The Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs (IPPIA) in collaboration with the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Kenya host public lecture on the Rohingya Crisis

By Shyat Lemoshira

On Thursday, June 15, 2023, H. E Tareque Muhammad, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Kenya, held a public lecture on Why the Rohingya Crisis Matters in collaboration with the USIU-Africa Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs (IPPIA) in the USIU-Africa School of Humanities and Social Sciences. H.E Tareque Muhammad described the Rohingya community's history and evolution since their settlement in Arakan in the 17th century, as well as their current refugee crisis. Since 1785, the Arakan state has been known as the state of Myanmar.

The Rohingya are people from the formerly Rakhine (Arakan) state, located inside the Arakan Mountain range. They had citizenship privileges prior to the ascension of Ne Win to power in 1962. He established his Buddhist philosophy, which contributed in the marginalization of the Rohingya by withholding National Registration Certificates to a few Muslims. Furthermore, the government of Ne Win amended the citizenship regulations in 1982, rendering the Rohingya people stateless. To avoid unnecessary focus on Muslim persecution, H.E Tareque Muhammed emphasized that the population is heterogeneous, consisting of Buddhists (40%), Muslims, and Hindus. The United Nations imparted white cards to the Rohingya, but these do not guarantee them civil and political rights.

Bangladesh has also committed $350 million to the effective creation of integrated structured settlements in Bhasan Char with a capacity of 100,000 people which will help to relieve congestion in the highly packed Cox Bazar camps. Lastly, Muhammed informed the audience about the consequences of no repatriation: crime, drug and human trafficking, terrorism, a decline in security and stability, and difficulties in local integration of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs) due to Bangladesh's current population of over 169 million. Regardless, the Bangladesh government, in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), will establish education facilities to give basic education to Rohingya refugees in their Arakan language.

The High Commissioner interacted with the students and faculty in the question-and-answer session after providing his insights on the topic. He was impressed as he realized the interests of students in addressing this humanitarian crisis as they relate it to refugee crises in Eastern Africa caused by conflicts and climate change impacts. Kenya shares such challenges as it is ranked 15th globally and 5th in receiving refugees that commonly dwell in the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. The High Commissioner emphasized that the Rohingya dilemma requires increased international attention and support as Bangladesh handles it humanitarianly without jeopardizing its national interests. This event concluded with a joint tree planting activity by the High Commissioner along with faculty and students from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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