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Africans in Solidarity Online With Rohingya People Over Their Persecution in Myanmar (Burma)

Displaced Rohingya people in Rakhine State By Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Flickr, OGL

The world had high hopes that persecution towards the Rohingya community would stop when the National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power. This was a party that been met with admiration for its non-violent approach in opposing the military dictatorship that had governed Burma for several decades. The hope was all the more justified by the fact that the party’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who had also been honored by other countries and international organizations. Unfortunately, hope has been replaced by a sense of deep disappointment as the suffering of the Burmese people has worsened.

Beyond its commitment to respecting human rights, the situation in Burma made waves online among Africans, particularly those in West Africa where the Muslim population often exceeds 90%. There, they practice a tolerant Islam, despite attempts by jihadists to impose their own ideology and vision of Islam. For example, the Senegalese people, of whom 95% are Muslim, had elected Léopold Sédar Senghor, who is a Christian, to be their prime minister.

Pan African website pressafrik.com published a review by Bougane Gueye Dany, from Senegal, Dakar, that explores crimes against Rohingyas. In it, he denounces the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the country as well as the apathy of the Burmese political leaders and the international community:

‘Rohingya tu n'existes pas’. Ce roman d’Yves Bourni est d'une actualité grave et brûlante. Au moment où l'un des drames les plus ignobles touche ces musulmans birmans, le monde affiche une indifférence coupable qui montre à suffisance une cruauté, illustration d'une indignation à géométrie variable…

Le leader birman, leur principal bourreau, Ashin Wirathu estime que ‘l'Islam est une religion de voleurs par qu'il permet d'épouser une femme de confession différente’. Il va même jusqu'à dire publiquement dans des videos qui circulent que les chiens, les alcooliques et les drogués valent mieux que les musulmans…

La communauté internationale a les yeux rivés ailleurs. Ce n’est pas non plus la tasse de thé de la presse africaine particulièrement sénégalaise…

Qui ne dit mot consent. Notre silence est troublant. Où est notre diplomatie ?…

Il faut en parler, il faut s'indigner, il faut les aider.

‘Rohingya tu n'existes pas’ (‘Rohingya you don’t exist’) is the title of the major topical work of Yves Bourni. At a time where one of the most heinous tragedies affecting Burmese Muslims is taking place, the world has shown a reckless indifference that amounts to cruelty, and is an example of unequal outrage in the face of tragedy…

The Burman leader, their main executioner, Ashin Wirathu, stated, ‘Islam is a religion of thieves for it allows men to marry a woman of a different faith’. Wirathu goes as far as publicly stating in videos making the rounds online that alcoholics and drug addicts are worth more than Muslims…

The international community seems to be indifferent and the situation of the Rohingya in Burma is no longer a burning topic in the African press, especially not in the Senegalese news…

Silence is consent. Our silence is troubling. Where is our diplomacy?

We need to speak out about this, we need to get angry, we need to help them.

News site Africa News published the words of the South African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu, who broke his media silence to express his deep sadness at the situation:

‘Je suis maintenant vieux, faible et officiellement à la retraite, mais je romps mon voeu de garder le silence en raison de ma profonde tristesse au sujet de la situation désespérée [des Rohingyas]’, a écrit Mgr Tutu dans une lettre adressée à la prix Nobel de la paix Aung San Suu Kyi.

‘Si le prix politique à payer pour votre ascension politique en Birmanie est votre silence, le prix est assurément trop élevé (…). Il est incongru pour un symbole de justice de diriger ainsi un pays’, a-t-il estimé…

Mercredi, cette dernière est sortie de son silence pour dénoncer un ‘iceberg de désinformation’ dans la crise dans son pays.

‘I am now old, weak and officially retired, but I’m breaking my vow of keeping silent because of a great sadness I feel about the tragic situation [of the Rohingyas]’, Desmond Tutu writes in a letter addressed to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.

He continues, ‘If silence was the political price you paid that got you to where you are at today, then the price is certainly too high […] It is incongruous that a justice system like this governs a country.’

On Wednesday, Ang San Suu Kyi came out to denounce an ‘iceberg of misinformation’ surrounding the reporting of the crisis of her country.

Recalling a speech given two years ago, Ahmadou Mukhtar Kanté, an imam, writer, and speaker, also from Dakar, offered a point of view that draws on the teachings of the Qur'an:

En 2015, sur invitation de l’ambassadeur du Rwanda au Sénégal, nous avons prononcé un discours lors de la 21ème Commémoration du Génocide (Kwibuka 21) célébrée à Dakar. Qui nous aurait dit qu’en 2017, face au drame qui est en cours en Birmanie, nous aurions recours au même discours assorti de quelques remaniements aux fins d’en faire une contribution adaptée au sujet ?…

C’est après avoir fait le récit de l’épisode fratricide entre les deux fils d’Adam, que le Coran a énoncé deux enseignements éthiques fondamentaux: le crime contre l’humanité et le devoir de la protéger : « (…) C’est pourquoi Nous avons prescrit aux enfants d’Israël que quiconque tuerait une personne non coupable d’un meurtre ou d’une corruption sur la terre, c’est comme s’il avait tué tous les hommes. Et quiconque sauve un seul homme, c’est comme s’il avait sauvé tous les hommes (…) » (Coran 5 : 32) Ces versets nous indiquent combien il est grave de refuser à l’autre la dignité d’humain et le droit à la vie.

