KONY 2012: Don’t Jump to Conclusions

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by Leigh Scudder
from The Echo

Lord’s Resistance Army Leader and indicted war crime criminal Joseph Kony has killed thousands of Africans in his lifetime. Photo couresty of RyanSeacrest.com.

You have probably seen your friends posting links to something called “Kony 2012” on whichever social networking site you use. If you haven’t watched the heart wrenching video, I recommend you do.

The short film Kony 2012 is by the non-profit Invisible Children, and is a new chapter in the organization’s mission to stop LRA atrocities in Africa.

LRA stands for the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group founded in the 1980s in Uganda by Joseph Kony. Yes, the Lord in the name is a reference to the Christian God.  However this Christian talk conflicts with what the LRA actually does.

by Leigh Scudder
from The Echo

 


 

You have probably seen your friends posting links to something called “Kony 2012” on whichever social networking site you use. If you haven’t watched the heart wrenching video, I recommend you do.

Lord’s Resistance Army Leader and indicted war crime criminal Joseph Kony has killed thousands of Africans in his lifetime. Photo couresty of RyanSeacrest.com.The short film Kony 2012 is by the non-profit Invisible Children, and is a new chapter in the organization’s mission to stop LRA atrocities in Africa.

LRA stands for the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group founded in the 1980s in Uganda by Joseph Kony. Yes, the Lord in the name is a reference to the Christian God.  However this Christian talk conflicts with what the LRA actually does. The LRA kidnaps children and turns them into child soldiers or sex slaves. This has been happening to thousands of kids in and around Uganda for over two decades.

An example of one of the many horror stories, in 2002 in South Sudan, the LRA forced mourners at a funeral procession to boil and eat their dead, at gunpoint, which they did. They were subsequently executed. All peace talks with the LRA have failed. In 2005 the International Criminal Court indicted Kony on 33 charges for war crimes.

Founded in 2004, Invisible Children claims to “use film, creativity, and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.” They build schools, provide counseling and rehabilitation, and work to track the LRA.

Kony 2012 uses the aesthetic of an election campaign poster in their promotions. Invisible Children is hoping to tap into the election year enthusiasm and inject awareness through their plans to “cover the night” on April 20 by encouraging us to purchase Kony 2012 stickers and posters and cover communities with them.

But if people decided to dig deeper, they would come to find out that Invisible Children is shrouded in controversy.

The blog Visible Children revealed that only 32% of Invisible Children’s expenses, which are publicly available online, went directly toward African programs in 2011. This is simply not enough. A breakdown in expenses details that awareness programs and products make up for 25.98% and 9.56% of their expenses respectively. Education is important, but toward what end are we educated?

More disputes come along with the controversial strategies used by the organization. Invisible Children appears to be in the armed intervention camp, and they want us to push our representatives to join the same camp. Invisible Children also works with the military all around Central Africa, as Kony has spread into the surrounding countries. Kony has allegedly not even been in Uganda since 2006 and is thought to be in the Central African Republic.


There will probably be a gap between the means and the stated goal. Many people will watch the video, post it, and then forget. There is almost too much stock put into the use of social media by an average western Joe with no skin in this game.

 

Besides being the birthplace of the LRA, why is the focus on Uganda? Invisible Children claims the Ugandan military is just the best equipped in the region. Some of the governments and armed forces cooperating with Invisible Children have been accused of human rights abuses themselves. Invisible Children has decided to jump into a complex situation in Africa and have stated that the entire continent is full of corruption.

“If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn’t partner with anyone.” Invisible Children heavily supported Obama’s decision to send military advisors to Africa to fight the LRA last year, however many people are still hesitant about the United States meddling in another international conflict. Africa is a resource hub, and unfortunately there are probably gains in that realm that Washington sees besides the ethical accomplishments.

uinikpara Germaine was abducted in March 2008 from the Central African Republic and forced to be rebel leader Joseph Kony’s wife for the next three years before she managed to escape. Photo: Alan Boswell/MCT.Discussing the Kony 2012 hype with a friend of mine who is involved in Connecticut non-profit work, I realized that there will probably be a gap between the means and the stated goal. Many people will watch the video, post it, and then forget. There is almost too much stock put into the use of social media by an average western Joe with no skin in this game. I will write letters to my representatives, but I still feel powerless.

An assistant professor of Political Science at Yale and advisor to the office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, Chris Blattman, wrote on his blog that these kind of African campaigns “hint uncomfortably at the White Man’s burden.”

As an amateur historian, I always understood Rudyard Kipling’s term “white man’s burden” as always to describe a colonization and Christendom effort, “which saves” the underdeveloped world from uncivilized-ness, through force if necessary.

I think perhaps “white guilt”, or more accurately “developed world guilt” is a much more fair term. I don’t think there should ever be any discouragement of those with more trying to help those with less. I do think that in this globalized human race, it is impossible to do anything involving raw materials to not have an adverse effect on someone in the underdeveloped world. I believe in hypocrisy reduction, at least.

The Visible Children blog states that in cases like this, it is sometimes “better to do nothing than something.” This is dangerous logic. Invisible Children has the potential to be the first large-scale manifestation of a popular campaign against the LRA and human rights issues in the age of social media. Their awareness campaign, although late in the game, appears to occur during the twilight of LRA (reports show their numbers to be quite low).

I want to say “better late than never,” but can I? I don’t know the answer. This Kony 2012 video is very slick, but upon doing research on Invisible Children and the history of the LRA in Uganda, I find the timing questionable. The intentions are noble, but I am not sure about the means’ effectiveness. But I have to ask myself: is something better than nothing? I will be monitoring the campaign closely. You’ve watched the video, you’ve reposted the video. What’s next?

 

The Echo is the student-run publication of Western Connecticut State University whose aim is to inform and enlighten the university community. The Echo’s goal is to establish and maintain an atmosphere of free and responsible journalism in an engaging and entertaining format. Anything published in The Echo in no way represents the opinion of the university or it’s faculty and administration.

 

 

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