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This article will explore why Western media and governments devote morbidly excessive attention to the affairs of the Middle East over the African continent and ask the question, do we care about the African people?
Switch on your television and sit and watch the news, I imagine within no time at all there will be reference to a crisis in the Middle East, from ISIS to Iran to Israel and Palestine, perhaps Afghanistan will make an appearance? Who knows…
While the whole affair in the Middle East is controversial, with the absence of strategy, competence and a myriad of blunders, it has been maintained throughout, the good intentions that were in the hearts of our leaders. But you know what they say about good intentions? George Bush in 2003 spoke of the intentions of the US involvement in Iraq and the pursuit of ‘peace, security and stability’ in the region.
Peace, security and stability, something considerably lacking in much of Africa. The Second Congo War occurred directly before, during and after the events of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The conflict became the deadliest since WW2, claiming around 5 million lives, mostly civilian. In 5 years, more people died in the Congo than those who have died in every single conflict in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2001.
The most horrific and commonplace atrocities during the conflict included; fathers being forced to rape their daughters, mass rapes, brutal vaginal mutilation and acts of genocidal cannibalism towards the pygmy population, of whom it believed upon consumption, magical powers were gained. The scale of horrors committed during the short war is beyond horrific and it only takes a light exploration into the conflict to gain a picture of the real life nightmares mainly the civilians had to suffer.
Another example of conflict in Africa is the current conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). Political turmoil and popular uprising has put CAR on its way to gaining the accolade of genocide, of which I’m sure it will enjoy putting next to poverty, corruption and general misery. Much like the Second Congo War, the conflict has broken out over one ethnic faction taking power from another. The result has led to the formation of anti- Islamic Christian militia actively slaughtering the Muslim minority, and violence from the Islamic factions being returned in kind. French forces and now the UN are attempting to bring security to the region, but with relatively few troops, atrocities identical to those committed in the Second Congo War are all too frequent.
Now while the war in the Congo may have ended 12 years ago, brutal conflict has been continuous on the continent for as long as the West have been there to document it and the civil war in CAR is yet another notch being carved into the rotten stock of the rifle pointed at the head of Africa. Yet for the most part we as a people, the government and media seem completely oblivious.
You will find a lot of information on the ongoing conflict in CAR online, al Jazeera and RT to name a few, provide coverage, yet British national news is and always has been seemingly reluctant to focus on Africa. And our governments haven’t been much better either. For instance overall the cost for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost Britain around £40 billion. While Britain routinely struggles to hit its foreign aid budget of 0.7%, and out of that, in 2014, only £2.3 billion was allocated to the whole of Africa.
But why is this the case? Why is there such disparity between our actions in the Middle East and our actions in Africa? The key argument is the conflicts in the Middle East are in our national interest, and indeed perhaps here it is worth mentioning the inclusion of North African states like Libya who also ‘enjoy’ our attention. By ‘national interests’ what is meant is oil. Instead of trying to outline the supposed reasons why we intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan we will go straight for the jugular, but instead of blood, if you pierce this particular artery you will be covered in black gold. From Saddam to the Taliban, securing stability in the region meant ensuring the safety of the Gulf oil states and the continued supply of the world’s largest reserves of crude oil. Indeed that is what is driving our conflict against ISIS, a further push south by the group would once again threaten the Iraqi oil fields.
And this – ladies and gentleman – is where the sobering truth about our inaction in Africa lies. What is in CAR? Not a lot. What is in the Congo? A massive abundance of minerals, worth potentially $24 trillion. However in both cases, despite conflict, the minerals still flow from the mines and to the West, if anything we in fact profit from conflict, as it is the companies that deal with these corrupt African states and local warlords that are able to dictate the price of these minerals. Compared to the Middle East it doesn’t matter that people are being slaughtered in mass and the nations are riddled with corruption and poverty, we still get what we want regardless. Why would we intervene? What would we get out of it? Morality and self-righteousness do not pay for all the luxuries we enjoy in the West.
And for the media, for the most part there are those who believe it is not focused on simply because it is just too complex. Aside from having no impact on our society the conflicts are difficult, with no clear good or bad side and atrocities committed all around. How could we set our moral clocks when both factions act so ‘barbaric’?
An important lesson here should be learned, not only by us as the public to try and coerce our governments into action but more importantly for the oil rich states of the Middle East. Our attention comes with an expiration date. Back when the resources of Africa were crucial to our economies during imperialism we committed considerable resources. However, as time has progressed and our dependence has waned, we have left the continent of Africa to rot. With the advent of a shale revolution, and with America set to enjoy the lions share, our complete betrayal of the people of Africa may serve as a chilling prophecy for the Middle East. If we did not need to protect the oil rich states would we truly bother with ISIS?
To answer the question of do we care about the people of Africa, yes, of course we do. I doubt anyone will read this with a smile on their face. But angle it differently, do we care more for the people of the Middle East than we do their oil? The answer to why our government and media seem to lack interest in the affairs of Africa is found within that question.