Three days before the Paris attack which targeted the satirical news magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, Boko Haram, an Islamist group massacred people in Baga, a town in northeastern Nigeria. The exact number of people killed is not known yet, but the Nigerian government’s estimate is 150 while other reports estimate the number to be extremely high based on the level of destruction, survivors’ accounts and Boko Haram leadership claim. Since then more towns have been attacked including Monguno, Maiduguri and Konduga on January 25.
Solidarity beyond the terrorist Attack in Paris
When the world joined hands in solidarity with the French people after the terrorist attack which claimed the lives of 17 people, the online newspaper, The Guardian asked “What made the Paris attack more newsworthy than Boko Haram’s assault on Baga?” In the light of the historic international solidarity with the French people, many people have seized the opportunity to call the attention of the international community to their own sufferings or issues they are concerned about. Africa Faith & Justice Network relays the same message to the world to unite against the ongoing disappearance political dissidents, the killing of peaceful protesters, the imprisonment of journalists by repressive regimes, the amendments of presidential term limits, the economic exploitation, international illicit weapons trade, land grabs and terrorism in Africa.
The fundamental issue many people grapple with remains: why didn’t the international community rise up when on December 2, 2014 36 non-Muslim were killed in the town of Kormey in the far North-East near the Somalia-Kenya border? Why didn’t the world stand up when on November 23, 2014 Al Shabab, an Islamic group from Somalia attacked passengers on a bus near Mandera town close to Kenya-Somalia border. The gunmen forced passengers to recite Koran verses and shot dead 28 people who could not because they were non-Muslims. Why has the world kept quiet when from September 2 to October 9, 2014 the Ugandan Islamic rebel group Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) abducted and massacred people in several villages near the city of Beni in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)? Why didn’t the world step up pressure against the DRC government that killed 30-32 unarmed and peaceful civilians on January 19-22, 2015? They came out to protest the amendment of the constitutional electoral law that limits the five years presidential terms to two.
These innumerable cases of injustices and crimes against humanity by non state groups and by governments alike call for attention and more, it is an imperative and a moral obligation of the international community to rise up to the challenge no matter what the location or the identity of the victimizer.
Newsworthiness: Paris Vs Gaba
The Guardian profiled many opinions with regard to the newsworthiness of the attack in Paris compare to the attack in Baga. Joel Nwokeoma tweeted: “The world ignored#BokoHaram’s#Baga attacks because Nigerian leaders themselves never showed any concern.” Also Michèle Fulford asked: “…Could similar marches and newspaper coverage help the situation in Nigeria?”
Furthermore, National Public Radio (NPR) Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton said during the Morning Edition Program aired on January 12, reported that the Nigerian people complained that “President Goodluck Jonathan is busy campaigning for re-election… he has had time…to condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings in France, but the past week of relentless attacks (referring to Gaba) in Nigeria, he has said nothing about.” However, it is important to note that some Nigerians would support President Goodluck Jonathan in spite of his failures because they are from the same geopolitical region and some would go as far as show support based on shared ethnic background.
Any solution to Boko haram insurgency must take into account the political and military leadership crisis in Nigeria in addition to addressing the Islamic extremist ideological character of Boko Haram. An african proverb says “You know your true friends in times of challenges” As a human family not only are we challenged and invited not to be indifferent before these senseless killings by radical terrorism no matter where it occurs, but most importantly we must be active agents of peace and compassion and be in solidarity with all who are victims of violence on the hands of any armed groups and all repressive governments, oppose all kinds of injustices be it social, political, economic and religious.
by Jacques Bahati