NIGERIA is pushing for South Africa to be stripped of the right to host the forthcoming African Union summit as tension continues to simmer between the two African economic giants in the aftermath of horrific xenophobic attacks in the southern African country which claimed at least seven lives.
South Africa is scheduled to host the 25th African Union summit scheduled for June 7 to June 15. Diplomatic sources close to the developments told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that in addition, the Nigerians want compensation amounting to US$1 billion from South Africa for the attacks on their nationals and their businesses in that country.
“A meeting of the AU peace and security organ attended by ambassadors was held over a month ago in Addis Ababa where the Nigerians demanded among other things compensation of over US$1 billion for the attacks on their nationals and businesses in South Africa during the xenophobic wave,” said a source.
“They also proposed that the AU summit be taken away from South Africa and be held in either Chad or Equatorial Guinea. But Sadc countries, including Zimbabwe, rallied behind South Africa and indicated that they are satisfied with (South African) President (Jacob) Zuma’s handling of the (xenophobia) situation.”
The sources say the two countries are locked in a bitter struggle for continental and geo-political supremacy which has been escalating over the years and issues like tensions over the deaths of people including South Africans after a church building collapsed in Nigeria last year as well as the recent xenophobic attacks are merely “different theatres on which that struggle is being played out”.
The two leading economic powerhouses on the continent have a long history of confrontation dating back to the 1990s when then South African President Nelson Mandela called for the suspension of Nigeria, then ruled by Sani Abacha, from the Commonwealth over human rights violations. Nigeria retaliated by withdrawing its national soccer team from the African Nations Cup hosted by South Africa in 1996.
More recently, the two have been competing for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to be given to a single African country. Only last year, Nigeria overtook South Africa as the leading continental economic power, a feat the latter says is only indicative of Nigeria’s much larger population rather than sophistication of its economy.
Efforts to obtain comment from the Nigerian embassy proved fruitless as their telephone went unanswered. Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha was also unreachable to comment. South African officials were also unreachable.