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How social media fuel violence in South Sudan

Thursday 6 October 2016, by SIGNIS

Juba, October, 6th, 2016 (Anadolu Agency). Social media are now available everywhere, and used and loved by so many people worldwide. They allow you to share your thoughts, experience, actions and day-to-day life. In South-Sudan the world’s youngest nation, they are also used to share experience. The only difference is that apparently, they are mostly used to share hate and promote the civil war.

According to a study done by the Juba-based Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), “75% of South Sudan’s young people have access to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and most have posted hate speech that may have in one way or another fueled the conflict”.

The NGO says that “many South Sudanese around the world have departed from the original purpose of social media and shifted it to sowing conflict.” Edmund Yakani, an executive director for CEPO, told Anadolu Agency that 60 percent of South Sudanese social media users use the platform to propagate hate speech that is essentially tribal and “incites violence.”

According to Yakani, the recent fighting in Juba and subsequent movement of citizens into neighboring countries to seek refuge was fueled by the misuse of social media. “Based on interviews of South Sudanese refugees in Ayilo, in northern Uganda, three out of five people fled the country because of hearsay or division along ethnic lines,” he said.

Senior political figures on opposing sides of the conflict as well have made use of social media and arguably manipulate community grievances to advance their political support.

It is clear that South Sudan lacks laws governing the proper use of social media, but Peter Longole Kwam, who chairs the Peace and Reconciliation Committee in the country’s Transitional Legislative Assembly, said efforts are underway to address the problem. The parliament is currently planning a study to explore the implications of hate speech on social media and how it fuels violence in the country and then see how its misuse can be prosecuted.

Besides having laws regarding social media use, it is also crucial to educate the population on a correct use of social media, and media in general. As long as people don’t know the implications that posting something online, they will not stop.

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