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Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government have offered Uganda assistance in the training of her police and armed forces in view of the possibility of withdrawal of Tanzanian troops.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Richard Luce)

We attach priority to helping Uganda rebuild her police force, and have been giving assistance in this field for many months. A request for training assistance for the Ugandan armed forces is presently under consideration.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply. Does he agree that Tanzania did a great service to the world in assisting to remove President Amin? Does he further agree that any help that we can give to Uganda to ensure stability in both its armed forces and its police force should in no way be denied? Will he ensure that a decision is reached as soon as possible?

I agree entirely that anything that we can do to help Uganda establish law and order—which is its top priority—is something to which we shall readily respond. That is why I said that we are giving priority to providing assistance and advice with the police and the armed services. There are further requests for advice concerning the armed services, to which we are willing to respond.

Will my hon. Friend consider either initiating the presence of a Commonwealth peacekeeping force in Uganda or inviting the United Nations to consider establishing a United Nations force in that country, rather than wait on events?

Although there has been a withdrawal of 10,000 Tanzanian troops, there are still at least another 10,000 in Uganda at present, and probably about 1,000 Tanzanian police. It is for the President of Uganda to determine whether he wishes to invite other countries to contribute forces. To date there has been no formal request to the Commonwealth Secretariat for a Commonwealth force. If the President wishes for that, it is for him to make an approach.

The Minister referred to a request for assistance in training the armed forces. Will he tell us the nature of that request, when was it made, and how quickly are the Government likely to respond? Is he aware that any other form of civil aid will be futile and worthless unless there is law and order, and chaos is prevented in Uganda?

I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman that the first priority—which is the choice of the Government of President Binaisa—must be the preservation and establishment of law and order. That is why I have said that we are giving prority to that area.

On the question of armed services, there have been discussions between the Deputy Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff in Uganda, and the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office in Britain. They have made various requests, which we are considering urgently, and to which we shall respond shortly.