The Role of the Media in Conflict Transformation and Peace-building in South Sudan

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A Dissertation presented to the College of Community Studies and Rural Development in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Award of Bachelor of Science Degree in Development Communication

 By Dhaal Mapour Aterdit

(August 2014)



This paper investigated the role of the media in conflict transformation and peace building in South Sudan. It examined the degree to which the media outlets in South Sudan have participated in enhancing peace and harmony among the diverse conflicting parties, be it ethnic, intra-tribal, communal or political feuds. This paper aimed at finding out the contribution of the Media (radio) in conflict transformation and the role it plays in peace building in South Sudan. The other objective of this report was to discover the impact of the radio on the local community, particularly on the issues of peace building and conflict transformation. Although the conflicts are inevitable in human interaction, they must not be violent in nature. The media is believed to be one of major and most powerful force in the modern world. As the researcher anticipated, the media practitioners should cling to reporting truthful stories in order to curtail the prevalence of potential violent conflicts. Most part of this research was done in the field using primary data collection methodology and the existing literatures were consulted too. The researcher has find out that the media can immensely play an essential task in reducing potential conflicts. It can also be used as a gadget for reaching many people in varied localities of the country as a technique for achieving peace dividends.  However, this report recommended that the media practitioners have to strictly adhere to ethical code of journalism to avoid alignment in the conflict. They should report truthful, unprejudiced and well-balanced stories.  The government as well as civil society organizations and other agencies working for conflict reduction and peace building in South Sudan have to collaborate with media houses and strengthen their efforts to achieve a positive peace.  

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Intertribal conflicts and communal feuds turned out to be the innermost and deeply rooted features of the post-independence era in South Sudan. Most conflicts are ethnically related in view of the fact that various factions and leaders in South Sudan have clung to ethnicity as a vehicle for achieving their political, economic and social interests. The media in conflict-stricken nations like South Sudan often plays a very pivotal role in maximizing chances for conflict transformation and peace promotion. On the eve of Independence, the new Republic refocused on attaining peace and reconciliation among the ethnically alienated peoples.  Thereupon, the media was one of the instruments used to reach the broadened horizons of spots of residencies in South Sudan.

“Whenever people engage in a quarrel, whether it is a domestic row or international strife, emotions become exaggerated; reasonable anxiety becomes paranoia, irritation become fury, slight doubt becomes unbridled suspicion. By the same token perceptions become distorted” (Ayunts qtd in Curle, 1994). Therefore, it’s seen as one of the important roles of the media to reduce the overstated emotions, minimize suspicion and fear, lessens the enraged anger and softens the sensitivity by promoting messages of peace.

As verified by a number of historical facts that media have a damaging effect on the society, Vladimir Bratic and Lisa Schirch (2007), asserted in their paper, “history has shown that the media can incite people toward violence. Hitler used the media to create an entire worldview of hatred for Jews, homosexuals, and other minority groups. Rwanda’s radio RTLM urged listeners to pick up machetes and take to the streets to kill what they called ‘the cockroaches’…” (Bratic & Schirch 2007 p 7). Without doubt, the case in point is the paradigm of the international media (BBC, CNN, CCTV, and Al Jazerra… etc) reporting South Sudan conflict which erupted on Sunday night, 15th December 2013 as a conflict between President Salva Kiir’s tribe (Dinka, the largest tribe) and former Vice President Dr. Riak Machar’s tribe (Nuer, the second largest tribe) avoiding the official stand of the government of South Sudan which stated that the issue was an attempt of a coup d’état which got aborted and subsequently a portion of SPLA soldiers took arms against the government in what was later pronounced, a rebellion. In this sense, this paper was an investigation of the tasks played by media in stimulating people toward friendliness and peace support.

“However while media can, and often do contribute to the escalation of tensions and conflicts, this does not mean that they cannot play a positive role as well” (Melone, Terzis & Beleli 2002 p. 1).

This study investigated the role played by media in conflict transformation and peace building in South Sudan. It examined the degree to which the media outlets in South Sudan have participated in enhancing peace and harmony among the diverse conflicting parties, be it ethnic, intra-tribal, communal or political feuds.  It also recorded and elaborated on major effects of media on local communities and the efforts employed by local journalists in ethically reporting about war and other forms of violent conflicts in South Sudan (conflict sensitive reporting).  This study also explored the typologies of conflict and it sought to describe and shed light on “conflict transformation” and “peace building” while attempting to draw attention to media’s contribution and its responsibility in reducing conflict and building a sustainable peace.

When 18th century was coming to a close, some of the news channels such as the New York Times newspaper were seen as concocting stories to inflame public reactions and for that reason, public support enticed government into conflict. 19th century witnessed media growth and the means to get more and faster access to wartime information were thwarted by the practice of vigilantly censoring information and images broadcast from the battlefields. For example, during World War I & II, the media was not allowed a complete access to information. This was calculatedly done to avert noncombatants from knowing brutality and horror of conflict. And it was also deliberately done to minimize aggravation of the war and deescalate its magnitude as a strategy for conflict transformation. The strong relationship linking public sentiments and media is most excellently shown by coverage of the Vietnam War.  “During the Vietnam war, for the first time correspondents going into battle areas not only reported their stories but had them conveyed to the public almost immediately. If an ambush occurred, the correspondent could tape and record it. If a bullet flew past, the whole television audience could experience the fear. And if soldiers are carried back from the battlefield bloody and bandaged, or even dead, the public could see that, too. Television brought the horror of war home, often in living color” (Ferguson, Patten & Wilson 1998).  This produced a very huge effect on public opinion and Vietnam became the first country in 19th century in which the media experienced unlimited war reporting.