In 2015, on the invitation of the Rwandan Ambassador to Senegal, we gave a speech during the 21st Commemoration of the Genocide (Kwibuka 21) commemorated in Dakar. Who would have imagined that in 2017, faced with this tragedy unfolding in Burma, we would have returned to the same arguments and rhetoric with simply a few tweaks in order to contribute adequately to the subject? […]

This is after having told the fratricidal account of the two sons of Adam, that the Qur'an laid down two fundamental ethical teachings — crime against humanity and the duty to protect it: ‘And he who saves one human being, it is as if he has saved all of humanity (Qur'an 5:32). These verses show the gravity of refusing another person humanity dignity and the right to live peacefully.

On the Justice.Info website, Adama Dieng, the Senegalese United Nations Special Adviser, provided the following statement on the prevention of genocide:

Les Rohingyas vivant au Myanmar n’ont pas droit à une identité nationale. Ils ont été dépouillés de  leur citoyenneté. Ils sont apatrides. Pendant plusieurs années, ils ont souffert de pratiques et de politiques sévères de discriminations ainsi que de restrictions touchant à l’exercice de droits fondamentaux, y compris la liberté de mouvement, le droit de se marier et de fonder une famille. Des milliers de Rohingyas déplacés par les violences de 2012 vivent reclus dans des camps de déplacés, tandis que d’autres milliers n’ont eu d’autre choix que de fuir par terre ou mer. Beaucoup d’entre eux se sont retrouvés victimes des réseaux de trafic humain ou ont péri en voulant se rendre dans d’autres pays de la région. Au Myanmar, une campagne dangereuse conduite par des extrémistes proférant des discours de haine antimusulmans et anti-Rohingya pourrait conduire à davantage de violence.

The Rohingya people living in Myanmar don’t have the right to national identity. They are stateless people. For years they have suffered discriminatory practices and policies that affect the exercising of basic human rights, including freedom of movement, the right to marry and build a family. Thousands of Rohingyas who were displaced by violence in 2012 live secluded in displacement camps, while thousands of others have no choice but to escape by land or sea. Many fall victims to human trafficking or perish on the journey to other countries in the region. In Myanmar, a dangerous campaign led by extremists is spreading a toxic discourse of anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya sentiment that could lead to even more violence.

In Burkina Faso, the blog Net Afrique has been among the media outlets that have also commented on the situation:

Le gouvernement birman, au premier rang duquel l’ex-opposante Aung San Suu Kyi, rejette les accusations de l’ONU de possibles « crimes contre l’humanité » commis par l’armée depuis fin 2016 contre les Rohingyas. Traités comme des étrangers en Birmanie, ils y restent apatrides, privés de tout droit, même si certains vivent dans le pays depuis des générations.

The Burmese government and, above all, Aung San Suu Kri, reject the accusations made by the UN of possible ‘crimes against humanity’ committed by the army since the end of 2016 against the Rohingyas. Treated as foreigners in Burma, they remain stateless, denied their rights, even if some have lived in the country over several generations.

Nigerian researcher Labaran Yusuf, from Jos, reminded us of the historical facts that emphasize the injustice and absence of any justification for the persecution of the Rohingyas:

Attacked with impunity, stripped of the vote and driven from their homes, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority of about 1.3 million in the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar (formerly Burma), are considered as the most persecuted minority in the world.

The Rohingya, according to many historians and Rohingya groups, probably arrived in what was then the independent kingdom of Arakan (now Rakhine) as long ago as the 8th century. They were seafarers and traders from the Middle east and were joined in the 17th century by tens of thousands of Bengali Muslims captured by the raiding Arakanese. ‘Rohingya’ simply means ‘inhabitant of Rohang’, the early Muslim name for Arakan. The kingdom of Arakan was later conquered by the Burmese army in 1785.

With the British conquest of Arakan in 1825, Arakan and Burma were administered as part of British India. Thousands of labourers from Bangladesh and India migrated to what is now known as Myanmar, and such migration was considered as internal, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW). However, this migration of labourers was viewed negatively by the majority of the native population.

After gaining independence from Britain in 1948, the Burmese government refused to recognise the Rohingya as Burmese citizens. The government viewed the migration that took place during the British rule as ‘illegal’, and this led many Buddhists to consider the Rohingya offensively as ‘Bengali’, a recent invention created for political reasons. After the military coup in 1962, things only worsened for the Rohingya, coupled with the fact that they were only given foreign identity cards, which limited the jobs and educational opportunities they could pursue and obtain.

Diallo Boubacar from Guinea reacted to a Facebook thread about the history of African solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi's fight for freedom:

On s'est battu a l'epoque pour Cette dame de Rangun, pour sa liberation de soi disant captivity de la junte birmane.
A present on est estomaque.

At the time, we fought for this lady from Yangon (Aung San Suu Kyi), for her freedom from the so-called captivity of the Burmese dictatorship.

But now, we're shocked.

Hocine Berkane, from Algiers, Algeria, believes that what is happening right now in Burma is a shame to mankind: 

C'est une honte pour toute l'humanité l'être humain a perdu toutes les valeurs qui font de nous des humains privilégiés par Dieu sur toutes ses créatures vivantes nous sommes devenus pire que les bêtes sauvages. On est entrain de revenir à l'âge de la pierre.

It is a shame to humanity, humans have lost the values that God gave us that made us a privileged species among his living creations, but we have become worse than savage beasts. We seem to be returning to the Stone Age.

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