We are in the refugee camp of Touloum in eastern Chad and the sun is bright. The camp is surrounded by desert for miles in every direction. It is quiet in the camp as we walk through, except for a small group of children who are playing outside and the occasional sound of a donkey trudging through the sand.
Below is the text of a speech delivered by RI Senior Advisor on Human Rights Sarnata Reynolds at the Oslo Conference on Myanmar's Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas.
I have been asked today to speak about the challenges and opportunities for positive policy and political engagement on the mass atrocities & ethnic cleansing facing the Rohingya.
There are many points to make on each side, but I will limit mine to three observations in the interest of time.
Periodic violence, reprisal attacks, recent displacement – the town of Bambari, almost right in the middle of the Central African Republic (CAR), is emblematic of the continuing crisis in the country. In 2013, many areas in CAR descended into intercommunal violence following the overthrow of the government by an amalgamation of rebel groups from the north known as the Séléka. Christian militia groups, known as anti-Balaka, started fighting against the Séléka (composed primarily of Muslims).
The over 360,000 Sudanese refugees currently in Chad have been there for over a decade. They fled to Chad after violence in their towns and villages in Darfur. And that violence in Darfur unfortunately continues.
Twelve years ago, when I was a high school student living in a small New England town, I remember hearing about Darfur. I remember seeing news reports about the terrible conflict there, and about the hundreds of thousands of people whose villages had been burned or bombed, forcing them into exile.
The political struggle underway in Burundi has thrust that tiny Central African nation into the global spotlight. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, is seeking a third term despite being limited to two by Burundi’s constitution, and by the terms of a peace deal signed in 2000. Nkurunziza’s supporters maintain that his first term did not count because he was appointed by parliament rather than elected. His political opponents disagree.
A few days in southern Turkey, in cities which have received Syrian refugees, leaves a complex feeling of both achievements and failures.
Turkey is currently the largest refugee hosting country in the world. More than two million Syrians have arrived over the past four years, and more are arriving as the conflict back home continues unabated. Every day, living conditions inside Syria become more precarious and dangerous.
More than two years since a rebel movement launched a violent campaign against the Central African Republic government, the country is continuing to experience a major humanitarian crisis. In March 2013, the Seleka group (an amalgamation of rebel groups from the north) overthrew the central government in Bangui, and since then sectarian violence between Christian militia groups, known as anti-Balaka, and former members of Seleka, who are mainly Muslims, has permeated the country.
It’s one of those things you don’t think about until someone specifically brings it up. You don’t think about it partly because it doesn’t seem to be the most urgent need, and partly because you just don’t want to have such an image in your head. It’s a mental picture that’s not easy to get rid of.
“There is nowhere to bury people in Aleppo anymore. The public gardens are all full of bodies.”