South Africa has been plagued by riots directed against Nigerian-owned businesses, and tensions are high between the two countries. Fueled by xenophobia, people in the capital of Johannesburg are angry over unemployment and poor living conditions, and they’re taking it out on shops and property owned by immigrants, mostly from Nigeria. It’s gotten so bad that reprisals have started to take place in Nigeria, with South African-owned shops being vandalized and attacked. On Wednesday, South Africa even closed its diplomatic missions in the Nigerian cities of Abuja and Lagos.
Lunga Ngquengelele, a South Africa Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, “After receiving reports and threats from some of the Nigerians, we decided to temporarily close while we are assessing the situation.” Yemi Osinbajo, the Nigerian vice president, has also canceled his participation in the World Economic Forum’s annual Africa meeting, which is taking place in Cape Town. Other countries, like Rwanda, Malawi, and Congo, are also protesting the xenophobic attacks by pulling out of the forum.
The riots were incited by growing anger among the country’s young people who are unable to find jobs and blame Nigerians for their economic difficulties. Lerato Mbele, a BBC anchor who spoke at the World Economic Forum meeting, insists that South Africa is not a nation of xenophobes. “We are not the people you see being reported on our television screen,” she said. “We have a young, disenchanted population looking for jobs… but in the main, South Africans relish you coming to our country.”
Although over 200 arrests have been made, authorities are being criticized for not doing enough to manage the situation. The situation is still developing, however, and so is the government’s response as time goes on.