Burundian Refugees Aren’t Equal To Rohingyan Ones
Congolese government forces killed at least three dozen rioting Burundian refugees over the weekend. Reports allege that the refugees began rioting in opposition to Kinshasa’s plan to send them back to their home country, and that the situation quickly got out of control as they started throwing rocks, attempting to break some of their compatriots out of jail, and – in an unverified claim – might have even seized a weapon and killed a soldier. This prompted the military to set their guns on the rioters, and over 100 people are thought to have been injured aside from the at least 36 who were killed. The incident did make rounds on the international news circuit, but was mostly overshadowed by the Rohingya Crisis, even though it shouldn’t have been. There are almost near-equal numbers of Burundian refugees as there are Rohingya ones, at roughly 400,000 each, but the world is paying considerably more attention to the latter because of the optics and geopolitics involved while ignoring the former for the same reasons.
To explain, Myanmar is a crucial component of China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and it’s accordingly emerged as a Hybrid War battleground as a result. The Muslim faith of the Rohingya makes them more easily presentable as victims to the eyes of the global public, especially considering that it’s majority-Buddhist government forces that they’re fleeing. Their cause could also theoretically appeal to the over one billion Muslims across the world, which is important for perception management reasons and the soft power objectives of the international forces leading the pro-Rohingya cause. On the other hand, the Burundian refugees have no such significance in international politics. They share the same religion as their own government and the people of the surrounding East-Central African region, and they serve no cynical role in obstructing any Silk Road project aside from catalyzing domestic unrest in the host states. Moreover, comparatively fewer people across the world even care about what’s happening with them.
To touch upon that, many Burundians fled their country over the past two years when the rebel members of the Tutsi minority rose up to try and overthrow the government in the run-up to President Nkurunziza’s controversial election to a third term in office. Some of the Hutu majority are also rebels, but generally not in the same groups as the Tutsi, which were suspected of having the full backing of the Tutsi-led minority government in neighboring Rwanda. The situation has largely stabilized over the past year and there’s no longer an imminent risk of an ethno-tribal civil war taking place, which is why the Congo sees no need to continue hosting Burundian refugees in one of the poorest corners of the already impoverished and conflict-prone Central African state. Although the Burundian refugees rioted in response and were killed by the military when they got out of control, the Mainstream Media doesn’t really care too much about their cause anymore so it was basically ignored.
Contrast that with the global scandal that could have been expected had Rohingya refugees rioted in Myanmar or Bangladesh and were killed by the military in response, which could have served as the excuse for launching a so-called "humanitarian intervention”. It’s "politically incorrect” to say, but all refugees aren’t created equal, no matter what the media says, and the only ones that turn into international causes are those who serve an immediate geostrategic agenda.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
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