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Dog Bites Man Vs Man Bites Dog: How The World Misses Africa’s Deadliest Terror Attacks – Alta Vermeulen

October 25, 2017


Dog Bites Man Vs Man Bites Dog: How The World Misses Africa’s Deadliest Terror Attacks

By Alta Vermeulen

Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State, South Africa

RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 5 (2017), Number 19 (October 2017) 

Imagine the hustle and bustle of a busy street in a capital city, on a Saturday afternoon. The activities in this street include workers commuting, people shopping, mothers taking a walk with their children, beggars on the street, children running, street hawkers selling anything from bananas to sunglasses. Suddenly the earth is shaken by a massive explosion and chaos ensues. Hysterical people run and scream, wounded and burnt bodies scatter the street, bewildered families dig through rubble with their bare hands to try and find their loved ones, smoke, dust and ashes are strewn across the street that a few moments ago, was the picture of everyday life. This is not a description of a movie scene, and you would think, if this really happened, just a few weeks ago, why don’t we all know about it? This simple answer will probably be, because it happened in Africa.

Many countries, shortly after the attack, announced their condemnation for the atrocious act. World leaders from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Canada and Turkey all pledged their solidarity with the Somali people[i]. So, it might be presumptuous to claim that the world “missed” this attack. However, one cannot help to do what all humans are inclined to do: compare. According to the Somali government, the attack left at least 358 people dead, with an additional 228 people seriously injured[ii], thus this particular attack is the worst terrorist attack recorded in Somali history. Although the outcry in Mogadishu and Somalia itself has been considerable[iii], the rest of the world has only maybe noticed a blip on the radar of violence in Africa. Naturally Al-Shabaab is blamed for the attack, which some speculate was aimed at Somalia’s foreign ministry down the road. The destruction was intensified by the unfortunate fact that the concealed truck bomb exploded in close proximity to a fuel tanker[iv]. Al Shabaab has, however, not claimed responsibility for the attack yet – something which might in any case be redundant since Al Shabaab has vowed to increase attacks after both the Trump administration as well as the newly elected Somali president announced new military efforts against the group[v].

With regard to the international community’s reaction to this attack, we need to firstly admit that since the attack happened in a capital city, it is immediately easier for journalists to reach the scene of the attack, and to provide updates and reports on not only what happened, but also the aftermath of the attack. Unfortunately we also need to understand what is considered as news, and if this attack can even be deemed as”news”. This seems like a very brutal and heartless path to follow, but the fact is that the media will only report on that which the readers would want to read. If we want to define what “news” actually is, without being overly academic, the name implies something new, and connotes the presentation of new information. The newness of news adds to it a more uncertain quality which immediately serves as a separation from more carefully investigations of events as in history or other scholarly fields. Put simply, news also often addresses that which is seen as out of the ordinary, unusual or unexpected. Hence the notion that “Dog bites Man” is not news, but “Man bites Dog” is[vi].

It would be possible to assume that another terrorist attack in Somalia is a case of “dog bites man”. Somalia is one of the areas in Africa known mostly for its violence and efforts in countering anything from piracy to full blown jihadi terrorism. Only a week after the devastating truck bomb hit the streets of Mogadishu, another deadly attack was carried out just outside Mogadishu, with another 11 casualties[vii]. Sadly, yet not surprisingly, no world-wide condemnations were announced, no trending hashtags ensued across social media, and no international heavyweights, be that in the form of politicians, actors or musicians are Tweeting in outcry or support. It is simply another dog, biting another man.

[i] Al Jazeera. 2017. World reacts to ‘sickening’ Mogadishu bomb attack. Oct 16, 2017. Available at:

[ii] Al Jazeera. 2017. Mogadishu bombing death toll rises to 358. Oct 21, 2017. Available at:

[iii] The Guardain. 2017. Thousands march in Somalia after attack that killed more than 300. Oct 18, 2017. Available at:

[iv] The Guardian. 2017. Mogadishu truck bomb: 500 casualties in Somalia’s worst terrorist attack. Oct 16, 2017. Available at:


[vi] Park, R. 1940. News as a Form of Knowledge: A Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge. American Journal of Sociology, 45(5), 669-686. Available at:

[vii] Al Jazeera. 2017. Mogadishu:  11 killed week after deadliest blast. Oct 22, 2017. Available at:


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