Uganda

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:09 pm on 15th March 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Shadow Minister, International Development 8:09 pm, 15th March 2006

My Lords, I too would like to add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, on securing this debate. Many interesting contributions have come from all sides of the House. It is an increasingly heated situation, especially as the ramifications of the worst drought in 20 years take hold in east Africa. These hardships will only compound what Reuters called the second-worst "forgotten" humanitarian crisis.

With only three minutes to wind up from these Benches, I can only touch on the main issues surrounding this crisis—a significant blot on Uganda's success to date—and ask the Minister three questions. First, what discussions have Her Majesty's Government had with the authorities regarding the claims made by the International Crisis Group that the Ugandan army, while powerful enough to defeat the LRA, has failed to do so due to corruption, abusive behaviour and poor organisation, despite assurances from President Museveni?

Ninety per cent of internally displaced persons in the north live in overcrowded camps where water is of such importance, as stressed by my noble friend Lord Freeman. The camps are often accessible only with a military escort. The security situation is such that non-governmental organisations no longer operate outside the main towns. In all of this, the tragedy is the damage inflicted on the children of Uganda. It is vital that they receive an education to provide them with skills and hope for the future. Secondly, therefore, what steps have Her Majesty's Government taken to put pressure on the authorities to provide a free education for these children?

I have been unable to cover the many issues raised today. We are faced with an escalating situation that cannot start to be rectified until peace is achieved. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, rightly mentioned the importance of controlling the availability of small arms. In the mean time, there are fears that Uganda's president may now use his mandate to crush the opposition and take a nosedive into dictatorship.

I hope that the Minister will repeat what he has said before—that Uganda is a government priority. I hope that Her Majesty's Government have a plan towards a co-ordinated approach to remove the tarnish from this once shining example of Africa. Thirdly, therefore, will they put pressure on NePAD to encourage full and proper use of the peer review mechanism, to hold the Ugandan Government to account over their support and treatment of IDPs in the north, as well as encouraging action with regard to the International Criminal Court warrants?