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Kenya ready to evacuate SA chaos victims

Publication Date: 5/22/2008

The Government Wednesday said it was ready to evacuate Kenyans from South Africa as violent attacks on foreigners spread outside Johannesburg to the port city of Durban.

Foreign Affairs minister, Moses Wetang’ula called for calm, saying none of the more than 20,000 Kenyans living there had so far asked for assistance to return home.

He said South African visa policies required foreigners to hold a return ticket, “and this reduces the likelihood of any Kenyan getting stranded”.

“The Government is ready and will do anything possible to help those Kenyans who may opt to get out of South Africa,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

Burnt down

He was speaking at a news conference at his office, moments after holding talks with South Africa’s high commissioner to Kenya, Tony Msimanga.

Latest information from the country’s mission in South Africa indicated that mobs Wednesday burnt down two more shops belonging to Kenyans in Ramaphosa.

Kenya’s high commissioner to South Africa Tom Amolo confirmed that the premises belonged to  “Kenyans of Somali origin” but could not give their names.

The envoy Wednesday said he intended to visit the affected businesses.

There were fears that some Kenyan-owned enterprises in Limpopo had also been attacked, but the details of the incident were yet to be gathered by the Kenyan embassy.

A group armed with stones and bottles is said to have threatened Nigerians and damaged their property overnight.

This prompted about 700 African migrants to seek refuge at a nearby church. And in Cape Town, a safety forum has been set up to try to prevent violence.

In Johannesburg, where the attacks began a week ago in Alexandra township, police Wednesday fired rubber bullets to disperse mobs in one area.

At least 24 people have been killed, and ministers have been contemplating using the army to quell the violence, which seemed to have subsided by Wednesday morning, but correspondents said thousands of displaced migrants were living under poor conditions.

Fleeing poverty

It is believed that there are between three million and five million foreigners living in South Africa, most of them Zimbabweans fleeing poverty and violence at home.

ANC ruling party leader, Jacob Zuma said the army could be brought in to contain the situation.

“I would not rule out (bringing in the army) because we need to take the measures that are going to help us stop the violence,” he told the BBC World Service.

The attacks, believed to be fuelled by criminal gangs, have prompted thousands of Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and other foreigners to seek shelter at churches, police stations and community centres.

Mr Wetang’ula said the Kenyan embassy in South Africa was still on high alert and had instructions to be in touch with all Kenyans, especially students, to make sure they are safe.

About 10,000 Kenyan students are spread across South Africa.

The minister said information from the country’s mission in South Africa indicated that most Kenyans were safe and participating in their normal engagements.

Fear of attacks

He, however, noted that a few traders operating in shanty towns around Johannesburg were still afraid of opening their shops for fear of attacks.

While paying a courtesy call on Vice- President Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Msimanga reiterated his assurance that most Kenyans living in South Africa were safe.

“We don’t have Kenyans living in informal settlement areas (slums), which have been affected by the violence,” the envoy said, noting that most Kenyans who are students and professionals do not live in such areas.

The professionals live in upmarket areas, he said.

The VP spoke of leading a delegation to South Africa’s political capital, Pretoria, “soon”, to improve relations between the two countries.

Earlier, Mr Wetang’ula confirmed that a woman whose house had been broken into was being assisted by other Kenyans and the mission.

Additional reporting by Michael Mugwa-ng’a and Agencies


About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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