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Homosexuality in Francophone West Africa: The International Context of Local Controversies  

Christophe Broqua

Since the mid-2000s, certain expressions of hostility against homosexuality in Africa have received wide international media coverage. In different countries, one of the main targets of this hostility is gay mobilizations. At the same time, these expressions of hostility often promote the development of gay mobilizations. Thus, taken together, these opposing mobilizations form a system, as shown in the cases of Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. Each of the two contexts presents specific local characteristics. In Senegal, the 2000s saw a rise in political Islam. In this context, the gay man gradually became a figure used variously in public debate, with power struggles within political and religious spheres influencing positions on homosexuality. In Côte d’Ivoire, the situation must first be understood through the political crisis affecting the country since the early 2000s and its ambivalent relationship with France, particularly since the post-election crisis of 2010–2011. In both countries, the opposing mobilizations are not limited to “social movements” in the strict sense but involve myriad heterogeneous actors (including at least one or more quasi-official gay groups) focused on a single problem, who sometimes work haphazardly and generally in opposite directions. Added to this heterogeneity of actors are their public positions which offer few clues to easily separate them into pro- and anti-camps. The fact remains that a disconnect often exists between the most prominent actors. However, this distinction is also ambiguous in that it subjects the opposing mobilizations to an interdependence: not only that the actions of one side can largely depend on another’s, but that another’s actions can also benefit actors. Finally, the controversies playing out in and dependent on specific national contexts are also largely constructed in relationship with the “international,” both as a context and an actor, and more generally as a reference figure.

Article

Radio as a Political Medium in Africa  

Harri Englund

Radio’s affordability, portability, and use of local languages have long granted it a special status among mass media in Africa. Its development across the continent has followed remarkably similar paths despite clear differences in different countries’ language policies, economic fortunes, and political transformations. Common to many countries has been the virtual monopoly over the airwaves enjoyed by the state or parastate broadcasting corporations during the first decades of independence. The wave of democratization since the late 1980s has brought important changes to the constitutional and economic landscape in radio broadcasting. Although private, religious, and community stations have filled the airwaves in many countries, it is also important to recognize the many subtle ways in which state-controlled radio broadcasting, both before and after independence, could include alternative ideas, particularly in cultural and sports programming. By the same token, radio’s culpability in orchestrating oppression—or even genocide, as in Rwanda’s case—stands to be examined critically. Liberalized airwaves, on the other hand, draw attention to developments that find parallels in radio history elsewhere in the world. They include radio’s capacity to mediate intimacy between radio personalities and their listeners in a way that few other media can. They also become apparent in radio’s uses in encouraging participation and interaction among ordinary citizens through phone-in programs that build on the rapid uptake of mobile telephony across Africa. Such developments call for a notion of politics that makes it possible to observe radio’s influence across the domains of formal politics, religion, and commercial interests.