NAIROBI, May 20 – The Government has expressed deep concerns over the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and ordered all Kenyans in that country to immediately report any threats to their lives to the Embassy in Johannesburg.
Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said on Tuesday that the xenophobic attacks targeting non-South African nationals were disturbing and must be condemned the world over.
Reports from South Africa indicate that the attacks initially targeted refugees searching for already scarce jobs in South Africa after fleeing economic hardships at home.
The reports revealed that Zimbabwean and Malawian refugees were the main targets.
“In that regard, Kenyans are strongly advised to avoid trouble spots and to observe personal security precautions,” Wetangula told a news conference in Nairobi.
Statistics available at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Kenyan High Commission in Johannesburg indicate the there are over 20,000 Kenyans living and working in South Africa.
Many of them, the Minister said, engage in professional and productive activities.
“Although we have not received any reports of casualties involving a Kenyan, many of them have incurred massive losses as a result of closure or attacks on their businesses,” Wetangula supplied.
And to ensure the safety of Kenyans, the Minister directed the High Commissioner in South Africa Thomas Amolo to encourage Kenyans living there to get together, take their own census on a regular basis, and brief the Mission accordingly.
He also directed the High Commission to open emergency channels for quick assistance should the need arise.
“These measures shall ensure that each Kenyan can be accounted for at any given time,” he said.
Kenyan officials said indiscriminate attacks against all Africans were cause for worry.
"We have a large percentage of Kenyans of Somali descent living and working in South Africa. We are therefore very concerned that all other Africans are being attacked," he added.
Amolo said on Tuesday that some two Kenyans had reported receiving hate mails and orders to vacate their homes or face the wrath of the mob violence that has been spreading across the southern African country.
The envoy said no Kenyan had been killed in the on-going attacks and that the mission staff were on high alert.
At least 23 people have been killed in the past week, many of them burnt to death, and dozens wounded in a series of sporadic attacks, mainly in Johannesburg. Up to 300 suspects have been arrested in swoops conducted to stem the aggression on foreigners.
The country’s Police Spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said most of the violence was criminal in nature.
“Some of the victims are South African citizens. They are not only foreigners,” he said.
The attacks began in Alexandria in North-eastern Johannesburg last week before quickly spreading to other towns.
Worried foreigners have camped at churches, police stations and other government buildings to avoid falling victim to the xenophobic incidents.