha Power stated :
“We expect President Kagame to step down at the end of his term in 2017”.
Sections of the international press followed suit and viewed the referendum as a
“manipulation of democracy to breed a dictatorship.”
All of this threatens to undermine development and stability in Rwanda. This strategy risks emboldening terrorist organisations such as the FDLR militia, which is hiding out on Rwanda’s border and still seeks Hutu power. Its sympathisers, including in Europe, are given credence as a result of these statements. Also, policies on aid are shifted for political purposes, not for a beneficial purposes. It is acknowledged through UK aid’s general budget support that the Rwandan Government have long been one of the best conduits for efficient aid spending. UK aid’s primary purpose is to spend UK taxpayers’ money in a way that is most effective in meeting millennium development targets and reducing long-term poverty.
For Britain, there is a third consequence: our friendship with Rwanda is becoming unnecessarily frayed. International election observers described the referendum as “free and fair”. In my time there, it was abundantly clear to me that Kagame had phenomenal support, in public and in private. He emphasised Africa’s biggest problem as
“a lack of good governance” and posed the question,
“Why has Africa remained the poorest continent, meaning its people are the poorest, yet the continent is the richest?”
The west is in the paradoxical position of criticising free and fair elections yet denouncing the will of the Rwandan people, 3.7 million of whom—more than 60% of voters—signed the petition to change the part of the constitution limiting the President to two terms. In that vote, 98.3% were in favour of the change. That sounds like a phoney figure, but when I went there and spoke with taxi drivers and ordinary people in private, I found that the level of support for the Government was immense. It is easy to see why: growing incomes and living standards; free education; free healthcare; phenomenal development across the country, often targeting the poorest; and streets that are safe at night. It was also easy to see the fear of a return to Hutu Power. Speaking to recent FDLR militia soldiers, it is worrying that the FDLR seems able to recruit new members and, importantly, that they share the arguments and tone of the opposition against Kagame.
It does the west no good in east Africa, or indeed anywhere, to make over-the-top statements about Rwanda, and I am pleased that the UK Government refrained from such statements on the recent referendum. I was pleased that France and Belgium, as far as I could see, also refrained from direct criticism. For too long their former colonial interests have trumped their international responsibilities in the region. The effect of this 20-year dispute has been not only to strain relations—although I am concerned that the wider European Union was allowed to repeat the criticisms of Rwanda by the United States on the recent referendum—but to destabilise the politics of the region and the international community and to promote the causes of those who wish to see the current Rwandan Administration fall.
Rwanda has real concerns with Belgium and France, particularly in relation to the genocide, leading to its acceptance within the British-led Commonwealth in 2009. Rwanda has adopted English as the first language in place of French as a result of these tensions. It is important that these politics do not influence or shape our aid commitments through the international media or institutions that wish to influence us. Speaking to officials both in UK aid and in Rwanda, it is clear that this flexibility has helped them achieve remarkable developmental and economic achievements. Sadly, that has now changed due to the politics that comes with aid.
Following the UN report, which I have read, of Rwanda’s involvement in illegal military support in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, supporting the M23 militia, our aid programme was changed away from general budget support towards direct budget support or targeted programmes, reducing the Rwandan Government’s ability to function and deliver services that it had previously delivered. The UN report is considerable and provides plentiful anecdotal evidence against Rwanda, but it lacks documentary evidence—guns, munitions, photos, attributable quotes, dates and times of events are all missing. I have no doubt that Rwanda has engaged against the supporters of Hutu Power in neighbouring countries; they are fearful even today, 20 years on. The threats from the militia still exist, and they see a west that has long had a policy of liberal interventionism in self-defence in its own interests, but that seems to have a hypocritical position.
As a result of the UN report and growing criticism by opponents of Rwanda, in 2012 the UK Government held back £21 million in aid, reversing a decision by the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, who part-authorised the aid payment. It is no surprise that this aid change caused consternation in Kigali. Central Government budget programmes supported by UK aid were put in jeopardy and the trust in donors was eroded. It is seen as an intrusion into sovereignty. UK and western donors would be wise to consider fully the consequences of such changes in aid provision.
Rwanda has been at the forefront of poverty reduction in Africa. It is unusual in that it has a popular and stable Government, which is something we should be mindful of. It is also a close ally of the UK—a special relationship —and we should value that friendship as well as the progress Rwanda has made.
The reason we should value that relationship can be seen in Burundi, which is another country I have had the opportunity to see at first hand. Crossing the border, we noticed the differences immediately. In Rwanda we saw well-dressed people going about their business, walking freely along the road, but that gave way to impoverished Burundians, lacking substantial clothes, often barefoot and hanging about aimlessly along roadsides. Half the population are under the age of 16. Per capita income has fallen to a quarter of that in Rwanda over the past 20 years. Burundi is the fourth poorest country in the world, and the UK and the European Union have stopped providing aid because we cannot guarantee that it will not be lost to corruption. Such instability makes it difficult to find structures to deliver aid.
Burundi has elections that we consider, on paper, to be more democratic than those in Rwanda, but is that a meaningful comparison? Outside of the capital, Bujumbura, it is a country without much structure and with endemic poverty. With the collapse of presidential support, the country is once again on the verge of widespread violence. Hundreds of Burundians have died so far in the disturbances. It is a democracy led by patronage and corruption. Magazine sellers in Kigali can sell anti-Kagame magazines—they do so outside the Milles Collines hotel—and the country has a universal healthcare system, a low level of crime, and free education. By contrast, the people of Burundi have to live in poverty, with little state support and under the dark cloud of sectarian violence and killing.
However noble the aim, Burundi is an example of the west’s failure to support or uphold a healthy democracy, despite much effort, and the casualties are some of the poorest people in the world. The comparator with Rwanda should teach us that we should be far more careful in our criticism, for the forces of terror and Hutu Power seek solace and support from our easy criticisms.
I intend to speak well within the time that you have given us as a guideline, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow Graham Jones. I am very pleased to speak in this important debate, which has been sponsored by the Backbench Business Committee. I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips on securing it. He has a deserved reputation for taking a detailed interest in, and having a deep concern for, the situation in central and east Africa.
I will confine my remarks today to one country. It is a country with which our country has an equally deep connection and that, despite its many opportunities, has suffered a troubled history. That country is Kenya. To many British people, Kenya meant safari, “Born Free” and Elsa the lioness. For the older generation, perhaps it means the Mau Mau and the dark episode of the Hola camp. But today it means terrorism and kidnap, al-Shabaab and the terrible attack on a Nairobi shopping mall. Even as recently as
The battle against terrorism in Kenya has been costly. In a single attack in 2015 on a university college, 140 people were killed. That is why I welcome the steps taken by our own Government to help Kenya to tackle the threat to its stability and realise its potential for future prosperity.
In September 2015, the United Kingdom and Kenya committed themselves to a new defence co-operation agreement, which will significantly boost the defence relationship between our countries. It will enable the United Kingdom to give additional support to Kenya’s maritime security, and will ensure the continuation of British military training in the country. That is important to the fitness and readiness of our own servicemen and women to tackle problems on foreign terrain that may threaten us on the streets of our constituencies. The agreement will result in improved military capabilities on both sides, and I congratulate the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence on their successful efforts to secure it.
My hon. Friend is making some very interesting points. Does he agree that, as I have said a few times myself, international development aims and military capability are not mutually exclusive but work together and complement each other, and that this agreement is a perfect example of that process?
I could not agree more. My hon. Friend has put it very well.
A stable Kenya can be a prosperous Kenya. The country has the largest, most diversified and most innovative economy in East Africa. However, that potential is currently not being fulfilled. The number of poor people in Kenya is thought to be constant or growing, owing to low growth and rising inequality. In 2005, 43% of the population were living on under £1 a day. I believe that, while we must of course help Kenya militarily, we must also play our part—because of our long and shared history—in supporting its development economically, as well as in terms of education and training. I am pleased that the Department for International Development has recognised that and is promoting broad-based, sustainable economic development and job creation by improving the investment climate, market development, trade, and access to finance. I am also reassured by the fact that DFID aid is strengthening systems for the delivery of health, education and social protection services.
However, British help must ensure that no one is left behind in the development processes. That includes women and girls, as well as the extreme poor who live in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, and refugees from neighbouring countries. If we do not help to stabilise the economy, improve education and offer hope to the most marginalised, we cannot hope that some of them—perhaps many—will not become radicalised, and fall under the spell of Kenya’s enemies and ours.
Crucial to winning my constituents’ support for these initiatives is a determined effort to stamp out corruption. We cannot expect British taxpayers to support the funding of international projects if they fear that the money they advance will fall not into the hands of those who need it or know how to use it, but into the bank accounts of corrupt officials. Kenya is ranked 136 out of 177 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and impunity remains a key challenge. No significant convictions have arisen for economic crimes, criminal violence or terrorism, despite several corruption scandals, large-scale organised political violence following the 2007 elections, and numerous terrorist attacks. Both the President and the Deputy President have been indicted by the International Criminal Court. While I support the help that we give to Kenya, I ask Ministers to make it absolutely clear to the recipients of aid—and to my constituents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth who are helping to pay for it—that we will accept no hint of corruption or money laundering, and that any individual or organisation who is responsible for it will be strongly held to account.
Despite its troubled past and difficult present, Kenya has the opportunity to secure a bright future. Our own Government recognise that, which is why our aid support for Kenya has increased by nearly 50% over the last six years. I hope that we, as Members of Parliament, will recognise it as well, and will ask our Government to continue their work—with the authorities in Nairobi—to bring about stability, transparency and an end to the dual threats of poverty and corruption that bedevil Kenya in particular and, sadly, so many central and east African countries in general.
I congratulate Stephen Phillips on securing the debate.
I, too, want to focus on Kenya, a country that I had the privilege of visiting for the first time last year. During my visit, I went to see a number of projects supported by DFID in collaboration with other organisations. They included—please excuse my Swahili—Utu Wema primary school, a school in the middle of one of Nairobi’s informal settlements which is funded jointly by DFID and the United States Agency for International Development. Although the school was barely a quarter of the size of the Chamber, there were more than 300 children in attendance. Despite the lack of space, the children seemed to be happy and enjoying their education.
We were also shown an education tool, funded by DFID, called Tusome, which means “Let’s read” in Kiswahili. It is an early-grade reading resource for English and Kiswahili, and it provides teachers with real-time resources and teaching tools which they use to support and monitor children’s early development. It was good to see at first hand what international development spending can achieve. However, I was acutely aware that what I saw during my visits were good examples, and that not everywhere could be like that.
While I was in Kenya, I also visited a wellness centre in Nakuru. It was run by Hope Worldwide, with support from the Kenyan Red Cross and the Global Fund, and was set up to provide services for Kenya’s most at-risk populations, including commercial sex workers, MSM—men who have sex with men—and intravenous drug users. The centre primarily offers HIV prevention services, but we were able to sit in on an MSM peer counselling group session.
As Members may know, existing Kenyan law criminalises same-sex conduct with up to 14 years’ imprisonment, so it was with some anxiety for our hosts—the men who were attending the session—that I sat in on that informal session with at least 10 Kenyan Government officials while the men discussed the causes and disadvantages of erectile dysfunction. I commend the bravery of those young men in, first, admitting to being gay—people must refer to themselves as being MSM—and, secondly, taking the opportunity provided by our visit to lecture the Government officials on what more they could be doing to assist the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population.
As many Members will know, criminal sanctions against same-sex conduct exacerbate abuse by police and other state agents who subject LGBTI persons to harassment, extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention without charge on trumped-up charges of denial of services, sexual assault, and even rape. Along with members of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBTI rights, I recently met a Kenyan man who campaigns for justice for LGBTI persons in Kenya. He told us that, because of the work that he did, he was subject to phone-tapping, interception of mail, and general harassment and intimidation. Given the security concerns outlined by Craig Tracey, one would think that those agencies would have better spending priorities. That demonstrates that, although the hon. Gentleman described Kenya as one of the more stable countries, it still has some distance to travel to protect some of its most vulnerable people.
