In Africa, the interpretative key to understand conflicts has always been to put ethnicity and tribalism as the principal reasons of contentions. Ethnic and tribal division generates a large number of violent insurrections that shapes local, national and regional realities. The overlapping factors of ethnic and tribal divisions such as language and autochthony have a greatly influence on the understanding of conflict dynamics in the DRC. The current violence in the country has contributed to; hate speech, discrimination and marginalization of identity groups, whether it’s an ethnic group, a linguistic group or a tribal group. The hate between the diverse social compartment of the Congolese society has shaped a behavior that is very prejudicial towards others. Online and offline social interactions are now focusing on the stereotypes of each group, thus creating mistrust and xenophobia. This research project purpose is to see if online hate has any influence on the violence or discrimination on any ethnic or tribal group, and the effect it may have on communities in conflict zones in order to build a lexicon of words that will be able to identify and contextualize inflammatory language that can lead to the outbreak of violence or prejudice. 

Since its independence, Congo has been plagued with many deadly conflicts between its communities. There is a large ethnic, tribal and linguistic diversity, research has shown that more than 250 tribes can be identified, it’s known to have 212 languages as well as 400 languages belonging only to the Bantu population. This is an indication that linguistic difference is also a factor of division among Congolese people. The diversity has often been politicalized and used to separate not only Congolese people among themselves but separate them from aboriginal groups as well.

The resurgence of these ethno-political groups has fueled the rebellions and civil war in recent years. Many ethnical associations were formed during the time of independence, birthing many political parties that became the training venues for Congolese political leaders evolving into a recognized ethnical party or creating a core following of supporters. We have groups such as the Lulua-brothers, Congolese National Union, Bakongo Allegiance, etc., that has become political parties based on ethno-political identities. Thus, the great tensions that exist between ethnic groups and tribes that are intensifying more with the current political climate. During the election period, choices are made based on belonging to the Clan vs. the nation. The tendency is to support a politician from the same tribe or linguistic family as a proof of loyalty. This tendency is politicized,  politicians  fuel the speech of hatred towards different ethnic groups during the electoral campaign. This notion of otherness really comes to play when it comes to aboriginal groups. 

As the conflict in the East intensifies, hate between the aboriginal Congolese and the others who are often of Rwandese decent is remarkable. Many Congolese will testify that the reason why this part of the country is unstable due to the presence of that ethnic group. This narrative can be found both in public and political debates. Political leaders in Kivu denouncing the invasion of the Banyarwanda on a regional level, but on a national level, nationalism is also weaponized to wage against the ethnic group living there, saying that they are not real Congolese and that their allegiance is with Rwanda and not with Congo. Through this manipulation, we have the emergence of many political and military groups such as the Mai-Mai who have the function of an ethnic military who fights against the “invaders”.

The high practice of nepotism in DRC leads Congolese citizens as well as the government officials to have the tendency to favor someone from the same clan, family, tribe, ethnic or even linguistic group over a competent rival. This practice also feeds hate speech because it has a discriminatory character. Following the proclamation of the new DRC president, Felix Tshisekedi, several Congolese are disputing the results. Its contestations on the social media are of hateful character, not only towards the President, but also the tribe where the president belongs to and we still see the game of us vs them clearly with this election. 

Considering the complexity of conflicts in the DRC, it is important in to identify and contextualize discriminatory language used online that can lead to or fuel inter and intra-ethnic violence in DRC. It is also important to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of specific terms and phrases used on social media that incite hate and discrimination in and between diverse ethnic groups in the DRC while identifying narratives used to build resilience between them. As information isn’t always easy to obtain for Congolese, with the censorship of media, the cutting of internet accessibility, when people get the chance to go back online and connect on social media, the messages that they will see are often hate speech and not real news, therefore we should also see how hate speech brings ignorance, not only on a political level, but on a social scale as well accentuating the ethnic, tribal and linguistic divisions.

In 2019, ADECOP partnered with Peace TechLab to produce a DRC Hate Speech Lexicon. As a result of this research project, a lexicon was produced to serve as a resource to inform individuals and organizations involved in monitoring and combating hate speech in the DRC so that their work can be more effective, as well as to contribute to the general understanding of the phenomenon.

Learn more and download the lexicon from the following link : https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54257189e4b0ac0d5fca1566/t/5db1cdce6935d37d88857645/1571933663634/DRC+Lexicon+%7C+PeaceTech+Lab.pdf