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Rwanda

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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9.

If he will make a statement on the political situation in Rwanda. [111602]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Bill Rammell)

:Progress is being made on rebuilding Rwanda and the lives of the people, but there is still a long way to go. The political situation is encouraging, with a constitutional referendum scheduled for 26 May and presidential and parliamentary elections later this year. We stand ready to help Rwanda with its election process. The Foreign Secretary is meeting President Kagami in London later this week.

:My hon. Friend will agree that the post-genocide transition period as defined in the Arusha accords is coming to an end and that it is a critical time for Rwanda. My hon. Friend will be aware also of the recent crackdown on the political opposition parties in Rwanda, particularly the largest opposition group, the MDR. Does he share my concern that, in the run-up to a referendum and constitutional elections, there is no serious opposition to the ruling RPF? As the biggest bilateral donor to Rwanda, should not the UK play a critical part in ensuring that fair elections are held? Will he impress that upon President Kagami at the talks later this week?

I certainly agree that this is a critical time for Rwanda. With regard to the MDR, we will be urging the Rwandan Government to follow full due process and to demonstrate their commitment to an inclusive and democratic state. I am not sure that I would go so far as to say that there was no opposition; there are some 80 opposition parties in existence. Undoubtedly, we will be taking the opportunity this week to discuss with the Rwandan Government how they intend to manifest their commitment to establishing a democratic and inclusive state. I am sure that will be on the agenda for the talks with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.