The world’s muted reaction to the violence in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamist militia, stands in stark contrast to the mass public marches prompted by last week’s “Charlie Hebdo” and kosher market killings in Paris.

Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama, a Catholic archbishop in Nigeria, suggested that because the victims of Boko Haram are Africans, the rest of the world didn’t care enough to respond. His point may be worth pondering, but the matter is more complicated than the racism he is implying.

Boko Haram’s ire is directed at the governments of Nigeria and its neighbors Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It has kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls and killed perhaps thousands. On Tuesday more than 140 Boko Haram fighters were killed in clashes with Cameroonian troops.

Most puzzling lately is the relative silence of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Boko Haram’s horrible crimes. One reason is that he is up for re-election on Feb. 14. He is a Christian from the south of Nigeria and, although in principle the presidency would rotate next to a Muslim from the north, he is campaigning hard for a new term.

The inability of Nigeria’s corrupt armed forces to bring Boko Haram under control is a failure of Jonathan’s government and a reason to vote against him. At the same time, he probably does not want to incur the wrath of his troops, either by citing their ineptness or ordering them into more severe conflict with the formidable militia. He certainly is familiar with Nigeria’s history of military coups.

The world, including the United States, is deterred from riding to Nigeria’s rescue by its troops’ record of corruption, their poor performance on the battlefield and by the government’s refusal to deal aggressively with Boko Haram. The result, tragically, is continued carnage among the helpless people of the region.

Editorial by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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