Nigeria, South Africa adopt diplomatic moves to kill Xenophobia

Posted by Editor | 2 years ago | 12


Beyond the signing of 32 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, MoUs and issuance of 10-year visas by South Africa and Nigeria, the real death nail on xenophobia is tackling the root causes of the xenophobic attacks against foreigners, while the Nigerian government, on its part, should address the dearth of basic infrastructure and the factors that promote economic migration

By Goddy Ikeh As Nigeria marked its 59th Independence anniversary on Tuesday, October 1, one gets the impression that it took the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans to wake up the sleeping giant of Africa. Before the incident, some scholars have wondered if the current Nigerian government has any clear foreign policy agenda. Even while President Muhammadu Buhari left for the three-day official visit to South Africa, a move which was unpopular with some Nigerian scholars and activists, the former director general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Professor Bola Akinterinwa, said in interview with Channels Television that he was not too sure of what could be said to be the foreign policy of the government. He, however, hinged it on the new focus on diaspora issues. He could be right since the government has since elevated the Diaspora Office to a Commission and it has been adding its voice to the plight of Nigerians abroad. Although it may be expedient to commend President Buhari and his team in the way they have handled the Xenophobia crisis, but it was still not a departure from the usual reactive approach instead proactive measures which often are more productive. During his meetings in Pretoria with his South African host President Cyril Ramaphosa, Buhari strongly condemned the xenophobic attacks in some South African cities, which led to the looting of shops owned by foreign nationals and demanded that measures should be put in place to prevent the re-occurrence of the attacks. “Mr President, we have condemned in strongest terms attacks against Nigerians and other African nationals living in South Africa, including the looting of their shops and businesses and burning of their properties. “We call for the strengthening and the implementation of all the necessary measures to prevent the reoccurrence of such actions,” Buhari said. Responding, Ramaphosa repeatedly apologised over the attacks, and reiterated his government’s “deep regret at the incidents of public violence”. “Some of the acts of violence were directed at foreign nationals and some of whom, coming from your own country. “We firmly condemn all forms of intolerance and will not hesitate to act against criminal acts and violence,” he said. Before Buhari and his counterpart Ramaphosa later went into long-planned talks aimed at bolstering trade ties and political cooperation to boost their economies, the Nigerian leader had called for more tolerance, vigilance and heightened security in African countries to ensure safety of citizens, noting that competition heralded by globalisation, especially with ease in migration, would only get more intense for businesses. Speaking at a news conference at the Union Building, alongside his host, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Buhari stressed the need for relevant authorities to be more pro-active in detecting early signals of violence between competitors, while migrants and companies should adhere to the laws of host countries. “Police must be on alert not to allow violence to escalate,’’ he said. Buhari said the business world had turned out more dynamic over the years, with foreigners competing with locals in businesses that were initially considered low. He said the panacea would only be for security agencies to show more interest in market operations, players and likely areas of tensions. He likened the situation of Nigerians in South Africa to Ghana where competition at low levels of the economy breeds intense competition, noting that it will keep growing with population explosion. Buhari urged Nigerians living in various parts of the world, especially in South Africa, to obey the laws of the country they reside, and ensure compliance with market laws. On the Bi-National Commission meeting, Buhari said that he and his host reviewed a wide range of issues at national, regional, continental and global levels and that some of the issues included trade, investment, mining, security, police affairs and environment. “Our two countries have also agreed to unequivocally address the challenges in our relations, including the recent people to people challenges that saw attacks against foreign nationals, including Nigerians, and their properties, which we strongly condemned,’’ Buhari said. Responding, Ramaphosa said that the attacks on foreigners in South Africa, including Nigerians, were regrettable and assured that his government would work hard to see an end to such attacks. He also said the reprisal attacks in Nigeria were also condemnable. “We will work together to promote cohesion and best values. What happened did not reflect our values. We both condemn the attacks and the reprisal in strongest terms. We will set up mechanisms for early signals,’’ he said, adding that his country would also create a more enabling environment for Nigerian businesses to thrive in South Africa, acknowledging that more South African companies operate in Nigeria, while Nigerians were mostly in Small and Medium Scale sectors in his country. He promised to deepen the reforms in his country to open the space for more Nigerian business to “address the imbalance”. “The rule of law must be obeyed by all citizens. Nigerians in South Africa must obey the rule of law, while South Africans in Nigeria must obey the rule of law,’’ he said. The 9th session of the Bi-National Commission, signed by Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, noted that the Commission had been elevated to the level of Heads of State, and that the  two countries agreed on issuing 10-year visas to businessmen, academics and frequent travelers. The two presidents agreed on early warning signals to nip violence in the bud before it escalates, while taking into consideration the need to share more intelligence and promote stronger partnership in security. The two countries also agreed to re-establish the consular forum, which is a structured arrangement where both governments meet regularly, at least twice in a year, to discuss welfare of citizens. With the conclusion of the visit by Buhari and the signing of about 32 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, MoUs, by both countries, the challenge lies on the commitment and political will of the governments and peoples of the two countries to ensure the full implementation of the agreements. One obvious challenge is getting South African officials and their citizens to change their narrative of what constitutes xenophobic attacks. For instance, in 1995, the then minister of home affairs, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, wondered why his efforts to defend the interest of South Africans could be regarded as xenophobic discrimination against fellow blacks. “I challenge the idea,” he said, adding: “That if one is trying to look after the interest of South Africa, one is xenophobic.” The position of Buthelezi, over two decades ago, is not different from the views expressed by some South African ministers during the recent xenophobic attacks. While trying to repair its stained image, South Africa should take urgent steps to ensure that African nationals are protected and that the rule of law is enforced and public order policing improved upon in the country. And to aid the implementation of these agreements, the South Africa government should endeavour to tackle the problems of unemployment, inequality and hate speech, which are the root causes of the xenophobic attacks against foreigners, while it should at all times, speak out boldly against xenophobic violence in South Africa. The Nigerian government, on its part. should address the challenges of youth unemployment and the dearth of basic infrastructure needed to establish and grow businesses in the country. If these challenges are urgently tackled, it will reduce the number of Nigerians seeking greener pastures in South Africa and other foreign countries. However, now that the South African government has openly thrown its weight behind the current drive to change the narrative and kill xenophobia, the citizens may have no option than to key into change agenda for the benefit and development of Africa. Perhaps, this action of the Nigerian government is a clear signal that it is now ready to prove to Nigerians and the international community that it is set to retune its foreign policy and assume its leadership role in Africa. – Oct. 5, 2019 @ 17:17 GMT |

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