The 10th of the global goals for sustainable development is the reduction of inequalities. One of its aims is, by 2030, to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic status. That is why it is so important for us to support LGBTI communities in central and east Africa. In their policy paper “Leaving no one behind”, published by DFID on
“will prioritise the interests of the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.”
Along with, I am sure, many Members on both sides of the House, I shall wait with interest to see what support and protection the Government will give LGBTI people in Kenya, in Africa as a whole, and around the world.
It is a pleasure to follow so many interesting and wide-ranging speeches and to take part in this debate secured by my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips, who ranged widely both geographically and over the issues in central and east Africa. I look forward to other opportunities for him to tell us about the countries he was not able to reach in his speech this evening.
Westminster Group, a British-based but internationally focused security group, has its headquarters in my constituency. The company is active in many parts of east Africa in providing security and safety services and solutions: its aim is to protect people, assets and infrastructure. It tells me that east Africa is a paradox. It is a region that has experienced impressive economic growth over the past decade, and yet one of the most high-conflict areas in the world. There is fighting across the region, with no-go areas for travellers, particularly westerners, in large areas of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Piracy is a major worry in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian ocean. Widespread corruption and poor governance hold these countries and their people in a state of poverty, and, as we have heard, this fuels insurgency.
I would like, if I may, to focus on just one country in the region that nobody has yet touched on—South Sudan. It is a country with which Britain has old connections, but is also one of the very newest countries on our maps. It faces some of the oldest problems that have afflicted
Africa. Since independence from Sudan, which it was given on
The first part of 2013 saw some initial progress, but this was soon reversed by the outbreak of yet more conflict. Since the start of the violence, thousands of people have been killed. Over 1 million have fled their homes, including to neighbouring countries. Despite the signing of a ceasefire, fighting has continued, and by April 2014, 4.9 million people were in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Despite the internationally mediated peace deal signed by President Salva Kiir in August last year, under which another rebel leader was returned as his vice-president, there have been continued delays in the formation of the transitional Government of national unity. My predecessor as Member for Banbury, who knows the area very well, spoke at length about this almost two years ago. It is very sad that so little progress has been made in the intervening period. There continue to be breaches of the ceasefire in the states of Unity and Upper Nile.
Just before I came into the Chamber to speak, I was told that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend James Duddridge, has today landed in Juba where, we hope, he will assist in the production of a new peace deal. I am sure that all Members of this House join me in wishing him and the people he is working with all the best in the next few days. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
One issue for humanitarian relief is that access is poor in many areas of South Sudan. As a result, almost 4 million people are facing severe food shortages—an 80% increase on this time last year. South Sudan is one area of the world where, because of instability, food production has actually fallen in the past 50 years. Starvation is endemic across the country, especially in the beleaguered Unity state. Like many Members, I am proud that the United Kingdom is playing a leading role in the humanitarian response to the current instability in South Sudan. We are the second largest bilateral donor. In 2014, we were one of the largest donors to the UN humanitarian appeal, which helped to avert famine and ensured that 3.5 million of the South Sudanese people were reached with life-saving assistance. We are obviously determined to do our bit to meet the challenge, but limited access for humanitarian workers, particularly in Unity state, has increased the problem of famine.
I hope that despite these challenges the Department for International Development, along with other parts of Government, will continue to look for ways in which we can help this area. If we do not, I fear that radicalisation and terrorism will grow, increasing the threat to the entire region and ultimately to us all. To secure long-term stability, it is important that South Sudan develops its infrastructure. Last year, the Prime Minister offered military engineering expertise to the South Sudanese Government to help with building bridges, roads and other key pieces of infrastructure.
This is also an opportunity for British businesses to link trade to aid to help stabilise the country. I would welcome assurances from the Minister that he will encourage UK Trade & Investment, our trade Ministers and our diplomatic teams to pay a great deal of attention to South Sudan. I wonder whether there might be some benefit to liaising closely with Africa House in London to see how British employers can better do business in the region. My hon. Friend Mr Robertson runs Westminster Africa Business Group, which looks at how closer links could be forged. Let us hope that the new chapter in the history of South Sudan is a more productive one.
I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips on securing this important debate, as well as my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy, who is sadly unable to join us, and I welcome the opportunity to speak in it.
Many Members have spoken about various countries in the African region. My hon. Friend Craig Tracey made some interesting points about Kenya and the need to tackle corruption—something that is important to us all, and to our constituents. I want to touch on the two countries that I have visited most in Africa—there are hon. Friends in the House with whom I have visited them—which are Rwanda and Burundi. I first travelled to Rwanda about 10 years ago, on my first ever trip to central Africa. Over the years, I have gone back regularly, and I have been incredibly impressed and moved by two things. The first is the friendships that I have developed there and the way that people have shared with me their experiences of the terrible genocide 20 years ago. With that memory, we must ensure that we never let that happen again.
Secondly, I have noticed the huge steps forward that have been made in Rwanda in infrastructure development. On my first visit, travelling down towards the border with Burundi was incredibly difficult. The route was literally a red dirt track, which, over the years, has developed. Economic development has gone at a tremendous pace, as has education, as other Members have said. I have seen many examples of the work that DFID has done there, as well as the FCO and the many NGOs and civil society groups. I have seen how people have expanded the country’s economic development way beyond gorilla tourism, tea and coffee. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to meet many small entrepreneurs—people who have been given a chance, a hope, and a lot of support. The British Government and DFID have a very long and proud history of working not just in Rwanda, but in many other countries.
More recently, I was able to travel to Burundi, which has also been deeply affected by conflict. As Graham Jones said, there is a huge contrast between Burundi and Rwanda in terms of development. I, too, took that away from my visit. For me, the main message is the reminder that stability and peace really matter—not only for the countries I have visited and about which I am speaking tonight, but for the whole region and indeed way beyond it.
The region has a history of instability and fighting. We have heard many examples of the ongoing issues. I find it particularly worrying to hear reports of the deepening political, humanitarian and security crisis unfolding in Burundi. I believe that more than 200,000 have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of
Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not only is there a deepening political crisis, but a deepening refugee crisis.
The hon. Lady makes a very good point. Will she respond to this point, which I nearly mentioned, but wanted to raise? The stability in Rwanda enables it to supply forces to the African Union—I believe its forces are operating in four other countries with the African Union—and bringing such stability must be welcome.
