On Boko Haram: Nigerian Lives Matter, But Not in the News
There was a horrific terrorist attack last week, but you may not have heard about it. While the world continues to mourn the deaths of the staff members of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper, thousands are feared dead in Nigeria after a weeklong rampage by Boko Haram, the extremist group responsible for kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls last April. Despite reports that up to 2,000 people may have been killed, Western media outlets have been slow to cover the story.
Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) has become a rallying cry for those who claim to support freedom and victims of senseless terror attacks. At this year’s Golden Globe awards, actors George Clooney, Helen Mirren, and Kathy Bates proudly repeated the phrase to show their solidarity for Parisian victims, and #JeSuisCharlie has been tweeted more than 5 million times. On Sunday, a host of world leaders, and millions of French citizens, took to the streets of Paris to show support for France and the victims of Charlie Hebdo attacks, but little attention has been played to the vicious siege in Nigeria.
While all eyes were trained on Paris on Sunday, Boko Haram reportedly used two girls to carry out a deadly suicide bombing in Potiskum, a town in Nigeria’s Yobe state. A day earlier, the militant group detonated a bomb strapped to a 10-year-old girl in Borno state, killing at least 16 people and ripping the girl’s body in half.
“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for a group of citizens fight Boko Haram, told The Associated Press.
Survivors of the Baga massacre have described sustained and brutal attacks by the militant group who also overran a military base during its siege.
“The killings were not done in a day, but that of the first day was massive, both soldiers and our local people were killed,” Yahaya Takakumi told the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times. “Even after they had taking over Baga they kept on attacking other neighboring villages in the following days,” he said.
Despite the vicious attacks, American media outlets have been slow to cover the story, choosing instead to focus the majority of their attention on Paris. And while the Charlie Hebdoassault deserves to be reported, the silence on the barbarous raids in Nigeria gives even more weight to the criticism many lobbed at the media and government during the massive Black Lives Matter protests that swept across our country.
Where is the groundswell of support for the victims in Baga? Where are the celebrities chanting, “I am Nigeria,” from the red carpet? Where is the march full of world leaders vowing to root out extremism? Where is President Obama’s message to the people of Nigeria who have been terrorized by Boko Haram? Where is the collective outrage, mourning, and encouragement?
Sadly, it has yet to come, and if history is our guide, it may never happen. That’s why it’s up to us—people all across the African diaspora—to amplify the issues and stories that affect our lives most.
We cannot let these stories go unreported because Nigerian lives matter, whether the media covers their stories or not.