n African Human Rights Law Journal - From social hostility to social media : religious pluralism, human rights and democratic reform in Africa

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



This article examines the new terrain of religious freedom and human rights in Africa, with particular attention to the role of social hostilities in restricting religions. In the current environment of 'post-secularism' and the global resurgence of religion, the relationship between government restrictions and social hostilities is particularly complex in Africa, in light of the high degree of religiosity and the notably-intertwined relationship of religion, culture, politics and law, in marked contrast to the secularist and separationist paradigms that prevail in Europe and North America. Paradoxically, though the restrictions on religious freedom in many African nations stem from or have been exacerbated by social hostilities, including pernicious and inflammatory uses of social media, solutions to social hostilities may depend a great deal on empowering religious and civil society groups in the creative and constructive use of social media to change the normative perceptions, attitudes and values that underlie successful constitutional and democratic reform. Indeed, some of these creative uses of social media are already happening, but are threatened by crackdowns on freedom of expression and social media by the state. This article examines uses of social media both to inflame and to reduce social hostilities in recent elections and constitutional referenda in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia and argues the need for a 'socio-legal' paradigm for understanding both perceptions of religious hostilities and religious human rights claims in their full social, political and cultural context.

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