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Kenya’s terror tragedies: Whose lives matter more?

Editor: Tong Xinxin 丨CCTV.com

11-25-2015 15:09 BJT

By Miroslav Atanasov, Ph.D., Renmin University of China

On Thursday Nov. 12, a bombing assault at a market in Beirut, Lebanon, killed 43 innocent people. The very next day, brutal terrorism swept into Paris, France, which took the lives of 127 people. Both attacks were perpetrated by the Islamic State, but the world paid more attention to Paris.


Facebook let people cover their profiles with the French flag. Youtube expressed solidarity. Feeling uneasy, I posted the Kenyan flag in honor of Garissa victims from earlier this year. But, I wasn’t alone. Millions were disturbed by the media’s partiality.  

The dreadful day of April 2, 2015 began on a quiet Thursday morning at the University College Campus of Garissa, North Eastern Kenya. At 5:30 am. five masked gunmen stormed the campus. They killed unarmed guards, seized a dormitory, randomly shot students and took hostages, while releasing Muslims and terrorizing Christians.

The perpetrators from the Al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia were armed with AK-47s and strapped with explosives. The stand-off waged on for 15 hours and then the survivors were evacuated.

Four terrorists were shot by Kenyan Commandos, but the last one managed to detonate his suicide vest killing himself and wounding others. The death toll stood at 148, 142 were students.  

Garissa had been a continuation of deadly assaults in the country carried out by Islamic extremists:  

1. Lamu Attacks (July 5-6, 2014). Heavily armed militants killed 29, in the villages of Hindi in Lamu County and Gamba in Tana River Country. They burned government buildings and a church. Victims were tied before getting shot in the head or had their throats slashed with a knife. 

2. Mpekoni Attacks (June 15-17, 2014). Around 50 masked gunmen hijacked a van and raided a police station in the Christian town of Mpeketoni. They burned buildings and shot men while women were forced to watch. The reported death toll was 53. Two days later an overnight attack on the nearby villages of Majembeni and Poromoko killed 15 and set houses on fire.

3. Gikomba Bombings (May 16, 2014). Extremists detonated two explosive devices at Gikomba market in Nairobi, killing 12 people and injuring 70. 
4. Nairobi Bus Bombings (May 4, 2014). Two bombs were detonated on buses traveling up Thika Road. They killed 3 people and injured 62. Twenty of the wounded were in critical condition. Most casualties were women and children.

5. Mombasa Bus Attack (May 3, 2014). A hand grenade was detonated inside a bus in Mombasa. It killed 4 people and injured 15.
6. Westgate Mall Attack (September 21, 2013). Unidentified gunmen carried out a mass shooting at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, killing 67 and wounding 180 people. 
7. Mombasa Attacks (November 28, 2002). A multi-terrain vehicle exploded outside the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel, killing 13 people and injuring 80. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis tourists died, including two children. Meanwhile, two Strela 2 missiles were fired at a chartered Boeing 757 of an Israeli Airline taking off from Moi Airport. They missed the target and the pilots managed to return to Tel Aviv. Flights from Israel to Kenya were cancelled indefinitely.

8. US Embassy Bombings (August 7, 1998). The deadliest act in the country was carried out by trucks loaded with tons of explosives. The bomb blast killed 201 Kenyans and 12 Americans; 4,000 were wounded. The attacks were joint responsibility of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda. For the first time the American public heard of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Why do various tragedies receive different kinds of media coverage? Is death worse in the West? Why are their double standards?

1. The so-called international media networks are not really international. They are mainly Western, reporting news from a Western perspective, catering to a Western audience, funded by Western companies, sellingWestern products.

2. To Western viewers it is a greater sensation when 12 people get killed at the French Newspaper Charlie Hedbo than if 2,000 are massacred by Boko Haram in Baga, Nigeria (The two events happened the same week). 

3. It is easier for global networks to report news from Paris where they are strongly represented than from (say) Mogadishu. To them Paris is always a bigger story than events in the developing world where such cases are considered the norm.

4. For Facebook and Youtube the French flag campaign is a great PR move. Capitalizing on this unfortunate event, they raise their public image among Western market clientele.

5. The double standards are a by-product of colonial condescending attitudes toward non-whites.

Why does Europe claim to be a leader of humanitarianism and tolerance to this very day, but in its very own capital of Brussels there are monuments that honor the late King Leopold II of Belgium, who is responsible for the deaths of over 10 million Congolese? How differently would he have been treated if he had terrorized many Europeans? Perhaps, these attitudes might be just one of the unfortunate results when history is denied by its citizenry.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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