An embarrassment for the continent
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari said on Friday that a wave of deadly violence against Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa last month was an embarrassment to the continent.
In September, rioting and attacks on foreigners led to at least 10 deaths, dozens of injuries and hundreds of arrests, triggering anger at home and abroad.
“The recent acts of xenophobic attacks on our compatriots and other Africans in South Africa are shocking to me, Nigerians and indeed Africa. It was an embarrassment to the continent,” Buhari told a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in South Africa, according to details of his speech on the Nigeria presidency Twitter page.
As the government of South Africa, we have expressed our deep regret at the attacks directed at foreign nationals.
“As a government, we are quite disturbed by these very unfortunate events and have taken actions and measures to address this issue and prevent their reoccurrence with the South African government,” he added.
Following the attacks, Buhari ordered the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians wanting to return home and around 600 people were repatriated.
Buhari met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday. They both regretted the violence and subsequent retaliation in Nigeria against South African businesses, pledging instead to deepen trade ties.
Buhari called for peace at the town hall meeting.
“The authorities have expressed their apologies over the incidents and have resolved to take necessary steps to end this ugly trend in the interest of our relationship,” he said.
“Let us therefore give peace a chance and pray we have seen the last of this ugly violence.”
Recalling the xenophobic fallout
In September, mobs armed with makeshift weapons attacked businesses and homes owned by foreigners, leading to at least 10 deaths, dozens of injuries and up to 400 arrests.
In response Nigeria repatriated around 600 of its citizens living in South Africa.
The local units of South African telecoms company MTN and supermarket chain Shoprite closed all stores and service centres in Nigeria after their premises were attacked by Nigerians protesting against attacks on their compatriots in South Africa.
#PMBinSA significant for a number of reasons:— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) October 3, 2019
- 2019 marks 20 years since establishment of SA-Nig BNC
- First State Visit to SA since new administration kicked off in May
- First Meeting of the “elevated” BNC (first time ever both Heads of State are co-chairing the BNC) pic.twitter.com/dpej9Mi9Vh
South Africa, Nigeria trade deals
South Africa and Nigeria signed 32 bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding covering trade and industry, science and technology, defence, agriculture and energy.
One of key items on Nigerian Agenda here is the push for large® Nigerian companies to have more opportunities to invest/establish in South Africa. At the moment the reality is of an imbalance: while SA Cos in Nigeria are large Corporations, Nigerian Cos in SA tend to be SMEs.— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) October 3, 2019
Nigeria accounts for 64 percent of South Africa’s total trade with the West African Region and is one of its largest trading partners on the continent.
Buhari, Ramaphosa address xenophobia
Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Muhammadu Buhari, at the conclusion of a two-day visit by the Nigerian leader, said they regretted the violence and subsequent retaliation in Nigeria against South African businesses, pledging instead to deepen trade ties.
“As the government of South Africa, we have expressed our deep regret at the attacks directed at foreign nationals and our condemnation of all forms of intolerance and acts of violence,” Ramaphosa told journalists.
Buhari said beyond the economic partnership the anti-foreigner violence had to be addressed quickly.
“We decided to take concrete measures to prevent the recurrence of such unacceptable incidents in the future,” Buhari said.
Both countries have agreed to establish an Early Warning System / Mechanism to ensure that future potential outbreaks of violence are nipped in the bud before they degenerate. Identify tensions as soon as they emerge, alert each other, take steps to de-escalate. #PMBinSA pic.twitter.com/uh7rKWpPpV— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) October 3, 2019
Buhari leaves for South Africa
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday travelled to South Africa, to resolve the issue of the welfare of Nigerians.
In a statement posted by the Nigerian presidency on Tuesday, it was announced that Buhari would meet Nigerians living in South Africa, preside over the South Africa-Nigeria bi-National Commission and participate at a South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum.
Buhari’s visit follows a spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africans cities that targeted foreign nationals including Nigerians.
Both governments sent special envoys to manage the diplomatic fallouts from the attacks, even as Nigeria’s government organised evacuations of its nationals that were no longer at ease in South Africa.
‘‘Buhari will hold a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in the country, with a view to sharing in their experiences and reassuring them of Nigerian government’s commitment to working for the protection of their lives and property and promoting peaceful co-existence,’‘ read part of the statement.
The violence in South Africa had stoked concerns about relations between Africa’s two biggest economies.