Title of paper

Community Radio and Peace between Rival Ethnic Groups: Considering New Indices of Human Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Presenter's country

United Arab Emirates

Start Date

28-5-2016 9:30 AM

End Date

28-5-2016 10:35 AM

Location

Hall II

Submission type

Presentation

Abstract

In the post-colonial era, the thorniest issue for a majority of newly independent states in sub-Saharan Africa has been the problem of their ethnic composition. When European powers carved out the continent amongst themselves, they did not take into account traditional boundaries that separated ethnic groups, some of which had a history of hostilities and rivalries dating back centuries. Ethnic tensions have had debilitating effects throughout the continent, as civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Congo, The Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Angola have shown. The Greater Horn of Africa region (comprising Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Djibouti, and Kenya), for example, has endured some of the longest civil wars in modern world history. Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia in 1992 was the culmination of a 30-year civil war. The secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011 was the culmination of a 28-year civil war. And in Somalia – theater of a 35-year civil war – the secession of the northern half declared in 1991 threatens to split the country into two or more states. Many African leaders have used radio in attempts to construct common political identities as a foundation for unity and peace.1 The utility of radio became quickly apparent also in its role in development—especially among Africa’s rural populations. The continent’s high illiteracy rates meant that radio was the only medium by which to communicate with masses in both rural and urban areas. Some of radio’s real potential to effect change in Africa, however, was realized only at the end of the Cold War. Between 1991 and 2006, all sub-Saharan African countries (except Eritrea), have allowed the operation of independent radio stations which have taken two distinct forms: (1) commercial radio that targets urban audiences with entertainment programming, and (2) community and/or rural radio which almost exclusively broadcast in vernacular languages and target both rural and urban populations. Much less commercialized, it’s this second kind of radio that is the primary focus of this paper. We will look at the utility of community radio in two key areas of development: (1) as a forum for negotiations to counter inter-ethnic hostilities and to create constructive narratives of peace, and (2) as a forum for tackling prejudice and discussing gender issues in paternalistic societies.

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May 28th, 9:30 AM May 28th, 10:35 AM

Community Radio and Peace between Rival Ethnic Groups: Considering New Indices of Human Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Hall II

In the post-colonial era, the thorniest issue for a majority of newly independent states in sub-Saharan Africa has been the problem of their ethnic composition. When European powers carved out the continent amongst themselves, they did not take into account traditional boundaries that separated ethnic groups, some of which had a history of hostilities and rivalries dating back centuries. Ethnic tensions have had debilitating effects throughout the continent, as civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Congo, The Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Angola have shown. The Greater Horn of Africa region (comprising Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Djibouti, and Kenya), for example, has endured some of the longest civil wars in modern world history. Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia in 1992 was the culmination of a 30-year civil war. The secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011 was the culmination of a 28-year civil war. And in Somalia – theater of a 35-year civil war – the secession of the northern half declared in 1991 threatens to split the country into two or more states. Many African leaders have used radio in attempts to construct common political identities as a foundation for unity and peace.1 The utility of radio became quickly apparent also in its role in development—especially among Africa’s rural populations. The continent’s high illiteracy rates meant that radio was the only medium by which to communicate with masses in both rural and urban areas. Some of radio’s real potential to effect change in Africa, however, was realized only at the end of the Cold War. Between 1991 and 2006, all sub-Saharan African countries (except Eritrea), have allowed the operation of independent radio stations which have taken two distinct forms: (1) commercial radio that targets urban audiences with entertainment programming, and (2) community and/or rural radio which almost exclusively broadcast in vernacular languages and target both rural and urban populations. Much less commercialized, it’s this second kind of radio that is the primary focus of this paper. We will look at the utility of community radio in two key areas of development: (1) as a forum for negotiations to counter inter-ethnic hostilities and to create constructive narratives of peace, and (2) as a forum for tackling prejudice and discussing gender issues in paternalistic societies.