Boko Haram blues

2015-11-24 06:00

AS the horror played out on the streets of Paris in the early hours of Saturday morning following the multiple terror attacks, the quick response by the French government was impressive.

Although there were seven co-ordinated attacks carried out by Islamic State (Isis) militants in different parts of the city, resulting in the death of 129 people, French authorities quickly took control of the situation.

Troops were deployed, people who were injured were treated and ferried to hospitals, and those who were panicked on the streets were given assistance.

The French president, Francois Hollande, who was himself at the Stade de France, the site of one of the attacks, reacted immediately to identify Isis as the perpetrator and reassure his nation that the attacks would not go unpunished.

Speaking at the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people died, Hollande said: “France will not let itself be overwhelmed or frightened even if today we are overcome with sadness and emotion.”

In the days that followed, a state of emergency was declared, the French military conducted intense bombing campaigns against Isis in the Syrian city of Raqqa and police raids were conducted in France and Belgium to track down the network that conducted the attacks.

By Wednesday, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed. This by no means provides justice for the terror attacks, but it displayed swift and decisive action by the French authorities.

Compare that to the reaction of the Nigerian government to the terror campaign being perpetrated by the other deadly militant group, Boko Haram.

On Tuesday night, 34 people were killed in an explosion in the city of Yola. Hours later, a twin suicide bombing killed more than a dozen people at a market in the town of Kano.

According to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria recorded the largest increase in deaths from terrorism, with fatalities quadrupling in 2014 to 6 644.

In the wake of this week’s attacks and the release of these statistics, you would have expected a more urgent response from the Nigerian government.

Through a spokesperson, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said a manhunt was underway for those responsible for the blasts.

But this hardly inspires confidence as more than 1 000 people have died in Boko Haram’s violent insurgency since Buhari took office in May. At the time, Buhari vowed his administration would end terrorism in the country.

It has now emerged that the Nigerian government’s efforts to deal with terrorism are being hampered by corruption.

Buhari has alleged Nigerian troops were denied weapons to fight Boko Haram due to rampant fraud in the procurement process. A committee set up to probe corruption in multibillion-dollar deals for weapons and equipment found “fictitious and phantom contracts” for fighter jets, helicopters and bombs.

In Africa it seems we are our own worst enemies.

There was a lot of resentment this week over the global outpouring of grief over the Paris attacks and a disproportionate reaction to terrorism elsewhere.

Media coverage of Isis attacks in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as Boko Haram’s attacks on Nigeria, was significantly lower that the reportage of the Paris attacks.

It is justifiable to question why this is and why the value of life is differentiated.

But we must also look at our own sense of self-hate in Africa where corruption and bad leadership stand in the way of the development and protection of citizens.

It is easy to view Isis and Boko Haram militants as the epitome of evil for their heinous acts, but it is also evil to loot public funds. It is not a victimless crime to commit fraud as the Nigerian example shows how the army is hamstrung without the tools to fight terrorism.

Perhaps if we start valuing our own lives more and insist that African governments step up in leadership to serve and protect us, the rest of the world will follow suit.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and correspondent for the Daily Maverick.

• ranjeni.munusamy@gmail. com

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