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Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia’s Chaos Make Headlines – Who’s Forgotten?

Protests like the one in Egypt have inspired similar actions around Africa. Protests like the one in Egypt have inspired similar actions around Africa.

While revolution and chaos sweeps through Islamic Africa in 2011, the world trains its eye to the continent’s north. Tunisia’s revolution came first, with the populace ousting authoritarian ruler President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Egypt was next, with citizens opposing the repressive rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Now Libya is essentially embroiled in its own revolution, with dictator Muammar Qaddafi massacring protesters and trying to hold major centers while anti-Qaddafi forces start to take over areas around the country. But while these three countries dominate the headlines, this year’s unrest in Gabon, Cameroon, and Cote D’Ivoire among others has flown under the western media radar.

In January of this year, thousands of people took to the streets in Gabon to protest the rule of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. The Gabonese army suppressed the citizens violently, sending the official opposition into hiding. The powers that be in Gabon do not want to be overthrown like the leaders to the north, as both protestors and desperate leaders observe and adapt.

Troubles persist elsewhere in “Darkest Africa,” with the sub-Saharan country of Cameroon seeing tensions rise as well. President Paul Biya has ruled that country for 29 years, and there have often been rumblings of unhappy citizens. If the uprisings around the continent inspire Cameroon to do the same, how much will the rest of the world hear about it? Street protests that were already crushed by authorities went largely unreported in the West.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s megalomania has sometimes created headlines, especially when civil unrest in that country was at a breaking point. But the recent news that 45 anti-Mugabe protesters were arrested for treason, tortured in prison, and then denied medical treatment for their injuries is back page stuff if it appears anywhere.

In Mauritania, youth protesters stormed the streets, apparently brewing their actions on Facebook before raising their voices in the capital city of Nouakchott. The demands to oust President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz have even included a self-immolation fashioned after the one that kicked things off in Tunisia.

Amnesty International reported last week that violence including killings and sexual attacks are spreading across Cote D’Ivoire in the wake of political changes going on in that country.

And in Senegal, a disturbing trend continued with another self-immolation. A former soldier died last week after setting himself on fire in front of President Abdoulaye Wade’s official residence.

Is the media silence about what's going on these places just a matter of picking and choosing from widespread tumult? Are there too many stories to give voice to? Can western readers be expected to show interest in such an overwhelming and broad wave of chaos so far from their front doors?

We did manage to hear bits and pieces earlier this year about the mass rapes sweeping the Democratic Republic of Congo on New Year’s Day, but the ongoing war in that country is not even an afterthought in the West. And that catastrophe has yielded an ungodly number of victims of murder, rape, and kidnapping, with more orphans and child soldiers being made all the time.

So what’s going on? We tend to get news from countries of strategic geo-political interest, like the African countries in the north that are situated close to Europe and the Middle East. But what about the plight of people languishing in other parts of Africa? What’s our responsibility in terms of informing ourselves about the circumstances of our fellow human beings? The answers to these questions aren’t clear, and we’ve all got stresses to tend to in our own lives, so we don't tend to think about it too much. But maybe taking time to think a little more deeply not only about Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, but also Gabon, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is a good start, especially if it makes us a little more thankful for what we’ve got, and a little more aware of the world we share with people less privileged than we are.


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Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi refuses to go quietly.
Last modified on Monday, 17 September 2012 12:27

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