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Cameroon: Human Rights

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 30 November 2021

The human rights situation in the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon is deeply concerning. Around 2.3 million people need humanitarian support and my Department has planned £5 million of humanitarian aid this year, which will help those affected by the crisis. We are urging all actors, including the Cameroonian Government, to remain engaged in efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The Biya Government’s hard-handed approach to calls for reform from those living in the Anglophone region has led to violence, 765,000 persons being displaced from their homes, and 800,000 children out of school. We have a long-standing connection to Cameroon and I am glad to hear from the Minister about efforts so far, but will she make a full-throated commitment today to a peaceful resolution to the crisis, and say what diplomatic efforts will be made by her and her colleagues over the next few months to bring it about?

We will continue to work with partners, such as the US and France, to raise the north-west and south-west crisis in multilateral forums. We urge all parties to remain engaged with the Swiss-led process to promote a peaceful resolution to the crisis. As I said, our planned humanitarian aid to Cameroon this year will be £5 million, which will help to support the World Food Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross specifically for the most vulnerable populations in those regions.

In her time as International Trade Secretary, the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) blocked a genocide amendment against Chinese persecution of Uyghur Muslims, resumed the sale of UK bombs used against civilians in Yemen, and signed trade deals with human-rights-abusing tyrants from Egypt to Cameroon. Does the Minister recognise that the shoddy trade deal signed with Cameroon—a trade deal even Donald Trump would not sign because of human rights concerns—was not only a missed opportunity to insert clauses relating to genocide, mass killings of civilians and modern slavery, but, as her past record demonstrates, suggests that the Foreign Secretary does not give a jot for human rights or standing up against tyrants?

The UK and Cameroon signed an economic partnership agreement in March this year, which ensures the continuity of our trading arrangements. It is a development-focused agreement. The EPA recognises that the trade access provided is vital to the livelihoods of many, many Cameroonians. We are very clear that using trade to support development and prosperity does not have to come at the expense of protecting human rights. We continue to press the Cameroonian Government to uphold the principles of human rights and democracy which underpin the EPA.