Professor Keith Somerville is a writer and lecturer on the politics of conservation, elephants and the ivory trade, human-lion coexistence, rhino conservation, sustainable use conservation, propaganda, humanitarian reporting and African affairs. He teaches at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent, where he is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology. He is a Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and a Research Associate, Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-Human Sphere, Department of War Studies, King’s College, London. He teaches the Communications and Humanitarianism, and Propaganda modules at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent. The updated and revised version of his book, Africa’s Long Road Since Independence. The Many Histories of a Continent has just been published by Penguin and his work on the history of the ivory trade in Africa, Ivory. Power and Poaching in Africa was published in November 2016.
Professor Somerville founded and runs the Africa Sustainable Conservation News website(www.africasustainable conservation.com) and Africa – News and Analysis. He is now researching a book on the history of human-lion coexistence and conflict from early hominids to the present; and researching South African propaganda at the time of the Soweto Uprising of 1976.
Keith writes on the politics of conservation in Africa; African political and military affairs; Africa and the media; the history and use of propaganda and hate broadcasting; analysing the global media and its coverage of major world events; finding and developing stories; news and feature writing; interview techniques; broadcast and online news reporting and production; media law and ethics, and international journalism.
He has specialist knowledge of African conservation, and the ivory and rhino horn trades and debates, politics and military/strategic issues; foreign intervention in Africa; environmental and wildlife issues in Africa and beyond; Marxism and the foreign policy of the former Soviet Union; and rugby (he has years of playing and team captaincy experience and is an RFU-qualified rugby coach). His research interests include the contemporary history of Africa in light of the interplay between structure and human agency; radio propaganda in apartheid South Africa; and the links between insurgency, organized crime and poaching in central and southern Africa, and human-wildlife conflict and coexistence.
A career journalist with the BBC World Service and BBC Newsi for three decades, Keith has an established track record as a trainer and training designer for the BBC, initially with BBC World Service training and latterly with the BBC College of Journalism. He was executive producer for the BBC’s award-winning Legal Online course; co-author and role-play developer for the BBC’s post-Hutton Sources, Scoops and Stories course; he was in charge of and the scenario writer for the BBC’s interactive journalism teaching tool, The Journalism Tutor.
His knowledge of journalism theory and practice is based on nearly three decades of reporting, writing, presenting and editing World Service news programmes. He also has extensive online production experience and has written for specialist publications on African affairs.
The major world events he has covered include running the World Service team in South Africa for the first post-apartheid elections in 1994; presenting live coverage of the attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; overseeing the first 10 hours of World Service coverage of the death of Princess Diana; running of live World Service radio coverage on 9/11; and producing and presenting radio documentaries from South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica and the wilds of deepest Cardiff and Norfolk.
Keith has an extensive publication record on African continental and international politics.
From 2012 to 2014 he taught the Humanitarian Communications module and a module on Conflict and Security in Africa in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Kent. From 2008 to 2011, he taught journalism at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Brunel University and was BA (Hons) Journalism course leader and Admissions Tutor for the MA in International Journalism. He was educated at St Clement Danes Grammar School, the University of Southampton, the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Brunel University.
Framing conflict – the Cold War and after: Reflections from an old hack, Media, war and Conflict, April 2017
Broadcasting Ambivalence: South Africa’s radio RSA on African Independence and UDI in Rhodesia, Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, March 2017
Africa’s Long Road Since Independence. The Many Histories of a Continent, London: Penguin 2017 – revised and updated edition.
Ivory. Power and Poaching in Africa, London: Hurst, November 2016
Africa’s Long Road Since Independence. The Many Histories of a Continent, London: Hurst, December 2015
Radio Propaganda and the Broacasting of Hatred: Historical Development and Definitions (12 October 2012)
South Sudan: how hate radio was used to incite Bentiu massacres, African Arguments, http://africanarguments.org/2014/04/24/south-sudan-how-hate-radio-was-used-to-incite-bentiu-massacres-by-keith-somerville/
Radio Wars – Index on Censorship, volume 43, no 1, March 2014 – special 3dition on propaganda an conflict. Article on South Africa’s radio wars during the apartheid era, looking at Radio RSA and Radio Freedom propaganda.
War of the Worlds as a Radio News Training Tool in Joy Elizabeth Hayes, Kathleen Battles and Wendy Hilton-Morrow (eds) War of he Worlds to Social media, New York: Pee lang, 2013
Violence, hate speech and inflammatory broadcasting in Kenya: The problems of definition and identification, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, vol 32, 1, 2011, pp.82-101
British media coverage of the post-election violence in Kenya, 2007-8, Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol 3, no 3, 2009.
Submission to House of Commons Committee:
Committee for Concerned Journalists articles:
South Africa: The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?
Impartial or Cowardly: A Journalist’s View of BBC Rejection of Gaza Aid Plea
Motors, Murders and Mugabe: A Car Crash or a Conspiracy to Kill?
BBC wounds that won’t heal, British Journalism Review, vol 20, no 1, 2009
Southern Africa and the Soviet Union: from Communist International to Commonwealth of Independent States London, Macmillan, 1993
Foreign Military Intervention in Africa London, Pinter, 1990
Angola: Politics, Economics and Society London, Pinter, 1986
Co-wrote – Benin, Burkina Faso and Congo: Politics, Economics and Society, London, Pinter, 1988.
Written Evidence on South African Foreign Policy in House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Fifth report 2003-4.
Africa after the Cold War: Frozen in Time or Frozen Out in Fawcett and Sayigh, The Third World Beyond the Cold War Oxford University Press, 1999
Angola: Groping Towards peace or Slipping Back Towards War? in William Gutteridge and Jack Spence (ed) Violence in Southern Africa Frank Cass 1997
The Failure of Democratic Reform in Angola and Zaire, IISS Survival, 35, 3, I993
USSR and Africa in Alex Pravda (ed) Yearbook of Soviet Foreign Relations, IB Tauris 1991
Angola: Soviet Client State or State of Socialist Orientation in Millennium Journal of International Studies, vol 13, no3 1984
The Soviet Union and Zimbabwe in R. Craig Nation and Mark V. Kauppi, The Soviet Impact in Africa DC Heath, 1984
The Soviet Union and Southern Africa Since 1976 in Journal of Modern African Studies, vol 22, I, 1984.
Regular contributions on Angola, Malawi and African democratisation in the RIIA journal, World Today, 1990-1995.
Africa Chapter in Strategic Survey IISS 1994 and 1995
Western Siberia and the Prospects for Soviet Oil in International Relations vol 7, 5, 1983.
1981-1990 Malawi chapter in Africa Contemporary Record
1983-1990 China and Africa chapter in Africa Contemporary Record
Keith has contributed numerous articles and book reviews for publications such as the Guardian, Independent, Economist, Listener, New African, African Business, Africa, Africa Now, Journal of Modern African Studies, African Affairs, Third World Quarterly, International Affairs (RIIA), World Today (RIIA) and Modern Africa.
Online and interactive teaching output:
BBC Legal Online – an interactive course on defamation, contempt, sex offences, children in law and copyright.
Sources, Scoops and Stories – a face-to-face role play course dealing with corroborating complex stories and the use of anonymous sources.
Doubts, Dilemmas and Decisions – an ethical decision-making course for senior BBC journalists.
Journalism Tutor – a live, online interactive writing and decision-making tool (on the BBC College of Journalism website).