The media must exercise its freedom with high-quality responsibility to report well-balanced, truthful and accurate information without amplification of the facts.  By the same token, policymakers as well as fighters on both sides of conflict have a role in providing the condition in which the media can suitably function. An immense responsibility is shouldered by journalists and editors. “What the wars in former Yugoslavia showed is that the battle for hearts and minds is as important as the battle for territory. The media arena is often where that battle is conducted. The media itself becomes a rallying point for all the combatants – and every combatant aspires to control its own media” (Puddephatt 2006).

“The media” refers to “several mediums or channels used in an organized fashion to communicate information to groups of people, as a service to the public” (Aho qtd in Howard 2002).  According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Peace is an occurrence of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence” ( 15/04/2014).

Conflict transformation is a course of action by which conflicts, for instance ethnic violent conflicts, are converted into nonviolent outcomes by realizing positive constructive conflict and peace dividend. The strategies for moving towards conflict transformation are similar to approaches used in conflict management and conflict resolution.

As defined by (Wikipedia, 15/04/2014), “Peace Building is a term describing interventions that are designed to prevent the start or resumption of violent conflict by creating a sustainable peace. Since the core mission of peace building is to improve human safety, it embraces an extensive variety of endeavors employed by varied actors in the government departments and civil society organizations. It attempts to dig out and concentrate on the root causes of conflict at the community, national and international levels.

            1.2. The Statement of the Problem

Although there was an attempt to quell conflicts in South Sudan, the country witnessed a lot of persistence of conflict in the aftermath of its independence.  “During the Jonglei crisis, Radio Miraya stepped up its thematic programming to facilitate round-table discussions between Lou Nuer and Murle leaders and youth” (Kimon, 2012 p. 16).  Radio Miraya, South Sudan TV and South Sudan Radio have been dispatching peace messages on the airwaves.  

“Since the essence of conflict transformation is the transformation of mentalities, both within the society and the individual, societies have to be involved from the top-down and the bottom-up. The media have the potential to be a gateway through which to reach the largest possible number of people” (Melone 1997, p. 188).  However, the local media institutions need to be supported to arrive at attaining the goal of transforming mentalities in South Sudan.

1.3. Significance of the Study

This research will help find out the principal functions played by the media in South Sudan in conflict transformation and peace building. It will try to find an answer to the question of whether media is a peace-promoter or a warmonger as being exemplified in the point of Rwanda genocide and World War II (WWII). The different media establishments will be able to gain knowledge from this research finding and improve their reporting skills. It will also provide some information to future researchers who may be conducting research on issues relevant to this topic.

            1.4. Objectives of the Research

This research specifically investigated the following:

  • This research attempted to find out the role of media in altering the status of conflict.
  • It also aimed at finding out the involvement of media in peace building.
  • It tried to find out the function of media in enhancing peace and tranquility among local communities.
  • It examined the root causes of conflict in South Sudan.
  • It discovered the impact of media on the local community, particularly on the issues of peace building and conflict transformation.

            1.5. Hypothesis

This study sought to find out the claim that the media in South Sudan could extend its long arms deep into diverse societal settings to transform the violent mentalities into peaceful mentalities by displaying motion pictures of peace on the local televisions and conduct radio talk-shows to diffuse tensions. This study also tested the prediction that the media professionals and those serving a journalism apprenticeship in mass-media organizations will improve their ways of reporting and stick to ‘truth, balanced and neutrality’ as chief moral codes of journalism.

             1.6. Scope of the Study

The role of the media in conflict transformation and peace building was investigated through Radio Miraya FM, Juba – South Sudan. The Researcher got some views from twenty members of the public in Juba about what they think of the role of media in conflict transformation and peace building in South Sudan.

            1.7. Methodology

According to Collin COBUILD Dictionary on CD-ROM 2006, “a methodology is a system of methods and principles for doing something, for example for teaching or for carrying out research”. Therefore, in this state of affairs, methodology is a system of techniques and standards for conducting research. Since this research is a comparative case study, it explored both present and the past as a way of discovering concrete recommendations for the future utilization. As the Researcher studied the phenomena in the natural setting, both primary and secondary data were used. Primary data was collected through interviews of the selected twenty members of the public in Juba town. Secondary data was collected through books, articles, journals and reports in the library or internet.

            1.8. Limitations of the Research

Limitation is referred to herein as a situation which hampers the Researcher in collecting and processing data. The Researcher was faced by financial constraints as he always moved to the field. The frequent visits to Radio Miraya, South Sudan Television and the Citizen Daily Newspaper become costly to him. It was sometimes hard to produce preliminary copies of the report when the finances fall short.  The participation of some media personnel in the research was not fully realized because scores of journalists are not professionally trained and do not know the usefulness of research.

            1.9. Organization of the Research

Organization of the research is referred to as an arrangement of the chapters and topics in the research paper. This paper consists of four chapters. Chapter one gives the introduction and background of the study, the statement of the problem, significance of the study, objectives of the research, hypothesis, and scope of the research, methodology and limitations of the research. Chapter two presents the literature review. Chapter three gives presentation, interpretation and discussion or analysis of the results. Chapter four is conclusion, summary and recommendations.


