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Democratic Republic of Congo

Volume 716: debated on Friday 15 January 2010

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo regarding concerns about corruption, impunity and human rights abuse in that country. [HL1147]

We lobby the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) vigorously through our embassy in Kinshasa on the human rights situation in the country and we welcome President Kabila's zero tolerance policy on human rights abusers. We continue to press for measures to be taken on impunity for serious abusers, including the handover of Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court. We take the issue of impunity seriously, and have lent support to developing the justice sector in DRC. We are providing around £80 million over five years to increase accountability of the security sector through strengthened oversight mechanisms, technical assistance and training.

We also lobby strongly for, and support, action to be taken on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Our action to combat this is focused on four levels: prevention; strengthening medical and psychosocial response; support during the judicial process; and advocacy to generate political action by the DRC Government. The Security Council recently passed Regulation 1888 which was co-sponsored by the UK. It renews Security Council Regulation 1820 on women and conflict, and creates a technical task force to look at sexual violence, as well as a UN special envoy.

The UK in addition continues to push for legal action against five senior commanders of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) accused of committing sexual violence and who were named by the UN Security Council during their visit. We will continue to stress the importance of ensuring the implementation of the UN peacekeeping mission's policy of withdrawing support from FARDC units implicated in serious human rights abuses.

We are working with the international community, particularly the World Bank, European Commission, International Monetary Fund and the UN Development Programme, to tackle corruption in the DRC. We are supporting government institutions to develop a more efficient and transparent public financial management system, and are working to improve the quality of government audit and budgeting processes. In addition, through a new civil society fund, we are starting work to make Parliament and civil society stronger in holding government agencies to account.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have assessed British-owned or British-based arms-brokers dealing with armed groups in the Great Lakes region of Africa. [HL1148]

We are not aware of British or British-based arms brokers dealing with armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Any such brokers dealing with armed groups would be liable for sanctions, and their activities would be subject to domestic export control legislation. We take our obligations under sanctions very seriously and will not hesitate to support sanctions against any person or company against whom there is sufficient evidence, including UK-based companies or individuals.

We fully support and welcome the work of the UN Group of Experts, the panel of five UN-appointed officials responsible for investigating compliance with the terms of the arms embargo and the sanctions regime which apply in DRC, into the activities of armed groups in the eastern DRC and how they are funded.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they, the European Union Special Representative and the United States special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa are working (a) to create a permanent and effectively monitored ceasefire in the Kivus, (b) to end the trading of metals from allegedly inhumanely mined minerals in the Congo in European and American markets, (c) to ensure that there is effective justice following alleged deployment of rape as a weapon of war, use of children as soldiers, and other alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, (d) to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and incidences of fistula, and (e) to increase access to education. [HL1149]

(a) Any permanent ceasefire in the Kivus will require close co-operation between the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. We welcome the recent rapprochement between Rwanda and DRC—including the recent exchange of ambassadors—which has lead to greater co-operation and stability in the region. Our ambassador in Kinshasa and High Commissioner in Kigali are in close contact with their respective host Governments and continue to engage on this issue.

(b) The UK fully supports the work of the UN Group of Experts which has led investigations into the companies and individuals benefiting from the illicit trade in natural resources. We are working with the Government of DRC to promote the mining sector and the trade of minerals in a more regulated and transparent way which will inhibit the opportunities of illegal groups to exploit the mining and trade. We also take very seriously our obligations under sanctions and will not hesitate to support sanctions against any person or company against whom there is sufficient evidence, including UK-based companies or individuals.

(c) The UK supports international efforts to prevent crimes against humanity. We have been working with partners on an emergency justice project to help bring the most serious crimes in eastern DRC to justice, including specific provision for crimes of sexual violence. We are working within a security sector reform programme to end the culture of impunity for the security forces, for example providing barracks, pay, etc, to reduce the predation of the army on civilian populations.

The UK is equally committed to playing an active role in international efforts to protect children affected by armed conflict as a member of the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and through the European Union. The UK has also provided very significant financial support to a number of programmes that help children affected by armed conflict. The UK strongly supports the work of international courts and tribunals which are trying the alleged perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community including those against children.

(d) The Department for International Development (DfID) supports a programme of HIV/AIDS prevention, which includes the distribution of condoms and behaviour change and helping the Government develop a national strategy for tackling HIV/AIDS.

(e) DfID leads the international donor group in DRC on education and supports the Government's aspiration to achieve universal free primary education. It is supporting the DRC's primary and secondary education strategy through a teacher census and a school mapping exercise, and we continue to support universal access to education through a scheme for providing insurance for primary school children to attend school.

The UK works with a range of partners on these issues, including the EU and the United States.