Editorial: Bring back our courage

Last week we paid tribute to those slain in the Paris attack and our front-page editorial ( Assassins of Freedom) referred to a “rebellion of courage among ordinary citizens”.

We wrote about how citizens had gathered in Paris to make a stand, embracing the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”. This phrase soon echoed around the world in solidarity, including at the Mail & Guardian.

We wrote, too, how Australians – Muslims and Christians – had reached out to one another when a lone attacker laid siege to a café in Sydney.

We wrote that it was citizens on the streets, not governments and politicians, who showed that extremism could be defeated by the resilience of the human spirit.

We opined that, perhaps, these examples would give fresh hope to Kenyans and Nigerians and others around the world, who face these perils.

We did not know that even before we went to print Boko Haram had already killed hundreds of people and razed several villages. Nor did we know that what we would see in the aftermath, as the scale of the horror became clear, would be a blow for our hopes of a turning of the tide.

We saw Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ignore the blood-letting in his own backyard, focusing instead on next month’s elections.

We saw other African leaders fail to condemn Boko Haram, even those quick to fly to Paris to join fellow world leaders in solidarity with the people of France.

We saw the hypocrisy of some of those leaders, marching for freedom of speech while suppressing it in their own countries.

We saw that African lives were less important than those of Europeans.

Yet what have we done as Africans in our villages, our towns and cities, for the world to see that – like those who packed the streets of Europe – we value our own? Where was our #BringBackOurGirls campaign equivalent, as the ghastly count of the dead continued?

Before we start the search for scapegoats, we Africans need to hold up the mirror to ourselves. And before we can find our courage, we must find, and we must voice, our outrage.

Keep the powerful accountable

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