The Republic of Gambia, the smallest country in West Africa with an estimated 2.3 million population (as at 2019) is an example of the proverbial saying – action speaks louder than voice – when it comes to the genuine fight against oppression, especially as it affects the most persecuted ethnic nationality in the world today – the Rohingya Muslims, who have been subjected to all forms of inhuman and degrading abuses including sexual violence, rape, arson and systematic ethnic cleansing in the hands of the Budhist extremists government of Myanmar.
As the massacre and persecution of Rohingya Muslims continues, the world in general, particularly countries in the Arab world remain silent. However, Adama Barrow, the President of The Gambia, sprang to action which many didn’t see coming! Or, Simply put, he is walking the talk to put an end to the injustice and genocidal activities of the Myanmar authorities, a country that once produced Aung San Sun Kyi, the 2001 Peace Prize Nobel Laureate.
This is evidently one of the reasons Barrow, alongside his government, deserves this honourable mention from us at Muslim News Nigeria and wish them victory in their quest to bring a new lease of life to the rest of the Rohingya Muslims, majority of whom are now scattered across the world. How did he do it?
Adama Barrow and The Gambian Government
One of the most persecuted minorities in the world today are the Rohingya Muslims according to the United Nations (UN), who in 2013, “found evidence of wide-scale human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings; gang rapes; arson of Rohingya Muslim villages, businesses, schools; and infanticides” perpetrated by the Myanmar armed forces.
Yet, the inter-governmental organisation responsible for maintaining international peace and security has failed to save an estimated one million Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine State in Myanmar (Burma).
Sadly, their conditions haven’t changed for better as they continue to live in palpable fear and agony. The second phase of the ethnic cleansing which started in August 2017 and is still ongoing as of this moment, has forced about 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighbouring countries, especially to Bangladesh and others going to India, Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of South and Southeast Asia.
Over 87,000 of the victims of the program are pregnant women, children and the elderly.
The Myanmar leader and State Counsellor (de facto head of government) who unfortunately was the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has particularly been criticized for criminal silence, intentional ignorance and tacit endorsement of the plight of the Rohingya Muslims and for doing little to prevent military abuse.
For instance, many Buddhist hate preachers and anti-Muslim extremists were tolerated by Aung San Suu Kyi to commit armageddon against Muslims, as payback for the immense support her political party got from them. She has been severely condemned and criticised by peace-loving people around the world, world leaders, international NGOs and even the United Nations, with many calling for her to be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize.
As this massacre and persecution of Muslims continue, the world in general, particularly countries in the Arab world remain silent. Surprisingly, a small West African country, Gambia, in November 11, 2019 filed a 46-page application at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Hague, alleging “violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the “Genocide Convention”) through acts adopted, taken and condoned by the Government of Myanmar against members of the Rohingya group”.
Specifically, Adama Barrow’s Gambia argues, in the application, that; “from around October 2016 the Myanmar military (the ‘Tatmadaw’) and other Myanmar security forces began widespread and systematic ‘clearance operations’ – the term that Myanmar itself uses against the Rohingya group.
The genocidal acts committed during these operations were intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, through mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction setting ablaze of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses. From August 2017 onward, such genocidal acts continued with Myanmar’s resumption of ‘clearance operations’ on a more massive and wider geographical scale.”
It was a bold move by President Adama Barrow, an icon who called injustice by its name and challenged the status quo. Amidst criminal silence of the world Islamic leaders, the Adama Barrow-led Gambian government has instituted a charge against the Killer of Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar (a delegation led by the disgraced Suu Kyi) at the International Court of Justice, a principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
But it wouldn’t have been possible without the unflinching commitment of Fatou Bensouda, an international court’s prosecutor, who earlier in July 2019 asked judges at that court for permission to open a formal investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar authorities.
Interestingly, the same Bensouda, a Gambian Muslim, later in December, 2019 also announced her intention to open an investigation into the “situation in Palestine” at the International Criminal Court (ICC). According to several media reports, she believes war crimes “have been or are being committed” by the apartheid Israeli regime which has since began a campaign of calumny against her.
This progress came about 3 years after Yahya Jammeh, the former Gambian President who in 2016 withdrew his country’s membership of the ICC, accusing the international body of one-sidedness in the dispensation of justice, especially in bringing Western countries and their allies to book when they were wrong or guilty of war crimes.
The unassuming Barrow, in the spirit of extending hands of fellowship and identification to the Rohingya Muslim minorities, restored the membership of The Gambia to the International Criminal Court in 2017. He practically led the Government of Gambia and his country’s lawyers led by Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou in dragging Myanmar to the ICJ for her many crimes against humanity in Rakhine State province of Myanmar and later supported Bensouda in investigating Israel’s reign of terror in the occupied Palestinian territory at the ICC.
ICC however differs from ICJ. While ICC is “an independent judicial body with jurisdiction over persons charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”, ICJ settles legal disputes submitted by states with the intent of finding justice to the oppressed countries. It can also prosecute individuals found guilty of genocide, like the case of the Rohingya Muslims.
Interestingly, Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have interest in the trial as it has earlier authorised a full-scale investigation into allegations of mass persecution and crimes against humanity, against the Rohingya Muslims.
As you read this, the first public hearing has been held with Suu Kyi leading the Myanmar delegation to the Hague where the Gambian government revealed that the lives of the rest of the 600,000 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are in “real and significant danger” of further genocidal acts, thereby calling for punishment for those responsible, compensation for the victims and an immediate end to the attacks.
We at Muslim News Nigeria find this actions of Adama Barrow brave, challenging, rare and ingenious, being the head of the government of about 2.3 million citizens (as at 2019) and of course the actions of Fatou Bensouda and the legal team as well. We support the move and the entire Muslim world is solidly behind them. This is what the Arab and Middle East countries did not summon courage to do for the last couple of years. Altough, findings revealed that Gambia got the backing of the 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
If at the end of the day Myanmar is found guilty, it will serve as a deterrent for other despots and would go down in history as a great achievement for a small country like Gambia under the leadership of Adama Barrow.
For his audacious and courageous feat, Adama Barrow is one the Muslim News’ Global Muslim Personalities of the Year 2019.
Signed: Rasheed Abubakar, publisher Muslim News Nigeria