Humanity has failed over Boko Haram’s slaughter of 2,000 civilians #blacklivesmatter
Posted on January 12, 2015
Almost a week on and *still* hardly any UK, or indeed Western, media are seriously covering the unbelievable massacre in Baga, northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram are said to have slaughtered up to 2,000 innocent civilians.
Despite the absence of journalists, photos far more graphic than the one republished here, are slowly making their way out. They are truly horrific and stomach-turning. No one with an ounce of humanity can fail to be moved, appalled, sickened and angered by the unimaginable carnage that has befallen the peoples of the same region which lost 273 of their young girls almost a year ago.
Social media is awash with members of the public demanding more coverage of this atrocity, yet the UK media is collectively unmoved. Most, but not all, of those tweeting and facebooking about this event are black, just as was the case all those months ago when it took several weeks of electronic outrage, with the #bringbackourgirls hashtag before journalists decided to get their act together. That’s not to suggest white folk don’t care; many do. It’s just that in the absence of mainstream news coverage about a massive story in Africa, it is those of African descent that lead the charge before the rest of society follow.
It defies belief that anyone can ignore 2,000 people being massacred anywhere in the world, just like it seemed scarcely believable that almost 300 young girls being abducted wouldn’t make the news. But it’s true, the most sensational and outrageous crimes can indeed be completely ignored in Britain, even in the age of social media where thousands of British people tweet about it.
At least when the Chibok abductions occurred, western media could excuse at least the first couple of days on grounds there wasn’t much happening in Nigeria at the time so they needed time to get over there. In the event it took them about three weeks. This time around, as many hundreds if not thousands met a brutal end in Baga, there is no excuse whatsoever for not having a media spotlight on Nigeria. It’s in the middle of an election campaign, to decide its’ president and state governors.
This crucial election, in the world’s seventh most populous nation and the biggest in Africa, has huge implications for geo-politics across west Africa and indeed the whole continent. It takes place against a background of the fight against terrorism (over 7,000 killed by Boko Haram in the last year alone), surging economic growth and plummeting oil prices that could undermine it all. Quite simply it has all the ingredients for a many a good ‘hook’ for western media.
Yet even before Baga, the Nigerian election hardly registered on the UK media agenda. Not even a large Nigerian population in Britain persuaded journalists to pay any attention. I was tweeting about this incredible lack of interest in such a vital election a week or so before the massacre. The country should have been awash with journalists before Baga.
This lack of interest reinforces the perception that, to elements in the west, black lives don’t really matter. That Africa, despite its’ growing economic strength, doesn’t matter. Even on the day when there was enough information to run a TV news story, the BBC went with the Bafta awards and high winds in Scotland over covering the loss of 2,000 black lives. It reinforces how out of touch much of our media is with Africa, due in no small part to lack of diversity in its’ ranks.
With president Goodluck Jonathan and rival Muhammadu Buhari both ignoring the atrocity at Baga, it almost feels like an international conspiracy to keep this genocide from public attention. The numbers of dead may be mind-boggling but numbers fade. It’s the stories of real experience that will give it the attention it deserves; the human story of fear, bravery, the desire to survive, and vivid descriptions of the evil that seeks to extinguish that hope. It is a human story, and it needs journalists to tell it. To give those nameless victims lying in the street meaning. We need humanity, names and actions – and the pen can bring that to the world. That is why journalism is so important, and why it has failed so spectacularly in this case.
It is so ironic that mourners in Paris are holding up pens as a symbol of the freedom of speech they profess to cherish while that pen has yet to make contact with paper over such a massive loss of life. We are all seriously diminished by ignoring a catastrophe as occurred just a few short days ago in the north-eastern tip of Nigeria. All the emotion and analysis of the Paris attacks ring hollow and are wrapped by hypocrisy. Humanity, that which makes us human, seems to have undergone a bypass as departed as 2,000 victims decay. It has got me questioning whether western society has been so indifferent to a single act of mass slaughter since ordinary Germans pretended the Holocaust wasn’t really happening.
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway