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Zambia President Calls for Regional Summit over Xenophobia

The Patriotic Front's Edgar Lungu, right, is sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony in Lusaka, Jan. 25, 2015.

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu is consulting with fellow African heads of state to convene an emergency regional summit to address xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Information Minister Chishimba Kambwili said Zambian citizens in South Africa had not been affected by the latest round of attacks targeting mostly African migrants.

But, Kambwili said, Zambians are displeased with the attacks because Zambia helped black South African leaders fight against white apartheid rule.

“Zambians are extremely upset. Most of the prominent politicians in South Africa were resident in Lusaka. The ANC [African National Congress] headquarters was here in Lusaka. People like Thabo Mbeki lived here in Lusaka and worked here in Lusaka. And up to now, the office which used to house the ANC is still here in Lusaka,” said Kambwili.

“So the Zambians are saying, 'Look, why should our brothers in South Africa be beating foreigners when we did so much to try and help them to fight apartheid?,' and it hasn’t gone [down] well with the Zambians. But, I think by and large we have been telling them not to worry, that we do realize that these acts [are] being caused by the illiterate of the illiterate,” he added.

Kambwili said it appeared that many people were casual about the 2008 xenophobic attacks, when African migrants were also targeted in South Africa.

“We’ve been very worried about the happenings in South Africa as far as xenophobia is concerned. There have been killings and beatings of foreign nationals in South Africa,” said Kambwili.

“Our president has been speaking with fellow presidents who are members of SADC [Southern African Development Community] to try and call for an urgent SADC meeting so that they can discuss the issue and find a lasting solution for this matter not to recur,” he added.

Kambwili, who was in South Africa on Wednesday following the violence, said the attacks on neighboring citizens as well as other African nationals were unfortunate and unacceptable.

“We cannot leave it to continue just because no Zambian has been affected, because as far as we are concerned, we are one Africa, we are one southern African people, and when one Malawian is beaten, it is as good as one Zambian is beaten,” said Kambwili.

He said Zambia was hopeful that the expected regional summit would help find a lasting solution to end the xenophobia in South Africa.

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