Skip to main content

Equatorial Guinea

Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2011

4. What assessment he has made of the implications for the governance of Equatorial Guinea of the recent constitutional referendum in that country. (83286)

We do not have an ambassador based in Equatorial Guinea, but we have an ambassador based in Cameroon who visits regularly and takes a close interest in developments there. He often raises directly issues such as human rights, good governance and lack of social development. We also raise those issues through the EU and the UN.

As the Minister knows, hon. Friends and I published an excoriating report after our visit to Equatorial Guinea in the summer. Does he agree that certain principles of good governance, such as democracy, liberty and the rule of law, are universal and eternal?

I agree that those principles are vital and they are ones on which we will focus and put a huge amount of emphasis. I thank my hon. Friend for his report, and I pay tribute to him and his colleagues for their energy and open-mindedness in reporting back to the Foreign Office on that visit.

Can the Minister update the House on the Government’s assessment of growing concern about the position in Malawi—unrest, autocratic rule and real oppression?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that. Although we are talking about Equatorial Guinea, I was in Zambia recently and had a chance not to visit Malawi, but to have an assessment of what was going on there. We are very concerned indeed about the way in which the Malawi Government evicted our high commissioner, but a high level delegation from Malawi recently came to the Foreign Office and we were able to have candid discussions with them. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made it clear that there are certain measures that need to be put in place before we resume normal diplomatic relations.

The Minister is both well travelled and, as he has just shown, dextrous in his response to questions.

May we assume from the Minister’s reply that the Government’s policy now is to encourage contacts with countries with records on human rights as despicable as that of Equatorial Guinea, and that hon. Members should accept private invitations for five-star business class visits paid for by the Governments?

We have full diplomatic relations with Equatorial Guinea. We never hold back in telling that Government about our concerns regarding human rights and lack of good governance, and we have made it clear to the Government of Equatorial Guinea that they have a per capita income of $15,000 a year, yet that masks extremes of wealth between the very rich and the very, very poor. I welcome hon. Members going there with an open mind and reporting back to us.