Watching The World

Published: Sunday January 18, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday January 18, 2015 MYT 7:41:06 AM

Time to banish Boko

AS some of the world mourns and questions itself over the killings at the French satirical magazine that need not be named, Boko Haram has upped the ante in Nigeria.

Upped the ante in the sense that they have killed more people, committed more atrocities and wreaked more destruction than the Paris attacks or the Taliban or IS terrorists. So they are in the league-leading position right now.

Unlike those cases, however, it seems like those parts of Africa are so far removed from our consciousness (should I say oil interests?) that the global powers seem unnaturally reticent to intervene.

When it comes to Africa, it seems like it has always been this way and that we have come to accept it. Does anyone recall how the Rwanda genocide slipped quietly past as the Bosnian war waged on?

It was months of madness in 1994 as nearly a quarter of a million died as Hutu-Tutsi tensions exploded – a quarter of a million.

If there is intervention in Africa, as when Libyan dictator Gaddafi was thrown out, it is usually because it serves the purpose of a superpower. And it very rarely does.

Remember Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army?

He terrorised millions with an army that relied heavily on child soldiers but only really came to light when a video went viral in 2012.

And in April 2014, when Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria, the biggest activity was not to mobilise security forces, but to go on Twitter with a #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.

So this time around, Boko Haram is still enjoying relative impunity despite being labelled an al-Qaeda affiliate by no less than the UN Security Council on which Malaysia now so proudly sits.

In a series of attacks in the town of Baga, which lasted from Jan 3 to Jan 7, the militants killed an estimated 2,000 people and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands.

The main reaction of the Nigerian government has been to deny the extent of the fatalities, claiming that it may just be in the hundreds. Which isn’t as comforting as they seem to think it is.

So what is being done to counter the spread of militants like Boko Haram?

Child soldiers, extra-judicial killings and sick forms of justice in which rape and blasphemy laws (among others) are misused to torment the local population are spreading like wildfire. And the world’s most powerful body isn’t doing much.

It is too much to tar Africa with one brush. Yes, there have been monsters galore. Idi Amin, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Macias Nguema, and Joseph Mobutu, to name but a few.

Success stories are rare but they do exist. Senegal and Kenya, for example, have experienced peaceful transitions of power between political rivals on a number of occasions.

The current situation in many parts of the continent is arguably even worse than the era of the kleptocratic dictators.

A map of Africa may tell you one thing but in certain parts

of South Sudan, the Congo, Somalia and the Central African Republic (for example), the state has failed.

You can’t blame the colonial legacy forever, yet it is surely horrific that in 2015, the world’s powers can turn a blind eye to such chaos, suffering and evil.

French president Francois Hollande may not be in credit with many people but I do respect his decision to act militarily in Mali against the Ansar-Dine militants who took over half the country in 2013.

I’d like to see the UN start by recognising the Boko Haram nightmare for the threat that it is, and go swooping in.

It is one thing when militants carry out guerilla attacks and quite another when they take control of swathes of territory and administer it in barbaric fashion.

> Star Online news editor Martin Vengadesan is appalled at the freedom Boko Haram enjoys to wreak its havoc.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

Tags / Keywords: tragedy, Boko Haram

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The victims: Displaced people from Baga listening to President Goodluck Jonathan in a Maiduguri camp. Thousands are feared to have been killed in what could be the group’s deadliest attack, according to human rights groups. — AFP

Time to banish Boko

18 January 2015

AS some of the world mourns and questions itself over the killings at the French satirical magazine that need not be named, Boko Haram has upped the ante in Nigeria.

Charting our own course

4 January 2015

ANOTHER year has rolled in inexorably, and we have to stop and ask ourselves what direction we are headed towards. I am part of a generation that grew up under the inspiring Vision 2020 slogan but it seems that as the date draws nearer, that particular dream is one we talk less and less about.


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