Example: Uganda. By Antje Bauer
Whether one finds this comforting or depressing — people, individually or in groups, have been arguing since time immemorial. Even the reasons for conflict have not changed much over the years. Often, two or more parties want something, but everyone thinks that only one can have it and the other must go away empty-handed. It can be about land — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one example — or about natural resources — just think of the conflicts over the use of the Brazilian rainforest. People can fight over water, over jobs or over access to education and health care. Frequently, apparent conflicts arise that obscure the actual problem. A conflict that appears to be about xenophobia, religion or ethnicity can, in reality, be rooted in the fear over losing one’s job.
Media outlets often uncritically adopt a conflict party’s view of things and give their users the impression that only one party can win. In this way they exacerbate the conflict. Conflict researchers recommend that in such situations, people should look for win-win solutions that bring improvements to all parties. Such solutions are not obvious, however. They’re easier to find if the media report not just on the current conflict, but also on the underlying causes of the conflict and possible solutions. Such solution-oriented reporting often fails because the media makers themselves have too little information and no contacts with the opposing side.
Uganda has one of the most generous refugee policies in the world. The numerous refugees — primarily from South Sudan — are allowed to work and move freely and are allocated a piece of land for their use. But inevitably, conflicts with the local population emerge, as our author Ochan Hannington, a journalist from South Sudan living in Northern Uganda, writes. On the one hand, they’re about tangible things such as farmland or firewood. But they’re also about mutual misunderstanding due to different languages and a lack of communication, which until recently also affected the local media. In the Cross Border Network, local radio stations from Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan have joined forces and have since been exchanging information and working together. The network’s Ugandan coordinator, Jane Angom, describes what has changed as a result.