NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 5 – Amnesty International has attributed the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa to years of impunity and failure in the criminal justice system that have left vulnerable groups exposed and unprotected.
Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, Shenilla Mohamed, in a statement on Thursday, condemned the attacks targeting foreigners urging South African authorities to stop “fueling xenophobia” through what she termed as desperate attempt to win political support.
She faulted the South African Government for allegedly failing to address past violent attacks against foreigners.
“South African authorities cannot say that they didn’t see this rampant violence coming. For many years, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have been targeted for who they are and what they look like. They have also served as convenient scapegoats for unscrupulous politicians who have pushed the insidious narrative that foreign nationals have stolen jobs and are to blame for everything that is going wrong in the country,” Mohamed stated.
“The first major outbreak of xenophobic violence witnessed more than 11 years ago which resulted in the killing of more than 60 people, should have been a wake-up call for the authorities to root out hatred against refugees and migrants and hold those responsible to account. Their lack of action has resulted in the subsequent and recurring attacks we’ve seen,” she added.
Dozens of foreign nationals have been affected in the latest spate of attacks with Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying two Kenyans are among foreign nationals affected.
Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said however assured in a stamen released on Wednesday that they were in contact with the Pretoria-based High Commission to ensure the safety of Kenyans residing in the South African nation.
“We welcome the strong condemnation of these attacks by the Government of South Africa and hope that the ethos and values of Pan Africans will prevail over narrow nationalisms, and be the bonds that glue us together, as African brothers and sisters,” CS Juma said.
Five people have been confirmed dead as violence between locals and foreigners continues to escalate in Johannesburg and other parts of the country.
Dozens of shops have also been destroyed in Johannesburg and nearby Pretoria, the country’s political capital.
Looters torched vehicles they suspected were being driven by foreigners in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighboring Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
A section of politicians have been accused of inciting locals by selling the narrative that the influx of foreigners in the country has led to high unemployment – currently estimated at 30 per cent – sparking sporadic outbreaks of violence against foreign national and their businesses.
In 2008, xenophobic violence left 62 dead, while in 2015, seven people were killed in attacks in Johannesburg and Durban.