Participatory Media Tools in Post-Conflict Setting
Like all countries that emerge from long periods of violence, Uganda finds itself at a fork in the road. In one direction is the neopatrimonialism, tribalism, distrust and violence amongst ethnic groups that has existed since its inception as a nation (of which Joseph Kony's LRA was but one incarnation). The other direction is a society where living in certain districts doesn't completely disqualify you from adequate security, healthcare, education or economic opportunity.
Perhaps understandably, energy from all the major players is going into the technical Juba Peace Talks, and not into carefully addressing fundamental post-conflict reconciliation issues such as justice, land distribution, former soldier reintegration, economic development, and remembrance. The ultimate direction the country takes will be determined by a barrage of decisions that must be made quickly once the end of the conflict can be reasonably assured. Therefore, while continuing to focus on the Juba Talks, it is absolutely vital that Government, civil society and the international community start discussing these vital next steps.
I'm happy to announce the launch of a new site: USAID's Northern Uganda Peace Initiative (NUPI): A Portal for Reconciliation. The portal is designed a space to discuss the multifaceted issues of Ugandan reconciliation. While none of the tools on this site are new (blog, vlog, cell phone text messaging capability), as far as I know this is the first time they have been used to help identify solutions in a post-conflict setting. Since the site will be only as good as the amount of engagement from all communities interested in reconciliation, it will be a fascinating experiment to see how useful and relevant participatory communication tools are in the developing world.
Here are their tools, and the thought process behind each of them:
A BBC News-like 'Voice your views' section with periodically updated questions
A Think Tank for Reconciliation blog with several carefully selected and eloquent youth authors from around the country, many of whom are currently taking part in a North-South student exchange program
A media space which will contain (i) video montage of the mato oput traditional reconciliation process (ii) podcasts with views from all regions, including those usually excluded from the national dialogue
From an Informaation Technology for Development (ICT4D) perspective, I have my doubts about a site that is hosted by USAID being the best way to provoke an open and honest debate about the future of Uganda. However, pragmatically, NUPI was forward looking and willing to support this experiment, so I'm glad its happening. Also, of course, the site is only as good as the amount of participation. So far, I've recieved great feedback from the Ugandan youth leaders involved in the Think Tank.