Earlier this week Laura Smith-Spark decided to write a rag about the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) and CNN dubbed it good enough to publish it. The piece is titled “Rights groups warn of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Central African Republic” and it reminded me how much I detest the definition of ‘ethnic cleansing’ which qualifies religion as an ethnicity. How is this not yet another display of how in the minds fueled by eurocentricity, violence against The Other doesn’t deserve a proper (dare I say, accurate) description? Or is my irritation, due to my unawareness of all the reports that labeled violence against large groups of white Christians as ‘ethnic cleansing’, lacking balance?
However, what irked me about Smith-Spark’s article isn’t so much her use of the definition of ethnic cleansing as it is the hollow, sensationalist language with which she describes what’s happening in the C.A.R. The white media doesn’t care much about non-American Black people so we already know that if they gave so much as a damn about the rest of us they’d toss this from a speeding car before dedicating a hint of interest to ‘poor Blacks in Africa’… let alone if they are Muslims. So Smith-Spark did what the vast majority of Western journalists do when writing about The Other… she just gave it a shot.
After illustrating the worth of Black bodies by talking about victims, violence and death without stating any numbers, there’s room for a very traditional history lesson. “The Central African Republic, a former French colony, was plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels dubbed Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize.” CAR regained its independence from France on August 13, 1960 and history taught us that whenever the colonizer retreats, everything they leave behind has claw marks on it. Unless this sentence implies that the Seleka disrupted 54 years of peace and prosperity, there is absolutely no reason to state that C.A.R. ‘plunged into chaos’. If we can’t spare the time (or word count) to tap into how the country never recovered from France’s violent exploitation we can skip this incomplete ‘reminder’ of ‘what’ C.A.R. is and go straight to the period when this latest wave of violence started.
Also, how about changing our language? Saying a country ‘gains’ independence linguistically feeds into the eurocentric Savior Syndrome that suggests that non-European countries needed colonization. Gaining independence implies a dependence, a need to be rescued… a need to be civilized. Since colonization isn’t a form of freedom, a former colony’s independence is regained… not gained. C.A.R. was independent before the French bulldozered their way through it, it was free before the Scramble for Africa disfigured the continent’s map with ruler straight lines the European politicians euphemistically called ‘borders’.
But back to Smith-Spark.
The piece continues to sum up the horrors without stating how a number of victims or casualties. Would there be an article about the bloodshed in Occupied Palestine (a.k.a. Israel) that doesn’t mention how many people died? What’s the level of disinterest that makes Smith-Spark think a quote like “The result is a Muslim exodus of historic proportions” can just float around without any additional info or reference?
The incompleteness stumbles further until it reaches an interesting example of eurocentric hierarchies of relevance and the holes they blow in the timelines of worldly events. Smith-Spark writes: “The spiralling ethnic violence in the Central African Republic has led some observers to fear another genocide like that seen in Rwanda nearly 20 years ago.” Is she implying that the horrific tragedies in Rwanda (1994) marked the last genocide in Sub-Saharan Africa? What about the consecutive civil wars in Congo between 1996 and 2003? What about Sudan and South-Sudan, what about Ethiopia? Or perhaps ‘the observer’ meant that (s)he was fearing another genocide they couldn’t ignore?
Smith-Spark used more than 1.000 words to explain what exactly? Would her vagueness and hollow quotes be acceptable for an article about Syria? Would it take her 13 paragraphs to state the names of the cities where the worst cases of violence were documented or 25 to mention: “Human Rights Watch cites the example of a gold trading center, Yaloke, which had an estimated Muslim population of 30,000 and eight mosques before the conflict. When the group visited the town last week, fewer than 500 Muslims and one mosque remained, it said.”?
Seriously, if Smith-Spark is getting paid for contributions like this, there’s absolutely no reason why anyone should be unemployed. To read how it could have been done, please check allAfrica.com’s article “Central African Republic: 1,000 Muslims Reported Trapped in CAR Town”.