The "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign has become another one of our latest social media fad. Two weeks after the abduction of close to 300 Nigerian school girls, international media and various western governments shamefully decided to raise their eyebrows to the brutal attack on these teenagers. Signs bearing the slogan "#Bring Back Our Girls" were being circulated all over the social media and on the evening news. As expected in these social media moments, celebrities and other well-known figures superficially weighed in on the cause.
The slow global response to the abduction of the Nigerian teenagers should not come as a surprise. Although the recruiting of child soldiers has been a major concern in armed conflicts in Africa for a while, it was not until the Kony 2012 social media campaign when the world briefly stopped to take notice of the situation. Within weeks, the tragic narratives of child soldiers were quickly forgotten. Many other atrocities that have and continue to plague the continent, have yet to garner the same attention from the international community and popular mainstream media.
Certainly, there are people who have very good intentions in addressing Africa's social and economic problems. Hence, they have moved beyond the confines of slacktivist activities to facilitate critical awareness and to engage in meaningful activist work. However, to what extent have western countries and global institutions expressed any genuine concern for the well-being of Africans?
It is no secret that Africa's relationship with western nations has always been a problematic one. Historically, Africa has been deemed as the "Dark Continent," void of any form of civilization and a disconcertingly mysterious place. Colonialism and imperialism dehumanized Africans and imposed European cultural values and practices while using their labour and natural resources to build western nations. For the most part, Africa has been marginalized in world affairs and in many ways the continent has been erased from our social consciousness.
The effects of centuries of colonization have never been repaired in Africa. While there are some countries that have managed to barely survive its aftermath, many African countries continue to suffer from economic woes and political instability. To the world, Africa is by no means a symbol of paradise; unless of course we take into account the well-advertised exotic safari travel tours. But even within the jungles of the African terrain danger lurks in the imagination of those who have been fed a steady diet of propaganda about this exploited continent.
Famine, poverty, disease, ethnic conflicts and government corruption are just a few of the many images that are repeatedly used to characterize Africa. Unfortunately, when thoughts of Africa come to many of our minds, we cannot go beyond the images of "uncivilized" other, famine, poverty and corruption. These common images of Africans have become etched into our psyche. Therefore, we have become desensitize to the suffering of Africans and can only see African people through ideologically conditioned Western lenses as economic dependents, responsible for their suffering or in need of first world "assistance".
It is not surprising then that the international community can only see the safe return of these young Nigerian girls through the help of the United States and its allies. Ironically, these are the same nations that continue to de-stabilize Africa through aggressive militarization and exploitation of resources. As Activist Danny Haiphong informs us ""aid" from US imperialist interests has been happening for years in Nigeria and all that has come from it is more poverty, internal conflict, and land theft".
Unquestionably, political discourse around Africa has not changed much today. Neocolonial governments and western states and corporations have masterfully set the stage for Africa's economic and social underdevelopment, no differently from the early colonial conquest of Africa. The economic aid of imperial powers often comes with political and economic influence, control and obligation.
Take for instance, the US diplomatic intervention in Sudan did not arise out of a genuine effort to stop the killing of thousands of innocent Sudanese people. However, oil resources are present in Sudan and it was for that reason that America wanted the independence of South Sudan and decided to go in to "help". Somalia and Libya are also two nations that have been ravaged by imperial powers, while masquerading as the fight for democracy.
It has been over four weeks since the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls and the world's attention on Nigeria has gradually faded. The placards have disappeared, government heads have played their role in once again pledging their "assistance" to Africa and mainstream media have done their part in disseminating selective pieces to a much bigger picture.
For those of us who are fully aware of the atrocities committed against Africa, we are now left with the grappling question of what other viable solutions can be put into place to save these schoolgirls. Deep down inside we know a cry for international help will lead to the continued exploitation of Africans.
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