It is a part of human nature that the latest outrage, the latest tragedy, will overshadow the disaster that precedes it. So it should come as no surprise that the carnage related to the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris has riveted the attention of much of the global media. What should be a surprise, or at least a cause for concern, is that the ongoing death march being conducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria barely moves the media needle.
Last week self-proclaimed Islamic jihadists wreaked murder and havoc in Paris and spread fear through much France. The reaction of the French government and its allies around the world was immediate and swift. With the deaths of seventeen people, over 18,000 French police and military personnel were deployed to seek and kill the perpetrators and to act as a deterrent to further terrorist actions.
Within days of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, leaders from most of Europe (and Israel and the Palestinian Authority) marched through the streets of Paris in an unprecedented show of unity and determination. These images, which were carried around the world, conveyed an opposition to the reign of terror proposed by jihadist terrorists who had attacked a little more than 100 hours earlier.
Meanwhile, in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, the streets moved with business as usual. This, despite the fact that about a week before the slaughter in France, the killers who call themselves Boko Haram attacked and killed as many as 2000 men, women and children. This, despite the fact that during the past few years thousands of Nigerians have been slain by Nigerians, the murderers calling themselves inspired by their God, although it would seem that their motives and calling come straight from Hell.
Nevertheless, the same leaders who marched the streets in Paris are nowhere to be found in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the response of the Nigerian government, with the largest military force in Africa, has been tepid at best and obviously ineffectual.
Despite the fact that Boko Haram threatens to destabilize the largest economy on the African continent, the African Union has been muted in its response to this regional threat. And, despite the obvious trampling of the human rights of the Nigerian people, there has been no call in the halls of the United States Congress or the White House to “do something” to stop these war crimes against humanity.
This tale of two tragedies reveals that it matters where crimes against humanity occur and who the victims are. A terrorist monstrosity raises its bloody head in Europe and a million voices are raised against it and robust military action takes place immediately. A terrorist monstrosity of even greater magnitude in Africa spills out over the media channels and the response in Africa is undeniably weak and the global response reveals that human rights violations in Africa are simply not a priority.
Of course, given the less than robust response to the depredations of Boko Haram by the African Union and the Nigerian government, it is difficult to understand how the former African colonialists and neo-colonialists are supposed to come to the rescue. And without an African response to the death and destruction currently raging in West Africa, there is no doubt that the global response will be rhetorical at best.
All lives matter. All lives have intrinsic value. All murder is senseless, whether it occurs in Ferguson, Paris or Nigeria. But it is clear that the venue of the tragedy and the identity of the victims do matter. And that is an injustice that cannot be allowed to continue.