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Zuma, Jonathan strive to improve ties

South African President Jacob Zuma (R) greets his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan outside the Parliament in Cape Town, May 7, 2013. Jonathan is on a two-day state visit to South Africa.

South African President Jacob Zuma (R) greets his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan outside the Parliament in Cape Town, May 7, 2013. Jonathan is on a two-day state visit to South Africa.

Published May 7, 2013

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Cape Town - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan urged co-operation between his country and South Africa on Tuesday to further peace and prosperity in Africa, as he began his first state visit to the country.

Jonathan told a joint sitting of Parliament that the need to work together was evident in instances like the drive to secure Africa a permanent seat on the United Nations' Security Council.

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“If South Africa and Nigeria do not lead that struggle, then who will lead that struggle?” he asked, after denying that Africa's two biggest economies were competing for a position that is still hypothetical.

That notion was “very wrong”, he said.

Jonathan held talks with Zuma at Tuynhuys after their governments signed nine agreements and memoranda of understanding to strengthen bilateral co-operation.

At a joint media briefing, Zuma said Africa needed a stronger military capacity to respond to instability, notably in central Africa.

“The need for an intervention brigade has become more crucial in light of the situations of instability in the Central African Republic (CAR), eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), and Mali, where decisive intervention is needed,” he said.

The issue deserved attention as the continent prepared to celebrate half a century of formal pan-African integration, Zuma said. He was referring to the birth of the Organisation of African Unity in May 1963.

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“As we mark the golden jubilee, on May 25, it is crucial to build a stronger and well-resourced AU to take forward the promotion of peace, security, and the safe economic advancement of our continent.

“Part of the capacity by the AU is the establishment of the African standby force, for rapid deployment in crisis areas without delay.”

Zuma said he and Jonathan shared “the same vision” of a conflict resolution mechanism driven primarily by Africans.

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Zuma's remarks follow suggestions in diplomatic circles that Nigeria has demanded greater co-operation from Pretoria on regional security and military operations.

The Nigerian government was reportedly unhappy about South Africa's unilateral decision to deploy troops in the CAR, where 13

South African soldiers died in clashes with rebels in March.

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Speaking alongside Zuma, Jonathan said it was imperative that Africa's two biggest economies work together for the good of the continent.

“Nigeria and South Africa must come together, must work together to help the continent of Africa. If we refuse to move the continent, to give direction, we will be considered failures and we do not want to be entered into the Guinness Book of Records of failures.”

Jonathan travelled to South Africa with a large government delegation and will attend the 23rd World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town this week.

In his speech to Parliament, he stressed that Africa needed to guard against remaining an exporter primarily of raw materials, and had to insist on beneficiation to create local jobs.

South Africa must support Nigeria in this stance to trade partners to ensure “benefit to our people”.

Bilateral trade between South Africa and Nigeria has risen to R36 billion but the balance of trade remains very much in Nigeria's favour. Economic ties have been stronger than political ones, and government sources have indicated Zuma is eager to correct this.

The memoranda of understanding signed pledged co-operation in, among others, defence, gas exploration, and power sector development.

Nigeria and South Africa also signed an agreement waiving visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports. The move comes amid unhappiness in Abuja over strict travel regulations for Nigerians who want to visit South Africa. - Sapa

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