African envoys term attacks on Nigerians as 'xenophobic and racial'; India maintains it was criminal act

The UN wants those responsible for attacks on Africans in India to be brought to justice, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday. He was answering a reporter's question about the African ambassadors in New Delhi want to take to the UN the "xenophobic" attacks on their citizens.

"There's no UN involvement that I'm aware of," Dujarric said. "We do very much hope that these people who are responsible for these attacks are brought to justice."

Earlier on Monday, the Eritrean ambassador, who is the dean of African diplomats in India, issued a statement on behalf of the envoys decrying the recent spate of attacks on African students in and around Delhi as "xenophobic and racial in nature".

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

African Heads of Mission strongly condemned last week's attack on Nigerian nationals in Greater Noida, calling it "xenophobic and racial in nature", and kept open the possibility of taking the matter to international human rights bodies for an independent investigation if the government failed to take legal action against the perpetrators.

A statement issued after a meeting of the envoys — representing 54 countries of the African continent — following the incident and dated 31 March said: "As regards the recent unfortunate incident in Greater Noida, the African Heads of Mission strongly condemn the incident and express their deep concern and also take note that these reprehensible events, both outstanding and unresolved cases against Africans, were not sufficiently condemned by the Indian authorities. The meeting unanimously agreed that those reaccumulated attacks against Africans are xenophobic and racial in nature."

Meanwhile, India on Monday termed as "unfortunate" the African Heads of Missions' statement describing last week's attack on Nigerians in Greater Noida as "xenophobic and racial in nature" even as it stressed its commitment to ensuring all foreign nationals remain safe.

In a reaction following the statement by the African Heads of Mission, the External Affairs Ministry said that the government is "committed to ensuring safety and security of all foreign nationals in India, including African nationals, who remain our valued partners".

"It is unfortunate that a criminal act triggered following the untimely death of a young Indian student under suspicious circumstances has been termed as xenophobic and racial. Investigations into the death of Indian teenager and the subsequent incident by local authorities are ongoing," the MEA statement said. It said that there was no need for international investigations because "strong Indian institutions are adequate to deal with aberrations that represent act of a few criminals."

Noting that the government had condemned and described as "unacceptable" the incident of attack on a few Nigerian nationals in Greater Noida, it said the significance attached to addressing the matter is reflected in the detailed statement by the External Affairs Minister and the discussion in the Parliament.

"Following MEA's conversation immediately after the incident with the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, local authorities expeditiously arrested suspects. They registered an FIR and are investigating the matter comprehensively. Local authorities have also taken measures to strengthen safety and security of Nigerian nationals. Coordination meetings have been held by local police in Delhi as well as Greater Noida, with African nationals," it said.

The ministry has further sensitised local authorities towards ensuring safety and security of Africans in general and African students in particular, it said, adding that three Nigerian nationals treated in hospital for injuries have been discharged.

It may be noted that a subsequent report of the assault on a Kenyan national has been withdrawn and the government has been informed by Kenyan High Commission that the concerned Kenyan national, whose tourist visa has expired, is returning to Kenya, the release said. Nevertheless, the Kenyan High Commission has expressed appreciation for the prompt response by local police authorities on her complaint, it added.

The attack on four Nigerian students took place on 27 March night in Greater Noida, some 40 km from the Indian capital, following protests over the death of a Class 12 student of a residential colony there due to drug overdose. Some people who were holding a candle-light vigil for the student attacked the Nigerians, suspecting them of drug-running.

The day after the incident, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay described the incident as "deplorable" and in his weekly media briefing on 30 March said: "It is clear that such criminal acts are completely unacceptable and have been condemned."

He said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has spoken to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath about this while Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar spoke to the Acting High Commissioner of Nigeria.

"Law enforcement authorities of the district have made arrests and a large number of people are under watch. The investigation is on and the law of the land will prevail," Baglay stated.

In their joint statement, the African Heads of Mission said they reviewed previous such incidents of attacks on African nationals "and concluded that no known, sufficient and visible deterring measures were taken by the Government of India."

"They equally expressed their expectations for strong condemnation from the highest political level (both nationally and locally) of the Government of India, as well expediting legal actions against the perpetrators," the statement said.

"They agreed to take further actions including the call for an independent investigation by the Human Rights Council as well as other human rights bodies, and also to comprehensively report the matter to the African Union Commission," it concluded.

Meanwhile, official sources said, "It is understood that a very small number of African HoMs may have been consulted in the issuance of the press release by the African HOM Dean. Some of the prominent African HoMs denied that they attended the reported meeting or were consulted."

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2017 13:04 PM

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