Why the AU must intervene promptly!
On account of another rising wave of attacks based on xenophobia, relations between the two largest economies in Africa today, Nigeria and South Africa have sharply deteriorated. This is most unfortunate.
Significantly, this is coming at a time when nationalism is on the ascendancy in Europe and North America which in itself circumscribes the global emigration space further for Africans.
In the recent incients, a fresh bout of violence reportedly broke out in Pretoria when residents looted and set the homes of foreigners mostly Nigerians on fire.
In the account of news sites, no fewer than three houses were set alight and various residences were looted, with crowd of indigenous South Africans threatening more vicious attacks.
Among other things the enraged South Africans are accusing notably the Nigerian immigrants of running drug, crime and prostitution rings within the country.
While it is not impossible that there could indeed be Nigerians and other foreign nationals who are similarly engaged, the time tested practice the world over is that law enforcement be stepped up to address the challenge. Besides, it is hardly possible that crimes of the nature being described would be taking place without a considerable dose of ‘local content.’
This is moreso when it is common knowledge that right from the end of the apartheid era, and even when there were only a handful of foreign nationals within the country, South African per capita crime figures have been some of the highest in the world. Indeed, countless examples exist of Nigerians and other foreign nationals being robbed as soon as they exit aircraft at the Oliver Tambo International Airport even as South african travel agencies continue to post advisories on the need for visitors to stay off certain routes and take extra care of their valuables while in the country.
Instructively also, it is to be noted that in many of the past and recent acts of xenophobia, there have been widespread acts of looting and resentment over the fact that foreigners own property in the country, which clearly point to the deeper origins of the crisis. As the American president put it in another context, it is the economy, stupid!
And the facts do bear us out. With the South African economy witnessing immense shocks on account of the poor leadership being provided the nation by incumbent President, Jacob Zuma, what is following is that frustrated youth are turning on the foe they can conceive and beat: the foreigner.
Sadly however also, many of the other nations from where the affected migrants had moved into South Africa, Nigeria inclusive, are also very badly managed by their own political leaders and therefore incapable of providing natural economic havens for their job-seeking economic exiles who are now caught in the current and most unfortunate cross-fire.
The African Union must urgently wade into the situation and call South Africa to order now even as it takes up the gauntlet to lead the way in the total rejuvenation of the pan-African economy such that Africans can find satisfying economic expression in their countries of origination, and also safety and protection when they move across the continent in search of better economic, social and cultural aspirations.
From Marcus Garvey through Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe to Nelson Mandela, a lot has been invested in the arena of pan-African solidarity and cooperation. This must not be wiped away today because the Moussa Faki Mahamat leadership of the Africa Union cannot rise to the challenges of today that threaten the expansion of pan-African peace and development.
AU Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat