Social Media’s Impact on Peace & Conflict in the Horn of Africa



State fragility, authoritarianism and stalled or on-going democratisation processes, all of which in some ways define the African condition, makes Africa an interesting test case for the impact of the internet and social media on the dynamics of conflict, peace and political transformation. While social media platforms had arguably been assigned an outsized role in the outbreak and unfolding of the ‘Arab Spring’ which began in North Africa, the initial euphoria and enthusiasm regarding the emancipatory potential of social media has since cooled off appreciably. Developments in Libya and Egypt coupled with the masterful exploitation of social media platforms by ‘extremist’ groups for recruitment and propaganda purposes has underlined the inherently Janus-faced nature of social media platforms, a point underscored by several articles in this issue of the HAB…. The articles in this issue of the Horn of Africa Bulletin, in spite of their divergent thematic and geographical focus, emphasise certain themes: the inherent contradiction exemplified in the immense potential of the internet and social media for new and emancipatory politics coupled with their instrumentalisation to incite conflict and hate; the process of expanding state regulation and surveillance over the cyber realm which at the same time is being countered through recourse to tools and platforms designed to evade control. A recurring theme in several articles is the so far underutilisation of social media platforms and tools for peacebuilding, with the partial exception of Kenya.

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