South 2 North

Nowhere to go: The plight of refugees

South2North discusses human rights in Zimbabwe and the unfolding human tragedy in Myanmar.
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 14:12
No subject is off limits in the first ever global talk show hosted from Africa in which Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

Imagine being declared stateless and not able to return to your country of birth because of your tribe, ethnicity, skin colour or religion.

Myanmar is Asia’s newest democracy after elections last year, which saw the end of a military dictatorship and the return to world favour. But the United Nations says the long-running conflict between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority population is a humanitarian tragedy in the making.

Ethnic Rohingyas are being denied citizenship in their own country and herded into camps where they face a triple threat from violence, starvation and disease. The UN estimates about 13,000 Rohingya fled western Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2012, and an estimated 500 refugees have already died at sea with more deaths expected.

South2North talks to Maung Tun Khin, a human rights activist from Myanmar:

"The military government is killing the Rohingyas silently. They are blocking aid. And many Rohingyas cannot go to the hospital. More than 230 Rohingya women are facing serious difficulty in delivering their babies."

Kennedy Gihanna, a Rwandan refugee and now successful human rights lawyer in South Africa, explains that the situation in Myanmar concerns him, knowing the patterns that lead to genocide.

Fourteen years ago Gihana wrapped his school graduation certificate in a piece of plastic and tied it around his body with a piece of banana rope. Then he walked 3,000 kilometers from Kigali to Johannesburg bypassing roadblocks, soldiers and gangsters. It took him six months.

"I have been watching the issue of Myanmar. I see it on TV; it’s very sad. Nobody wants to listen to these people. Nobody even wants to protect them. Everybody, the UN, the Europena Union, the Asian Pacific, nobody wants to find a solution. And you make these people stateless in their own country. They are unwanted people," Gihanna says.

On Sunday, March 17, in Zimbabwe, three senior officials of the Movement for Democratic Change, together with internationally renowned human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, were arrested by plain-clothes officers at the home of a top adviser to opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. These arrests have followed months of harsh crackdowns.

Just a few days before she was arrested, Mtetwa was a guest on this week’s South2North. She came on to explain her own work in defending human rights and how she had previously been harassed by the police for her work.

She said: "Well, I mean if the ground is uneven and you do defend people you know I’m not in the good books with those who are enjoying political power. You do expect to become part of the problem for them. You ought not to defend them and if you are defending them you are saying that what they are doing is correct."


South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.


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