African Violence

An attack on the naturalistic conception of African violence in the media.

This paper examines the construction of Africa as a ?naturally violent place? by attempting to show that such portrayals misrepresent a complex and ambiguous picture. It looks at how such portrayals form a representation that affects the social world, both in the global North and in the South. It argues that contrary to journalistic depictions, which tend to naturalise and remove African conflict to some ahistorical realm far away from the global North, the roots of many of the conflicts plaguing the Horn of Africa can be found in the intersection of the global and the local. It also examines some of the conflicts in North East Africa and argues how one of the elements critical to these conflicts is not just the weapons flows and economic interests of the Global north but the way global narratives ? of progress, of modernity ? are taken up and played out.
“Before examining the construction of “natural violence”, it is important to consider what violence is. When confronted by Alice Lakwena, an Acholi woman from northern Uganda who was possessed by a Christian sprit known as Lakwena and started a guerrilla group – journalists employed terms like “voodoo priestess.” Journalists, in being asked to report on the now, especially in a place so far from their understanding, tend to neglect history – Johnson (2003) called it an institutional amnesia. This is not simply the fault of journalists; violence, a war, has this compelling property. So great are the upheavals of war, and the apparent discontinuities they bring with them, that they can often mask the deep rooted reasons for such struggle.”