The Zimbabwe government has once again proved that it is not in its DNA to protect and defend the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities by joining 9 other countries to vote against a UN resolution on the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
In December 2019, the UN General Assembly voted on Draft Resolution A/C.3/74/L.29 “Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” which was sponsored by Finland (on behalf of the European Union (EU)) and the United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)).
The resolution raised alarm at the continuing gross human rights violations of Rohingya Muslims who are also being displaced to neighbouring countries. Over 1.1 million Rohingya muslims have been displaced since August 2017 fleeing ethnic cleansing that involves killings, mass rapes and burning of home. An independent international fact finding mission has reported “of gross human rights violations and abuses suffered by Rohingya Muslims and other minorities” by security forces, which the mission said “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.” The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned in October 2018 that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.” The mission also said in its final report in September 2019 that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.
The resolution was eventually passed with overwhelming vote of 134 countries in favour against 9 in opposition and 28 abstentions. Zimbabwe was the only African country that voted against the resolution. Other countries who voted against were Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia and Vietnam.
A number of African countries also abstained from the vote, including: Cameroon, Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia.
Zimbabwe has not been doing well in the past years in terms of general respect for citizens’ human rights, use of the military to violate rights of citizens and upholding rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities. For instance, a Minority Rights Group International People Under Threat 2019 Report, Zimbabwe ranked 24th in the index index and fell one place from 2018’s ranking.
On the 3rd of September 2019 The Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Energy Mutodi released a video on social media where he labelled minority Ndebele people who occupy the western side of Zimbabwe as migrants and refugees in the country.
Myanmar, where most citizens are Buddhist, has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering the group stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
This action by Zimbabwe government, which is still having an unresolved Gukurahundi genocide (1983 – 1986) against the Ndebele people, is an indication that ethnic and linguistic minorities are not safe in Zimbabwe and the government is not committed to respecting their fundamental rights and freedoms.