NAIROBI, May 23 – The government has moved to secure the safety of Kenyans in South Africa (SA) as the wave of xenophobic attacks that started a fortnight ago spread to towns outside Johannesburg.
Speaking in his office on Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said that he had instructed the High Commissioner in SA, Thomas Amolo, to engage the South African Minister for Internal Security on the issue.
“The High Commissioner in Pretoria is this (Friday) morning meeting the Security Minister to discuss security provision for foreign nationals,” said Wetangula.
This development follows reports of attacks on a handful of businesses owned by Kenyans as well as several threats.
Wetangula was however quick to assure that those whose shops were attacked were in sound health. He also relayed that students in various learning institutions in that country were safe.
A Kenyan woman whose house was raided and her business vandalised has asked for her and her baby to be evacuated from SA, something Wetangula said their Mission was working on. He emphasised that anyone who requested to be evacuated would be assisted.
“As a government, we have a responsibility to take care of our nationals if the situation needs us to do so,” the Minister uttered.
An estimated 20,000 Kenyans work, learn and do business in SA, and with the advent of the attacks they have been asked to be in close contact with the High Commission.
South Africans turned against foreigners two weeks ago accusing them of taking up already scarce jobs and being behind an upsurge in crime.
Most of those affected were business people operating in informal settlements and other residential areas.
However the violence has gone from bad to worse and the chaos that has so far resulted in 24 deaths is spreading to major towns, including Cape Town and Durban.
Initially, the xenophobic attacks mainly targeted Malawians and Zimbabweans, who have fled a crisis in their country. Up to three million Zimbabweans are thought to be in South Africa.
Foreign nationals have begun returning to their homes en masse, with reports revealing that 10,000 Mozambicans had fled back to their country by Thursday.
South African President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday authorised the deployment of the army in the affected areas to assist the police who have been overwhelmed by the angry mobs.
South African High Commissioner to Kenya Tony Msimanga had on Wednesday guaranteed that his Government was committed to ensuring that Kenyans and other foreigners living in SA enjoyed their rights, according to the country’s constitution.
In the meantime, Kenya’s top diplomat signed the host country agreement between the Kenyan Government and the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade coordination mechanism, making the country the headquarters for the Eastern Africa Secretariat Brigade.
This followed Cabinet approval on Thursday, where Kenya will be one of the five brigades of the African Union Standby Force that is a component of the continental peace and security initiative.
The initiative plans to raise a reserve of at least 35,000 troops for peace keeping in the continent.
Wetangula said this new move would make the continent more effective in peace missions.
“We may go and look for money and other resources from the United Nations and other friends but surely we must be able to produce men and women in uniform to do our job,” he stated.
The Head of the Brigade, Simon Mulongo, said that the force had already secured a pledge of close to 15,000 troops from the 13 member states.
“With generating this force we shall address the deficiency of numbers since we will have a force ready,” he reiterated.