A blind eye no more toward Africa

VOA/Public domain image

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, in a propaganda video released in October 2014.

By Chris Ludlam, Advanced Math and Science Academy

Everyone, it seems, has heard about the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France last month. If you haven’t, then you need to be more in touch with the world. But have you heard about the Baga Massacre, which occurred just days before?

Given how much has been in the news about it (i.e., how little), I doubt it.

Beginning Jan. 3, Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram invaded a multinational military base in Baga, Nigeria. In the weeks that followed, the death toll was estimated to be anywhere from 200 to 2000. The group seized control of the region with the aim of establishing a strict form of Sharia law across the country.

This attack reiterates the urgent need…for the Nigerian government to take measures to protect a population who live in constant fear.”

— Daniel Eyre, Amnesty International

The lack of an exact figure speaks to the chaos and uncertainty brought about by the violence, which has also displaced an estimated 35,000 people. The group’s actions since 2009 have displaced an estimated 1.5 million, according to BBC News, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to declare a state of emergency last year in Borno and two neighboring states because of violence.

Over the past six years, Boko Haram has attacked police, schools, and churches. It has bombed government buildings and it is responsible for the kidnapping of hundreds of girls, according to Amnesty International, which issued a news release on Jan. 9 calling the Baga incident the worst in the terrorist group’s history.

“This attack reiterates the urgent need for Boko Haram to stop the senseless killing of civilians and for the Nigerian government to take measures to protect a population who live in constant fear of such attacks,” Daniel Eyre, a Nigerian researcher for Amnesty International, said in the statement.

On the heels of this heinous act, the attack on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris occurred and the world’s attention shifted to Europe. As is the case all too often, Western problems took precedence over violence in Africa.

It’s a disturbing pattern. Most nations turned a blind eye toward the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and it was only after hundreds of thousands had been killed that anyone took notice (the fact that celebrities took up the cause no doubt helped).

No one can speak with much certainty as to how many have been killed in this latest attack by Boko Haram or just how many have fled to Chad to seek relief. Much of that has to do with a lack of attention and care focused on the problem.

That needs to change—now.