Discrimination and violence have characterized inter-ethnic dynamics on the Ethiopian–South Sudanese border since the 1990s. Local musicians compose songs decrying the violence, calling for peace in their communities. Simultaneously, these same artists compose songs with divisive rhetoric, particularly during and after outbreaks of ethnically based killings. I argue that this dual promotion of peace and conflict is not contradictory but is logical in the context of decades of violence and trauma. Artists and their listeners consider violence necessary for self-defense, which does not preclude a genuine desire for positive inter-ethnic relations. These logics have implications for applied ethnomusicology in conflict zones.

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