US on Boko Haram: Heads In The Sand


It is a very sad reality that in today’s society, few major media outlets control our flow of information. As Americans, we have witnessed media sensationalism with domestic issues such as the border crisis and the riots in Ferguson, MO., in addition to sensationalism over foreign issues, such as the Islamic State and Crimea. When it comes to the media’s focus on foreign issues, they seem to be heavily biased towards Western interests. These U.S.-Western interests are concerned with Europe, parts of Asia, as well as the Middle East (Middle East, including North Africa and the Maghreb). American media focuses on these Western interests for obvious reasons such as close ties with European allies, strong economic interests in China and a longstanding history of intervention in the Middle East. But when a closer look is taken and parallels are drawn it doesn’t quite make sense why Western media pretty much ignores African countries.

Aside from the Ebola crisis in West Africa, our media has been relatively unconcerned with Africa. Even with the Ebola crisis, the Western media outlets did not bother picking up coverage on the Ebola outbreak, which had begun in March 2014, until it had become a (very small) threat to Western countries in August. It seems that Western media has also mostly ignored the massacres and kidnappings that have been going on in Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram, excluding the #BringBackOurGirls story. The odd thing is that the massacres and kidnappings of Boko Haram rival those of the Islamic State (IS), which our media outlets have been heavily focusing on for months. On Jan. 7, satellite imaging revealed that a majority of the town of Doro Baga in Nigeria had been burned to the ground. Further reports revealed that at least 2,000 residents of Doro Baga had been brutally murdered. More imaging of a neighboring town, Doron Baga, showed similar destruction done by Boko Haram. So why wasn’t any of these mentioned in mainstream media?

The simple answer is that the Western world does not care about the African continent. We are focused on terrorism and the power vacuums in the Middle East and the Maghreb because we have financial interests in these areas concerning natural resources such as oil as well as a small number of allies we very much need in the area. We are concerned with Russia due to its seemingly expanding spheres of influence under Vladimir Putin, which gives Russia the ability to sway EU and U.S. affairs with other European countries, e.g. the Crimea crisis in Ukraine. We pay mind to Europe due to our long-standing alliances and trust in each other.  We even give attention to Asia in regards to China, another global superpower, as well as North Korea and South Korea due to our longstanding involvements there. But why do we ignore Africa?

Nigeria, where the majority of the Boko Haram activity has taken place, has the largest economy in Africa, recently surpassing South Africa. According to World Bank data, Nigeria’s GDP has grown at a rate of 5.4 percent for the 2013 year whereas the United States’ GDP grew only 1.9 percent in 2013 and Iraq’s only grew 4.0 percent. Nigeria is among the top 15 petroleum producers and exporters in the world as well as has one of the largest petroleum reserves in the world. Nigeria is also one of the United States’ largest trading partners.

So why are we sending military support, monetary support, arms and ammunition to Iraq to fight an Islamic terrorist group, but are not sending the same to Nigeria to fight an Islamic terrorist group? I don’t have an answer because it doesn’t make any sense. One would think that having a president who held a large U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit this past August, at which he stressed the importance of strengthening inter-African relations as well African relations with countries outside the continent, would want to outwardly aid Nigeria. However, we are currently witnessing quite the opposite. The West is paying little mind to Boko Haram and Boko Haram is devastating Nigeria and even with the aid of its neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger, Nigeria is unable to protect its citizens.

The West should be as involved in Nigeria as it is in Iraq. America, Germany, France and the United Kingdom all have the ability to send a minute, but effective, amount of troops to Nigeria to wipe out Boko Haram once and for all in order to restore peace to Nigeria and stop Boko Haram from spreading farther into Africa. Quite simply, the West needs to pull its head out of the sand that is the Middle East, turn around and face Africa.