When it comes to the region, the role of the African Union must be recognised, as should the strength that comes from countries working together. It is not only about Rwanda. To take the example of Burundi, its peacekeeping force has been doing worthy work in Somalia. This is about working with the region for the benefit of the region and way beyond it.
It is worth adding to my hon. Friend’s point, in connection with the intervention by Graham Jones, that when what George Bush described as genocide was taking place in Darfur, the first country to offer troops for an AU force was Rwanda, because those living there knew what had happened to them and they wanted to stop that happening to those living in Darfur.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who always speaks with such knowledge on matters concerning Rwanda and, indeed, Africa. Conflict rarely stops at international borders—refugees do not stop at a border—so when there is instability and insecurity, the worry is that that will spill over into a much wider area.
My hon. Friend is making an interesting point. As we regularly see on our TV screens, the focus is on the issues in the Mediterranean, but does she agree that the long-term solution is about tackling the causes of poverty and conflict in sub-Saharan and central Africa? That is what prompts people to start on the journey through the Sahara, where many of them die even before getting to the Libyan coast.
My hon. Friend makes a very interesting and valid point. I was about to move on to the issue of migration and to talk a little about refugees. We are hearing and seeing—as well as holding such discussions in the Chamber—many debates about economic migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and about the movement of people across Europe. It is even more important that we tackle the root causes and do what we can to maintain stability in the home country. That means that democracy is a crucial element in development. Strengthening global security also matters, as does corruption, which we have already discussed this evening.
To bring my short contribution to a conclusion, I want to thank my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham for bringing this debate to the Chamber because it is important to remember and keep in our minds Burundi, Rwanda and the whole of the region. It is sometimes very easy to think about different parts of the world, which are also important, but there are ongoing issues in many such countries and the countries of the region need us to keep them in mind. We must ensure that the Government’s diplomatic and humanitarian actions continue, and that we keep the focus on such countries. I will listen carefully to what I am sure will be an interesting update from the Minister.
It is a pleasure to follow such a knowledgeable and thoughtful speech by my hon. Friend Wendy Morton. I am deeply grateful to my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips not only for securing this debate, but for ensuring that he arrived to lead it. I had several contacts from his office today desperately asking me to take his place if he did not make it in time. His presence allows me to concentrate on the areas that I want to speak about, rather than speaking generally about the whole of central and east Africa.
One of the beauties of representing a constituency such as mine is that we have diasporas from every country in the world. We have one very strong diaspora that emanates from east Africa. I refer, of course, to the so-called Ugandan Asians, who were forced out of their homes in the 1970s by the evil dictator Idi Amin. Of the 45,000 people who were given literally two days’ notice to leave, 28,000 settled here, some in Leicester, but most in Harrow and Wembley in north-west London.
I want briefly to make the point that a significant part of that community settled in my constituency in Grangetown in south Cardiff. They have made a huge contribution, as I am sure they have to the hon. Gentleman’s community.
I note the contribution that the diaspora has made right across the UK, but it settled predominantly in Leicester and north-west London.
Uganda’s loss was Britain’s gain. We have gained tremendously in the fields of politics and business, and every other field one can imagine. The people who ran the economy in Uganda came here and built a life and built businesses. The benefits that that section of the community has brought are testimony to its hard work.
People have come to this country not just from Uganda, but from Kenya and Tanzania. That gives us a tremendous advantage, because people who not only lived in those countries but worked in them now live in this country. They want to give something back to the countries where they were born, where their families grew up and where they have deep roots. Across those nations, there are various different issues.
Uganda seems to be progressing quite well under President Museveni. He has provided stability, helped spread prosperity and given Uganda an increased role in regional affairs. The economy in Uganda is growing by about 5% a year. There is an opportunity to diversify the economy, expand education and invest in infrastructure. The forthcoming elections on
In Kenya, the situation is much more of a mixed bag. There will be elections next year in about 18 months. President Kenyatta won in 2013 in an alliance with
William Ruto, who has since been arraigned at the International Criminal Court for instigating violence in 2007. There are concerns about corruption. President Kenyatta recently said that corruption posed a threat to national security after the main Opposition party claimed that the Government could not account for almost half of last year’s eurobond sale. There are pressures on the public finances and I understand that the fiscal deficit is at 9% of GDP. The Government recently secured a syndicated loan for infrastructure projects in November and a loan from China for the extension of the standard gauge railway in December. However, the Government remain relatively popular. We recently had a delegation of Kenyan MPs here in Parliament who were very upbeat about their future, while making clear the need to tackle corruption.
In Tanzania, following the presidential elections in October 2015, the new President, John “The Bulldozer” Magufuli, has proved popular domestically, but is causing tensions in the region. In 2014, many donors suspended aid to Tanzania following a scandal in which $100 million went missing. I would be grateful for an update from the Minister on the current position. Tanzania languishes in the bottom third of Transparency International’s corruption index. Despite Tanzania having abundant natural resources and being the second largest aid recipient in sub-Saharan Africa, poverty remains endemic, with 70% of the population living on less than $2 a day. The new President has undertaken a war on corruption and wasteful government spending.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one way to tackle corruption is through transparency of data? For example, if communities know how much money they are supposed to be getting and what it is supposed to be paying for, that is one way to put pressure on those who are guilty of corruption to stop engaging in it.
The UK has been a champion in that regard, with DFID leading the way. One thing that Members from all parts of the House have done is to ensure on all visits that DFID funding is spent in the best way possible, so that it is clear that the 0.7% of GDP that we are spending is ensuring improvements to people’s lives.
If I may continue on the problems that Tanzania is facing, the country intends to become a major gas exporter, but that has been disrupted by the announcement of a 12.5% royalty for onshore oil and gas production. Echoes of the Idi Amin regime have resurfaced with Operation Timua Wageni, a Government directive that foreigners working illegally should leave their jobs with immediate effect to make way for local workers. This has been particularly poorly received in Kenya and threatens previously strong East Africa Community co-operation, as Kenyan residents make up the majority of foreign workers in Tanzania. Co-operation has been further hampered by the cancellation of a regional conference for port managers in eastern and southern African in Dar es Salaam, following a shake-up of the management of the Tanzanian ports authority by President Magufuli. However, Tanzania’s growth prospects are robust, with GDP predicted to expand by 6.8% this year.
