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East Africa's bloc condemns xenophobic attacks in South Africa

Updated: 2015-04-19 07:18

NAIROBI -- East African regional bloc on Saturday condemned increased wave of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals that has gripped parts of South Africa in the past week.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim described the attacks that have left at least six people dead in the violence that erupted on March 25, as "unfortunate and requiring urgent action".

"Maalim noted with regret that citizens of IGAD member states are among those directly affected," said the statement.

He lauded measures being taken by the government of South Africa to restore law and order in affected areas and called for further decisive measures to stop the attacks and murder of innocent African foreigners in South Africa.

Violence targeting immigrant shops started in the port city of Durban, where two foreigners and three South Africans were killed. Residents have accused African immigrants of taking their jobs and committing crimes.

A sixth person died on Wednesday with the body of the foreign national being found in Verulam town, where a mob attacked the man at his home. The 58 year-old deceased fled and died of his injuries near his home, South African police said.

According to police, some 120 people have been arrested throughout KwaZulu-Natal Province for various offenses related to the violence.

In his statement, Maalim commended efforts being taken by the governments and diplomatic mission of the six member regional bloc, IGAD, in South Africa towards protection and repatriation of their affected citizens.

He said African countries need to work together to address challenges of poverty and unemployment that sparked xenophobic attacks in South Africa and build a better future for their citizens.

Frequent outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence have been blamed on high unemployment, officially around 25 percent -- although economists say in reality much higher -- widespread poverty and glaring income disparities.

The latest wave of unrest began after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was quoted by local media as saying that foreigners should leave South Africa. He has since said his comments were misinterpreted and has urged residents to be calm.

Kenya said Thursday it was making frantic efforts to evacuate nationals who are living in South Africa following increased xenophobic attacks.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Minister Amina Mohamed confirmed that there were no Kenyan casualties in the attacks that have caused uproar.

About 400 Kenyans are in the central business district of Durban; about 100 work in the informal sector, while another 50 are employees of two sugar farms on the outskirts of Durban city.

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