South Africa has criticised the Nigerian government over its decision to withdraw its ambassador from Pretoria after attacks on immigrants by mobs.
The country’s Department of International Cooperation called the move by Nigeria “an unfortunate and regrettable step” in a statement issued on Sunday,
The South African government said it and a wide range of civic organisations had been “decisive and unequivocal” in condemning and rejecting the attacks on foreign nationals and that its interventions had brought about relative calm.
“If this action is based on the incidents of attacks on foreign nationals in some parts of our country, it would be curious for a sisterly country to want to exploit such a painful episode for whatever agenda,” the department said, adding South Africa remained commited to “friendship” with Nigeria.
Nigeria had asked Acting High Commissioner Martin Cobham and Deputy High Commissioner Uche Ajulu-Okeke to return to Nigeria for consultations on Saturday.
A statement by Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the recall was “in connection with the ongoing xenophobia in South Africa targeting foreigners, mainly African migrants.”
Remarks by King
Seven people in South Africa have been killed in attacks on migrants since March 20, when South Africa’s Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini spoke out against foreign workers.
“Let us pop our head lice,” he said. “We must remove ticks and place them outside in the sun. We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and be sent back.”
He has since said those remarks were taken out of context and that he opposes violence.
Earlier this week, Nigeria summoned South Africa’s high commissioner over the unrest as protesters picketed the South African embassy in Lagos.
A Nigerian group has called for the International Criminal Court to investigate Zwelithini for “hate speech”.
South Africa has deployed troops to try to quell the violence, after criticism by nations including China and Zimbabwe for failing to protect their citizens against armed mobs.
South African firms such as mobile phone giant MTN and supermarket chain Shoprite have significant interests in Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest economy.
Source : Al Jazeera