      2.1. Introduction

This chapter critically examines existing theories in available literature about the selected problem. It involves reviewing scientifically investigated literature on the subject of concern.

   2.2. Mass Media and Society

More than 500 years in the past, the persuasive effect of mass media on the global society grew rapidly. It has been an immense breakthrough in an attempt for social change and behavior. With exponential growth of technology, there was sequential development of the media institution in the world e.g. there were books, then newspapers, magazines, photography, sound recordings, films, radio, television and the  Internet. “The mass media foster socialization throughout adulthood, contributing to social cohesion by affirming beliefs and values and helping reconcile inconsistent values and discrepancies between private and public morality” (Vivian 2008). In the same sense, John Vivian (2008) “emphasized that the mass media can enrich society by disseminating the best of human creativity including great literature, music and art. In the society where the mass media report nonstandard behavior, the society’s moral order can be enforced” (Ibid). In recognition to John Vivian’s findings, one can also rest assured that the media have a big role in social change and also in the process of making people know about order and rule of law as enshrined in the constitution and other related essential national and international documents. For instance, when there is mass media coverage of a person who was arrested for murder and convicted, it reiterates for everybody that a human being has the right to live. With such typical media reporting, standard deeds may popup in a disarrayed community harmed by antisocial activities and cycles of conflict. “Mass media have the power to create healthy communities in part by portraying healthy constructive communities. Nonviolent communities are built on respect, empathy and shared interests” (Dr. Ramanujam 2007). The same power that the media have in creating healthy communities is the same power it has in creating divisive and troublesome communities as it is affirmed by Tongeren et al. (2005) that “Media at all levels and of all types can and do play a role in either maintaining or reducing the momentum of these conflicts. Sometimes the same media outlet plays both roles without being aware of it”.  In a society where the media have committed itself to dispatching conflict prevention messages, the violent will trim down and the possible ways for peace prevalence will crop up. “Although reducing violence is the central goal, messages that promote violence prevention are equally important” (Vivian 2008). Media reporting aids in describing in-depth the issues a society is anxious about. However, it acts as a gadget for agenda-setting.  While highlighting about the traditional society, Brenk et al. (2003) have found out that “when the great Buddist emperor Asoka (3o4 – 232 BC) commanded a rock pillar to be erected in Afghanistan and for it to be inscribed in two languages describing how his people could live together in peace, he was using a medium of the day (a rock edict) as a peacebuilding tool”.  Conversely, the modern society is using an advanced medium to reach almost everybody around the globe. The role of the media in healing wounds and breeding peace is recognizably seen as incredible even during the primitive periods of human being.

2.3. Media Components in South Sudan

The media in South Sudan is comprised of three parts, viz. electronic media (radio, TV, videos…etc), print media (newspapers, magazines, journals, books…etc) and creative media composition which includes drama, music, dance, art etc. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in

2005 by the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Government of The Sudan (GOS) stepped-up the media development in South Sudan. During the interim period of six years (2005 – 2011), the then Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) established FM radio stations in all the ten states of South Sudan. “Radio is the most popular medium. Scores of private stations, some with foreign funding, have sprung up. There is a national state-run network, and each of South Sudan’s 10 states has its own radio station” (BBC News Africa 21 March 2014). This thing was done in pursuit of restoring the lost societal fabric of peace and harmony in various communities in South Sudan. Media growth was schemed as platform for sending out messages of peace and reconciliation. While keeping in mind that there is a need to get information to the people far away from the city, the government established South Sudan Radio in connection with the FM stations in other nine states of South Sudan. “The South Sudan Radio Network (link to main site) is controlled by the government of South Sudan and has set up FM stations in nine out of ten of the country’s state capitals. Some of the individual stations are owned by the government of the state where they are situated, however, all are managed underneath the umbrella of the South Sudan Radio Network” 30/04/2014). As revealed in an article written by Keith Somerville (2014) and published by, it has shown that radio is the most preferable medium used in South Sudan to reach the vast majority in rural areas. “In a country with an estimated 80 percent illiteracy rate, South Sudanese are particularly reliant on radio as a means of getting news and of communicating information.  It reaches those who cannot read or cannot access or afford to buy newspapers. It can be listened to throughout the day alone, or in groups and can have a mass effect if used to generate fear, mobilize support or, worst of all, incite hatred of others” (Somerville April 24, 2014). This facilitated the wide media coverage in the areas which are very inaccessible. This period has also witnessed the establishment of Catholic Radio Network (CRN) which gave birth to the creation of FM broadcasting stations administered by catholic dioceses in the states. In 2006, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) now called United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in partnership with Foundation Hirondelle set up Radio Miraya FM which has an extensive geographic reach than any other FM station in South Sudan.   Out of these radio stations, there are other FM radios privately-owned, e.g. Capital FM,

Radio Liberty FM, USAID-funded Eye Radio, and VOA South Sudan in focus etc.

While highlighting on TV, South Sudan is a country which has only two television stations, namely South Sudan Television (SSTV) and Citizen

Television (CTV). With SSTV run by the government and CTV privately-owned.  “State-owned South Sudan TV has little competition. The development of TV is hindered by poverty and a limited electricity and telecoms infrastructure” ( 30/04/2014). As a matter of fact, South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world which mainly depend on subsistence economy with oil export as a chief domestic product which makes 80% of gross domestic product (GDP. “South Sudan is the most oil dependent country in the world, with oil exports accounting for almost the totality of exports, and for around 80% of gross domestic product (GDP), directly and indirectly” (World Bank April, 2013). It is a wealthy country with unexploited natural resources. A huge majority of people is living in the rural areas and a considerable number of rural poor people have moved to the towns and settled in slum areas. “The civil war that lasted over 20 years took an enormous toll and left South Sudan impoverished” (Ibid). All the economic adversities which associated with sociopolitical instability in the country have hampered the development of TV industry.

