Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 13 January 2015

So Why Don’t We Care About Boko Haram Killing 2,000 People Last Week?

The Debrief: Our Foreign Secretary puts it down to the Nigerian authories being ‘too slow’ to ask for help…

Following last week’s Paris shootings, where three terrorists killed more than a dozen people, millions have taken to the streets in support of those who died and what they died for. And #JeSuisCharlie, a hashtag used in support of the people killed at the Charlie Hebdo offices, is the most-tweeted hashtag ever. Plus, the other day, the French flag was projected across some of London’s biggest landmarks, including Tower Bridge and the National Gallery.

However, there has been no similar response to another, more far-flung act of terrorism – last week, Boko Haram burned several villages, killing 2,000 in the process. Over 1.5 million people have been displaced by the ongoing violence including the girls the terrorist organisation took from their school to sell as child brides last year.

But we haven’t all been tweeting about it, or talking about it, or paying much attention to it.

Why is this? Well, first off, there’s just not a lot of communication from the countries where Boko Haram have a stronghold. A BBC correspondent reported, ‘There has been no mobile phone connection in Baga for many months after the jihadists attacked mobile phone masts in the north-east. There are, of course, the officials whose job it is to tell the world what's going on, but for the first few days of the Baga crisis, both the military spokesmen and government officials were silent or not picking up calls.’

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And then of course, as Fuse ODG put it following his refusal to sing on Bob Geldof’s Do We Know It’s Christmas, we have misconceptions of Africa. We see only ever see Africa in a state of turmoil, we don’t think we can help, so we don’t want to pay attention. Paris, by comparison, seems a lot closer to home, not only because it is geographically closer, but we see representations of it all the time. We kind of recognise what ‘normal’ looks like in Paris, and knew that the terrorist attacks weren’t very normal. The same can’t be said for attacks in Africa.

However, it’s totally wrong to thing that west Africa is always in turmoil: Nigeria is actually home to a booming economy. And that’s actually one of the reasons the UK feels less obliged to help it fight against Boko Haram than, say, intervening in Syria or Iraq – Nigeria has a big budget, and it spends 20% of it on its military, reports The Guardian.

As for the girls taken by Boko Haram? It looks as if military intervention would be needed to get them back, something which is looks unlikely. First of all, it hasn’t happened yet, despite international pressure building last year through the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Secondly, Niger and Chad, which both border Nigeria, have surrendered several towns to Boko Haram.

READ MORE: Bizarre News: A Nigerian Pop Star Has Offered Her Virginity To Boko Haram To #BringBackOurGirls

Earlier this week in Parliament, MP David Winnick asked Hugo Swire, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whether Nigerian authorities are up to the challenge of combatting terrorism in Nigeria. ‘Time and again, when the Nigerian president has been under a good deal of international pressure, and rightly so, his response has been such that one can conclude only that the commitment to fight the terrorism and atrocities in that country is not as it should be,’ he said.

To which Swire replied, ‘There is something called sovereignty, which may have escaped my honourable friend’s notice, and the Nigerian government are perhaps, as I have said, too slow to ask the international community for help.’

So, basically, the reason we don’t care is because not even the Nigerian government seems to care. At least that’s what our Foreign Office seems to be saying.

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Tags: Nigeria