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The Monitor's View

Is Oscar Pistorius really Africa's 'biggest' story?

Last week, when the West and UN were intervening in a host of problems in Africa, much of the world focused on Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic hero charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Africa needs a better media spotlight.

By the Monitor's Editorial Board / February 25, 2013

M23 rebels, shown here, withdrew from the eastern Congo town of Goma in December. Eleven African countries signed a United Nations-drafted peace deal Feb. 24 to stabilize the troubled Central African country.

AP Photo/file

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For much of last week, the most popular news out of Africa was about a white man, former Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, being in court for the killing of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in South Africa.

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Meanwhile, the world media paid much less attention to the United Nations mediating a peace agreement for the Congo conflict, the exodus of 60,000 refugees from a conflict in the Central African Republic, the United States setting up a Predator drone base on the continent, French troops chasing Al Qaeda in Mali, or Egypt’s economy on the verge of collapse as it appeals for foreign loans.

Oh, and then there is the news about the International Criminal Court seeking to put on trial the possible winner of Kenya’s March 4 presidential election, Uhuru Kenyatta. He is wanted for crimes against humanity.

Africa’s worst woes – conflict, poverty, and poor governance – are receiving greater and greater attention from foreign governments, especially in aid and intervention. And yet, among voters in those giving countries, Africa receives little attention – except for sensational news such as the Pistorius murder trial. The severity of Africa’s basic needs are not at all equal to the exposure of those needs to the world.

The US military, for example, is considering a 15-fold increase in its troop levels in Africa, now about 5,000. But few Americans know about or understand the specific security concerns or other issues on the continent in recent years compared with past crises such as famines or the war in Darfur. And few take meaningful action to address them. The one big exception was the brief popularity last year of a viral video, “Kony 2012,” about the Lord’s Resistance Army.

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