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The virtual launch commenced with a brief introduction of the book, Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Africa, the co-editors, and reviewers by the program director of the Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa programs, Cyril Obi. Professor Karoi Mbugua—chairman of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Nairobi—and the representative of Dr. Pilisano Masake—dean of Human Sciences, Namibia University of Science and Technology—also provided remarks. The co-editors Jacinta Maweu and Admire Mare provided an overview of the book and some of the contributors spoke on their chapters.
Mare provided a concise description of the book’s Africa-centered approach to peace journalism as a modality for giving voice to the poor, the marginalized, and politically disenfranchised people in Africa. Maweu elaborated on how the book goes beyond the usual narrative of conflict by speaking to the nexus between media and peacebuilding. She also explained how the book explores the structural and cultural underpinnings of conflict and peacebuilding by using media as its lens. Yiva Rodny-Gumede spoke to her coauthored chapter with Colin Chasi, underscoring the importance of African notions of harmony and applying the decolonization of scholarship to peace journalism. Noting that peace is not a neutral concept, Phillip Santos, whose contribution adopted a human rights approach to journalism, discussed the importance of challenging the Western canon in a context where it continues to disempower the media and its mediatory or peacebuilding role. In his contribution, Fredrick Ogenga pointed to the important role of African values such as Umoja, Utu, Ubuntu, and Harambee in African peace journalism, calling for a form of intellectual democracy in projecting Southern Voices on peace in ways that transcend the polarization of ideas, borders, and practices.
In the question-and-answer session and discussions that followed, the importance of adopting a position that acknowledges and recognizes Africa’s unique context and the importance of avoiding polarization was emphasized. It was broadly agreed that the key issue was to focus on a shared human identity. Other issues discussed included how journalism can contribute to peace in different contexts and circumstances. The discussion also included the relevance of factors like place of conflict, poverty, values, identity, culture, and ethos in relation to the practice of peace journalism. There was an emphasis of the need to recognize the heterogeneity of the media, the role and influence of social media, and the growing role of citizen-journalists. It was also noted that journalism would need to go beyond reporting on direct/physical violence to include cultural violence, focus on the media-mediation process, and unpack issues around the concept of ethos. The event closed on a positive note that underscored the important contribution of the book to the development of African peace journalism and its connection to the notions and practices of African peacebuilding.