What’s wrong with Myanmar, the country that we used to know and respect as Burma?
We remember, don’t we, Burma as the name that had been branded on our brains by our aging parents’ stories as the country of a brave people who put up a good fight against some European colonialists.
Sadly, being only subjects, our parents had to fight for those colonialists.
However, at least they drew lessons from that experience: at the battleground, colonialist and the colonised were equal, as they shed blood equally. And seeing as they were equal, why should any human claim superiority over another?
It’s partly thus that the seeds of independence agitation from colonialism were sawn in Africa.
Then, nearer to our present, the name Burma, or Myanmar, surfaced again as home to a great freedom fighter, Aung San Suu Kyi. We admired her for single-handedly peacefully but powerfully taking on a diabolically dictatorial military regime and managing to wear it down until it became a budding democracy.
And she was rewarded with a Nobel Prize, to boot.
Today, San Suu Kyi is Myanmar’s de facto leader, as its State Counsellor.
But alas, that democracy never came to be. Now when Myanmar and its Nobel laureate are mentioned, we cast our eyes down in shame; such an embarrassing place has it become. In fact, all who care about that country pray that the prize is withdrawn from Suu Kyi.
Few of us had ever heard of the Rohingya community. Personally, I started hearing about them around the mid-1970s and it was always in connection with their persecution. To-date, this persecution has not let up. If anything, it has become a cleansing effort where the military is committing genocide in front of a world that seems too impotent to act.
In this 21st century, a country is united in the commission of the most despicable crime in the world against a defenceless people and it’s not ashamed about it.
The Rohingya community may be said to originate from Bangladesh and Bengal but this has been their home from as far back as the 8th century, we are told. Such a people, who can dare call them migrants?
And Aung San Suu Kyi, who earned a prize on the back of fighting against the suffering innocents of Myanmar at the hands of a despotic military regime, is playing possum; feigning deafness and blindness to all this.
Knowing it’s mainly the same military regime that robbed the Rohingyas their legitimate right to citizenship but no, now she is sitting cosy, her job done.
This hounding of an innocent community, whether Muslim or Hindu, why is it allowed to continue? Why should they live in internally displaced persons’ camps, or as refugees in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, UAE, Thailand, Indonesia and even Bangladesh?
Myanmar must know that the Rohingya Muslim community crisis is its crisis.
Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar government must rein in their army so that it can begin to respect all the people of their country equally. Fiddlesticks to talk of a ceasefire, as if between two warring parties!
However, as we in Rwanda learnt with genocidal bitterness, the liberation of a community begins with itself, whatever enormity of odds staked against it.
The Rohingyas, wherever they are in the said countries and whatever religion, must unite and speak with one voice. Once able to mobilise around the cause of self-assertion, a leading voice will emerge to articulate their plight and push this slumbering world out of its inertia.
And again, as we in Rwanda so painfully learnt, none should put their hope in that chimera of a world organisation, the UN. It has never pulled any people out of their predicament and cannot go beyond blabbering about “a problem that needs to be addressed urgently.”
Yet how Aung San Suu Kyi and her country, as well as Bangladesh and India, need to urgently be pushed to sit together and hammer out a solution! If they need it, they can also solicit the support of the countries accommodating the Rohingyas as refugees.
Where is the global force that can galvanise countries of the world into heaving this grieving community out of this sinkhole? For, finding such a force, the world will have found the force to similarly rescue bleeding communities around the world, especially our part of the world.
Maybe the world should join the voice from strange quarters – the lips of none other than US President Donald Trump, supporting the UN Secretary General on reforming a body he (Trump) had sworn to starve of funds.
Time for “concrete changes in the United Nations to better align its work on humanitarian response, development and sustaining peace initiatives” is long overdue.
And if the UN wants real, tangible reforms, it need not look further for lessons than the AU and the man who penned the much appreciated reform proposals for it (AU). Even Donald Trump is reported to have seen the sense in that, if I heard correct!
For any reform to be meaningful, however, the UN will have to be wrenched from the grip of the self-considered superior Security Council and turned into a global body of equals. And doesn’t it baffle that one country should monopolise leadership of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations?
The UN can best serve the victimised of the world if all nations embraced this simple maxim: united we stand, divided we fall.
United in the majority of equals, these nations can vanquish any sabre, or even nuclear, rattling rogue nation/s; against its/their own community/communities or against any other nation/s.