Black lives in Africa Don’t they mat­ter there, too?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Clif­ford D. May

No na­tion in Africa is re­ceiv­ing more at­ten­tion right now than Wakanda. And why not since, as An­thony Lane writes in The New Yorker, Wakanda is “a model of seren­ity,” that also is “wisely ruled,” in ad­di­tion to be­ing “an un­plun­dered home­land, bloom­ing from lib­erty rather than from bondage.” Of course, one an­swer to that ques­tion might be that Wakanda is a fig­ment of the imag­i­na­tion, the fic­tional birth­place of the “Black Pan­ther,” su­per­hero of the epony­mous mo­tion pic­ture that re­view­ers in the main­stream me­dia have been prais­ing to the skies.

A sec­ond pos­si­ble an­swer: In real African coun­tries, ter­ri­ble things are hap­pen­ing. For ex­am­ple, last week in Dapchi, in north­east Nige­ria, armed gangs of men stormed through 15 vil­lages mas­sacring Chris­tians, de­stroy­ing their churches and ran­sack­ing their vil­lages.

Toronto Star colum­nist Tarek Fateh pointed out that these atroc­i­ties “could not find space in any ma­jor news­pa­per or TV net­work other than the Daily Ex­press in the U.K.”

Those at­tack­ing were Mus­lims of the Fu­lani eth­nic group. Their Chris­tian vic­tims were mostly Tivs. Many Fu­la­nis are no­madic cat­tle herders. Tivs are mostly set­tled farm­ers. Fu­la­nis see no good rea­son not to graze their cat­tle on Tiv lands, even if that de­stroys Tiv crops. So this con­flict is not only about re­li­gion. That makes it no less lethal but it does make it eas­ier for jour­nal­ists to ig­nore.

Mean­while, how­ever, and in the same gen­eral re­gion of Nige­ria, mem­bers of Boko Haram — a group un­am­bigu­ously mo­ti­vated by re­li­gion — last week seized a girls school. At least 100 stu­dents are now miss­ing, pre­sumed kid­napped, en­slaved and soon to be “mar­ried” to Boko Haram ji­hadists.

Four years ago, you may re­call, 276 girls were ab­ducted from Chi­bok, a vil­lage in the same re­gion. That led to the highly pub­li­cized but in­ef­fec­tual #BringBack­OurGirls cam­paign.

“What­ever hap­pened to #BringBack­OurGirls?” Christo­pher Dickey, the Paris-based for­eign edi­tor of the Daily Beast tweeted in re­gard to the lat­est ab­duc­tions. “The lack of in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est in this case re­flects the fickle char­ac­ter of the news cy­cle.” Yes, that. But per­haps it re­flects more than that?

Boko Haram has slaugh­tered thou­sands of peo­ple, in­clud­ing 900 Nige­ri­ans last year, “marginally more” than in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the BBC. It in­creas­ingly de­ploys women and chil­dren as sui­cide bombers, pre­serv­ing its able-bod­ied men for more con­ven­tional com­bat. Its ter­ror has spread into neigh­bor­ing Cameroon and Chad as well.

Three years ago next month, Boko Haram pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State which, though re­cently de­feated in much of Syria and Iraq, re­mains as ac­tive as ever in Africa. My col­league, Thomas Josce­lyn, se­nior fel­low at the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies (FDD), re­ports that in Niger, for­mer al Qaeda com­man­der Ad­nan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui leads a group that has “fought in the caliphate’s name since 2015.”

Last Oc­to­ber, that group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for killing four Amer­i­can and five Nige­rien sol­diers. An­other Is­lamic State fran­chise dom­i­nates the north­ern Punt­land re­gion of So­ma­lia in the Horn of Africa.

In Mali, in West Africa, an al Qaeda af­fil­i­ate killed two French sol­diers last week. In that coun­try and sur­round­ing lands, Mr. Josce­lyn notes, al Qaeda has be­come “es­pe­cially prolific.” At least 22 Malian sol­diers were killed in five sep­a­rate raids in north and cen­tral Mali last month alone. Ji­hadist ter­ror­ism also has seeped into neigh­bor­ing Burk­ina Faso.

The In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group warned last year that the en­tire Sa­hel, the vast and im­pov­er­ished re­gion south of the Sa­hara, “re­mains on a tra­jec­tory to­ward greater vi­o­lence and widen­ing in­sta­bil­ity. Ji­hadists, armed groups and en­trenched crim­i­nal net­works — some­times linked to na­tional and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties — con­tinue to ex­pand and threaten the sta­bil­ity of al­ready weak states.” Not just al Qaeda in the Is­lamic Maghreb (AQIM), but also An­sar Ed­dine and al-Moura­bitoun ap­pear to be strength­en­ing.

In a re­port pub­lished this week, “Evolv­ing Ter­ror: The De­vel­op­ment of Ji­hadist Op­er­a­tions Tar­get­ing West­ern In­ter­ests in Africa,” FDD se­nior fel­low Daveed Garten­stein-Ross con­firms that as­sess­ment. “The threat that ji­hadist groups in Africa pose to West­ern in­ter­ests has grown over the past decade,” he writes, “as groups op­er­at­ing in North Africa, the Sa­hel, West Africa and the Horn of Africa have honed their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

He and his fel­low re­searchers cite 358 “suc­cess­ful, thwarted, or failed at­tacks” against West­ern in­ter­ests in these re­gions be­tween Jan­uary 2012 and Oc­to­ber 2017 - triple the num­ber be­tween Jan­uary 2007 and De­cem­ber 2011. Per­haps more con­se­quen­tially, African ter­ror­ists are learn­ing and in­no­vat­ing. “Ji­hadist op­er­a­tions have gen­er­ally be­come more so­phis­ti­cated,” the re­port con­cludes.

The me­dia show lit­tle in­ter­est in these bloody de­vel­op­ments. Those en­thus­ing over the hero­ism of the Black Pan­ther and the charms of Wakanda ap­pear en­tirely obliv­i­ous.

In his Vox re­view, Tre John­son calls the film an “op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate ev­ery­thing from Afro­fu­tur­ism to the nat­u­ral hair move­ment.” He adds: “Wakanda has emerged as a vi­sion of what’s pos­si­ble.” Those with the vaguest no­tion of cur­rent African re­al­ity know that’s ut­ter non­sense. But few will be so po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect as to point it out.

Even so­cial jus­tice war­riors are turn­ing a blind eye to real-life Africa. Black Lives Mat­ter claims to have a “Black Lives Mat­ter Global Net­work,” calls it­self “part of the global Black fam­ily,” and as­serts its com­mit­ment to “lib­er­a­tion for all Black peo­ple.”

So how about the black peo­ple of Nige­ria, Niger, Burk­ina Faso and the many other African lands who are right now fac­ing slaugh­ter and en­slave­ment at the hands of self-pro­claimed ji­hadists? Do their lives mat­ter? If not, why not? And if they do, why not talk about them once in a while? Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies and a colum­nist for the Wash­ing­ton Times.

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