Monday, 12 January 2015

I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria’s forgotten massacre | Daily Maverick

I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria’s forgotten massacre | Daily Maverick

There are massacres and there are massacres. The Paris massacre was tragic, but it was hardly the worst thing that happened last week. Not even close.

For that, we must head to Nigeria, and to the town of Baga – or at least to the spot on the map where Baga once stood, because there’s not much left of it now.

Reports of the massacre there are necessarily hazy; the nearest journalists are hundreds of kilometres away (even there, they are not particularly safe), and information comes almost exclusively from traumatised refugees and unreliable government sources.

Still, enough facts have emerged to know that something terrible happened here; something apocalyptic.

Baga is in north-eastern Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon. It is no stranger to massacres. In April 2013, nearly 200 people, mostly civilians, were slaughtered by the Nigerian armed forces in a military offensive designed to push out Boko Haram. This, however, was just a teaser. A taste of the horror that was to come.

Over the course of five days, beginning on Saturday last week, Boko Haram fighters entered the city with Nigerian soldiers fleeing before them, and destroyed it and anybody that was too slow in escaping – men, women, children. “The whole town was on fire,” said one eyewitness, while others speak of roads lined with corpses. The body count varies, but Amnesty International puts it at over 2,000 deaths – or the rough equivalent of 133 Charlie Hebdo attacks...
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