We have an opportunity not just to provide aid but to trade with Africa, which will clearly be the route out of poverty for many of the African states. Although some of the economic boom in Africa is slowing down, parts of east and central Africa have among the fastest growth rates in the world. If we are to increase our exports and reduce our balance of payments deficit, it is vital that we build Britain’s presence in these emerging economies, and in east Africa we have a built-in advantage. Not only is English the language of choice, but our reputation as traders and the high-quality image of our goods and services help us to gain an advantage over our competitors. Yet for decades our approach to Africa has been driven by aid rather than trade. We need to change that, both in business and in Government. We have failed to acknowledge the huge strides that Africa has made. Our competitors have not been so slow. We are losing out to rivals such as China because of our failure to recognise the change.
I am therefore delighted that my good friend and colleague in the other place, Lord Popat, has this week been appointed as our trade envoy to Uganda and Rwanda. This is part of the Prime Minister’s new approach to exports, and it is a very welcome development. Trade envoys can play a vital part in bringing together different Departments and should be encouraged, particularly when, like Lord Popat, they have strong connections to the Governments and businesses in a region. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to lay out a policy and a strategy to increase UKTI’s presence to include every African country in the lifetime of this Parliament, so that we can emphasise the importance of trading with countries that are developing and open up the opportunities for British industry and British people to export, but also enable those countries to trade and grow their economies, rather than being dependent on foreign aid.
I congratulate Stephen Phillips on securing this debate. The wide range of contributions that we have heard today may have stretched the definition of the region of east and central Africa, but the United Nations’ definition —I looked this up in advance—of sub-regions of eastern and middle Africa encompass more than 20 countries—from Chad, Cameroon and South Sudan in the north to Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the south—and between us we have covered just about everywhere in between. I shall focus on a couple of countries in particular and reflect on some of the themes that we have heard from the Members who have spoken.
Eritrea was mentioned. It has one of the worst human rights records on the continent. It has been described as the North Korea of Africa. As has been said, Matthew Pennycook led a very useful Adjournment debate before Christmas on the situation in Eritrea, and I know that there are ongoing efforts to establish an all-party parliamentary group, so it would be useful to hear from the Minister what recent representations have been made to the Eritrean Government about their continued use of indefinite conscription and the detention without trial of human rights campaigners, and what discussions he has had with the Home Office about the treatment of refugees from Eritrea here in the United Kingdom. I have heard from constituents and campaign groups that the current Home Office assessment guidance is totally unsuitable. People are being returned to a country where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office itself advises against travel to areas within 25 km of the Ethiopian border.
Irrespective of UK citizens travelling to Africa, many citizens from central Africa wish to travel here, not to stay, claim asylum or soak up benefits, but simply to visit family and friends, to promote business or to promote human rights and good governance. Too often, we hear stories of visa applications being knocked back, or application processes being beyond the reach of many citizens in countries with poor infrastructure. What discussions has the Minister had with the Home Office on that matter?
The broader issue of population movement and displacement has been a theme of this debate. It demonstrate how very few crises are contained within one set of borders, particularly when the borders are the result of a colonial or post-colonial dividing up of the map, rather than any democratic or consultative process. This is particularly true of the discussions that have been held about the situation in Burundi and the close link that exists with the previous situation in Rwanda. Hon. Members have emphasised the contrast that now exists between the two.
I declare an interest, as Members might have heard me do before. I worked for SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, which has projects in Burundi. I have heard stories of beneficiaries and partners who are subject to fear, restricted freedom of movement and of the economic impact of the violence on them. SCIAF is part of the global Caritas Internationalis family, which estimates that at least 400 people and probably more have been killed since April, 3,500 have been arrested and 220,000 have fled to neighbouring countries which, as we have heard throughout the debate, increases pressure within those societies. In addition, there are many internally displaced people.
The warnings about Burundi from Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, are stark: “all alarm signals flashing red,” he has said. Hundreds are dead as a result of political violence in recent months, and there have been reports of sexual and gender-based violence and, most worryingly of all, reports of systemic ethnic targeting that are far too reminiscent of the genocide in Rwanda and the previous civil war in Burundi. We cannot, and must not, stand by and allow this to happen again. Later this week we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, and this year’s theme is exactly that—not to stand by, but rather to learn the lessons of the past, speak out and never again permit genocide to happen.
The Government of Burundi have international obligations to protect their citizens, and the international community has a role in preventing violence and any degeneration of the situation. It would be interesting to know what role the Minister sees the UK Government playing to support international efforts to end the cycle of violence in Burundi. What steps are the Government taking to support a humanitarian response and the protection of humanitarian organisations already on the ground? In particular, what role do the Government see for the African Union? The hon. Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) and for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) both touched on this. Are the Government, for example, prepared to back the African Union diplomatically if it decides to send in peacekeepers, even without the invitation of the Burundian Government? This is an important moment for the African Union to demonstrate its authority and mandate, and not only to try to resolve the situation in Burundi, but to send a message to the rest of continent about the role it intends to play in supporting development, peace and stability.
Civil society has a hugely important role to play in Burundi and across the region. Strong civil societies that can hold Governments to account ought to be—and must become—an alternative to violent protests that can spin out of control. Front-line civil society organisations play an important role protecting or supporting some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in their societies.
One of the poorest and most vulnerable societies not only in the region but in the entire world is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As Mr Mitchell mentioned, the greatest irony is that, in fact, the DRC should be one of the richest countries in the world. We all carry around with us in our pockets a little bit of the DRC in the form of either coltan or cobalt, which are essential ingredients in mobile phone devices. Instead of being one of the richest countries in the world, the DRC is one of the poorest—it is 176th out of 188 on the UN human development index. To me, that sums up everything that is not just wrong but perverse about the systems we have in place to regulate global trade and protect human rights. How can it be that something so valuable that we take for granted in this part of the world can be so cheapened?
The hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point about the connection between some of the mining companies, which are in essence the wealth of Africa and eastern DRC, and some of the Administrations in Africa, particularly South Africa, that benefit from the mining interests in eastern DRC and across the Congo. Nothing seems to be done about that relationship and there is an ongoing problem. The wealth of eastern DRC and Africa is taken and nothing is done about it by those who could do more in terms of the ethics of that mining.
That is a very valuable exposition of the point I am trying to make on the regulation of multinationals. It is hugely important that they are able to report on their supply chains and who their suppliers are; the relationships they have with the producers of the minerals they use; and the tax they raise and profits they make—so-called country-by-country reporting. There is a role for the UK Government as part of the European Union and the broader global community to place those issues front and centre. As I have said, Amnesty International and others regularly produce, including recently, evidence of the use of child labour in mines. Those mines go on to supply major electronic brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, with the kind of things that we carry around and interact with every single day. It would be useful to know how the Government will take steps on many of those issues, and what steps they will take to work with NGOs on the ground that are trying to extend protections for artisanal miners and to end the worst forms of child labour.
As we have also heard, the DRC is, like much of the region, experiencing climate change. Climate change exacerbates the problems of food and security, access to water, and population displacement. In many ways, it ultimately fuels the kind of instability that leads to the conflicts we have heard about. The Government have a responsibility to live up to their commitments on climate change. It will be interesting to hear what steps they have taken, for example, to promote the adoption of renewable energy on the continent rather than tying developing countries into fossil fuel infrastructure that will quickly become redundant.
Hon. Members have mentioned other countries. My hon. Friend Stuart Blair Donaldson and Craig Tracey mentioned Kenya, which is experiencing instability—there are worrying reports of human rights abuses. The Scottish National party manifesto called for a special envoy in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on global lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues to show leadership on discrimination, which is all too prevalent in many of those countries. It would be useful to hear what consideration the Minister will give to that proposal.
Respect for human rights is at the core of much of what we have heard and debated today. If Government and non-state actors alike were to show more respect for basic human rights—both rights to material needs such as food, clothing and shelter, and political rights to freedom of thought, speech and assembly—perhaps the humanitarian need would not be so great.
Today, of course, we mark one of Scotland’s great humanitarians, Robert Burns. Perhaps in our approach to central and eastern Africa, like so many other areas, we should be guided by his great anthem to solidarity and egalitarianism:
“Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
Yes, I thought you would be pleased.
I, too, congratulate Stephen Phillips on obtaining this debate from the Backbench Business Committee. It is very appropriate that we are discussing these issues today. I am sorry that Jeremy Lefroy—the hon. and learned Gentleman’s co-applicant for the debate—is not with us for this evening’s debate. He is extremely knowledgeable on these issues and always adds a lot to any debate on the subject of east Africa.
It is good that the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham was able to get back promptly this morning, and I expect that he is feeling the effects of his long journey from Rwanda via Addis Ababa. I thank him for returning and enlightening us with the eloquent points that he made, which have set the tone for our whole debate this evening.
The Library’s introduction to the debate identified eight countries as the ones we would talk about this evening—the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Indeed, those are the countries that we have discussed at some length. As we have heard this evening, the Department for International Development currently has bilateral aid programmes in five of those eight countries—DRC, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. As has been said, the bilateral programme in Burundi—which has slipped back into political violence and crisis over the last year—was closed during the last Parliament, a decision criticised not only by the former Secretary of State for International Development but the International Development Committee, of which I was a member until last week. There are now many calls for the programme to resume once the current crisis is over, but even in 2014 £6.1 million was spent in bilateral aid from the United Kingdom. That compares with a total of £587.4 million for those other five countries in 2014—a considerable sum of taxpayers’ money.
The hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham spoke eloquently about the lack of stability in many of the countries we have discussed this evening. He mentioned the estimated growth in population—the United Nations estimates that it will double by the end of the century, with 4.4 billion people living in Africa by 2100. He also said that stable economies allow stable Governments, but I would perhaps argue that stable government often flows from economic development and wealth creation. Is stable government a prerequisite for economic progress? That is a question that we need to discuss and decide, and I wonder whether the Minister would care to comment on which comes first.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned several other countries, and sadly we do not have time to go through them in detail this evening. He made the point about DRC, a country that has been in the news over the last 10 years or so, following the appalling civil war and strife there. Its current situation was summed up in a book called “Blood River”, written about eight years ago by the former Daily Telegraph journalist, now author, Tim Butcher. I recommend the book to anyone who wishes to know more about the origins and current state of DRC.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned the Rwanda genocide, which other right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned this evening. In this week in which we remember the holocaust—remembrance services happened up and down the country yesterday and will continue this week—the genocide of 1994, which I remember all too clearly, must also be remembered, although it must never be repeated.
My hon. Friend Stephen Doughty, who was my immediate predecessor in this role on the shadow Foreign Office team, talked eloquently about Somaliland. It is interesting that he supports recognition, Somaliland being part of a former United Kingdom colony. He said that, de facto, it is already a separate, democratic, plural and stable region within the benighted country of Somalia. Somaliland has seen many positive developments in trade and investment, and made huge progress.
My hon. Friend mentioned that Cardiff, Sheffield and Tower Hamlets recognise Somaliland. I was not aware that they were able to recognise other countries. Of course, that beacon of stability, as he so eloquently put it, in the horn of Africa is subject to serious threats from al-Shabaab and other extreme organisations that would destroy all the progress that has been made. Elections in Somaliland have been postponed but, as the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, the former Secretary of State, mentioned in his very important contribution, we should not be too worried. Somaliland has proved it has a democratic tradition and will abide by the will of the people expressed through the ballot box, even if the election is won or lost by just a few thousand votes. That is very important indeed.
Tonight’s debate has fused political and Foreign and Commonwealth Office interests with issues of governance, which come under the FCO and DFID. Of the “10 International Development Priorities for the UK” in the Overseas Development Institute’s excellent document, we have discussed at least seven this evening: leave no one behind; support for women and girls; a focus on transformative economic growth, which many Members raised; support for conflict-affected countries; support of the private sector in helping to develop economies; and bringing trade and development together. I just want to mention one of those extremely important aims, on which the International Development Committee and DFID have concentrated over the years.
