When terrorists killed 12 at Charlie Hebdo. Everyone was Charlie. When the massacre at the Bataclan happened, everyone changed their social media profile pictures to shades of the French flag.
These tragedies are a stain on our generation and something that we must all come together to condemn and stand up against.
What we must also stand up against is the apathy towards similar events across the African continent.
Around the same time as the Charlie Hebdo massacre was the Baga killings in Northern Nigeria which saw up to 2000 people killed and more displaced. To be fair to most Western media outlets, there was some initial coverage but the lack mainstream frenzy meant that it slowly faded away from the news agenda.
Recent events in Ankara have also received some media coverage. Although it must be said that the scale doesn’t even come close to what Paris got. But at least some people are talking about it. Not like the massacre in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Four Al Qeada-connected gunmen killed 18 people in retaliation to France’s role in the ongoing Malian conflict. This is the group’s third major attack in West Africa in four months but you won’t hear anyone talking about it or changing their profile pic in solidarity.
Now, there’s obviously the issue of proximity and the fact that English people are more likely to be sympathetic with French people. Not because they particularly like each other but because they come across each other more often.
It is easy to see ‘Africans’ as distant and to think you don’t really have much in common. This says a lot about our priorities as Westerners and where our heart is. We are happy to be ‘Charlie’ and ‘Paris’ but bring ‘Abidjan’ barely even crosses most minds.
It often feels like a vanity project and a bid to make ourselves look good. It’s not really about sympathy for the people affected or any sort of solidarity. It’s more of a statement of ‘look at me. I am joining the bandwagon. Therefore I am good by association’. Otherwise, we would all be Abidjan and Baga and Ouagadougou.