Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Monday, 17 December 2012

Two Lib Dem peers call for a greater UN peace role in DRC

Two Liberal Democrat peers have called for the UN's stabilisation role in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be stepped up.

The comments came as the government responded to an oral question from Labour peer Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, on 17 December 2012.

Lord McConnell was asking what action the UK government was taking, along with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda, to encourage peace in the country.

The DRC is slowly recovering from a conflict known as Africa's first world war, which led to the loss of some five million lives between 1994 and 2003, but many eastern areas are still plagued by violence as various rebel groups continue to operate there.

M23 rebels, made up of deserters from the Congolese army, had threatened to overthrow the government after taking the eastern city of Goma in a rebellion in November.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Chidgey called on the government to push for a greater role for the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission - known by its French acronym Monusco.

He asked: "Will the government continue to press, in the UN Security Council, for Monusco's mandate to be up-rated from peace-keepers to peace-makers, with all the resources that are needed to deter the criminal elements of the M23?"

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi confirmed that the UK has committed £69m to Monusco's mission in the region this year, but refused to be drawn on whether the government would be pushing for a change in Monusco's mandate.

Baroness Warsi was put under further pressure from Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury, who asked whether she supported a change in mandate.

But Lady Warsi said that while some commentators had been critical of the UN peace-keeping force, their mandate remains to "protect civilians", although she added that she would "take on board" the comments of Lord Avebury.

Peers also asked questions on research and development at major teaching hospitals, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and a screening programme for hearing loss.

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