On the night of June 29, an African singer – paladin of anti-oppression, resistance music – a political activist, prominent voice of a local ethnic group which counts a considerable population of 25 million people, was shot dead in the Capital.
According to local media, investigations, arrests started immediately but so did nights and days of riots, destruction of property in the Capital and the region of origin of the singer. Hotels, restaurants, companies were systematically ravaged in the name of a blind ethnic and investment cleansing in the attempt to obliterate, overnight, successful entrepreneurial
achievements of other ethnicities.
The logic of blind anger.
On the morning of 30 June, the Capital was rocked by three explosions while many of the nation’s streets were filled with smoke and the accompanying soundtrack of operating machine guns. The usual way for police to disperse crowds when everyone revolts against everyone else.
Small shops closed. So did hotels, bars, clubs, flower stands, barbers, beauty salons and offices.
Public transportation ran as a ghost of itself. Time and people froze. Statues of past Emperors were beheaded.
Neighbourhoods quickly displayed batons, cleavers, stones. Citizens coordinated patrols; those who could afford the prohibitive cost, bought a gun with the excuse of protecting children.
The logic of force majeur self-defense.
Wounded people were rushed to hospitals carried on the shoulders of brave volunteers.
The very same morning, internet was shut down to prevent further chaos, violent speech, to avert the worsening of events.
The logic of a sharpened state of emergency (already declared to avoid spread of Covid-19).
The country theatre of violence remained in a double lock-down with no access to internet for over 14 days.
Human rights organizations expressed concern (don’t they always) calling for the leadership to immediately reinstall access to internet and blaming the very same government for the heinous murder of scores of civilians. Locally, the people continued to blame the police for not having protected civilians against ‘hooligans’.
On the domestic front, death toll figures were said to be released – if ever – in due course, with no rush.
The logic and timing of body count, especially in developing countries.
Foreign media barely covered the event on the first two days.
Had a European country been isolated for over two weeks from the world, with a death toll running in (at least) 250 people, the headlines would have been incessant, with the systematic bombardment of news and frantic analyses from an abundance of experts.
Had it happened in the Middle East, an intervention to restore democracy would have been immediately, unofficially and secretively considered (the unofficial boots on the ground). With the inevitable, despicable rise in arms sales.
Still, there would have been media coverage.
When it comes to Africa, there are few, foreign reliable experts. Their voices, in this case, were suspiciously silent.
What is most striking, though, is that journalists from within the very same continent were not given the space to explain, analyse, report, to correspond.
Status quo: hundreds of families spent months mourning loved ones in a country torn apart, burnt, ravaged by, what the local government later claimed was a sparkle generated by a separatist group.
In the year of Black Lives Matter, a conservative figure of 250 black, African people were slaughtered in the streets of a nation purposely not named as it would make no difference.
Over a hundred million of others were denied access to the outside world, proper information and media coverage.
The black lives of hundreds slain have not been deemed to be relevant enough, worthy, to international newsrooms: if Black Lives Matter on social media in a rare, overdue momentum, it is not so in the streets of an African country and in the offices of media establishments.
Indisputably, the logic of two weights and two measures.
photo: bruno costa, creative commons