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Volume 522: debated on Tuesday 1 February 2011

The southern Sudan referendum is a momentous step towards the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement. We welcome the positive reactions of the north and of observers of the referendum as we await the formal results. We will support north and south as they work on the remaining CPA issues, but obviously we will not be taking our eye off Darfur, as we work tirelessly to establish a lasting peace in that troubled province.

I thank the Minister for that answer, and I am sure he will be aware of the concerns shared across the international community on the continued presence of the Lords Resistance Army in south Sudan. A joint non-governmental organisation briefing in December 2010, entitled “Ghosts of Christmas Past”, documented some of the atrocities committed by that organisation on Christmas eve 2008. What assessment can the Minister can give us of the efforts of the international community to prevent the rise of that organisation in south Sudan and across the region?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising the subject of the Lords Resistance Army. It is an organisation comprising about 400 fighters, under the leadership of an extremely evil commander, and although it is small, it can wreak havoc; it is able to displace many communities and terrorise many people. We are sparing no effort at all in helping those countries who are on the front line of tackling the LRA, and we are doing all we possibly can to bring its leader to justice in the International Criminal Court as well.

There are strong bonds with Sudan across the Salisbury diocese, including between Holt school in my own village and a school in Juba in southern Sudan, where educational resources are very stretched. In light of the referendum, there are growing concerns for the Christian minority that will be left in the north. What representations have the Government made to the Sudanese authorities about the importance of protecting minorities throughout Sudan?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question, because we are working very closely with the Government of Sudan. We made it clear to President Bashir’s Government that his requirements for debt relief are conditional not just on making progress on the CPA and achieving an inclusive peace with justice in Darfur, but on having a policy that respects the rights of all parts of that country.

I very much welcome what the Minister said about south Sudan and, particularly, Darfur. Last week, Human Rights Watch said:

“There are clear signs that the situation in Darfur is getting worse”


“the international community is failing to monitor and respond properly to what is happening”.

Does he agree that now is the time to give real priority to resolving the long-running and tragic crisis in Darfur?

I agree with the shadow Minister on that, because we must not take our eye off Darfur and there have been some worrying concerns recently—for example, three Bulgarian humanitarian pilots were captured, and we are demanding their immediate release—but I am pleased that significant progress has been made in the recent negotiations under the chief mediator, Djibril Bassolé, in Doha. In fact, two parts of the rebel forces—the Justice and Equality Movement and the Liberation and Justice Movement—have been engaged in the peace process. It is very important indeed that the Sudan Liberation Army now comes to the table and that every possible effort is made to build peace in that troubled province. Unless that peace is secured, there really cannot be a way forward and a future for Sudan.

President al-Bashir has said that southern Sudanese living in the north will be classed as foreigners and will lose rights accordingly. What will the UK Government do to ensure that the citizenship issues are properly resolved, so that people can live in the north or the south and have their rights protected accordingly?

I certainly share my hon. Friend’s concern about the southern Sudanese who have been living in the north, but I was heartened by what President Bashir said on his visit to Juba on 4 January. He made it clear that all the southerners who are living in the north are welcome to stay there, that they can move to the south if they want to and that their rights to property and their other rights will be maintained. That is the first time that President Bashir has said that absolutely categorically, and we will do all that we can to hold him to his word.