HC Deb 05 February 2002 vol 379 cc725-6
7. Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North)

What plans he has to visit Cameroon to discuss bilateral relations. [30487]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was in Africa two weeks ago. All Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministerial visits are kept under review and announced when plans are firm.

Mr. Chaytor

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Did the Government take the opportunity to discuss Cameroon with the French Government during the recent Anglo-French initiative in Africa? Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government in Cameroon routinely use death squads from their special security forces to eliminate political opponents? Does he also agree that the United Nations rapporteur on torture recently described the prisons in Cameroon as the worst that he had seen anywhere? Are not the repressive and discriminatory policies of the Government in Cameroon directed against the English-speaking minority, especially members of the Southern Cameroons National Council? Will my hon. Friend assure—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister now has enough to cope with.

Mr. MacShane

My hon. Friend has listed many of the human rights abuses in Cameroon. The Government are greatly concerned about them. Cameroon is a bilingual Franco-and Anglophone country which causes anxiety to the EU and the Commonwealth, and is likely to be discussed at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights next month.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

The Prime Minister has described Africa as a scar on the conscience of the world. Why will he pass Cameroon by in his forthcoming visit to west Africa? Surely it is in special need of a visitation from him, in the dire circumstances that the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) described. Will the prosperity of Cameroon and other countries in Africa be enhanced by the part-privatisation of the Commonwealth Development Corporation?

Mr. MacShane

I welcome my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Africa. There are many people and organisations in all our constituencies for whom concern about Africa is a priority, and such comments come ill from the Conservatives, who did not lift a finger to give any serious help to Africa during their long years in government, and whose leader has just made a great speech on foreign affairs which did not mention that continent once.

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