Some years ago I remember reading in one edition of The Economist how different countries valued the lives of their citizens. Japan topped the ranking. Africa as a whole was at the bottom of the index that the newspaper had put together.
There is ample evidence of different worths of lives around the world if one looks at how mainstream media report and by so doing influence how they are dealt with anywhere or simply generally perceived.
It is Sunday 25/01/2015 in front of the Nigerian Embassy in London.
I am discussing with a friend from the Caribbean about the demonstration against Boko Haram we are taking part to.
“Looking at the numbers, I think this is a good turn up for a public manifestation,” I tell him. He appears a bit puzzled by my positive outlook at the event.
“At the most I won’t say that we have here more than 200 people. I am totally disappointed. Have you seen how many millions there were in France recently [referring to the reaction of the French public at the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo],” remarks my friend.
We carried on our conversation trying to see where we could come to a more consensual appreciation of the ongoing demonstration.
The organisers of the anti-terror rally against Boko Haram report on their website that:
“In all, the conflict in north-east Nigeria has led to the exodus of 135,000 people – around 35,000 Nigerians to Cameroon and 10,000 to Chad – and the displacement of at least 850,000 people within Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.”
Unfortunately, as we know, Nigeria is not the only place in Africa where populations are confronted with horrendous atrocities permitted by irresponsible governments and foreign forces seeking to exploit the continent’s wealth.
For example, for those following closely events of the Great Lakes region [Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo] of the last two decades, they are aware of the millions of African lives that have been lost, and the misery that survivors continue experiencing until today.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, during the week that started Monday 19/01/2015, Human Rights Watch reports about the victims of the manifestations organised by the Congolese political opposition.
“… at least 21 fatal shootings of civilians by Congolese government security forces during demonstrations in Kinshasa on January 19, 20, and 21, 2015.”
However, other sources talk of more than 40 casualties, tens of missing and hundreds of arrested people. One life lost is too much. Without even talking of hundreds, thousands or millions.
“The time is ripe for African people across the colonially created borders, particularly at the grassroots, to put thoughts and actions together towards building a better Africa, which focuses on meeting the needs of the masses of ordinary people, rather than the greed of a minority African elite and foreign powers,” writes activist Amma Fosuah Poku on her facebook page.
If we Africans behave and act as if African lives don’t matter, that proves that our slave mentality is still strongly alive in us. We don’t value our lives because we have deeply internalised what mainstream media say about them: that they are worthless.
A dozen of French lives made the whole of France and the world stand up. What is stopping Africans from standing up when 40 Congolese are murdered by irresponsible security forces, 2,000 Nigerians are massacred by the terrorist group Boko Haram, 200 Congolese citizens are killed by ADF-LANU in Beni, 40 Rwandans whose bodies were found in lac Rweru in July 2014, and many other lives lost on the continent that would’ve been prevented.
African lives matter. It is up to Africans to prove they effectively do. The worth of something is given by its owner, nobody else.