It would make a good Psychology thesis or Critical Discourse Analysis to understand why Africans react to the crises and disasters in the West more heartedly than their own crises. It is also interesting to note that whenever a crisis hits Africa, it seems the world doesn’t care, if reactions on Western mainstream media is anything to go by. Africans themselves also don’t seem to care, and Somalia reminds us once again of our indifference.
Could this be a case of self-hate or nonchalance towards caring about Black Lives in general and African Lives in particular? If it is self loathe, what then is the fundamental reason behind that? Or are we so steeped in the effects of colonialism that the life of a white people is still considered more valued than that of a black people?
Such questions hit me when for example I witnessed Twitter trending with #HurricaneIrma or #HurricaneHarvey when at that same time a series of mudslides were affecting fellow Africans in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately the Western media won’t prioritize the mudslides and its reportage won’t give prominence to African issues.
The recent bomb blast in Somalia, one of the most lethal terrorist acts in the world has not received adequate attention. Some Twitter users observed that CNN was showing dogs that survived the fire in California. One can’t continue to point fingers at CNN and Al Jazeera and BBC when Africans themselves aren’t rallying for each other, supporting each other and pulling each other through hard times.
The dependency on the West to tell Africa’s stories is should be eradicated. Furthermore, it reflects how we seek validation from the West to acknowledge the gravity of the crises we face. We tend to believe that if CNN or BBC carries certain news, that news is worthy of our sympathy and attention. We seem to think that the level of our grievance is tied proportionately to how often and how sensationalised news of crises on the continent is reported by these Western or European media houses.
It is shameful when a whole continent seeks validation to grieve. As Somalia would prove, the number of dead isn’t what that matters to the western media. When the Baga massacre took place around the time of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France, it didn’t matter that 2000 people had been killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The 2015 Baga massacre was a series of mass killings carried out by the Boko Haram terrorist group in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Baga and its environs, in the state of Borno. Many Africans took to Twitter, posting messages of solidarity and retweeting #JesuisCharlie. Baga unfortunately did not receive similar solidarity. Few Africans would ever claim #IamBaga or #IamSomalia or #IamGarissa. These crises are left in isolation, but we ironically run to social media to grieve with European cities in distress and say#IamLondon.
An African crisis, as one would come to realise hardly ever necessitates a hashtag, even solidarity messages from African leader will take ages to come. The question then becomes, do Black Lives, African Lives really matter? How many must die before we grieve and talk about our own deaths and pain?
British-Somalia novelist Nadifa Mohammed has been one of the few voices who have taken time to name the victims of the terrorist attack. She’s used her Twitter account to tell brief stories of some of these victims. In the melee of these activities Nadifa kept a record of the faces of this attack alive. If it is anything, it is a salvage of our humanity as Africans. Not to negate the contributions, and solidarity messages from Africans living on the continent and those in the diaspora, more attention needs to be drawn on African crises by Africans. We need to be more active than we do now to help those in need, assisting the affected and their families both in cash and kind.
The urgent need for medical attention and blood donations for the victims is huge. Through a GoFundMe page, Nadifa has helped raise over $300,000 to support the Aamin Ambulance, which is currently helping victims of the bomb blast in Somalia. Hopefully Africans will begin to take the initiative and get involved in the many crises which affect our continent.