World Bulletin / News Desk
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, shares the rest of the world’s love of social media, but with one difference: Observers believe combatants have marshalled this digital tool to incite atrocities and massacres along ethnic lines in the nation’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war.
Three-quarters of South Sudan’s young people have access to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and most have posted hate speech that may have in one way or another fueled the conflict, according to research by an advocacy group, the Juba-based Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO).
The NGO says many South Sudanese around the world have departed from the original purpose of social media and shifted it to sowing conflict.
Edmund Yakani, an executive director for CEPO, told Anadolu Agency that 60 percent of South Sudanese social media users use the platform to propagate hate speech that is essentially tribal and “incites violence.”
Yakani said a study found that supporters of South Sudanese leaders who have presided over war atrocities and massacres debated and attacked one another online, spreading hatred and distorting the social fabric, drawing deep wounds that will be long in healing.
“Sympathizers of the armed opposition and government supporters use social media to their advantage, spreading propaganda to whip up support or attract masses behind them,” Yakani said.
He added that many South Sudanese living abroad also stir people up in the country against each other to wreak havoc, as during clashes most warn their relatives, friends, and family members of potential threats either from the opposition, government, or one ethnic group against the other.
He argued that the recent fighting in Juba and subsequent movement of citizens into neighboring countries to seek refuge was fueled by the misuse of social media
“Based on interviews of South Sudanese refugees in Ayilo in northern Uganda, three out of five people fleed the country because of hearsay or division along ethnic lines,” he said.
In light of South Sudan’s political crisis, the research shows how radio stations (for instance, Bentiu FM, used by rebels to communicate hate speech), the Internet, and social media in particular were instrumental in aggravating the violence.