Tag: Charlie Hebdo

Africa, can we speak?

A man holds a placard reading "I am Nigerian, stop Boko Haram" during a gathering at the trocadero place in Paris on January 18, 2015 to protest against Boko Haram islamists after a large-scale attack in Baga. (Pic: AFP)
A man holds a placard reading “I am Nigerian, stop Boko Haram” during a gathering at the trocadero place in Paris on January 18, 2015 to protest against Boko Haram islamists after a large-scale attack in Baga. (Pic: AFP)

According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented by the UN, everyone has the right to freedom of speech. But with every right comes a responsibility hence the classic philosophy that our freedom ends where the next person’s freedom begins. This of course is not easily understood.

The Charlie Hebdo episode is important as it awakened intriguing debates – arguments of freedom of speech, Europe’s Islamophobia issues and the hypocrisy of politicians in attending a march for freedom of speech whilst condemning freedom of expression in their respective countries, to name a few. These issues mirror our global village and are worthy of media attention. However, around this same time frame a debatable 150 to 2000 lives were claimed in Nigeria through yet another attack orchestrated by Boko Haram, and debates about the tragedy’s little media coverage quickly surfaced. We hastily saw the emergence of #JeSuisNigeria, #IamNigeria and #IamAfrica in reaction to #JeSuisCharlie.

This response summons reflection on the presentation and representation of African issues in the world media and most importantly global reaction to our issues.

Not too long ago we saw how the world ignored Ebola until it became an intercontinental concern and this speaks volumes on our status as the “dark continent”. Many of our salient issues are misreported or simply overlooked. We want our stories reported too, the same way that events that shake the world or just a country are reported, according to their relevance and impact. An outcry for coverage, however, is not always an appeal for international intervention.

Alas…”according to their relevance and impact”…perhaps African stories are deemed to be neither essential nor impactful to the world.


“Let he who can speak, speak for himself.” So says a Somali proverb.

Several broadcasting powerhouses that have branches dedicated to reporting African narratives on an international scale are not African. And one must wonder about the whereabouts of rich African tycoons who are qualified to invest in the creation of African broadcasting panels that can inform the world on a global scale, since our governments give us little hope.

Those who have toiled for this cause have done a fine job and it is good to see different news outlets both in the physical and in the cyber world committed to African narratives but can we see something as big as Euronews focused on our stories?

Some events are hard to tackle.

Reporting on Boko Haram is challenging as it is difficult to obtain information under the circumstances of terrorism, there is scarcity of information and accuracy even in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government’s failure to promptly pronounce themselves on the attack in Baga but President Goodluck Jonathan’s rush to publicise his solidarity with France is something alarming and distasteful, unpardonable.

Although #BringBackOurGirls turned into a case of viral humanitarianism let’s remember that the world stood with us and it amounted to nothing. This because the politics of politics is what takes place behind the scenes and it comes complete with shenanigans, schemes, executive brouhaha and the struggle for resources, power and influence. Despite the anger and frustration remember that politics is a system affected and influenced by various elements and components.

Sadly we sometimes pay for governance at the expense of our very lives.

The world occasionally stands with us with their display of short-lived solidarity, so it is our responsibility to remember when the world has forgotten.

Many times our respective countries do an average job. Everyone is rightfully preoccupied with their internal affairs, hence the necessity for central panels that can go in-depth and minimise the ignorance and mediocrity, reporting not only the calamities but the successes too.

Above the famous ignorance from the West, what is far more insulting is African indifference, the one we try to obscure.

Our sorrows are many and we have become complacent as experience has silenced our voices.

Where is our accountability? Ubuntu? General concern?

Instead of being outraged about the lack of coverage we get in the West, let’s scrutinise the lack of coverage we get in Africa concerning African issues. There is much to deconstruct here and before we demand and expect our voices to be heard let’s evaluate the value of our opinions. What are the factors influencing our freedom of speech? What are the factors affecting our solidarity? What has driven so many of us to stagnancy? And to those who are speaking, why are we not familiar with their voices? Where are the evils? Let’s start recognising and fighting the enemy within.

Because before we expect he who can speak to speak for himself we need to be wise enough to analyse his ability and right to speak in the first place. Can we even speak?

Clênia Gigi is a student, avid reader, poet, spoken-word artist, Pan-Africanist and feminist. Connect with her on Twitter: @Clenia_Gigi 

Why do we need big numbers for African deaths to matter?

‘2000 people killed.’

‘Actually it is 150 people.’

‘That makes it fine then. Thank you for the correction, we can continue to ignore the Boko Haram crisis.’

This is clearly how the Nigerian government thought the conversation would go when they sought to amend the ‘error’ that had been widely published about the recent attacks in Baga.

A man holds a placard reading "I am Nigerian, stop Boko Haram" during a gathering at the trocadero place in Paris on January 18, 2015 to protest against Boko Haram islamists after a large-scale attack in Baga. (Pic: AFP)
A man holds a placard reading “I am Nigerian, stop Boko Haram” during a gathering at the trocadero place in Paris on January 18 2015 to protest against Boko Haram Islamists after a large-scale attack in Baga. (Pic: AFP)

The question one needs to ask is why does it seem that reducing the numbers of deaths makes the situation any better? The fact that there are any people who have perished at all should be cause for the same amount of uproar.

Within Africa we enjoy playing the numbers game when it comes to how serious a tragedy is.

We treat death like a party;  the higher the numbers the more serious the event.

Why make a fuss about having one girl missing when we could have 250? It is not a real event until the number hits the triple digits. Why be bothered with one person being shot dead in a police shootout when we could have police kill whole groups of miners?

What this seems to say is that there is a need to supplement the quality of an African life with quantity. In order to make a human life matter we need the numbers, but we never have the names and faces.

These are always irrelevant.

When we scope a news article for simply the digits and never the story we say that African lives are worth less.

Within the international realm we make good news when whole groups of us have died or disappeared. It cannot be three or four of us, we need to make it a party.

#BringBackOurGirls was an international phenomenon because the number of girls missing was truly mind-boggling. How in the age of Google Earth can we not find 200+ girls? The world had no choice but to get behind it because of the scale of it.

However, #JeSuisCharlie saw 12 deaths trump the amount of international attention that #BringBackOurGirls and has become one of the most-used hashtags in Twitter history.

The heinous acts that prompted the two hashtags are based on ideals of western values clashing with fundamentalist Islamic ideals. Both involved the lives of people. If we do the maths (because it is about the bottom line), if all lives matter equally should we not have had nearly ten times the uproar for the Nigerian girls as we did for the French deaths?

People hold placards which read "I am Charlie" as they take part in a solidarity march  in the streets of Paris on January 11 2015. (Pic: Reuters)
A mass solidarity march in the streets of Paris on January 11 2015. (Pic: Reuters)

Where is our international march featuring the ‘who’s who’ of political figures? Our own leaders were falling all over themselves in order to proclaim that they were Charlie but barely uttered a peep about bringing back our girls. The 2000 deaths have barely managed to cause a whisper as it is continuously drowned out by the roar of defiance coming from the #CharlieHebdo saga.

Furthermore the names of African victims are rarely released. They often fall into the oblivion of numbers, allowed to become another statistic. Only those who are prominent in some way (a relation of a politician, a foreign national of another country for example) are given names, faces and back stories.

So the killing of 28 bus passengers in November by al-Shabaab near the town of Mandera, on the border between Somali and Kenya, remains just that: the death of 28 nameless, faceless bus passengers.

And what of those in Niger who died protesting against Charlie Hebdo? Where are their names, their backgrounds, an in-depth exploration of their dreams and ideologies?

They have no identities in the media. They simply add to the numbers that are part of the story. Had this occurred in the West, we would have read about the lives of the victims, their families would have all been interviewed and we would have known everything about them, because in death they mattered.

In Africa, the dead mostly remain nameless. It would seem in death we do not matter outside of adding ‘meat’ to a story.

Maybe therein lies the problem. Terrorist attacks are happening so often on the continent that they no longer shock us to our core.Two killed in a bomb blast in a Nairobi market; 15 girls kidnapped here; a suicide bombing there.  It is only if we can squeeze those many into one incident that there is enough potency to make it so that it actually matters.

We need to start valuing the lives of Africans.

A great deal of this lies in how we portray the loss of African lives in the media. It depends on the amount of depth and clout that is given to stories within local spheres. If one girl gets kidnapped it must be treated as if it is the end of the world because it is.  And when something happens to one person or 50 people it matters just the same.

We need to name them and not wait for media outlets and information providers abroad to name them for us.

We need to name ourselves before others can give us names.

Once we give those names we need to care about them enough to cause an uproar, because they do matter.

If we fail to fix this, we shall get to a point where we are missing 500 girls, enduring massacres of 5000 people and having entire mining villages shot down but no one will bat an eyelid because ‘at least it isn’t 250 girls, 2000 people and a few miners.’ We will find these numbers rising because we seemed to not care when the numbers were smaller.

Kagure Mugo is a freelance writer and co-founder and curator of holaafrica.org, a Pan-Africanist queer women’s collective which engages in activism and awareness-building around issues of African women’s identity, experiences and sexuality. Connect with her on Twitter: @tiffmugo

Senegal bans ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Liberation’ daily

People wave posters featuring Charlie Hebdo cartoons, "Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie)" and "All Charlie" in a Unity rally in Paris on January 11. (Pic: AFP)
People wave posters featuring Charlie Hebdo cartoons, “Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie)” and “All Charlie” in a Unity rally in Paris on January 11. (Pic: AFP)

The Senegalese government banned the dissemination of Wednesday’s editions of the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo and the French daily Liberation, both of which put a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on their front pages.

“It is forbidden to distribute and disseminate, by any means, today’s editions of the French magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and the French newspaper ‘Liberation’ throughout the national territory,” the Senegalese news agency APS reported, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

No Senegalese newspapers or news sites have reprinted the controversial Charlie Hebdo cover, the magazine’s first edition since two Islamist gunmen attacked its Paris offices last week, killing 12 people.

The Charlie Hebdo weekly has repeatedly been the target of threats for its cartoons mocking Muhammad and Wednesday’s edition drew fresh anger from many in the Islamic world, including in Turkey where a court blocked websites from reproducing the latest cartoon.

But the magazine sold out in record time in France and will have a print run of five million copies this week, instead of the usual 60 000.

The image shows the prophet shedding a tear and holding a sign with the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”), under the headline “All is forgiven”.

The weekly is not widely available in Senegal but can be found in some newsagents. Censorship of the press is rare in the mainly-Muslim country but several local religious leaders have spoken out against the cartoon.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall took part in a massive unity rally in Paris on Sunday that saw millions pour onto the streets to condemn terrorism.