There was a flicker of hope. Behind the cynicism and mocking, there was, if you looked closely, a small flame of hope. In the dying embers of a fire, a red glow breathed softly, yearning to be fanned. It wanted to catch, to erupt and engulf. It wanted to burn. Alas, there was no fire, no eruption and no change. The world went back to sleep and resumed normal programming.
This was only three months ago, when the unthinkable happened and world attention was focused on Africa. There was a groundswell of people wanting to be involved and believing they could do something. Africa was on the front pages. Yes, it was in many ways the same old sad African story – a vicious warlord, refugees and child soldiers. Nevertheless it was front page and an important issue, unbeknownst to many for its two decades of existence, had been launched into the public discourse. Perhaps it would tap into a dormant desire for more news about the continent and draw more people to be involved.
He was eventually exposed as a false prophet. Our fearless leader, lover of Africa, protector of child soldiers, proved to be more in love with himself and went on a mad public rampage to prove it. Thus, the main event, much like its leader, was left uncovered and failed to culminate to even a failure of Occupy Melbourne standards, and now the world has once again forgotten about Africa.
The global attention is now occupied with the Assadhole in Syria, a redundant old English lady and her dysfunctional and dreadfully uninteresting family, the imploding economies of Europe and debate about whether the American psyche can withstand the triple cardiac shock of an Idiot President followed by a Black President followed by a Mormon President. Africa has again fallen into the too big, too hard and ‘I’ve heard it all before’ basket.
Where else in the world could the uprooting of 100,000 people go unnoticed and unreported? Where else could mass executions, abductions, mutilations and rapes occur on a daily basis without an international outcry? Africa, of course. This is how eastern DR Congo has been described in the past couple of weeks, as conflict once again rears it ugly head and rebel militia do as they please, behind the protection of illegally acquired arms and a knowledge that the only resistance they will face is from equally corrupt, poorly trained and under resourced armies.
Where else in the world, following a coup d’état, could a breakaway Islamic state, with links to al Qaeda and intentions to use the Quran as the basis for its constitution be declared, without significant media coverage? Africa, of course. In March this year Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo overthrew the government of Amadou Toumani Touré in Mali. In the months since, an estimated 320,000 people have been displaced, with many flocking to neighbouring Mauritania, a country ill equipped to provide for its own population, let alone a influx or refugees. In Mali’s north, negotiations have been underway between the two main rebel groups, to form an Islamic state, yet unless you were searching for news on Africa you could be forgiven for your ignorance, such has been the deafening silence of the Western media on Mali.
Last years drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa, which affected over 10 million people, was one of the most slowly funded humanitarian disasters in modern times, due largely, to an uninterested world and mute media. This year, a similar crisis is affecting the Sahel region. Yet you would not know it. It is a sick world when fat Americans complain about having restrictions placed on the size of soft drinks they can buy and at the same time millions of people barely have enough food to sustain the breath in their body.
Elsewhere in the preceding months, former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been sentenced to 50 years imprisonment, essentially a life sentence, for his role in the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil wars, a role which has been compared to Ronald Reagan’s arming of Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980’s. On the other side of the continent, Callixte Nzabonimana, a former youth minister has also been sentenced to a life term, for his crimes during the Rwandan genocide. Both cases highlight that while justice moves slowly, as most things do in Africa, it is eventually delivered.
Following the revolution in 2011, Egyptians have held their most credible election in history, and while there have been criticisms of the likely winners, the seeds for a democracy are being watered.
Finally, in Malawi, the continents second ever female President, Joyce Banda, is showing that not all African heads of state are vicious, inept or corrupt. She has won over the hearts and minds of Malawians and Western aid donors with the symbolism of selling the former Presidents £8.4m jet and fleet of 60 Mercedes government cars. More importantly, Banda has flagged her intentions to overturn many of the former President’s ‘bad laws’ and policies and to restore hope to one of Africa’s poorest countries.
It is baffling why so many of the happenings on the second largest land mass on earth, home to almost one billion people and over fifty countries pass by largely unreported. It cannot be for a lack of stories and it cannot be, in the 21st century, through a lack inaccessibility or connectedness. With 65% of the continent under 24 years of age Africa is only going to grow – and quickly. Not only should we know what is happening there, but what is happening is interesting, newsworthy and important. Africa weaves a tapestry of stories like nowhere else on earth. We should be paying more attention.