Mass killings are always a tragedy, no matter where they happen in the world. Many activists groups have been developed to stop global violence, both internationally and here in the states. This sample sociology essay explores the Baga, Nigeria massacre and efforts to help the nation.
Brief summary on the Baga, Nigeria massacre
In the first week of January 2015, a round of carnage and destruction—allegedly committed by militant Islamic extremists Boko Haram—was carried out in and around Baga, Borno, Nigeria. It all started with the Jan. 3 takeover of a tri-national military base by Boko. After driving thousands of residents from the area, the militants commenced with a slew of mass homicides on Jan. 7. Situated in the northern part of Borno State, Baga was the site of the nation’s army base, which also served as headquarters for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a conglomerate of soldiers from three nations: Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. The MNJTF was put together in 1994 to handle security issues along national borders. Recently, the force was taking on the growing threat of Boko Haram. This made Baga a prime target for the militants, since the base had international strategic importance, while the town itself was the last remaining holdout of non-Boko control in northern Borno.
The attack on the Baga military base
Borno Central Senator Ahmed Zanna stated that Nigerian forces initially fought the Boko militants, a group declared to be terrorists, who ambushed the base from multiple directions (Smith). After several hours, however, efforts to defend the base proved futile, and the army men fled into the bushes, alongside displaced civilians. By that point, the militants had seized a great deal of military vehicles and artillery. In the days that followed the Jan. 3 attack, Boko Haram solidified its grip of the town, with most remaining residents fleeing to neighboring areas. On Jan. 6, the militants were seen torching buildings and killing off residents who stayed behind. By Jan. 8, virtually no Baga houses were still intact. According to Kukawa government head Musa Bukar, all 16 nearby villages were leveled after residents were either massacred or driven out of the area (“Boko Haram destroys”).
Casualties from the Nigerian attack
Accounts on the number of dead have varied from those close to the scene. Since the surviving townsfolk and military personnel were busy fleeing the area, virtual no one was able to examine the level and volume of carnage. While Bukar and some locals have stated that the casualties exceeded 2,000 (“Boko Haram crisis”), others—like Baga district head Baba Abba Hassan—have placed the number at roughly 100 (Abdulla). More than 16 towns, including Baga, are said to be in ruins as a result of the violence, with thousands of residents left destitute (“Boko Haram destroys”). Countless people are believed to have gotten stranded or lost while trying to flee the area; some having drowned and others left adrift on the islands of Lake Chad. According to most reliable sources, the massacre has put Boko Haram in control of at least 70 percent of Borno (“Boko Haram crisis”).
Inaccurate accounts led to lower numbers
Among certain local and national officials, the massacre has either been downplayed or dismissed as a fabrication. Some have even gone so far as to claim that the militants were defeated by the Nigerian military, but this version of events has not been backed by local survivors or the global press. Governments are unable to account for the facts immediately after terrorist attacks because they are trying to maintain national security in the light of extremism. As TV footage made clear, the bodies of countless townsfolk—including women and children who were attempting to flee the area—were still lying dead in the streets in the days subsequent to the attack. Hassan’s input on matters has spurred much of the confusion about the overall death toll. After what some would call an underestimation of the first day’s casualties, the Baga district head scantily acknowledged the events of Jan. 7. In the minds of many observers, this has all been another example of the government’s denial regarding the threat of Boko Haram. After all, it was only two years ago that the Nigerian armed forces came under fire for doing little to save lives during an earlier attack by the militants.
Government couldn’t keep track of reports
Nigerian security officials have also given mixed accounts of the January attack. Initially, they denied that an ambush had occurred and falsely advanced claims that government forces were still in control of Baga. One spokesperson for the Nigerian government made the unusual claim that exactly 1,636 civilians were adrift since the incidents of Jan. 3, but otherwise joined in the chorus of denial regarding actual casualties (“Boko Haram displaces”). The number of those who’ve fled the area is actually said to be more in the range of 30,000; at least according to Bukar. Some 20,000 survivors took refuge in the Borno State capital of Maiduguri, while an additional 10,000 held tight in nearby Monguno in hopes of being brought to safety (“Boko Haram destroys”). According to local activists, hordes of fleeing mothers lost sight of their daughters, many of whom are now presumed abducted (Abdulla).
