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Police look on as a banner reading "Bring back our girls" is held up by protesters. Photo: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images
Image: AFP/Getty Images/P. U. Ekpei

Opinion: Nigeria's isolation

Thomas Mösch / gu
January 12, 2015

Girls become suicide bombers. Every day there is another massacre. Northeastern Nigeria is drowning in blood and few seem to care. But Nigerians themselves share part of the blame for this, says DW's Thomas Mösch.

https://p.dw.com/p/1EJ8T

Boko Haram fighters seem determined to win the contest to become the most brutal terrorist group in the world. In a murderous frenzy, they go on the rampage through villages and towns. At the same time they send ever younger girls to commit suicide bombings. A 10-year-old girl was reported to have blown herself up last weekend. Shortly before Christmas, a 13-year-old girl was arrested after she had been equipped with a suicide vest.

The past months alone have shown that Boko Haram is only out to spread terror and fear. What the group is doing has long ceased to have any connection with a religious agenda, however skewed. These self-styled warriors of Islam can only persuade others to follow them with threats or money.

No outcry

But what is frightening is not just Boko Haram's brutality. Equally frightening is that their terror is not causing a major outcry. Millions take to the streets in France and elsewhere in the world to show their revulsion at the murders in Paris, but even in the face of thousands of deaths in Nigeria, there is mostly silence.

What is worse: even in Nigeria itself there is little protest worth mentioning. The few activists in Abuja who are still doggedly standing up for the girls kidnapped in April 2014 are largely on their own. At least, the initiators of the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign experienced solidarity on a global scale last May.

No one to support

This shows that people in Europe and North America are indeed willing to get involved when they know what for and for whom. After the attacks in Paris, German politicians, among others, have pointed out that the massacres in Nigeria deserve the attention of the world as well. The media regularly report on them. So why is it that people do not take to the streets?

One reason may be that they are baffled by an elite - and apparently also a large proportion of Nigerian society - which does not seem to take much notice of the violence in the country. Whereas the French president invites his whole country and half the world to join the protests, which he himself leads, the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan is apparently unmoved by the most gruesome attacks and in their aftermath is quite happy to have his picture taken at birthday parties or wedding celebrations.

Picture of DW's Thomas Mösch. Photo: DW/Per Henriksen 14.08.2012
People around the world are baffled by the lack of interest shown by Nigerian elites, says Thomas MöschImage: DW

Here and there he sends messages of condolence to Pakistan or France, but he is quite slow to say anything about the drama unfolding in the northeast of his own country, if he chooses to comment at all.

Civil society in state of shock

What about the Nigerian people? They seem to be paralyzed. People are eying the presidential elections in February, almost as if they are in a trance, apparently hoping that somehow everything will be different afterwards.

In the meantime, many sling mud at each other in social networks and newspapers and accuse those who have a different faith, or support a different presidential candidate, of organizing the terror. How can they then expect solidarity from the world? With whom or for whom should people in Berlin, New York or Cape Town march in support?

Not only politicians in Europe or the United States, but also in Africa itself appear to be just as perplexed as Nigerian civil society by Nigeria's inactivity.

Faced with fresh terrorist threats against his country, Cameroon's president, Paul Biya, has again appealed for help from the international community. Nigeria's neighbors, which include Cameroon, along with France, the United States, Britain and even China, have repeatedly offered Abuja their assistance.

But only recently the United States reduced its support to the Nigerian military back to a minimum, because Washington did not have the impression that the Nigerian military was serious about fighting Boko Haram. Neighboring Niger and Cameroon seem to have come to similar conclusions.

Therefore, Nigeria has mostly itself to blame if it does not experience any solidarity. This is terrible because it is not the political elites who are paying the price. The price is being paid by a steadily growing number of victims – Christians, Muslims, men, women and children.

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