In this file photo taken on October 16, 2017, Rohingya refugees carry a woman over a canal after crossing the Naf River as they flee violence in Myanmar to reach Bangladesh in Palongkhali near Ukhia AFP

Diplomacy is a tenuous balancing act, subtlety, tactful, and at times materialistic; it is often a statecraft designed and applied to further the interests of states. Inevitably, diplomacy involves trumping on other states’ interests, which makes it a tricky affair to navigate in some cases.

Most Gambians are understandably empathetic towards the Rohingya refugee crisis because of our shared values – of humanity and sense of right and wrong. In the spirit of subtle diplomacy, The Gambia and Bangladesh seem to unite in one voice on Rohingya crisis as they assume the conscious step of taking the issues of Rohingya to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for judicial guidance. This, in my mind, is a bold move, but seems pointless without the support of those with material and legal powers to back it.

The perceived reality is that United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is best placed to take steps that will immediately halt the sufferings of innocent peoples. Quite clearly UNSC’s efforts have so far fallen too short to elevate the unimaginable sufferings of the Rohingya people. That is because of the use of “no vote” to protect self-interests seem to have paralyse the UNSC’s ability to make a decision on Rohingya crisis. Quite bluntly, the perpetual cycle of stalemate is the way in which the UNSC operates to protect self-interest.

While such a principle seems to have maintained world peace among the super powers, in keeping with the spirit of Article 39 of the UN Charter, it failed on many occasions to provide any plausible safeguards for the vulnerable and defenceless people who through no fault of their own, find themselves at the mercy of corrupt and brutal leaders. Is it much to expect the world leaders to follow their conscience and take decisive action on the sufferings of Rohingya people? No, I do not think so. But it seems that the world leaders, the apparently powerful, are happily peddling their interests ahead while the Rohingya refugees continue to suffer. It is my view that the politics of stalemate will continue to gain the upper hand as long as the power structure of United Nation remains the same.

The Rohingya case calls for a much-needed change in the power structures of the United Nations. In particular, the decisions to deal with serious human rights violations against innocent citizens must be vested upon the General Assembly in order to mitigate the effects of the politics of stalemate. That way we can guarantee a more dignified existence of the human race. It cannot be the case that we still continue to bury our heads in the sand even when there is credible evidence of serious rights violations. The ostrich approach on the protection of human right is bound to serve only the corrupt leaders and their friends, which will in no doubt allow impunity to prevail over decency. That should surely be a stain on all of our collective conscience and our legacy. I think we can do better than that.

The recent advisory opinion of ICJ on Chagos Island is an interesting one; is this a shift in the balance of global power? No, it hasn’t yet. In any event the General Assembly was decisive in requesting for such an important judicial opinion, which supports Mauritius to assert control over the Island. Certainly, the decision was a by-product of less powerful nations working together in support of the will of the people, and to that end, democracy may have a chance to prevail. But whatever the effect of such decision might turn out to be, it is unlikely to make any significant difference to the status quo. Everyone knows that the General Assembly’s decision has less legal force under the current power structure of the UN. This raises the rather thorny issue of how democratic UN really is? In my opinion the undemocratic nature of the UN power structure does not conform to the Millennium Declaration which states this;
‘’We recommit ourselves to actively protecting and promoting all human rights, the rule of law and democracy and recognize that they are interlinked and mutually reinforcing’’. Really do we?

This makes me to think that the veto system has fallen foul of the notion of promoting democracy to maintain the security of human beings. Clearly it is increasingly becoming unfit for purpose to maintain the security of the human race. In political theories terms, that security means survival and self-protection of vulnerable people. It is fair to say the use of the veto has not always preserved the security of all of the human race. The unjustified use of no vote is so inimical to the protection of human rights. As it stands, it is only the Security Council that can compel brutal leaders to act in line with international law and uphold international standards and norms. So, I implore the UNSC do the needful thing and take steps to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

In concluding this write-up, I am doubtful whether subtle diplomacy between nations with relatively limited resources, means and influence can work to solve complicated issues like the Rohingya crisis, while those with the power, influence and resources remain mute for reasons perhaps best known to their leadership. I take the view that The Gambia and Bangladesh are only inviting nation states to employ divine reasoning, and argue with each other in the best possible manner in order to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

The only problem with such an approach, is that it tends to take too long before it yields results; in the intervening period, the crisis and suffering of the Rohingya may deepen. Invariably, it may become too late to relieve the sufferings of the Rohingya people. The Rwanda case is a brutal reminder of our failure to act in a time-sensitive manner and we know the price paid for inaction in terms of human lives.

Indeed, The Gambia needs to continue with subtle diplomacy for the plight of the Rohingya people but She must also focus on some of the serious issues at home – such as food security, healthcare, education and work to resolve the land disputes between communities and regularise land sales; infrastructural development and the reform of public institution so as to nurture our new democracy and make state power accountable.

Forward with the Gambia
Solomon Demba