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Sudan and South Sudan

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 28 March 2017

Despite some improvements, the security situation in Sudan remains concerning, particularly in Darfur and the Two Areas. In South Sudan the security situation is much worse as fighting continues across the country and the humanitarian situation becomes increasingly desperate.

Sudan was recently appointed vice-chair of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, at a time when the organisation is considering investigating Sudan’s alleged use of such weapons. Does that not constitute a conflict of interests?

There are a number of concerns about Sudan, one of which is the use of chemical weapons. The United Nations has looked into the issue in detail, and to date there is no firm evidence that that is taking place, but we will continue to investigate.

I am sure that the Minister will share my concern about the recent attack on aid workers in South Sudan, which left seven dead. What support does he think the United Kingdom Government can give the United Nations to allow aid agencies to deal with the emerging famine in parts of the country?

I had an opportunity to visit South Sudan at the end of last year. We are now deploying 400 British troops in one of our largest peacekeeping operations in the world. This is a complex conflict: not only is there conflict between the two major tribes, but numerous sub-conflicts are taking place throughout the country. It is important that we are able to support the work of the Church that is trying to reconcile local differences, which will then allow non-governmental organisations to get in and provide the necessary humanitarian aid.

May I add my sincere tribute to those given to the right hon. Gentleman for his actions last week?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of allegations that both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar are currently using British passports to travel around Africa and elsewhere? Given that the terrible situation in South Sudan—both the famine and the security situation—is in significant part man-made, does he think that is appropriate, if it is true?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments.

I will certainly look into this question. Both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar have huge responsibility for what is actually a man-made conflict—let us not mince our words. South Sudan, a mineral-rich country, could be one of the richest in Africa, but it needs to reconcile its differences. It is the youngest country on the planet, yet its first few footsteps have been absolutely dire because of poor leadership, mostly by these two individuals.

Why do African nations and African regional organisations prove to be so ineffective not only in stopping the fighting but in relieving the misery?

My hon. Friend makes an important observation, but I would say that they are getting better at recognising that countries in Africa must honour their constitutions, and that leaders cannot simply hand over power to their son or daughter. The best example of that was in Gambia, where the neighbouring countries stepped forward to make sure that there was a peaceful transition to a new President.

I would like to press the Minister on the Amnesty International report that found strong evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Sudanese forces in Darfur, but which has been met, sadly, virtually by silence from his Government. Will the Minister explain which international partners he is working with, and how the Government will ensure that these deeply disturbing allegations are fully investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice?

I am happy to look into this in more detail. Our understanding is that this came to the attention of the United Nations, and it has conducted investigations as well. But it is difficult to collect evidence, simply because we do not have full access to the country, as we would like. I will certainly redouble my efforts to see what more I can find out.