Time to show lead­er­ship on the world stage when it comes to Ro­hingya

Cape Times - - INSIGHT - Shan­non Ebrahim

NO BIG power is go­ing to take mil­i­tary ac­tion to save the Ro­hingya from what the UN Hu­man Rights chief called this week a “text­book case of eth­nic cleans­ing” in Myan­mar.

It will be the Sre­brenica mas­sacre all over again, just with­out the mi­rage of UN safe havens.

Chap­ter 7 of the UN Char­ter will not be in­voked to stop the car­nage, nor will any coali­tion of the will­ing be as­sem­bled. The bru­tal mas­sacres of Ro­hingya will con­tinue as they flee Myan­mar’s scorched earth pol­icy.

Even eco­nomic sanc­tions against Myan­mar are un­likely to al­ter the gov­ern­ment’s course of rid­ding its ter­ri­tory of what it con­sid­ers “Ben­gali” un­de­sir­ables.

Over the past three weeks 300 000 Ro­hingyas have fled to Bangladesh, 40 vil­lages were burnt to the ground and 2 000 to 3 000 peo­ple have been killed. It seems the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity al­ways waits for the sit­u­a­tion to be­come so grave that ev­ery ac­tion it con­tem­plates is too late.

As Africans, we know only too well, what in­ac­tion by the big pow­ers in the face of geno­cide means in terms of hu­man lives and de­struc­tion.

In the case of Rwanda the cost was 800 000 lives in 100 days. It was for this rea­son that the AU was de­ter­mined to es­tab­lish a rapid re­ac­tion standby force that would in­ter­vene in cases of gross hu­man rights abuses on the con­ti­nent, and par­tic­u­larly geno­cide.

Just be­cause the vic­tims of geno­cide this time are dark-coloured Mus­lims in Asia, who are largely con­sid­ered state­less, doesn’t ab­solve us from the re­spon­si­bil­ity of of­fi­cially rais­ing our voices in their de­fence.

For 40 years the Ro­hingya have been go­ing through some of the same forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion black South Africans were sub­jected to un­der apartheid.

They are not al­lowed to travel, get mar­ried, or re­ceive health care with­out spe­cial per­mis­sion, are sub­jected to forced labour and ster­il­i­sa­tion, and are not al­lowed to own land. They have en­dured mas­sacres and rape in a cy­cle of eth­nic ha­tred per­pe­trated by the Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces and right-wing Bud­dhists.

When we were suf­fer­ing un­der apartheid, we ex­pected the rest of the world to raise the in­jus­tice of our sit­u­a­tion ro­bustly at ev­ery in­ter­na­tional fo­rum. We ex­pected pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ments around the world to fight for our rights in po­lit­i­cal fo­rums.

Given our own di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence with op­pres­sion, South Africa as a mid­dle power, which still main­tains some moral au­thor­ity in the world, should speak out force­fully against what is hap­pen­ing to the Ro­hingya.

We can­not leave it to our re­tired cler­gy­men like Arch­bishop Emer­i­tus Des­mond Tutu, along­side the other for­eign No­bel Lau­re­ates, to con­demn the “slow burning geno­cide”. It is time for us to find our moral con­science again and show lead­er­ship on the world stage when it comes to hu­man rights. It is what Madiba would have ex­pected of us.

We have noth­ing to lose by tak­ing a stand, but ev­ery­thing to gain. We don’t de­pend on Myan­mar as a mar­ket for our goods, nor do we rely on the gas pipe­line that passes through the Rakhine state.

We hold no flame for Aung San Su Kyi who has com­pro­mised her prin­ci­ples since be­com­ing state coun­sel­lor, and failed to raise her voice to pro­tect the rights of her own peo­ple. If any­thing she has ex­posed her moral bank­ruptcy by call­ing crit­i­cism of mas­sacres against Ro­hingya “an ice­berg of mis­in­for­ma­tion.”

Just as we have said “never again” to an­other geno­cide in Africa, we need to con­demn the per­pe­tra­tors who re­fer to the Ro­hingya as ver­min, dis­ease and ra­bid dogs.

The Bud­dhist mili­tia and se­cu­rity forces who gang-rape women and be­head chil­dren from vil­lage to vil­lage have to be held ac­count­able for their crimes.

Th­ese are the same crimes which took place in 2012 and 2016 that are re­cur­ring all over again, largely due to the fact they were car­ried out with im­punity. Myan­mar is not a sig­na­tory to the Rome Statute so pros­e­cu­tions can only take place if the crimes against the Ro­hingya are re­ferred to the ICC, by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

While jus­tice needs to be done, the long-last­ing so­lu­tion lies in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions of Kofi An­nan’s re­port on the Ro­hingya, ear­lier this year.

The re­port ad­dresses the root causes of the prob­lem and puts for­ward a clear road map on how to re­verse decades of op­pres­sion and in­jus­tice.

The re­port calls for unim­peded ac­cess for hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors and jour­nal­ists to Rakhine state; an in­de­pen­dent and im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into crimes com­mit­ted, and the per­pe­tra­tors to be held to ac­count.

It calls for the pro­tec­tion of the rights of the Ro­hingya in terms of free­dom of move­ment, so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, cit­i­zen­ship, ac­cess to health and ed­u­ca­tion, and par­tic­i­pa­tion in pub­lic life.

Th­ese are the rights we ex­pect all Africans to en­joy, and if hu­man se­cu­rity is in­di­vis­i­ble then we need to fight for the rights of the Ro­hingya.

Picture: FACE­BOOK

FOR THE LOVE OF PAR­ENTS: Nezam, a Ro­hingya flee­ing from Myan­mar to Bangladesh, walked seven daysthrough forests car­ry­ing his el­derly par­ents, who are un­able to walk, on his shoul­ders.

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