South Africa: Xenophobia under the spotlight at AU summit

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) - Xenophobia is likely to be a hot topic at the African Union (AU) Summit which is underway in Johannesburg.

Ironically, it is the host nation that has made global headlines in recent years following a surge in xenophobic violence which has left several foreign nationals dead, with thousands seeking shelter in refugee camps or returning home.

South Africa stepped in to host the summit at the eleventh hour after Chad was obliged to withdraw because of the Boko Haram threat.

However, the latest wave of xenophobic violence which broke out after the announcement has severely embarrassed the host nation.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council in April held a special meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to address the crisis.

There were concerns that some heads of state would boycott the event in protest.

South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane poured cold water on this earlier this week, noting that President Jacob Zuma had addressed the fallout from the violence, including addressing African leaders at a Southern African Development Community summit in Harare in April.

Jean Mfasoni, Secretary-General of the African Union (AU) Commission, addressed the issue at a pre-summit press conference on Wednesday by cautioning that “the recent developments here” could have occurred elsewhere in Africa.

However, Pretoria is painfully aware of the revulsion that the issue has caused throughout the continent and the rest of the world.

The South African police and soldiers continue to target the perpetrators of the violence, particularly in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces where xenophobia flared up recently.

The Johannesburg summit is also expected to address the flood of African migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to reach Europe, which have also raised xenophobic tensions.

It’s a burning issue because the International Organisation for Migration has noted that nearly 2, 000 migrants had died by early May, including about 800 killed in a single shipwreck in April.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh this week called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Gambia, with a population of only 1,900,000, is one of the leading countries of origin of the migrants.
-0- PANA CU/SEG 12June2015

12 june 2015 07:44:19

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