In Juba, there are a growing number of print media houses. The newspapers which have a wide readership are the Citizen and Juba Monitor newspapers because they are the only dailies enjoying the monopoly of being printed every day.  The New Nation, Juba Post, Gurtong Newsmagazine … etc are either weekly, biweekly or quarterly. Some of these news outlets have some pages dedicated to peace-building. In Gurtong newsmagazine (2013), there is a page titled, “yarning for peace” where opinion writers are allowed to give their persuasive commentaries about peace and love. “It is that we should have a new soul, be always at odd with vices, be at peace with your neighbors and let each New Year finds you a better man” (Bishop Hiiboro Feb 2013). The print media, although it has no much circulation in rural areas where illiterate communities live, it can also be used as a medium of talking a positive peace. Not only the peace commentators have responsibility in advocating for peace but all the media personnel must bear a full brunt of this.

“We are tired of war, war. We are tired of gunshot, gunshot” (Queen Zee[1]

2013), is the title of a music lyrics by a young South Sudanese artist called Queen Zee. This song is one of the most thrilling tracks which send a strong message of conflict transformation to the people of South Sudan. However, the creative media work of art has contributed much in peace-building and conflict transformation in South Sudan. Most interestingly, many radio stations spent ample times on entertainment programs. Some songs which carry ingredients of peace are regularly played by the local radios. On the contrary, it is not the entire artistic media masterpiece can play a role in bringing peace. There are other songs which are ethnocentrically composed with biasness and a big tone of disparity which may create potential conflict.

  2.4. Media’s Role in Conflict Transformation

According to (8/5/2014) Conflict transformation is defined as a “process by which conflicts, such as ethnic conflict, are transformed into peaceful outcomes”. It is thus a process of appealing to the people and mending the bonds, curiosities, dialogues and, if there is a necessity the very structure of society that maintains the prolongation of brutal conflict need to be abolished  or amended. While knowing that the radio can be used by wicked groups as a tool to promote the deliberate slaughter of guiltless civilians (as it has been well documented in the case of Bentiu2 – South Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Germany during World War II), there is also a weighty prospect of it being used as instrument for reducing conflict. The absolute free media can be as murderous as autocrat-restricted media only if the media personnel are not bonded by ethical code of journalism. As urged by Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) (1996) that “Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information”. In the same way, journalists must unlock their professional potentials to ensure that there is accurate and balanced flow of information to the readers, viewers or listeners.  Some conflicts have attained international attention via coverage in the media while others didn’t fundamentally get ground on the world stage. For instance, the David Yau Yau[2] insurgency, and the 15th December coup attempt in South Sudan with its subsequent ongoing rebellion are seen to have once made top headlines in the giant global news sources (BBC, al Jazeera, Radio France International (RFI) and CNN).   The radio is very powerful in contributing to social change and that’s why it’s considered an effective tool for conflict transformation. Following the abolition of apartheid system of rule in South Africa, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formed and it was very much in symbiotic bond with the media. “But the problem of media involvement in conflict transformation is more fundamental than a question of genre. Elsewhere broadcasters have utilized various other genres. For example, Nashe Maalo, a children’s drama series, involves ethnic Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish and Roma children dealing with prejudice and stereotypes” (Rolston qtd in Shochat, 2003). The media is a very influential institution that can control both victims and survivors of any fierce conflict as a lever to gain peace concession. “A reporter’s story on a conflict can be the only information people have access to. How a journalist reports about a conflict determines how people respond to it” (Kobbah-warun 2010). Rightfully, the perceptual views of the media audience are immediately absorbed by news products which are released in that particular time.

However, if the journalists are much careful about conflict sensitive reporting, the media will always serve as an apparatus for conflict transformation. “Most journalists merely report on the conflict as it happens. By comparison, medical reporters do not just report on a person’s illness. They also report on what caused illness and what may cure it. News reporters can have the same skill when it comes to reporting conflict” “Tongeren et al. qtd in Howard 2005 p. 175). The journalists are entrusted by their employers to report on what has happened, although responsibly, they will not have ability to give a thorough therapeutic solution to the existing conflict. What is most importantly required of the members of the press is to report accurately and clearly. “In conflict, it is important to report all aspects of problem. This provides greater understanding and can encourage possible dialogue between conflicting parties” (Ibid).  

