June 17, 2017 (JUBA) – Authorities in South Sudan have been urged to develop laws to combat rampant online incitement, which they said have exacerbated violence and ethnic tension in the young nation.
- South Sudanese civil society activist Edmund Yakani (The Niles/File)
Jacob Dut Chol, a lecturer at University of Juba, accused some South Sudanese abroad have largely contributed to the problem, citing the widespread dissemination of “fake news” on social media.
“Hate speech is a big and worrying issue in South Sudan. If it’s not addressed on time, it will cause a lot of ethnic polarization, disunity and continue perpetuating the violence for a while,” Chol said.
Hate speech is speech which attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.
Chol called for tougher laws against those involved in online and offline hate speech practices, if the situation is to be controlled.
Citing experiences in Rwanda and Kenya, the Juba University don urged South Sudanese to advocate for responsible use of social media, create hate speech awareness and preach peace building.
“Hate speech can be controlled by tough laws and policies. This therefore calls on the government to urgently come up with legislations. We need to also scale up sensitization against hate speech,” Chol stressed.
Edmund Yakani, South Sudanese activist said a recently conducted survey showed that four out of five posts or comments on social media in South Sudan carried hate speech or incitement to violence.
“Hate speech has contributed to the ethnic divisions. And if we don’t get serious, the word South Sudan will soon disappear and we begin identifying ourselves by tribes and ethnicities,” Yakani said.
“There is need to mitigate hate speech through contribution from the government by enacting laws that hold the perpetrators of hate speech and anti-peace groups accountable,” he added.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of others while dividing communities along ethnic lines.
A peace deal signed in 2015 between South Sudan’s warring factions failed to end the violence, which has flared in recent months.
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