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Somalia's 9/11: World, where's the outrage? Open in fullscreen

Adama Munu

Somalia's 9/11: World, where's the outrage?

At least 300 people died in the horrific bombing [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 October, 2017

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Somalia witnessed one of the most horrific days in its troubled history on Saturday when a bomb exploded in central Mogadishu killing at least 300 people.
One official called it "Somalia's 9/11" - a weighty statement given the enormity of what Saturday's attack is being compared to, but it was rightly attributed. Many have asked, why have mainstream media outlets demonstrated enormous restraint in providing the type of coverage and analysis that fits a horrific event of such magnitude?

It is not the first time that people have heard of terror or bomb attacks in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. Attacks by al-Qaeda affiliated Somali group, al-Shabaab, have become such a regular and expected occurrence that it has produced an effect quite similar to when we hear of attacks in Baghdad, Borno state, Bamako or even Kabul. But Saturday's attack at a busy intersection in Mogadishu is being termed as the deadliest terror attack in Somalia's capital.

Death on the streets

At least 300 people died when a truck bomb exploded outside the Safari Hotel at the K5 intersection which is lined with government offices restaurants. Two hours later, a separate blast struck the Medina district.

The situation on the ground is dire. Along with the 300 deaths, hundreds more are injured. Many more are sure to have died who are still unaccounted for. The difference made is the hard, long, yet difficult work of rescue workers to retrieve the bodies from beneath the rubble. There have been urgent calls to give blood with hospitals reeling under the pressure to attend to those in their care. AP quoted one nurse saying staff had seen such "unspeakable horrors", whilst doctors have been fighting to keep their eyes open even as screams reverberate through the hospital halls.

With all this, many have taken to social media to ask why sustained and intense coverage - of the kind afforded to other terror attacks - has not been provided to the Mogadishu events. On Twitter, @MKraidy said, "Desperately looking for #MogadishuTruckBomb 276 dead not worthy of coverage @CNN @FoxNews @MSNBC @BBC #IamMogadishu".

Why have mainstream media outlets demonstrated enormous restraint in providing the type of coverage and analysis that fits a horrific event of such magnitude?


Khaled Beydoun, who is a law professor also took to Facebook stating: "I hate comparing human tragedies, but the mainstream media makes you do it. There is no slogans claiming Mogadishu and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity".

Hence, there is a feeling that the deafening silence - or lack of equitable condolence afforded by mainstream media during the Manchester attacks or London Bridge attacks - make it all the more inconceivable.

The #IamMogadishu hashtag has been used on Twitter to provide those following the events with an avenue to offer condolences or outrage about the killings. It has also been used to share news which is another important response, indicating that individuals will at least attain consciousness of the events, even if the very outlets they rely on for news don't provide satisfying coverage.

Media

But the contextual narratives surrounding this event warrants a global response that ordinary people feel has not been provided.

Firstly, while there has been no outright claims of responsibility for the attack by al-Shabaab - or confirmation of this by the government - the al-Qaeda-aligned Somali group are suspected to have kept true to their word and stepped up their terror campaign against civilians and government infrastructure. Only two-and-half weeks ago - on the 29 September - al-Shabaab launched a deadly attack on army base killing at least eight soldiers before looting the outpost.

This is significant in light of the recent travel bans announced by President Donald Trump, which denied Somali nationals with valid visas entry into the US. They, however, are the sole recipients of such terror.

Secondly - as Jason Burke argued in the Guardian - the bombing in Mogadishu might warrant an intensification of US commitments to Somalia and Africa.

These developments have huge implications - not just for the security of Africa, but for all of us.


Trump has already designated the country as a "zone of active hostilities", having deployed regular US forces to the country for the first time since 1994, shortly after a Black Hawk helicopter went down in Mogadishu and their corpses were dragged through the streets. It could be argued that he has done this without any real insight into the complex security issues in Somalia, which require far more than just military fire power - a lesson that we have learnt too late, as was the case in Iraq.

These developments have huge implications - not just for the security of Africa, but for all of us. The message that populations of brown folk in Muslim-majority countries are prone to self-destruction is implicit in the lack of proportionate coverage to match the scale of the killings, and this is something many Somalis have complained of so far.

Diaspora

Speaking to a media colleague of mine, I have been made aware that the Somali diaspora are slowly turning away from asking the international community to provide greater assistance and look into the country's problems. A number of vigils have sprung up in the aftermath of the attack, including one organised by University College of London King College's Somali Society.

Abdul Kadir Elmi, president of the UCL Somali Society, told the BBC: "The main purpose of tonight is to show unity among young British-Somalis. Due to the lack of global solidarity we just want to show that there are people who do stand with Somalia."

It is fair to say that since the attack, there has been an outpouring of condolences from the African Union. The Eiffel Tower switched off its lights on Monday night in memory of those who have died. The mayor of Toronto announced that the city's sign would be lit with the colours of the Somali flag as a show of solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks.

Minnesota's first Muslim female senator, Ilhan Omar, remarked online: "I am excited to see the world take notice and hope this means we will actively work to assist." Less impressively, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson - known for his diplomatic and controversial gaffes - added to this list, condemning the atrocity but describing fragile Mogadishu as a "thriving capital city".

Perhaps it is a slow reaction given that the event took place at least 48-hours beforehand. And, indeed, they are symbolic reactions to a gripping problem that requires far more than what has been provided - but symbolic gestures are important. And while the Somali diaspora and their supporters are taking matters into their own hands to bolster awareness about the tragedy, it is important that the international, global media outlets - who have the capacity to fill us in on the blanks - act with equal proportion to all events, for all of us, and in all circumstances.

Adama Munu is a broadcast journalist and is interested in Afro-Arab relations. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Middle East politics at Birkbeck College.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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