Kony 2012?

March 17, 2012

Joseph Kony has been operating in Uganda since 1987, kidnapping children to turn them into sex slaves (girls) and child soldiers (boys). He is responsible for many atrocities and numerous killings. It has taken a while for the international community to take notice.

I have watched the recent “Kony 2012” video on YouTube which has gone viral, and is produced by a charity organisation based in San Diego, California, Invisible Children. Watching this video was a sickening experience.

This is yet another example of muddling bumbling American interference. The video gives no historical context to the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), does not recognise that Kony is no longer currently in Uganda (he’s now in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan), does not recognise that Kony’s resources and the numbers of the LRA are much depleted, and offers zero explanation for why he has been free for so long.

There will be a reason why the government of Uganda was unable to catch did not catch Kony for so long, why he operated without being caught for decades. Understanding the historical context and current power dynamics of this problem surely is crucial for anyone interested in assisting to make things better? Apparently according to Invisible Children not.

All we need to do to stop Kony is to click the “like” button on a Facebook page, and buy a T-shirt and bracelet. Oh, and maybe put up a poster or two. Easy. Great. Problem solved, pat ourselves on the backs for a job well done.

It’s unsurprising that when the documentary was shown in northern Uganda where Kony has wrought so much destruction that the locals reacted furiously, throwing stones at the documentary makers. I hope this angry reaction from the locals gives the folks at Invisible Children cause to stop and rethink their approach, but it probably won’t.

So what’s so wrong with the documentary?

While it did not explain any history or context, it did spend a fair bit of time showing the personal journey of the white American male film director. It showed the birth of his son with the horribly racist comment that “because he was born here he matters” which infers that black kids born in Africa don’t matter. Yeah right, try telling that to their mothers and families!

We see plenty of footage of the film director and his cute blonde haired kid, and zero footage explaining the historical or the current situation in Uganda. Surely the film could have tried even a little explanation?

The film comes across as very commercial, light weight, American centric. The solutions to a complex problem that is Kony are simplified commercialisation; buy some stuff and participate in some social network sites.

It reeks of “we’re the enlightened white knights with the technology and understanding to come and solve problems in black Africa”.

And to top it all off, it recommends US troops in Uganda. As if sending US troops into any country makes the place safer for the inhabitants. This is a total and complete failure on behalf of Invisible Children to be aware of the behaviour of their troops internationally. They really do need to educate themselves on how US servicemen behave when stationed in foreign countries; the numerous atrocities they commit on civilian populations and how the locals feel about their presence.

I suspect that Americans think that their troops behaved badly only in isolated incidents in Vietnam, perhaps occasionally in Iraq, but this is an aberration. It’s not guys. And bad behaviour by American troops in foreign countries is much noticed by the locals. Even in peaceful countries, like modern day Japan, the locals campaign to remove American bases from their soils.

Any solution which ignores complexity, history and even the current true situation, which is focussed on simplistic commercialisation and further violence by committing yet more US troops to be stationed in yet another foreign country, is doomed to failure.

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