South Africa said Thursday it’s temporarily closed its embassy in Nigeria, and the government in Abuja responded by saying it would evacuate diplomats from South Africa — a diplomatic row fueled by a series of violent attacks on foreign business.
Rioters armed with rocks, gas bombs and makeshift weapons broke windows and looted businesses in Pretoria, South Africa, as part of organized violence that began Sunday.
Dozens have been arrested in Nigeria for retaliatory attacks on foreign businesses, including South African retail and telecom companies.
South African grocery store Shoprite closed locations in Nigeria and Zambia after serious damage was done to stores Wednesday, officials said. MTN also closed several stores in Nigeria.
Attacks against foreign-owned businesses have become a regular occurrence by protesters angry about skyrocketing unemployment. South Africa’s unemployment rate is at nearly 30 percent, the highest in a decade.
Peace activists dressed in black and chanted “No Violence” Wednesday outside the South African High Commission.
The Nigerian airline Air Peace offered a free flight out of South Africa to help evacuate its citizens.
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture,” Nigerian foreign ministry spokesman Ferdinand Nwonye said.
Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said Nigeria will not give in to South African pressure.
“The South African government has to assume its responsibilities and protect Nigerians in South Africa and we have to hold them to account and they have to do that as well as pay full compensation,” he said.