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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Volume 493: debated on Monday 1 June 2009

5. What contribution the Government are making to the MONUC peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (277537)

We are making a valuable contribution to the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—MONUC—by deploying experienced officers into key posts, with their agreement. We will shortly be increasing our contribution to seven officers with the addition of a two-star deputy force commander.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The all-party group on the great lakes region and genocide prevention recently met Alan Doss, the new head of MONUC forces in the DRC. One of the issues that he raised with us was the need for US and UK security services to share intelligence with MONUC better if we are to track down the dissident groups operating in the east of the country. It is imperative that that intelligence is shared if security is to be restored in the east of the DRC, where Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, the CNDP, and the Hutu militia force, the FDLR, are still causing chaos and huge humanitarian disruption.

Obviously, we share my hon. Friend’s desire to see the disruption in the DRC brought to an end and the humanitarian crisis that has flowed from it reduced and stopped. I am not aware of difficulties in the sharing of appropriate intelligence. If she has any information in that regard that she wishes to pass on to me, I will look into it and try to ensure that, where appropriate, we give people any information that we have that would be useful to that end.

It is good news that we are giving money to the Conflict Prevention Pool, and a certain number of key people and a certain amount of funding to MONUC; I believe that it is nearly 10 per cent. of its funding. Does the Minister agree that unless other UN member states with reasonable lift capacity are willing to contribute, with a degree of leadership, to initiatives, be it MONUC in the DRC or those in Darfur, we simply will not make progress? These peacekeeping operations appear to be just marking time: we are not making progress and there is not the required grip, because member states that could give that grip of leadership are not participating.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the vast spaces involved in conducting operations in Africa mean that the need for strategic and tactical lift and helicopter capability in theatre is of particular importance, and that those are restricting factors in terms of our ability to have sufficient impact in places such as Darfur and the DRC. I hope to discourage him from suggesting that we, with the commitments that our people have at the moment, can provide that capability ourselves, but we will obviously do what we can to encourage others to do so.

Does the Minister recognise that one of the problems is that the militia groups and the armed forces operating in the eastern DRC are, in effect, funded by illicit mining operations? Huge sums flow tax-free out of the Congo, and then flow back in for the purpose of buying arms that kill and maim people. I realise that this is slightly beyond his remit, but can he speak to trade Ministers and Foreign Office Ministers to see what can be done to close off that flow?

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is no doubt that one of the motives for people to get involved in the area is the exploitation of minerals and other natural resources. We must all do everything that we can to prevent that from happening and to ensure that the regulations make that exploitation—and the humanitarian catastrophe that flows from it—not profitable as it has been in the past. I will do as my hon. Friend asks and see to it that we do all that we can in that regard.