On Saturday, Somalia was shaken by the deadliest attack the East African nation has ever witnessed. A bomb blast ripped through the capital city of Mogadishu, leaving over 500 people injured. As I write this the death toll stands at 302, although this is expected to increase. When such devastating attacks like this take place, you would expect public outcry and condemnation to appear immediately.With many previous atrocities that have not affected the West, the reaction has been quieter, with many remaining silent. The Mogadishu terrorist attack is no different. We’ve shed tears over Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Manchester and London. So I ask, do we have no tears for Somalia?
It is apparent that heinous actions and catastrophic disasters that happen in that part of the world do not seem to match up to, or have the same media value, as those which take place in the West. This Monday morning, only one of the national newspapers in the UK, the Guardian, chose to make the Mogadishu attack front page news. For the others, this story has somehow skipped their headlines for today. When compared to two days after the Manchester terror attack in May 2017, every national newspaper front page was covering that story. Yes, Manchester is in the UK and we probably are more inclined to feel impacted by something happening closer to home. But over 300 people have lost their lives in a senseless attack and yet little noise is being made about it in comparison. Much like the mudslides in Sierra Leone in August that left an estimated over 1000 dead, the tragedy in Somalia has been met largely with silence. Scrolling through Instagram, my feed is clear of celebrities posting their prayers for the country, Facebook doesn’t have a photo filter with the Somali flag to show support, and I’m still waiting for the one-minute silence to be held for all the lives lost.
I’m not here to completely criticise the mainstream media in their coverage of this tragic event, as some efforts have been made. However my main question is, “Where is the collective outrage?” Back in January 2015, the terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices and other locations in Paris took place. For the next few weeks, everywhere I turned I could see the statement, “je suis Charlie” graffitied, tweeted, drawn, you name it, it was there. Even Hollywood’s elite, as they walked the Oscars red carpet a few weeks later, wore badges with the phrase showing that they supported France. Never have I seen such unity for an incident further East or South of the world. And again here we are, with over 300 dead in Mogadishu, without a similar reaction.
Somehow we are able to grieve for the lives lost in Las Vegas, Orlando, Brussels and the list goes on. However when it comes to Mogadishu, why is it that our grief is not extended to the people of Somalia? Is it because they are from a developing nation - an African country that has faced the likes of civil war, droughts and previous terrorist attacks? We have become so conditioned to the fact that bad things are “meant” to happen in Africa, that there is no joy or peace there, so this is just a normal situation. Our compassion is limited to those that this would “never” happen to and so we lack emotion for the victims in Mogadishu. When the Paris attacks happened, world leaders were quick to land in the city and walk arm in arm as they marched in solidarity with one another. It’s not just us who have selective sympathy, but also our leaders. We’ve all limited our sadness, tears and anguish to disasters that affect those that seem closer to us geographically and culturally. But a life is a life and we should be just as devastated about the killings in Somalia as we are about the ones that have happened in the UK, France and the USA.
Written by Aisha Rimi