While the headlines of every media outlet were capturing the terrorist attacks in Paris, some 2,000 people were massacred in Baga, Nigeria, followed by a destructive raid of the village by the Nigerian military in search of the terrorist.
How is it that Paris got all the attention and Baga almost nothing?
Some argue that covering the media from a country such as Nigeria is more complicated than from France. The nearest reporters are hundreds of miles away and Internet and other means of communication are not always accessible, making it difficult to share news, photos and video reports of news as it unfolds.
But reports came through regardless and still the media kept focusing on Paris alone. It was not just the Western media that failed to bring the massacres in Nigeria to light, because it did not receive much attention from African-based media either with many African politicians simply ignoring the horrific events altogether.
Perhaps we are too numbed by the what is continuously happening in Africa: hunger, disease, war, terror all leading to lower life expectancy for a child born in Africa. It is almost as if this is in line with the expectations and less surprising than a terrorist attack on Paris. This would make a story on terrorism in Europe more attractive than one in Africa (even if the latter is happening on a much larger scale).
But that would generalize Africa. There are so many different cultures and countries in various stages of economic development, that this would be an erroneous simplification. For example according to Bloomberg News, Nigeria is now the largest economy in Africa — it surpassed South Africa in 2014 and is now the 26th biggest economy in the world.
Perhaps, we protecting our own sanity. The events in Baga are so terrible that we do not know how to emotionally deal with it or process it? Can we imagine a mass murder of 2,000 people slaughtered in most horrible ways imaginable? Where do we even start to address this?
Does it have to do with relatedness? Do Western societies relate more to what is going on in similarly “civilized” countries? Do we understand the pain of the French better than that of Africans? Can we imagine it happening to us when it happens in Paris and it’s too far from our reality when it happens in Nigeria?
Is the attack on Paris a terrorist attack on the civilized world, while we consider the massacre in Baga more a local problem that has nothing to do with us? Both were done in the name of religion, but one was claimed by Isis or Al Qaeda, both operating internationally and the one in Baga by Boko Haram a terrorist organization mainly operating in Nigeria.
However, Boko Haram is believed to have connections with Al Qaeda according to the US Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism. Also according to the same report, Boko Haram was responsible for the bond attack on the UN building in Abuja in 2011. This would make it an international attack on terrorism I would think.
I believe there is truth in all of the above and there might be other reasons why Baga is not getting as much attention as it should get. Many forces are at play when we perceive, experience, relate and respond to the world’s events. That being said, the solutions is not to put blame on one party, be it the media, our effervescent politicians, or consumers of news.
What we can do now is start to focus our attention on Nigeria. Some of the ways that you can help out and that won’t take much of your time are to sign a petition to express your support for a call to action by the President and members of the UN Security Council and to share this story and other stories on Baga with your friends on social media.