According to Chad Prime Minister Kalzeubet Pahimi Deubet, some 2,500 survivors poured into his country, including 500 nationals who’d been in Baga at the time of the attack (Abdulla). Many had done so on makeshift canoes across Lake Chad, but some of these are believed to have sunk along the way. Others who attempted the crossing got stranded in the lake’s uninhabited islands, where conditions are barely livable due to mosquito infestation and a lack of food, shelter, or medicine (“Boko Haram destroys”). Some have questioned whether the Borno armed services even put up a fight, including the state senator and former governor Maina Maaji Lawan, who indicated that the local military has consistently caved in the presence of Boko Haram. With the militant’s now in control of nearly three-fourths of Borno State, many argue that this wouldn’t be the case had the local military fought—instead of fled—the Jan. 3 ambush.
Local and international news coverage
With violence having become so commonplace in Borno State, where restrictions have been imposed on the media, news of the massacre was largely greeted with a mix of desensitization and disinformation. While that hasn’t been too much of a surprise to those in the region, global news outlets have drawn criticism for the paucity of stories on the massacre; especially when compared to the wall-to-wall coverage that was given to the Charlie Hebdo shooting that occurred on the same day. Amnesty International researcher Daniel Eyre has suggested that January’s massacre—the deadliest yet if the highest figures are accurate—could represent a “disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population” of Nigeria (“Nigeria: Massacre Possibly Deadliest”).
The politics and denial after the Baga massacre
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was busy campaigning for his re-election—and stumping for his center-right People’s Democratic Party—in the southern state of Enugu at the time of the Boko Haram attacks; but while he was quick to condemn the violence that took place in Paris, he refused to even acknowledge the bloodshed in his own country. This drew widespread criticism from his political opponents, including Julius Malema of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, who decried the incumbent’s seeming indifference to the situation in Borno. President Jonathan’s silence on the matter persisted as the weeks wore on, despite urging from some of Nigeria’s more notable political voices, including human rights activist Hafsat Abiola-Costello. A Jan. 14 meeting between Goodluck and Borno Governor Kashim Shettima once again failed to draw any acknowledgment of the turmoil in Baga.
According to some observations, Goodluck’s silence on the massacre is down to politics. Since the incumbent is up for re-election, the reasoning goes, any acknowledgment of instability within his country would make his regime look weak, and would ultimately lessen his chances of winning another term. Goodluck’s leading opponent, Muhammadu Buhari of the center-left All Progressives Congress (APC), immediately condemned the actions of the Boko militants, as well as the government’s indifference towards the atrocities. Days after the massacre, Buhari referred to it as proof that the current Nigerian government and military lack the artillery and support to protect the nation’s people (Magnowski and Emele). The APC candidate, meanwhile, has a reputation for a tough rule; he came to power once in a 1983 coup, but was ousted two years later after being considered too autocratic. As some pundits would observe, however, the Nigerian public is riper these days for leadership that takes a tough stand against violence in the country.
Smith, Alexander. “Boko Haram Torches Nigerian Town of Baga; 2,000 Missing: Senator”. NBC News. National Broadcasting Co. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
“Boko Haram destroys at least 16 villages in NE Nigeria: officials.” Business Insider. Agence France-Presse. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
“Boko Haram crisis: Nigeria’s Baga town hit by new assault.” BBC World News. British Broadcasting Corp. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Abdulla, Ardo. “Boko Haram kills dozens in fresh raids in Nigerian town”. Thomson Reuters. Reuters. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
“Boko Haram displaces 1,636 in Baga”. News Express. n.p. 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
“Nigeria: Massacre Possibly Deadliest in Boko Haram’s History.” Amnesty USA. Amnesty International. 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Magnowski, Daniel; Emele, Onu. “Nigeria’s Jonathan Slams Paris Attack, Ignores Baga Massacre”. BloombergBusiness. Bloomberg LP. 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
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