When I joined the Select Committee in 2013, it was producing an excellent report on violence against women and girls. The Committee visited villages in Ethiopia and looked at the work being done to educate women and girls. It found what many right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned this evening: where there is more equality between men and women, and where girls are educated and able to make an economic contribution to their communities, societies are more prosperous and peaceful, and violence abates. There is an interesting statistic from the ODI report: every day 800 women still die from preventable diseases and causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. It remains the leading cause of adolescent deaths for 15 to 19-year-olds. The report compares the risk of dying in childbirth in Europe, one in 3,300, with the risk of dying in the regions of Africa we are discussing: one in 40. We should be ashamed of that statistic. It is beginning to change, but not fast enough.
My hon. Friend Graham Jones has a huge interest in, and knowledge of, Rwanda. He talked about the extraordinary progress it has made since the terrible genocide in 1994. He rightly pointed out that it has lower levels of crime and corruption, and an average growth in GDP of 8% over the past 10 years. Efforts to eliminate corruption have come from the very top. Rwanda is perhaps also a beacon to other countries in the region.
I recently met the chief commissioner of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, an organisation set up by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield when he was Secretary of State for International Development. Indeed, I had the privilege to chair the International Development Sub-Committee on ICAI. The new chief commissioner, Alison Evans, called Rwanda the Switzerland of Africa. In many ways, that is very true. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn pointed out, there are concerns with perhaps the increasingly authoritarian nature that some say Paul Kagame has shown, but that has to be balanced against the enormous progress that has been made in Rwanda.
I pay tribute to the many Members, on both sides of the House, including my friend—I hope she does not mind me calling her that—Wendy Morton, with whom I served on the International Development Committee, who have spent a lot of time and effort visiting and upholding the cause of countries such as Rwanda. It is the reason relations are so good between our two nations and the reason much progress can be made. Let us hope that Rwanda can be an example to other parts of Africa, so that violence and conflict may end and prosperity, economic growth and peace may break out. We continue to hope.
I join in the general congratulations to my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips on having secured this excellent debate. As has been said, my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa is in South Sudan discussing many of the issues that hon. Members have raised. My hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy was also unable to attend because he is travelling in the region with the International Development Committee, although I am sure the House will join me in wishing him every success in his new role as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Ethiopia.
The UK has strong ties with the countries of east and central Africa. Building stability and security in the region matters as much to us now as it always has. Members on both sides of the House have demonstrated a great understanding and affection for Africa. Indeed, I got the distinct impression that had we had the time, they would have like to have covered Africa from the top to the bottom and from west to east. As they have eloquently set out, achieving greater stability across this part of the continent requires a broad and multifaceted approach that works with African partners. In the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that approach is linked by a golden thread of the rule of law, good governance and economic success.
I wish to respond to the key themes raised by hon. Members: peacebuilding and security, development, governance and corruption. If I cannot address each question in the time available, I will ensure that hon. Members get a reply either from my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa, when he returns, or from my good friend, the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend Mr Swayne, who has sat in for most of this excellent debate.
I turn first to peacebuilding and security. As elsewhere on the continent, too many of the countries in the region have too often been blighted by violence. That is why, last year, the Government’s conflict, stability and security fund allocated £80 million to Africa—the second-largest regional fund, behind that for the middle east and north Africa. We are leading stabilisation, security and justice programmes that deliver results. For example, security in Burundi is on a downward trajectory; there is a real risk of civil war, as was pointed out by Patrick Grady and others. During his visit last month, my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa pressed for dialogue without preconditions between the parties. We also led efforts to put in place EU sanctions against four human rights offenders. Should Burundi continue to refuse to come to the negotiating table, we will push for further sanctions against those blocking progress towards peace. If an African Union protection mission is deployed, the UK will provide financial and logistical support.
Importantly, the Minister is talking about the situation in Burundi, and he mentioned EU sanctions. Does he accept that Britain plays an important role in many of these countries as part of the EU in tackling these challenges, not just in terms of sanctions but through our development aid and co-operation with other European countries?
Indeed. We play a role both through the EU and bilaterally, and we should never forget that 16% of any EU spend is British taxpayers’ money.
The UN Security Council visited Burundi at the weekend and left its Government in no doubt that the international community was united in its desire for a swift end to the violence in the country.
In South Sudan, we strongly supported the regionally-led peace process that resulted in the peace agreement signed in August 2015. As I explained in my introduction, my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for Africa is in South Sudan this week, urging the parties to implement that agreement in full and to form the transitional Government of national unity. We will deploy up to 300 troops to support the UN mission in maintaining the fragile peace.
Recent attacks in Mogadishu and on African Union forces in Gedo show that al-Shabaab remains a threat to the stability of Somalia and the wider region. Despite recent events, it is more stable and secure now than it has been for many years. We have helped build the capacity of the Somali authorities to fight al-Shabaab, and we will continue to deploy UK military expertise to provide essential logistical support and training. In parallel, DFID is helping to widen access to justice and security for Somali citizens, providing over 20,000 Somalis —not least some 8,000 women—with legal assistance. It is helping to tackle corruption through its work on public financial management.
Stephen Doughty asked about the political process in Somalia. Important progress has been made over the last four years on the political track towards a federal Somalia. Stability now depends on holding a peaceful, legitimate and transparent electoral process in August 2016. A decision must now be made by Somali political leaders on the electoral model.
The Minister is generous. I wanted to say gently that I was asking specifically about the electoral process in Somaliland rather than in Somalia, important though progress there south-centrally is. What are we doing to support the electoral process in Somaliland?
I will write to the hon. Gentleman on that subject; I was aware that he had made that distinction at the beginning.
Through the work of our British peace support teams in eastern Africa, we are developing capability and accountable leadership for the long term. In November, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced £5 million to establish and support a new Commonwealth unit to counter extremism.
A number of hon. Members mentioned the Central African Republic. Indeed, it remains fragile, but the first round of presidential elections in December passed off largely peacefully and with high voter participation. The second round of the election, scheduled for
Let me deal with the theme of development. As hon. Members have said, building stability is not just a task for security forces. Development plays an equally vital role. Stability requires respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values. People need to feel part of a vibrant domestic economy, with access to education, jobs and a predictable business environment—a future that any of us would want for ourselves.
