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Democratic Republic of Congo

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

2. What representations he has made to the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the effects on civilians of the military conflict in eastern DRC. (257914)

The Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Africa urged the Presidents of Rwanda and of the DRC to work to resolve the instability in eastern DRC when they visited the region last year. We have continually raised the protection of civilians with both Governments, directly and through the European Union and the United Nations. Those efforts, as part of international pressure, have led to real political progress.

I thank the Minister for that answer. The current joint operation in eastern Congo is unlikely to eradicate the presence of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda—FDLR—before the Rwandans reach the end of the time that they had allocated for that. Will my hon. Friend press the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo—MONUC—and the Congolese Government to ensure that there is a strategy in place to deal robustly with what remains of the movement? Does she agree that it is essential quickly to get the reinforcements for MONUC, which were agreed in December at the UN, to deal with the FDLR and with the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Congo, where 900 people have recently been killed?

First, I commend my hon. Friend’s work in the region and her assessment of the position. I can give the reassurance that we have continued to press the DRC Government to plan for post-military action, including humanitarian work and stabilisation, in the way that she describes. As she says, MONUC is key to that, as is the DRC Government’s working with MONUC and the reinforcement of MONUC troops. I understand that most of the 3,000 reinforcements have been identified, and that MONUC will soon send extra troops to northern Congo.

May I press the Under-Secretary a little further on the future of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Congo? It has become clear that the MONUC force is incapable of effectively keeping the peace in eastern Congo. I understand from this morning’s Financial Times that discussions have taken place between the British and the French Governments about the future of UN peacekeeping forces, including the one in the Congo. Will the Under-Secretary give us a little more information about that?

Indeed, there are discussions at the UN about all peacekeeping operations. It is important to emphasise that a successful political process will bring peace and a decent future to the region—the problems cannot be solved by military means alone. However, the role of MONUC troops is essential and that is why we seek and support their reinforcement.

May I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to early-day motion 810, which refers to the sad death of Dr. Alison Des Forges? Dr. Des Forges met a number of hon. Members the day before she was killed a couple of weeks ago. She was unquestionably one of the world’s leading authorities on the great lakes region. Will my hon. Friend join me and the House in sending her condolences to Dr. Des Forges’s family?

I certainly will. I would add that perhaps the greatest tribute that we can give to somebody of such stature is to seek peace and a decent future for the DRC and, indeed, the whole region. I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution, both through the all-party parliamentary group and by drawing the issue to the attention of the House through his early-day motion.