Many foreign business owners have closed their shops and fled from Zeerust in the North West. This is after suffering attacks from locals who accuse them of drug dealing.

The Congolese Solidarity Campaign has dismissed the allegations as unfounded. But locals insist the foreigners are responsible for a criminal element within the small town, and hosted a protest march on Friday.

Fearing for their lives, some of these foreign nationals are hiding in nearby mountains, armed with only blankets and water. It follows attacks by locals over the past three weeks, who accuse them of drug dealing.

The Congolese Solidarity Campaign has called on government for support.

“This is a xenophobic attack. I plead with the government to work on it because we are innocent. We are pleading with the government to respond very fast before people can lose their lives,” says Congolese Community Leader Shauri Mwenemwitu.

“Even the police should do their work. They shouldn’t arrest the criminal and release them before they reach the police station. Some of the foreign nationals say the issue of being attacked in their residential areas has affected their daily lives.”

Thirty-eight-year-old Jackson Masikira, a father of four, says they fled from the Congo a year ago because of the on-going war.

Now, they are simply disillusioned.

“When I arrived here I thought here is a very peaceful country, but I found that it is still the same situation. People have been beating us every night and we decided now, every night we should come and sleep in the forest and it is not good for our health as human beings and for the kids,” says Congolese national Jackson Masikira.

Locals have established the so-called ‘Enough is Enough Movement’, alleging to have found illegal substances in foreigners’ homes.

“We came to realize that this issue is bigger than we thought. So, as the community, we do not want to be seen as or sound xenophobic to the foreign nationals. They are our compatriots. If they sell drugs, we will not allow and accommodate them within our society … Zeerust in particular,” says Chairperson of the Movement Crosby Maeema.

Officials from the municipality, National Prosecuting Authority and police accepted their memorandum, and undertook to respond within seven days.