That is why in the last financial year, bilateral UK official development assistance to Africa totalled £2.64 billion. That represents some 58% of our bilateral ODA spend. We provide a further £2 billion to Africa through multilateral partners such as the UN and the World Bank. This is helping to transform lives. Because of British aid, an additional 7 million children a year are in primary and lower secondary education across Africa. We have helped 30 million people with water, sanitation and hygiene prevention interventions.
In Ethiopia, our aid is helping millions of people lift themselves out of poverty. Right hon. and hon. Members also mentioned the protests in its Oromia region. Let me reassure them that we have repeatedly raised with the Government of Ethiopia our concerns about the handling of these protests and the use of force. We believe there should be a credible and independent investigation into these allegations. If evidence emerges that members of the security services have used excessive force, they should be held accountable.
Beyond humanitarian support we are helping African countries strengthen basic service delivery, create economic opportunities and build their resilience to cope with shocks and disasters. In Kenya, for example, our aid has supported economic development by creating jobs, giving people access to financial services and markets and making Mombasa port more efficient. My hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh, who is not in his place, raised the question of his constituent Nicholas Monson’s son. I am aware of that case and we will give him an update, although I understand the inquest is under way; I will ensure the high commissioner in Nairobi gives us and him an update on that. To support that drive for economic growth the Prime Minister has appointed four trade envoys to countries of eastern and central Africa, echoing the calls so to do of my hon. Friend Bob Blackman.
Promoting education is a key part of this. As Minister with responsibility for the Chevening scholarship programme, I am proud that last year we tripled the number of Chevening scholarships for Africa to 454, and the British Council is active across the region, supporting teachers and schools in countries such as Rwanda.
Fabian Hamilton, who speaks for the Opposition, posed the question of whether stable government gives rise to economic development or it is economic development that leads to political stability. I would argue that stable government can give rise to economic development. Indeed, it is difficult to have economic development without stable government. It is a chicken and egg situation, but certainly we need to have stable government and the right environment for countries to thrive and come out of poverty.
Governance is also a factor. Alongside peace, security and development, good governance is crucial to Africa’s success. That is why, with our international partners in the EU and UN, we are working to strengthen the rules-based system in Africa. That is why we regularly make clear the importance of free and fair elections, and that constitutions should not be altered on the whim of a leader. That is also why we will continue to work closely with the noble Baroness Scotland, the incoming secretary-general of the Commonwealth, and our partners across the Commonwealth to uphold member states’ commitment to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including LGBT rights, which we have been raising time and again and which are embedded in the Commonwealth charter signed by all Commonwealth countries.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham and others are correct to draw attention to the fact that progress on all of this needs action on corruption. Corruption corrodes the fabric of society, deters private-sector investment and creates barriers to doing business. Corruption facilitates organised crime and terrorist activity. It costs Africa over £100 billion a year. The key point about corruption is that it is the richest who get away with it and the very poorest who end up paying for it. The given figure for additional costs in terms of procurement is about 10%.
That is why I am pleased to say the UK is leading the way in tackling corruption. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will host an anti-corruption summit in May, which will include many African partners. Our goal is to put fighting corruption at the heart of our international institutions, to support the investigators and prosecutors who can help bring the perpetrators to justice, and to maximise the way we use aid to drive better governance and to fight against corruption.
Perhaps the migration crisis is the best example of why all of this matters. Last year over 40,000 people from the horn of Africa risked the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. No one in the House can fail to be moved by their harrowing experiences. If this does anything, it underlines the importance for people to have opportunities in their own countries, without feeling the need to risk their lives and those of their loved ones.
That relates to all that I have talked about this evening: insecurity, poor governance and a lack of opportunity. With our EU partners, we are taking a comprehensive approach to this new challenge. At the Valletta summit last November before the Commonwealth Heads of
Government meeting we agreed a new €1.8 billion trust fund that will help deal with the reasons people leave their homes in the first place.
The Minister of State, Department for International Development, my right hon. Friend Mr Swayne, has sat throughout this debate, and I am sure he has been listening and will be prepared to answer Members’ questions in greater detail.
In conclusion, let me reassure right hon. and hon. Friends across the Chamber that the Government share their sense of urgency. Together with our international partners, we must work towards a future in which the people of eastern and central Africa will all be able to live dignified lives free from violence and extremism and to build prosperous futures from the bottom up for themselves and their communities. That is precisely what we will continue to do.
It is almost impossible in two minutes to do credit to the contributions that have been made not only by Back Benchers but by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend Mr Swire and Fabian Hamilton on the Front Benches. This has been one of the most powerful debates on foreign affairs in which I have ever participated in this Chamber.
A number of themes have arisen, the first of which is one of hope and success. Britain is engaged in the world, not only through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but through the Department for International Development, in a way which is not at all party political and which crosses the boundaries of the Floor of the House. There is general support among those here this evening, even though it is not always understood by our constituents, for hitting that 0.7% target, not only because it is the right thing to do and the moral thing to do but because it actually matters to them.
The other messages that have gone out loud and clear to the world from the House this evening are that Britain is still engaged in the region and that we care about what happens in eastern and central Africa, and indeed across the continent as a whole. That is why the House will, I hope, return to this issue in the future and why I have been so grateful for, and moved by, the contributions that we have heard tonight.
In closing, I want to echo a point that was made by my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell. We are privileged to have the ability to stand in this Chamber and give our views on this matter, but it is the workers on the frontline in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in DFID and—as we saw during the Ebola crisis—in the military who deliver what we advocate in this House in support for Africa and the developing world. As parliamentarians, we send out our thanks to those people this evening. I commend the motion to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House recognises the importance of stability in Central and East Africa to the security of the United Kingdom; welcomes the Government’s continued engagement in the region and commitment to the spending of development aid to ensure good governance and the eradication of corruption and extreme poverty; deplores the use of violence or terror by any party to secure political aims; and calls on the Government to adopt further measures, together with the international community, to prevent civil war and ensure that the rule of law is maintained.