A wave of xenophobic attacks on African immigrants claimed the lives of many immigrants in South Africa. Angry men equipped with machetes, knives and other sharp devices targeted and attacked businesses owned by foreigners, specifically immigrants from the rest of the continent. What started in the locations outside Durban area soon spread like a wild fire into other regions of the country. The affected refugees suffered harshly but absurdly at the hands of fellow Africans. The properties of African immigrants -who were struggling to make ends meet- were looted and immigrants savagely beaten to death and in other cases burnt alive. To add insult to injury, the horrific scenes of mob-killings were recorded and then posted on the Internet, without little remorse.
Migrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Somalia and Ethiopia are reported to have paid the highest price in financial and human losses. Police were accused in their failure to protect the targeted marginalized immigrants amid intensified xenophobic raids in South Africa.
Somali Immigrants in South Africa
Aftermath the internal conflict that destroyed the once strong and proud African country of Somalia, millions of its people fled to every corner of the world. The vast majority of these refugees crossed the border and sought refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya. Many others crossed the Gulf of Aden and went to Yemen and beyond. Consequently, you can find a sizable Somali Diaspora community in Middle East, most of the Western Europe and North America as well.
As Somalis are business-minded people and do have remarkable entrepreneurial skills, they have made visible contributions to the economies of some of the hosting countries, mainly in the East African ones. This is quite true in Nairobi, Kenya, where an active Somali community further rejuvenated the local economy. This investment is obviously visible in Eastliegh, often dubbed as “little Mogadishu” for Somalis turned it into an economic hub where diversified goods and services, destined to different parts of the region, are traded at competitive prices.
Some of the Somali refugees made their way to South Africa where they thought to be a safe haven. Hence, thousands of them, fleeing from the fighting in their homeland and seeking better economic opportunities, headed there, hoping to find jobs and better living conditions. They established small businesses in the neighbourhoods mainly dominated by citizens of low-income. However, instead of getting the much-dreamt better living conditions, some of them who invested in small businesses only to find themselves massacred one after another, often in a brutal manner.
Before the current xenophobic attacks aiming at fellow Africans, Somalis in South Africa suffered from series of similar and organized raids for the past ten years. There were however, some very barbaric murders which went down into the history books, with the ugliest memories. These sparked off public outcry, at least in the social media outlets where the issue was utterly discussed. Many people will not forget the story of Abdinasir Mahmoud Good, a 25 year –old Somali businessman who was stoned to death by a mob in 2014. He was mob-killed and lynched to death.
The brutal killing of the late Abdinasir was preceded by another equally disgusting crime where a nine-month pregnant Somali mother was raped and then killed in Cape Town. Surprisingly, both acts were not isolated cases but just reveal the pain and panic that many African immigrants, including the Somalis were going through for many years. To make matters worse, these chauvinistic raids are taking place in a country that many African countries not only solidly stand behind their struggle during the apartheid period, but also contributed immensely to their liberation.
It is a well-known and documented fact that Somalia was among the African countries that stood beside the people of South Africa in their hour of need. The then Somali government did not only provide diplomatic support to ANC but provided technical and military training to help end the apartheid regime. Unfortunately, it is pity that the same South Africans, for which other Africans sacrificed a lot and whose people they were always ready to welcome and host as exiles, could be so ungrateful.
Finally, it is a high time for the government and people of South Africa to intervene and stop the ongoing xenophobic attacks and immediately restore their already distorted regional and international reputation.
Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud