Africa is a difficult geography. It suffered massacres at the hands of the colonial powers, and civil wars and terrorism after independence. The former colonial powers never actually left the continent but continued to pursue their endeavours with more subtle methods adapted to modern ages. As if the poverty and the deprivation inherent in the continent wasn't enough, leaders of some African countries chose to violate their people’s rights by disrespecting their lives and dignity. And the worst was the fact that Africa wasn’t able to get its voice heard by the rest of the world.
When Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls in April 2014, the whole world was taken aback. But this lasted only for a short period of time. When Michelle Obama joined the campaign, it was then that the whole world heard about the abduction. What they didn’t hear is that in 2014 the terrorist organization had already abducted 2000 women in total. Not surprisingly, the world soon forgot about the 276 girls; and they never knew about the 2000 women to begin with.
The start of 2015 was once again painful for Nigeria as Boko Haram raided 16 villages and towns on October 3rd to kill 2000 people according to unofficial local figures and displaced 20 thousand people in the process.
2000 is not a small number, however for some, it is just a number. Just like the fact that the ever-increasing death toll in Syria and Iraq is just a number.
The most critical points of Africa are Djibouti and Somalia, along the strategic Bab-el Mendep strait; the valuable base for the Western countries where the organizations like Al-Shabab use terrorism against Western-backed administrations. Not only Somalia, but also the countries that provide Somalia military support for its fight against terrorism, become targets of the terrorist organizations. In the past, this support came from Ethiopia. After Ethiopia left, Kenya filled its place and the military aid provided by Kenya to Somalia inevitably made the country the new target of Al-Shabab.
This is the point where Al-Shabab’s bloody attacks in Kenya came into light. Last year, the shopping mall attack, which caused death of 67 people mostly civilians, was depicted as the terrorist action of a radical Islamic group in Kenya, which mostly has a Christian population. In November 2014, in a horrendous bus attack, 28 Christians were ordered to get of the buses and were beheaded. Despite its terrifying nature, this incident didn't find as much coverage as the shopping mall attack. And those who talked or wrote about it, only did so for a few days. As the world gets more numb to the horrific actions of terrorists, the rise in bloodshed continues. Despite this rise, media coverage of these crimes is dwindling everyday. This was the reason why the horrible massacre in Garissa University in northeast Kenya didn't find sufficient coverage in the international media. In this attack, 148 people, mostly students, had been killed and the majority of the victims were Christians.
This was on the way to be another insufficient covered incident in the media, but the sensitive approach of one group that started a campaign on the social media “#147notjustanumber” got people’s attention. The campaign showed the images of the university massacre and it got the world’s attention. People saw the scale of the threat that the Kenyans face. The Kenyans managed to draw attention to an important point; the young people killed at the university weren’t mere numbers, just like the people who lost their lives in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are not just numbers. This indifference is especially pronounced in matters related to Africa. The lives lost in Somalia, Nigeria, and Central African Republic, continue to be treated as mere numbers. While a terrorist attack in the center of France brings the world leaders together against terrorism as a nice gesture, regrettably, the terrorism in Africa, which has become a tradition in the continent, doesn't even get coverage.
The fact that the violence-oriented Middle East policies that the Western countries have been pursuing for a long time, is adopted by some African leaders in Africa, is one of the main reasons behind the suffering in the continent. Remember when 622 convicts escaped following the Boko Haram raid on Giwa prison on March 14, 2014 in Nigeria. When these unarmed convicts were rounded up by the security forces, instead of putting them back in jail, the security forces executed them on spot and buried them in mass graves.1 Boko Haram’s terrorist activities increased in 2014 mostly as a reaction to this barbaric incident. State terrorism gave rise to radical terrorism and made Boko Haram’s acts more brutal and drove them to capture 20% of the country.
It seems that Kenya government is making the same mistake. After the university massacre, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said that they would retaliate in the harshest manner possible. After that, it was reported that many Al-Shabab locations were bombed by the army, but the exact death toll couldn't be determined due to weather conditions. In other words, the airstrikes targeted a large number of people that included civilians and unarmed people, fuelling further feelings of hatred and vengeance. As the Kenyan government thinks that airstrikes is a good answer to terrorism, God forbid, the angry response of the state seems to exacerbate terrorism even more.
Violence begets violence. No matter how great the violent action is, it always creates an even greater violent reaction. Not a single terrorist organization has ever stopped their actions because they were violently targeted, neither did they give up on their ideals. The Middle East is learning this the hard way. The move to take revenge from Taliban by resorting to violence gave birth to the likes of Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, ISIS and Boko Haram. Neither Kenya nor the other African countries should follow this dangerous route tried in the Middle East. If Africa wishes to make her voice heard in the world, it has to start this with a new idea and practice clear of all the mistakes of the East and the West. They have to target the ideologies of the terrorist organizations and carry out a plan to “clean up the radical superstitions,” a new initiative that has never been done before. This way, they will definitely achieve what the West or the East never did. They will eradicate the superstitions, target the intellectual infrastructure of the radicals and aim at killing ideas rather than people.
Adnan Oktar's piece on New Straits Times