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Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 16:18 UK

MP fury at 'racist' Nigeria boat

Athol Trollip
Athol Trollip said he was proud of the solidarity shown by fellow MPs

A group of Commonwealth MPs has cancelled a trip in Nigeria after a boat company refused to carry its white members, citing security reasons.

The governor of Rivers State apologised and undertook to close the ferry company jetty until they change policy.

The trip was to Bonny Island in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where foreigners are often kidnapped by militants.

Black MPs refused to travel out of solidarity and condemned the "heinously racist policy."

The ferry company argued that having white passengers on board would compromise the safety of other passengers.

Five members of the group were barred from the trip - four white South Africans and a mixed-race MP from Namibia.

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But the South African delegation, supported by parliamentarians from Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Gabon and Tanzania, protested that the policy was unacceptable.

The deputy-speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, of the African National Congress, said: "Emotions became quite heated at one stage."

His colleague, Athol Trollip, of the opposition Democratic Alliance, told the BBC that the solidarity displayed by the South African delegation made him proud.

"It is such a tragedy that white South Africans didn't show similar solidarity with our black brothers 100 years ago," he said.

The incident took place during a two-week visit to Nigeria organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Alliance.



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