“I am the Market woman”

Posted by Daneilia Dwyer

“Paris marches, Nigeria burns” the Cape Times read on Monday after attacks last week on Charlie Hebdo news magazine led to solidarity marches in protest of the killings of twelve news employees.  Just three days later, 3 ten-year old girls bombed major markets in Potiskum and Baga, Nigeria, a cruelly construed attack by the terrorist organization, Boko Haram. These attacks resulted in more than 20 deaths in 3 days totaling 16 open market bombings and over 2,000 deaths in just 4 months.

Both countries are in a state fear for the loss of life and the suppression of their civil liberties—freedom of expression, religious and political autonomy and freedom from dictation by uncouth men. The US and Russia rushed to make statements of aide to France in supporting the nation. After six years, of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria, the UN and African Union (AU) have stepped in offering aide in the fight against the terrorist group.

It’s as if the outcry of the oppressed goes unheard until substantial numbers of individuals die. This repetitive cycle seems inherent to our global society, that human lives become the capital that merits action and response. This point did not come across so clearly until a recent conversation here in South Africa. It happened in a moment on our return from Robben Island.  I sat next to a man, formerly imprisoned on the Island, an ANC party member-turned-lawyer upon release, who simply identified as Victor. He spoke of his political imprisonment of over eighteen years from 1972 to 1991. I inquired of the charges brought against him and realized that I was seeing the other side of the coin as he made an explicit statement. He was responsible for the bombing of a train station in 1972 that killed over 26 people. I was stunned. “Both blacks and whites,” he said.  I pried further wanting to understand why he had done it? I logically understood the historical truth: militaristic action was the way to break the government; it was the only way to make them see that they were not right. Yet from the human, perspective, I sought his inner truth and asked him what could bring him to a place of diminishing his regard for human life enough to convince himself that it was necessary? He laughed, stopped and asked, “which newspaper are you?” And that made me laugh.

He was slow to answer the question and after showing him that the camera around my neck was indeed a camera and not a recording device, he said “because we were dead.” “We were a people living in our own land and we were already dead.” And though I could not reconcile to agree with him, I understood what he meant.

These current events have made me realize the parallels to South Africa’s own fight in the name of freedom with what is needed for other countries. The ANC committed terroristic acts in the name of obtaining equal civil rights; they were on the right side of history. But groups like Boko Haram, remain on the opposite side of history.  I could not reconcile to agree Victor on taking human lives, but of what he spoke, I understood what he meant—the loss of lives substantiated global response.  It took years of militaristic acts, coupled with letters to the UN, individual governments, human rights organizations and countless other methods to compel the South African government to a place of compromise. It took a cooperative world effort. The same is needed in light of the events in Nigeria, quick and steady efforts to capture offenders in the early stages of terrorism not 6 years after establishment. An effort that when one individual attack such as the attack on Charlie Hebdo occurs, the world stands together to say “I am the market woman” killed in Potiskam or Baga as openly and emphatically  as they have said, “Je suis Charlie.”

Fabricius, Peter. “UN, AU finally offer to help Nigeria combat Boko Haram.” The Cape Times [Cape Town] 13 Jan. 2015: 1-3. Print.

Olori, Toye, and Peter Fabricius. “Paris Marches, Nigeria Burns.” The Cape Times [Cape Town] 12 Jan. 2015: 1-3. Print.

Ross, Will. “Why Reporting on Boko Haram Is Hard.” BBC News Africa. BBC, 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

Thomas, Leigh, and John Irish. “Charlie Hebdo Does It Again.” The Cape Times [Cape Town] 14 Jan. 2015: 1-3. Print.

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