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Peacebuilding and Media

Has the Potential of ICTs to Reduce Conflict in Africa been Over-Hyped?

CGCS's picture

//Rasna Warah, journalist and independent researcher, analyzes key themes and conclusions emerging from a July 2014 workshop on the role of ICTs in statebuilding and peacebuilding in Africa.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and new media have often been viewed as a solution to Africa’s myriad problems, including poor governance, conflict and poverty. From the M-Pesa mobile banking system in Kenya to the aggressive adoption of e-governance in Rwanda, the role of ICTs in improving Africa’s economy and governance systems cannot be underestimated.

However, while innovations and the use of ICTs on the African continent are on the rise, they have not necessarily reduced the threat of conflict. Evidence of a direct correlation between increased ICT penetration and innovations and peace and stability on the continent is sketchy at best, and quite often anecdotal, based usually on the innovators’ own assessment of the technology and its impact. For example, the Ushahidi platform, which has been praised internationally for allowing conflict-prone countries to track sites of violence and conflict within a region, and which played an important role in identifying areas of conflict during Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence, has not helped the country to significantly reduce the prospect of future conflict. On the contrary, the country has witnessed increasing terrorism-related violence and insecurity in recent months. Such innovations point to the fact that innovative technology by itself cannot reduce conflict if the social, economic and political conditions in a country are not conducive to peace and stability. It also shows that when the “hardware,” such as the police force and security and intelligence services are substandard, no amount of technology can prevent the threat of violence, conflict or insecurity.

Contesting the Role of Media in Fragile and Conflict Afflicted States

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Just last week, there was an international outcry over Burundi’s approval of a new media law that forbids reporting on matters that could “undermine national security, public order or the economy.”  A number of organizations like Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have condemned the new law as an assault on press freedom. According to the BBC, party officials in Burundi believe the law will prevent journalists from inciting ethnic hatred and endangering national unity. A number of media advocates have argued that this legislation has regressed important progress in the country’s reconciliation process. Burundi, a country struggling to restore peace after more than a decade of civil war, faces a challenging process of establishing citizen state relations. As noted in a report by Henriette von Katenborn-Sachau, in 2005, Burundi’s private media played a significant role in facilitating public trust and building support for the acceptance of the Arusha Accords.