As the world mourned for the 17 dead from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the media ignored the devastating terrorist attacks in Baga, Nigeria.
2,000 people have been feared to be dead in last week’s massacre in Nigeria in a Boko Haram attack, meaning “Western education is forbidden,” is a terrorist, militant, and Islamist group that was launched in 2009 and based in northeast Nigeria but is also active in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.
Boko Haram has emerged as the Islamic State of Africa. They first gained international recognition when they abdubted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in April 2014 and threatened to sell them as wives and sex slaves.
The “bring back our girls” movement began, but most girls did not escape and were never released or found.
The Boko Haram military men, who are practically in charge of the region, filed in in their camouflage vehicles and began shooting away. According to BBC, they mercilessly massacred small children and even a woman in labor, and they rounded up women, children, and the elderly and held them up in a Baga school for several days.
They eventually released the older women, mothers, and most of the children after 4 days, but they kept the younger women.
2,000 people were feared to be dead, but in truth, local defense groups gave up counting the bodies left lying on the streets and only officially counted 150 deaths. Amnesty International described it as the terror group’s “deadliest massacre” to date. There weren’t even people to attend to the dead bodies and even the seriously injured people couldn’t be helped in time.
Around 1.5 million people have been displaced by the violence. Right after the event as well, on Saturday and Sunday, three little girls, all about age 10, were used as suicide bombers by Boko Haram. They killed over 20 people and injured many more.
The Guardian explains that the stance against terrorism in Paris was moving, but almost no media coverage happened for this much deadlier massacre in this third-world country. While in part it’s because reporting in norther Nigeria is extremely difficult since journalists have been targeted by Boko Haram and the country struggles to find internet access and other communications. Also, Boko Haram attacks as a whole have disrupted connections even more. However, reports of the massacre were coming through and as the world’s media focused its attention on Paris, and the people that did learn about the events were shocked and quite appalled that more media coverage wasn’t happening on the events unfolding in Nigeria.
Simon Allison, from the Daily Maverick, wrote, “I am Charlie, but I am Baga too.” “There are massacres and there are massacres” he said, arguing that “it may be the 21st century, but African lives are still deemed less newsworthy – and, by implication, less valuable – than western lives”.
But the blame isn’t just on western media- there was also hardly any African coverage either. No leaders spoke out against the attacks, and even Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed condolences over the Paris attacks but made no mention of the events in Baga.
Terrible incident. Our deepest sympathies to the journalists and their families. We are one with France in mourning #JeSuisCharlie
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala) January 8, 2015
This shows how even Africans are prioritizing western lives over their own, and they’re accepting these Boko Haram tragedies as becoming part of the norm. Some even downplayed the travesty since it happened during election time. Ahmadu Adamu Muazu, from the ruling People’s Democratic party, tweeted, “We know it’s a political period so some of this [sic] things are expected.”
This devastating event has been ignored because Charlie Hebdo had the spotlight, since the two events happened in the same week. If the world ignores the Boko Haram attacks and Nigeria doesn’t take this as an extreme threat to their country, jihadists can destabilize the entire region.
If we are going to stand in solidarity with victims of terrorism, we should stand in solidarity with all victims of terrorism, regardless of their faith, because we all share the same threat of extreme Islam.