Dr. Ogenga photo
Dr. Fredrick Ogenga, Visiting Researcher African Studies Center, Boston University, USA

Media and Politics in Africa: Deconstructing Kenya's Press Representation of Terrorism for Peace and Security

Dr. Ogenga has been appointed for one year (2015-2016) as a Visiting Research Fellow, African Studies Center , Boston University USA to finalize a book he is writing based on a 2014 research on local media/press and the coverage of terrorism in Kenya funded by Africa Peace-building Network(APN) and Social Science Research Council (SSRC) research grant.

The book begins from the premise that there is an active way in which the Somalis in the diaspora and particularly in Kenya have been constantly constructed through Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA) evidenced in mediation. The media plays a critical role in shaping public opinion by virtue of the fact that it acts as a platform or public sphere for deliberating important issues of public concern. It is for this reason that the media remains central in addressing issues of identity in societies where Islam has been conflated for terrorism.

One of the greatest challenges faced in Kenya today is increased insecurity enhanced by the influx of Somali immigrants and the threat of terrorism from Alshabaab militants in lawless Somalia. Jihadists in Somalia determined to install a Muslim Caliphate in the region, present scholars with an excellent example of a clash of ideologies anchored on religion and nationalism. Kenya launched War on Terror code named Operation Linda Nchi or Operation Protect the Nation, following Alshabaab abduction of a French and British tourist on Kenyan Soil, propping up Africa Union's Mission (AMISOM) to stabilize Somalia.

However, the operation created instability in Kenyan towns bordering Somalia due to the surge of fleeing Somali immigrants making it difficult for policing prompting the launch of yet another operation within Kenya coded Operation Usalama Watch or Security Watch that many observers saw as ethnic profiling of Somalis and Muslims generally. Even as Kenya aggressively quests to realize its national dream (Kenyanization) captured in vision 2030, this book argues that the ways in which Kenya's public discourse and mainstream print mass media have been representing Kenyan Somalis or Somali immigrants from Somalia therein could be responsible for their alienation in Kenyanization project, motivating them to regroup out of common frustrations to fight for recognition through violent strategies such as abductions, piracy and terrorism, promising to reverse the gains Kenya has made so far.

The book further argues that such media representations are motivated by the absence of African ideologies that can guide journalists working in Africa, especially, those in conflict regions on how to cover news in a manner that would cultivate dialogue and deliberation rather that fuel conflict. Unfortunately, as it would be expected of the press in Africa like any other press in the world, news about terrorism is usually sensationalized making governments, policy makers and audiences miss the opportunity to understand what motivates terrorism. Journalism in Africa simply follows th Western approach as a universal blueprint that defines what constitutes news, news values, and ideologies that govern news production which makes African journalism that of mimicry and bandwagonism. This copy and paste journalism is problematic and not applicable in the African context.

Therefore, this book calls for rethinking Western ideologies of news production of terrorism by conceptualizing hybrid traditions using good journalism or Peace Journalism as an ideological seed-bed to come up with Hybrid Peace Journalism or HPJ, a pan-African ideological approach to news reporting that fuses African traditions or gnosis into news coverage of terrorism or conflict but inspired by Western Peace Journalism (PJ) tradition to synch with Western modes of expectations.

The argument is that media can go a long way in cultivating peace and security in the horn of Africa by reconstructing discourses that marginalize Somalis and Muslim societies in general to avoid alienation which, this book argues, has fueled radicalization and therein terrorism. Blending African studies and journalism can transform conflict reporting in Africa where local approaches that take into consideration the nuances in the continent can be used for peace and security in Africa.

The introduction of HPJ concept in institutions of higher learning is a good starting point for ideological transformation where curriculums in media, peace and security studies are necessary to train African journalists to master these newly formulated hybrid traditions that would transform media institutions in Africa from within.