Nigeria sends delegation to South Africa over xenophobic attacks

By The Citizen
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The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the Minister of Interior, General Abdul-Rahaman Dambazau (rtd), yesterday arrived in South Africa to hold talks with relevant officials of the country over the spate of xenophobic attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians.

According to a statement by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Clement Aduku, while in South Africa, the delegation would meet with the South African President, Jacob Zuma, as well as the country's Foreign Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, among other top ranking officials.

'The talks are aimed at addressing head on the recent attacks on Nigerians and to seek permanent solution to the crisis. The delegation will also meet with the Nigerian community leaders in the country,' it added.

Meanwhile, Nigeria and South Africa have announced the establishment of an Early Warning Unit (EWU) aimed at providing information that would help the governments of both countries nipped all forms of violence before they escalate.

The EWU which would be replicated in both countries is the fall out of decision reached by the two governments to tackle rising waves of xenophobia that is threatening relations between the two countries.

The announcement was made yesterday at a joint press briefing by Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Onyeama, and his South African counterpart, Nkoana-Mashabane, during the bilateral meeting of the two countries in Pretoria, South Africa.

According to Nkoana-Mashabane, the unit which comprises representatives of governments, security agencies, civil society organisation and business owners would keep each other abreast of development and enable government make proactive decision.

Also speaking, Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs, while noting that communication is key to violence and conflict prevention, disclosed that the unit would have its first meeting within a month thereby meeting quarterly.

Nkoana-Mashaba said the meeting afforded both countries the opportunity to review their bilateral relations and cooperation as well as for South Africa to present her position and responds to recent incident of xenophobic attacks which according to her have been condemned by the government.

She said: 'I also used the opportunity of this meeting to brief Onyeama on the recent unfortunate attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, including Nigerian nationals.

'In this regard, I highlighted the South African Government's condemnation of all forms of discrimination based on race, religion, sex or creed, including xenophobia or afrophobia.

'I further affirmed South Africa's constitutional democracy which enshrines human rights, bills of rights, democratic values, human dignity, equality and freedoms.'

The minister added that in order to dispel the notion that the attacks were specifically targeted at Nigerian nationals, the government did everything possible to douse the tension generated.

She said Nigeria and South Africa relations have come a long way to be dented by the attacks.

'We took note of more than 120 South African businesses operating in Nigeria in telecommunications, mining, aviation, banking and finance, retail, property, entertainment and fast food industries,' she said.

Onyeama who assured of Nigeria's readiness to partner with on the advancement of the two countries, added that the early warning mechanism would always form part of agenda at the Ni-National Commission's meeting which has now been elevated to the level of Heads of States of the two countries.

He said: 'Unfortunately for some time now there has been this incidence of attacks and Nigerians have been victims and we as a government have known that this was not state sponsored and that the South African governments always condemned this and that the south African people always condemned this and it was very often the action of a small minority, a small criminal minority.

'But nevertheless, unfortunately those events have taken place. We also recognise that not all Nigerians in South Africa are engaged in unlawful activities. The vast majority are contributing enormously to creating the dynamic South African society. The vast majority feel very much at home in South Africa and this is the narrative we also want to pursue.

The visiting envoy was confidence the recent incident would not redefine the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria, noting that with the adoption of the EWU and assurances received from the government and people of South Africa, peace would soon be established and a conducive environment created for Nigerians in South Africa.

'The government and people of south Africa is fully with us, fully supportive of Nigerians, welcoming Nigerians in this country and are taking all the necessary measures to ensure that Nigerians here are able to stay here in peace and security and that their properties and their rights will always be respected', he said.

After the meeting which also involved the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazzau, the South African Minister of Homes Affairs, Malusi Gigaba and South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Loius Mnguni, Onyeama in company of Nigeria embassy's staff in South Africa, headed by the Acting High Commissioner, Mr. Martin Cobham, paid a visit to Nigerian victims of the xenophobic attack and assured them of measures put in place by the two governments to ensure their safety and well being as well as protection of their business.

President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa who spoke on behalf of others thanked the minister for the solidarity and assured him of their readiness to take advantage of the Early Warning Unit mechanism to prevent the perpetuation of violence in their home countries.

The Early Warning Unit would also be established in Nigeria to afford South Africans living in Nigeria present situations that may be of any threat to their well being and business.