To my West African sisters and brothers, this one is for you.
(It is also for anyone who has not taken the time to learn about the tragedy that is happening in Nigeria, or who heard about the thousands who have died and just didn’t care.)
The world has turned its eyes, mind, and heart towards Paris after a week of horrendous bloodshed resulting in the death of 17 innocent people from terrorist attacks. There are many angles through which to discuss the terrifying nature of the attacks and the reactions that followed around the world, ranging from concerns about freedom of speech, the isolation of Islamic people, and most of all the immense solidarity shown with Parisians. For illustration, The Guardian reported that up to 60 world leaders assembled in Paris to join an estimated 3.7 million others rallying in honor of the victims and heroes of the attacks. Among these leaders was the French president, François Hollande, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, Ibrahim Boubacar Këita, the president of Mali, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and David Cameron, the UK prime minister. The resounding message of their participation in the rally was “We are walking together, as one Europe, Africa, the Middle East against terrorism.”
This is a beautiful and important gesture for the world to see. I am comforted that so many stood together to honor the lives of each individual affected by the horror of terrorism in Europe. And I do not mean to take away from the victims in Paris by what I am about to say… but where the hell have people been for Nigeria? As media coverage focused primarily on Europe, Boko Haram - an Islamist militant goup, massacred 2000 Nigerians and almost no one was talking about it! How could this even be possible? Where was the solidarity for them? While it is true that there are different factors, which make reporting from Nigeria more dangerous than reporting from Paris, this should have been all the more reason for people to use their voices to inform others. There hasn’t even been any kind of talk around solidarity among world leaders to honor the victims of Boko Haram’s deadliest attack to date.
“We are walking together, as one Europe, Africa, the Middle East against terrorism” Oh really? Not if the terrorism results in the loss of African lives though apparently.
Social media solidarity can be important and is something that the 2000+ victims of the most recent Boko Haram attack deserved at the very least. However, I am not only calling for tweets and posts because (contrary to popular opinion) I do not believe this is enough to combat injustice. We can learn from the other times when the world decided to at least care about an African nation for a moment before abandoning their pain. For instance, you might remember the #BringBackOurGirls campaign from May 2014. This was one example of the media world uniting to stand in solidarity with Nigeria after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their boarding school where they then kept them in camps and were reported to rape the girls routinely. At first, the campaign went viral but was gradually abandoned, just like so many others against grave injustices are. For anyone who was once interested enough to post about Bringing Back Our Girls in May, you should ask yourself if you even know what happened to them. Because American news outlets stopped reporting on the story as the trend of solidarity passed, I had to continually ask my parents living in Ghana for updates. FYI - In October of 2014, 6 months after the kidnapping, Al Jazeera reported that 57 girls had escaped while 219 remained in captivity.
The points I am attempting to make are many, but here are just a few: 1) if you stand in solidarity against terrorism and injustice, you should do so for all victims of such crimes giving them the same honor they each deserve, 2) you should stay informed on what’s going on in the world and not always rely on Western news sources to do so, 3) it is important to help spread your knowledge with those around you 4) it is crucial to stay committed to the fight against injustice, because those who bring injustice to the world are nothing if not committed themselves, and 5) don't let acts of violence fade from your memory because when you do you let the victims fade away as well.
If you would like to read more about the attacks in Nigeria, here are some useful pieces: