Cultural conflicts and social change in Africa and its Sub-region: conceptualising the possibilities and limitations of conflict management


Cultural conflict


Conflict is a construct referring to affective aspects of a particular situation, which involves antagonists. My observations have led me to suggest that conflict fits within the following table of emotional and affective states in a society, which can vary from time to time:


Feeling/State


Interaction


Consequences


Comfort


Discussion


Stability,


agreement


Tolerance


Easy negotiation,


debate


Small change,


assimilation


Concern


Hard negotiation,


contestation


Large change, accommodation


Conflict


Hostility and


confrontation, or


non-communication


Rejection or


acquiescence


Further it is likely that a student will experience greater conflict in their community if s/he:


· comes from a strongly supported outside-society minority culture with which s/he strongly identifies, or


· lacks strong role models in the dominant culture, or


· identifies with a counter-culture unrepresented and unaccepted in a society, or


· identifies with a counter-culture represented by significant peers in the society/environment.


I have been working with the construct of ‘cultural conflict’. I will argue that a young person’s budding orientation is necessarily an acculturation experience, with its accompanying emotional states and cultural conflicts which need to be understood and tolerated.


Recent years have seen many regions of Africa involved in war and internal or external conflict, from the seven or so countries directly involved in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Sierra Leone crisis and the war in Ethiopia/Eritrea and the various other civil wars.


There have been over 9.5 million refugees and hundreds and thousands of people have been slaughtered. If this scale of destruction and fighting was in Europe, then people would be calling it World War III with the entire world rushing to report, provide aid, mediate and otherwise try to diffuse the situation.


Yet here, as mentioned in the Media section of Information Aid Network Centre, the western mainstream media does practically nothing to raise this awareness (or, the owners and the influencing actors of the mass media companies perhaps do not think it is important enough to report extensively about). Occasional coverage is provided, but not anywhere near the volume like we had seen during the build up and the ensuing crisis in Kosovo.


More coverage about issues concerning Africa can be found on the internet than the traditional mainstream media outlets, but even then it is not as easy to find the information. Additional web sites from African organizations have emerged providing a lot of information, about news, cultures, and so on about all aspects of Africa. Even the popular press in the West are providing more information on African news, although these are often very brief and without the much needed perspectives and backgrounds from political, historical, socioeconomic angles.


According to research from media organization Media Tenor, from 1 January 2002 until 30 June 2003, “September 11 has turned the watch back to the pre-1990's, virtually eliminating all events and issues that are not related to either the United States or its coalition partners - especially when reporting on conflicts.... conflicts and wars played the most important role in all analysed television stations in Britain, Germany and the United States. But subtracting from this coverage Iraq and Afghanistan, only 0.2% (n=507) of all reports (N=23587) focused on conflicts in Africa. Wars without the involvement of the Western nations, do not seem newsworthy enough to appear on international TV news agendas, and the little coverage given only focuses on the brutality of the conflict and not on possible solutions.


But why is it important whether or not media outlets in countries such as those in the west provide coverage of African and other conflicts that do not appear to involve them?


· Background such as the colonial as well as post-World War II history, social and political context, international economic issues and much more are all perspectives needed to help people in the western nations and elsewhere to really begin to understand the present situations and issues in appropriate context. Simplistic views (at their simplest and crudest, they are even racist, intentional or not) offer little understanding of the complexities of causes, let alone a platform from which to form ideas on how to move forward.


· In international affairs, influential nations, such as many from western countries all have direct and indirect influences around the world, so it is important for such issues to be presented