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© 2017 Southseries Inc., The role of new media in shaping the interactions of formal and informal leaders with their audiences is frequently misunderstood and often narrowly focussed on electoral processes and political competition. By weaving together strands of scholarship on political communication and political settlement while engaging with concepts of hybrid governance and leadership more prevalent in the African studies literature, this article takes a different, wider focus. We attempt to knit a framework that challenges normative assumptions on institutional communicative practices and considers the role of power, leadership and communications in both exacerbating and mitigating violent conflict in emerging and consolidating democracies. By bringing together disparate strands of scholarship that are rarely in dialogue, we question a characterisation that contrasts vertical mainstream media with more horizontal and inclusive social media, arguing that a more nuanced view of the political significance of these spaces is required, one that highlights their interplay and blurs the boundaries between online and offline. In doing so, the article places power at the centre of analysis to examine how entrenched relations of patronage can be left unscathed, transformed or even reinforced by networked forms of communication.

Original publication




Journal article


Third World Quarterly

Publication Date





2242 - 2257