On Monday morning, a friend posted a news article about Boko Haram’s latest attack. In her post, she posed a question, “Facebook, where’s the option to change my profile photo to pray for my country?”
My friend’s question, though utilizes snark to allude to how different bodies in different geopolitical spaces are treated, makes a valid point on how nationality and space tend to determine whose lives are valued and whose are not, on the global stage. (France and the Paris bombings last year are silently implied.) Who determines the value of different lives in different spaces? Media institutions, political establishments, and of course, “us.”
According to reports, Boko Haram burned 86 children alive in Dalori, a village in northern Nigeria. The group is relentless in its violence, and by sheer body count alone, is a deadlier terrorist group than ISIS. In this light, it strikes me as peculiar that the world at large is not more concerned with fighting Boko Haram. The peculiarity of the situation is diminished however, when one considers that the attack was in a small village in the north of Nigeria, far from the political and economic interests of Nigerian politicians and their international counterparts.
Nonetheless, what took place in Dalori is a massacre. But what has ensued afterwards in the international community is even more tragic – silence. A deafening silence that all too often accompanies the spaces and places that national and international institutions have decided are communities where such tragedies are par for the course.
We saw this lack of regard in Burkina Faso’s attacks last month. We see it in the current Burundi crisis. We see it continuously in nations and communities around the world that are historically disenfranchised and marginalized. We have become too accustomed to seeing particular bodies and particular people, suffer. And we are not a better people for admitting that we care more about certain groups over others, especially when the reasoning behind such care is a matter of historical domination, privilege, and power.
There is such a thing as resistance, and it is needed in the fight for fairness and equality for those whose poverty and disenfranchisement, we benefit from economically and politically, despite any individual convictions we may hold. Resistance in our individual choices in production and consumption, but also in our collective decisions to end violence, is necessary, whether the pursuit is an end to terrorism or poverty or another global problem.
The history of Africa’s relationship to the West, which has from its impetus been such that African countries and people have been a constant victim of Western economic and political exploitation, makes the honest observer cautious of Western aid in partaking in solving any one African country’s problems. But the reality of circumstance and necessity must be considered, and especially so in the global phenomenon that is modern terrorism.
Boko Haram is a Nigerian problem, but it is more than a Nigerian problem. A weakened Nigeria is bad for Africa’s economic progress as a whole. It is also bad in the long-term for Western interests, should Nigeria continue to build a stronger relationship with China and other non-Western countries. Despite Nigeria’s social and political problems, it is still an emerging market, and necessity and opportunity has always made for strange bedfellows.
In the final analysis, Nigerians have an uphill battle to climb in stopping Boko Haram. In dealing with support from outside Nigeria, caution is necessary. But a global problem like terrorism, requires global efforts – including from the West. While it is prudent to proceed with caution, it is vital that institutions across the globe continue to draw attention to those whose lives are most affected by violent tragedies, like the Dalori massacre.
The solutions are complex in these matters, and they may even still be unknown. Earlier today, the Nigerian Air Force used a drone to target a Boko Haram base. The results of this strike will likely be decided in the next few days. Undoubtedly, military action will play a role in all potential solutions in this fight, perhaps not only from Nigeria’s military. But whatever the solutions, silence cannot be the way forward. Human lives are at stake.