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Democratic Republic of Congo

Volume 715: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the assessment of the International Rescue Committee study that around 45,000 Congolese people die every month as a consequence of war and that the majority of those are children; and whether they have estimated the total number of civilian lives lost in war and genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in the past 20 years. [HL474]

The UN estimates that around 800,000 people were killed during the genocide in Rwanda and that since 1998 over 5 million people have died as a result of continued fighting and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The number of people, notably civilians, which continue to be caught in the conflicts in eastern and northern DRC, is unacceptably high and it is a regrettable reality of war that it is often the most vulnerable that get hit the hardest. However, those responsible for the atrocities should be held to account. We continue to actively support the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in their peacekeeping efforts in the region and encourage states in the region to implement effective long-term action towards regional stability.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will suggest a plebiscite to determine the level of support for the armed militias operating in the east of the Congo and North and South Kivu, in order to assess arguments that there is popular support for armed struggle there. [HL475]

Congolese armed groups in North and South Kivu signed an agreement on 23 March 2009 with the Congolese Government, as part of an on-going peace process, in which they agreed to integrate into the Congolese Army, and to transform into political parties. Political parties meeting registration criteria should of course be able to stand in the local elections, due end of 2010/early 2011. The overriding desire of the Kivus population is for long-term peace and security, and we judge that this agreement offers the best chance of achieving this. Through the EU Security Sector Reform mission in Congo, we are supporting army integration; we also regularly encourage progress on the political aspects of the agreement. In these circumstances a plebiscite is not appropriate.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they decided that Rwanda should join the Commonwealth; and when that matter was debated or approved by either House of Parliament. [HL542]

Rwanda first applied to join the Commonwealth in the mid-1990s, and was considered in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh in 1997. At that stage, the UK supported the then criteria, which included the need for a constitutional link with an existing Commonwealth member. As such, Rwanda would not have been eligible to join.

The 2007 CHOGM in Kampala saw a review of the membership criteria and the condition of a constitutional link was replaced by a close link to an existing Commonwealth member state. The UK has supported Rwanda's bid to join the Commonwealth from this time onwards. This matter has been discussed publicly since. However, it is not the practice to ratify such decisions made by the Commonwealth or member states in national parliaments—including that of the UK.

The decision on new applications to join is taken by all the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Commonwealth Heads of Government voted unanimously to allow Rwanda to join the organisation in Trinidad in November.