  2.5. Media’s Role in Peace-building

Peace-building is a durable course of action that happens after the violent conflict has stalled or halted. The idea of peace and the strategies for strengthening it can be made clear and effective in the media outlets because those seeking a change in social behavior will have to make media outreaches.  As defined by the former UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali (Aho qtd in Jett 1999) “peace-building is an action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict”.  The one of the most important structures that needs much support is the media institution in which the formerly conflicting parties, Civil Society Organizations (CBO), Non Governmental Organization (NGO) etc use to express their views about upholding peace and harmony. As acknowledged in a thesis report by Michael Aho “the mass media helps shape popular perceptions of the nature of a society. In terms of basic human rights, the mass media can transform the ideas of freedom of opinion and expression into a concrete reality, by being able to openly communicate information and ideas and by acting as a ‘watchdog’ on public institutions and leaders…The principle roles of the media are to expose shortcomings of the government, educate the public, popularize peace initiatives and promote dialogue”. Both independent media and government-control media can gear their abilities to peace maintenance. The role of the media in peace-building is determined by the journalist as the researcher has mentioned earlier in Chapter One under introduction that the high-quality responsibility is shouldered by media personnel.  “Professional journalists do not set out to reduce conflict. They seek to present accurate and impartial news. But it is often through good reporting that conflict is reduced” (Ibid)

Media is seen by scores of scholars as a platform for forging peace and harmony between/among communities and or groups of people within the communities. Hyat Ahmed Abdelamalik Mohamed (2012) a Researcher in Swansea University, in his paper advised that “the media can play a positive role in bridging the gaps and creating unity, in how it influences and guides”. Journalism as a unit of professionalism in a society, the practitioners must exercise their career business with purpose of bringing peace to the world. Alyssa Mesich (April 2, 2014) in his article published by, recommended that “when efforts for availing reliable information is mounted in South Sudan, the wide spread of rumors will decrease. As a matter of regular practice, the cross tribal communication and peace-building will improve”.  In order for news to be accurate and well balanced, it will be expressed as reliable, and above all, it will serve the positive purpose of the newscast.  “A reliable news media can have a positive impact on the peaceful resolution of conflicts by reducing the impact and spread of rumors which inevitably feed the flames of conflict” (Tongeren et al. 2005).

  2.6. Conflict, the Post-independent South Sudan and the Media

According to (1st May 2014), conflict is defined as a state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash. “Conflict is a situation where two or more individuals or groups disagree about rights, privileges and access to opportunities which they believe they cannot share”  (Kobbah-wureh 2010). Although the two literatures have defined it correctly, the researcher is still on a point of shedding light on the two traits of conflict as centerpiece of the discussion.  The conflict is either normal or violent. When conflict is normal, it means there is disagreement on an issue or about how the status quo should be changed. In the violent conflict, the safety and survival of the groups involved is in jeopardy. Conflict in this context represents, violent conflict impinging on societies in South Sudan. There are tribal violent conflicts and armed insurgencies. There is high proliferation of small arms in the hands of civilians, mostly cattle keeping tribes. The painful dynamic of these conflicts, is that the brunt of casualties is bear by innocent civilian masses.  As a result, the large numbers of people were either internally displaced or fled to neighboring countries as refugees. The people’s moral depreciated, diseases, malnutrition and starvation become part of South Sudanese daily life and the national economy oozed to its extreme downturn.

“In post-conflict and fragile states the mass media are considered to be capable of playing a vital role in “helping to rebuild social cohesion, to promote a culture of tolerance and to help prevent countries regressing into conflict” (Reljiô 2001). During twenty one years of the second Sudanese’s brutal civil war (1983-2005), South Sudanese were united against the Khartoum footed government with the intention of creating autonomous state. After the hoisting of South Sudan flag on 9th July 2011, the first year of independence was burdened with key challenges. The country became largely fragmented on ethnic lines with each tribe seeking to capitalize on its own goals – an activity that has critically destabilized the capacity of Juba administration to toil towards nationwide integration. Out of these internal tribal conflicts, the country was in conflict with the Republic of Sudan over the border issues and matters pertaining to oil transportation from the Republic of South Sudan to international market via the Sudanese port.  “Since gaining independence in July 2011, South Sudan has experienced many interethnic conflicts over resources, underscoring the need for well-defined property rights as well as a strategy for conflict anticipation and resolution” (Agbor & Taiwo 2012).

In the mid of December 2013 when fighting started in Juba – South Sudan, the story was framed as another ethnic power struggle in Africa by international media houses. Africans critical of the media argued that the media is not factual when it comes to issues pertaining to political fallouts in African States. “Journalists from outside work under deadline pressures and seldom have time to report on what is not obvious” (Kobbah-wuren 2010). The so-called Journalists without Borders have a very big issue with reporting in Africa. In relation to the finding of Waede Kobbah-wuren, one must admit that the international journalists report things which are not apparent. And this may contribute a much more damage to already existing conflict. “In conflict situation, the media should ideally be a forum for bridging the gap between warring parties (parties in conflict).  It should provide a channel of communication through which the conflicting parties can dialogue so as to reach a consensus” (Mbaine 2006).  If the conflicting parties use media as a tool for building up support and widening up propaganda against each other, the likelihood of coming to a dialogue and reaching compromise will be very minimal.

  2.7. Importance of Radio Coverage

“In countries where most of the population is illiterate and television is rare, radio is the key means to reach the public with news and information and influence people, positively or negatively”  Gastrow (2001). South Sudan is a country with an estimated population of 8.3 million, most of whom, approximately 83% dwelling in rural areas with literacy rate of only 27% of the population, 15-years-old and above. The radio can be used as an instrument for nurturing or reducing conflict particularly in the areas with high illiteracy rate like South Sudan. The use of radio identifies, outlines, and repeatedly intensifies conflict by the selection of stories covered, those excluded, and sources utilized. All together, radio can intentionally be operated to alleviate or aggravate conflict. It is very important that the radio can significantly standout as a podium for open communication where varied individuals far way in different destinations can discuss the possibilities of reducing potential violent conflicts. This can prominently contribute to preservation or restoration of stability. “Peace Radio is an especially valuable tool when the media is being used by perpetrators to incite racial, regional, or other violent political conflict within a country” (Ibid). Radio is very significant because of its merits as mentioned below:

  • Radio is local. It does not need one to erect satellite dish so that his/her radio works. Radio can be listened to in the remote villages where there is no electricity.
  • Radio has ability to reach specific audiences through specialized programming.
  • It can be listened to in a group for example, the people living in a certain hamlet or an extensive family may gather around the radio during news hour to listen to the new information and issues which concern them in their lives.
  • Radio can be adjusted for diverse parts of the country and can reach people at different times of the day.
  • Of all the media, radio is the least expensive medium. Its low cost and high reach of selected target groups make it an excellent supporting medium.
  • Radio has an extensive reach. It can reach global audience.
  • Radio is mobile and personal. With advancement in technology, there are now inbuilt radio applications in phones and cars. However, one can listen to radio any time and any place.
  • It is mainly interactive. The radio allows listeners to call in and talk to a radio personality immediately about a subject they are discussing. This makes the situation more interactive where a variety of listeners can interject their opinion and create a dialogue between the listening communities.



3.1. Introduction

The survey was done in Juba city where 20 members of public were interviewed. The questionnaire was used as a tool for data collection. The questionnaire forms were self-administered by the researcher. This research exercise was a representative of both male and female respondents. During the investigation, the researcher managed to speak to journalists, one national Cabinet Minister, and members of the local community in Juba.  The findings are presented in this chapter on the following illustrated charts.

3.2. Data Presentation

3.2.1. Gender Distribution

As the total sample size for the research was 20 respondents, 60% were male while 40% were female which totaled to 100% participants. The margin of error was zero percent.

Fig 1 - Gender Distribution (Source: Primary data)

Fig 1 – Gender Distribution (Source: Primary data)







   3.2.2. Age Distribution

The chart below illustrates the age distribution of the persons (respondents) involved in the research exercise. The biggest sample size is taken from the young adults between the ages of 20 – 30 because most of whom are assumed to have ample time to listen to radio broadcasts. The percentage of respondents interviewed in that age category is 45%. Besides this, the people at the early adulthood period are the apparatuses used to execute any violent conflict in the world. However, it’s very vital to study their opinions on the role of the media (radio) in reducing conflict and breeding peace in South Sudan. 30% of the respondents in their middle-adulthood (31 – 40 years) were interviewed and 20% is the sample size for the people between 41 – 50 years. As shown on the chart, no person between 51 – 60 years was interviewed. Only 5% of the respondents in their late-adulthood, between 61 – 70 years were interviewed.

Fig 2 - Age distribution (Primary source)

Fig 2 – Age distribution (Primary source)


Source: Primary data.

Figure 2: Age Distribution Chart.

                3.2.3. Education Level

The chart below explains the sample size for the level of education of the respondents. The sample of 40% was taken from the respondents who are either pursuing studies in the College/University or have attained certificate in the College/University. 20% is a sample size for the people at the level of secondary school while 15% is a sample for those who are in primary school. The percentage taken from the uneducated/illiterate respondents was 10% and another 10% from the people who have attained Master Degree. Only 5% was taken as a sample for the people with PhD.  However, they are presented on the chart below.


Source: Primary data.

Figure 3: Education Level Chart


The figure 3 above explains the sample design for the level of education of the respondents. 

3.2.4. Scope of the People Who Listen to Radio. 

The chart below gives elucidation to the question asked whether the respondent have time to listen to radio broadcasts, be it a local or international radio. According to the survey, 100% of the selected respondents responded that they use to listen to the radio broadcast.


Figure 4: Margin of the People who use to listen to Radio.

(Source: Primary data)

3.2.5. Frequency of Radio Listening in South Sudan

The study has discovered that 55% (symbolized by code B in figure 5 below) listen to radio broadcasts two to four times on a daily basis. 20% of the respondents listen to radio once a day. The researcher also learned that 15% of the respondents do not listen to radio always. The survey has also revealed that 5% of the respondents listen to radio every hour of the day. While other 5% of the respondents listen to radio two to four times a week.  The study found out that the percentage for those who listen to radio twice a week is 0%. This means that a vast majority of Juba city residents listen to radio either daily or partly four times a week.


Source: Primary data.

Figure 5: Frequency of Radio Listening in South Sudan

3.2.6. Most Preferred Radio

The investigation has found out that the radio being listened to most preferably in Juba is BBC English program. 45%, coded F, of the selected respondents have a preference for BBC English more than other local and international radios. In Juba, (both BBC English and Arabic programs), French Radio International (FRI) and Voice of America are tuned to on frequency modulation radio waves. Therefore, these international radio establishments were part of the selected items for the survey. The research has also shown that 35% of the chosen respondents desire listening to Radio Miraya FM and 10% most preferably listen to South Sudan Radio. Only 5% listen to VOA and another 5% listen to Eye Radio.




Source: Primary data.

Figure 6: Most Preferred Radio

3.2.7. Motives Behind Radio Listening

Based on the research inquiry, it has come to the surface that the majority of the respondents, 45% listen to radio broadcast most preferably because of its reliable news-broadcast and information which are dependable. The investigation has also shown that 30% listen to the broadcasts because the radio has wide coverage with qualified journalists. 25% respondents also acknowledged that they listen to the news products of their favorite radio stations because of the radio’s thrilling musical entertainments, ads programs and interactive talk shows. Inclusively, this portion of the respondents also listens to radio because of the trustworthiness and reliability of the news products.

Source: Primary data.

Figure 7: Reason for Radio Preference

3.2.8. Radio Program Listened to Mainly

The 85% of the selected respondents pointed that they listen to news programs and live coverage. Base on the same research question, the study has also found out that 10% of the respondents listen to specialized programs and talk shows. The slightest portion of the respondents – 5% use to tune to radio for musical and theatrical entertainments.

Source: Primary data.

Figure 8: Radio Program Listened to Mainly

3.2.9. Peace Messages Broadcasted

According to the survey, 75% segment of respondents was found to have heard news products containing messages of peace. And 25% said they did not hear any peace message aired on the radio waves.

Source: Primary data.

Figure 9: Information about the Broadcasted Peace Messages

3.2.10. Peace Messages

In accordance with the field research investigation, 50% of the people interviewed said that they heard “One People, One Nation” being played by the local radio stations as a part of a search for a just peace for all the people of South Sudan regardless of ethnic disparities. Another 15% heard “we’re tired of war concert” and 10% said that they heard Jonglei peace campaign over the radio when the members of Nuer-Lou, Dinka-Bor and Mule ethnic categories were hosted and repeatedly played in radio Miraya FM.

Source: Primary data.

Figure 10: Peace Messages Recalled by Respondents

3.2.11. Effective Role of Media in Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building in South Sudan


As illustrated on the chart below, 50% coded F, believed that the media should report honest and unprejudiced stories as well as promote peace dialogues in the radio stations by airing the discussed peace items as a means of achieving conflict transformation. This portion also thought that the media should involve in disseminating music and drama amusements which thematically convey and instill significant serenity in the communities in South Sudan.  Importantly, this group acknowledged that the media should act as a neutral body without passionately taking side in the conflict by acting as a mouthpiece for a distinguished party in the conflict.  In their views, they said that the media should take actions as an agenda-setting institution for the peace to prevail. 20% of the selected respondents also said that the radio should only stick to reporting truthful and well-balanced stories. Also another 20% believed that the media should gear their programs towards promoting peace dialogues as a technique for realizing conflict transformation. 5% expressed the views that the media is ought to engage in airing educative music and drama episodes which are relevantly about peace. Another 5% furthermore believed that the media (radio) should act as a referee who actively participates in sporting exercise but does not favor any side in the pitch.


Source: Primary data.

Figure 11: How Radio Effectively Contributes to Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building in South Sudan



3.2.12. How the Radio Promotes Peace

According to the survey, 65% of the selected sample size has believed that in the community where there has been an acute upsurge of persistent cycles of internal violent conflicts, the reporters should strongly adhere to essential code of journalism. The Civil Society Organizations, NGOs and the Peace Commission’s departments should engage in the media outreaches through local radios to sensitize the people to be on familiar terms with the value of peace. The radio journalists should maximize the peace discussion programs in a quest for arriving at peace dividend. The radios should play musical entertainments and drama series which are contemporarily about peaceful coexistence and cohesion amongst the people in order to stimulate tranquility and attain peace building as an end result. In this same line of investigation, 25% did said that the Civil Society Organizations, NGOs and the government should merge their collective efforts to engage the media outlets in revitalizing the people’s interest in peace. Another 10% said that the journalists should firmly cling to the fundamental and decent rules of journalism so that they keep away from partiality in the conflict.


Source: Primary data.

Figure 12: How the Radio Promotes Peace in the Hearts and Minds of the Community Members.

3.2.13. Radio Program Schemed for Peace Building

As revealed by the study, some radio stations have programs which are geared towards peace. For instance, South Sudan Radio has its program called “One People, One Nation” dedicated to conflict transformation and peace building in South Sudan. Also the research has found out that the Radio Miraya FM has “Lulu Drama” program which focus largely on disseminating relevant peace messages to its audience.


3.2.14. The Role of the Media in Transforming Potential Violent Conflicts  into Nonviolent Solutions


According to the survey findings, 50% respondents expressed their opinions that the media should not work as a mouthpiece for a particular entity in the country, adding that the media should dedicate programs to all-inclusive peace discussion. 35% believed that the leaders in the country should interact with people by using radio as a medium of interrelationship with local citizens to sensitize and persuade them so that they stay in harmony than splitting up themselves along tribal or political lines.  The media should also lean to focusing on positive peace through mobilization of government stakeholders and communities at grassroots so that they contribute in the effort for peacemaking and peace building.  The 15% respondents viewed that the radio should detach from disseminating hate messages and embark on broadcasting programs that promote peace and reconciliation.  However, the media should maintain neutrality in reporting and the stories should be well balanced. The journalists have to be trained about conflict and peace so that they understand conflict dynamics and transformation. The media is ought to withhold information that may be a threat to the national security of the country.


3.3. Discussion and Analysis

As shown by the survey, vast majority of residents in Juba could not stay the whole week without tuning to any radio program in one of the local radio stations. The research has also dug on to the surface that many people in Juba city listen to radio on daily basis or four times a week. However, if the media institutions take advantage of this to disseminate peace messages, it can enhance radios’ role in transforming people’s violent mentality as a technique for building peace in the hearts and minds of all South Sudanese. All the radios should exercise impartiality and stop working as mouthpieces for varied parties in conflict. This will repudiate the work of all the broadcast media establishments (radio and TV) in the eyes of the people, both listeners and viewers. The broadcast media outlets with principal ethic of reporting dependable information can partner with peace and development organizations in bringing tranquility and sustainable development in the country. A radio with wide coverage and staffed with qualified journalists can reach out to the remote and inaccessible areas where the locals can be sensitize about the importance of peace so that they coexist serenely with harmony between and/or among the wide-ranging communities.  The news programs and live coverage have to be enhanced to suit the nation’s need for peace. This is to be done by translating all the significant peace programs into local vernaculars. This will permit local residents to understand what the message is and they will feel as part of the larger society. The 21 century has witnessed a great advancement in terms of technology and the media has gone far with its improvement. There are inbuilt radio applications on cell phones and cars. One can listen to radio while wandering around or on his/her journey, therefore, the media institutions should also involve in playing musical entertainments which carry peace messages rather than hate messages. Taking for example, “we’re tired of war concert” is one of the popularly played music tracks in Juba in the radios. If a quantity of these meaningful songs is played in the radio stations, it can contribute to peace awareness.

The “One People One Nation” slogan of peace by the government and several other civil society organizations have contributed hugely in transforming illperceptions from individuals who put the tribes first than comes the nation. If all the media institutions adopt this motto of peace, the general public including those in distant villages will adjust to a concept of peaceful coexistence with ideal interest in ethnic pluralism.

The radio has a very pivotal role in conflict transformation since it is the only institution in the country that reaches masses at their various levels. It does not bring people together in one place. It reaches its subscribers in their homes, offices and on their journeys. It is the most affordable media outlet. Radio unlike television and electronic media sources, it does not require electronic and electrical installations. However, it is both costless and comfortable. Members of extensive family can gather around a radio appliance and listen to a certain radio program. This will make the whole family aware of all the happenings in the worlds around them.


4.1. Summary

The media is one of the main influential forces in the contemporary world. It has a power to drive the country into a shocking disaster as evidenced by its role in Rwanda genocide. The media also has power to prevent and mitigate conflicts. When the media practitioners get adhered to an old adage which runs thus, “prevention is better than cure” the researcher anticipated that the occurrences of potential conflicts can be curtailed. The main role of the media is to prevent conflict at the time when people are enjoying relative peace. This research has shown that the media is one of the tools that can skillful be used to build peaceful communities in South Sudan.

4.2. Conclusion

This paper has detailed the role of the media in conflict transformation and the function played by the media in peace building, concluding that even though conflicts are prevalent in human societies, they must not be aggressive in nature. For that reason, South Sudan has to support its social organizations like media institutions to uphold culture of peace within its wider political tradition. A variety of reasons have been elaborated on how the media can contribute to reduce conflict and build the existing peace. South Sudan media industry, although still very poor, is required to promote culture of peace in order to prevent violence in support of peaceful solutions to both political and traditional conflicts in the country.

4.3. Recommendations

During the conflict or in the post conflict situations, the media has to show its professional responsibility with its arms fastened tightly on code and ethics of journalism. A journalist is a servant of truth but not an architect of truth. Journalists must follow the suit of reporting truthful and reliable news products. In the case of South Sudan where many journalists have not gotten professional training on journalism and mass communication, it is really very hard for them to deal with a community alienated along tribal lines. Journalists are part of these communities and if they are not careful enough, they can easily fall on the line of division based on ethnicity. The most adverse thing is that they are also seen as tribes and this can exacerbate their freedom of movement in the conflict-stricken areas of the country. Although the conflict has led to extinction of thousands of people, the journalists have to take it as an opportunity and actively exploit it by standing objectively firm and find ways of reducing conflict. The very best way of building peace during and after the conflict is sticking to the genuineness in reporting about conflicts. The media can also embrace and support peace players like NGOs and government departments charged with conflict prevention, mitigation and peace building. This will reframe it as a guardian of peace and harmony in the eyes of the public.  As discussed in this report, the media does either intensify or abate conflict based on the manner it has been used. The researcher still thinks the media can help prevent potential conflicts. However, the following are some recommendations for media practitioners and the government of South


  • The media should adhere to factual reporting principle. Truthful reporting standard can nourish peaceful political culture. The media should avoid concocting stories.
  • The media institutions in South Sudan should give adequate training to the journalists about reporting skills particularly about conflict sensitive reporting.
  • The media must abstain from allying with a certain party in conflict. If the media is not neutral, the news product and its entire programs will prejudicially be in favor of one side.
  • The media practitioners should have to be trained about conflict transformation, conflict management and peace building. This will give them insight about what causes the conflict, how it can be reduced and what role the media can play in bridging the gap in the period of war.
  • The government should allow free access to information and a free flow of information. If members of the press are allowed access to information, they will be able to disseminate rightful information to the public.
  • The media institutions particularly broadcast media, must be enhanced by widening its coverage to the remote villages.
  • The government and other peace actors like NGOs have to create more community radio stations so that the peace matters are discussed in local languages of the local people in that place.
  • The government of the Republic of South Sudan should enact media bill into law so that the wide contours of responsibilities are created among the journalists.
  • The media should support organizations which deal with conflict transformation and peace building.


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[1] Queen Zee is a female young artist who has been singing peace and love songs. She is thought to have played a big role in conflict transformation and peace building through her well composed songs.   2 A capital city of Unity State in the Republic of South Sudan.

[2] David Yau Yau is the Head of a rebel force in Jonglei State who got disgruntled and waged war against Jonglei State government after losing Pibor County Constituency parliamentary seat to the SPLM Candidate while contesting on independent ticket in the Sudan’s General Elections of 2010.

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