Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa during a news conference after a meeting, in Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 3, 2019.
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa during a news conference after a meeting, in Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 3, 2019.

JOHANNESBURG - The leaders of Nigeria and South Africa have pledged to take “concrete measures” to stem future outbreaks of xenophobic violence, during a state visit to South Africa by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria’s president described his Thursday meeting with his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, as a tête-à-tête, a polite contrast to the anti-immigrant violence that swept South Africa last month, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 people, most of them South African nationals.

'Concrete measures'

The violence prompted Nigeria to repatriate hundreds of citizens, and for Buhari to declare, after a private meeting with Ramaphosa, that the two countries would do more to stop future outbreaks.

FILA bonfire is set outside Shoprite during a protest in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 4, 2019. S. African-owned businesses operating in Nigeria are being targeted in retaliation for xenophobic attacks carried out against Africans working in South Africa.

“We have decided to work and take concrete measures together to prevent every occurrence of such unacceptable incidents in the future,” he said.

Ramaphosa elaborated:

“We've agreed that we are going to set up mechanisms between our two countries, early warning mechanisms will be set up so that once we see that there is restiveness,” he said.  “We will be able to inform one another to find ways — and active ways — of ensuring that we do not have recurrences. And at the same time, we will cooperate at a number of levels, including the policing level, including the intelligence-sharing information level.”

Analyst Ryan Cummings, who heads the political and security risk management consultancy Signal Risk, said the meeting set an important diplomatic tone.

“The key developments through all of this is that South Africa and Nigeria are continuing to respond to this and other challenges affecting both countries through diplomacy and that kind of diplomatic engagement is still the order of the day. Not everyone is going to be happy with that," he said.

"I think that even the sense of collaboration between these two countries and between the two governments is an important kind of countermeasure to the kind of tense relations and nationalism which exists between South Africans and Nigerians at this time.”
Strength, and a seat at the table

And, as Cummings added, through unity comes strength. The two nations have the largest economies on the African continent and are seeking to boost inter-African trade and cooperation as a way to boost the continent’s economy and lessen its dependency on the international community.

FILE - Members of the U.N. Security Council gather inside the United Nations Security Council chambers in New York, for a meeting on Syria, April 30, 2019.

Ramaphosa also aimed some criticism at the United Nations, whose permanent Security Council has never included an African member.

“We both agree that the U.N. Security Council architecture governance should be changed. It is not acceptable that the United Nations Security Council is just a club for a few countries and it's not representative," he said.  "So we want representativity. We want Africa to be represented. We want equity. There should be equitable representation on the U.N. Security Council. We are very clear and we are firm on that.”

Buhari’s three-day visit will also include a business forum and a meeting of a bi-national commission that seems to boost cooperation between the two countries. He will also meet with Nigerian expatriates in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.