The government of Cameroon says its forces killed up to 400 Boko Haram fighters after the militant Islamist group attacked a military base in the Cameroonian border town of Kolofata. According to military sources one soldier was killed. In Nigeria Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign of terror across the Muslim-majority north, including a highly publicized, but not unique, kidnapping of more than 200 school girls early last year and the massacre of up to 2,000 people in the northern town of Baga just last week. The Nigerian military now claims no more than 150 people were killed there.
In a video posted to YouTube last week Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to do to Cameroon what it's doing to Nigeria, addressing Paul Biya, the president of Cameroon, by name, telling him Cameroonian soldiers "can't do anything to us." Biya responded by asking for more international support in fighting against Boko Haram. International support is of little use. The U.S. sent advisors after last year's kidnapping but that program has now been terminated, by the Nigerian military. Last month, 54 soldiers were convicted of mutiny and sentenced to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram militants.
Nigeria's government is incompetent and corrupt, but the urge to demand an international response to Boko Haram's campaign of terror is a misguided one. Last year, Nigeria was able to prevent an outbreak of Ebola in its country while countries like Liberia, which received much more international support for its efforts, failed to do so. Western aid, in fact, helped create the breeding ground for Ebola.
To say that Boko Haram's assault on the Cameroonian military base was blowback for Cameroon's involvement in the attempt to contain Boko Haram is simple-minded. For the sake of the 340 million residents of West Africa, Boko Haram has to be contained and destroyed. For the sake of its fledgling democracies and regional institutions, they have to do it on their own.
That shouldn't preclude attention from being paid to the atrocities, or questioning why Boko Haram's murderous campaign hasn't received more attention. Comparing it to the attention paid to the Paris massacre will require more than a simplistic race analysis. Should there have been protests in Paris? And what would it say if there were, when there were none in Abuja? Today, Dar al-Ifta, an Islamic law institute with ties to the Egyptian state, addressed "an unjustified provocation against the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims," but they were referring to the harmless cover Charlie Hebdo is running this week, not the murderous campaign waged in Islam's name in Nigeria. It's patently ridiculous to demand someone be held accountable for the actions of their perceived co-religionists, but demanding a religion's self-proclaimed leadership to do so certainly isn't.