*urges African Union to take drastic measures to end attacks urgently
By ONYEKACHUKWU MELUWA
Authorities of a Nigerian based Non Governmental Organisation the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ have condemned in strong terms the current trend of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
The Center noted that Xenophobia in South Africa significantly increased after Nigeria led other countries in the fight for the election of a government of black majority in 1994.
National Coordinator of the Center , Comrade Mulade Sheriff, while addressing jounalists in Asaba, the capital of Delta State expressed total disappointment over the attitude of South African youths towards African immigrants and while quoting a 2004 study published by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP), the NGO said South Africans expressed the harshest anti-immigrant sentiment, with 21% of them in favour of a complete ban on foreign entry and 64% supporting strict limitations on the number of immigrants permitted. Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees became common and communities were divided by hostility and suspicion.
The Center has therefore charged the Nigerian government to be more proactive in ensuring that the lives and property of Nigerians in South Africa are protected. The NGO also charged the African Union, AU to immediately step in, in the interest of peace and unity as its contribution towards uniting Africans through the use of resources to avert future attacks, and ensure that attempts at blocking peace building amongst the affected Africans, are forstalled.
CEPEJ which has the mandate to promote peace, good governance and fundamental human rights of the marginalized populations, and promoting environmental best practices, has also called on the South African government and relevant authorities to ensure that perpetrators of the dastardly acts of violence and violations of human rights are brought to justice, and that steps are taken to end the uprising.
The recent anti-foreigner attacks in Johannesburg have triggered violence and widespread looting of South Africa-owned brands in Nigeria. Many stores owned by Nigerians were also touched by angry mobs who looted, burnt and vandalized shops and vehicles, after violence erupted on Sunday.
Reports say many people were killed and about 189 persons allegedly involved in the mayhem have been arrested. Many foreign stores were targeted in the violence. The impacts of the latest xenophobic attacks are now reverberating across the African continent with far-reaching negative consequences if not urgently curtailed.
In Nigeria, South African business outfits were attacked, characterized in some cases by looting and mass destruction. Although the government of South Africa and that of Nigeria condemned the attacks, more action is required to stop the xenophobic offensive before it gets out of hand.
Observers say the attacks were driven by economic tension and growing inequality in South Africa. There are signs of economic and class wars between the poor and the rich fuelled by leadership failure.