Images like this have caused the Kony video to spread like wildfire

If you haven’t seen the Kony 2012 video, or know what I’m talking about, you can’t have been on Facebook in the last 24 hours. It’s gone viral! If you have been a social nomad, here’s a brief summary – megalomaniac Ugandan leader of rebel group Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is a reaallly bad man who has child soldiers and rapes girls, so Invisible Children say everyone should give them money, and go out and put his face up all over cities of the Western World to stop him.

Okay, it’s actually a lot deeper than that. The video is incredibly moving, as is the self-titled documentary Invisible Children have made; and a serious issue has been raised. The motivation behind everything is fantastic, as has been the public response. Kony and the LRA are guilty of terrible war crimes, resulting in his positioning as Number 1 Most Wanted when the International Criminal Courts (ICC) began in 2005. Few had heard of Kony before the campaign began, and now millions over the world are united in a call of action to finally capture Kony and hold him to account for his atrocities.

However, while I support the motives and morals behind this Kony epidemic, having spent several months living in Uganda last year and having a bit of background knowledge, something inside me is niggling away, and I’m just not sure whether this seemingly flawless campaign is all it’s cracked up to be…

How effective can the campaign be? There have been arrest warrants out for years now for the leaders of the LRA, and several unsuccessful attempts to capture or kill them by specially trained UN ops. Despite claims of inaction by the video, the Western world has taken notice of the group previously, with the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act signed unanimously by the US Congress in May 2010, resulting in the deployment of 100 military advisors to Uganda in October 2011. The Kony 2012 campaign urges for further American military involvement, and the training of the Ugandan Army for confrontation with the LRA. Is this really wise?

Firstly, increased American intervention (in my opinion anyway) is never a great idea. Back in the 1950s President Truman sent a small group of military advisors to give Vietnam a hand, and look where that ended! I’m not saying the same will happen here, the circumstances are completely different. But I just worry that with any troops in, and more being called for, when will it stop? And what will be the consequences if any of these advisors are killed in the process of trying to stop the LRA? Increased retaliation?

The Ugandan army is a worryingly unstable group to train up and give more arms and power to. There is no political neutrality – they are completely under the thumb of President Museveni, who, after winning a sixth term in February last year in dubious elections, has a notoriously shifty democratic record, and is not afraid to send the troops out against his own people. This happened last year, when tear gas and rubber bullets were sent out against unarmed, peaceful protestors, with a 2 year old child killed in the crossfire.

Another thing – the LRA has not been massively present in Uganda since 2006. It’s worrying they’re running wild over Africa, but sending Ugandan troops into notoriously volatile countries such as the D.R.Congo, Sudan, or the Central Republic of Africa to find them is not going to go down very well at all.  As well as this, the whole point of the Kony 2012 campaign has been to highlight the use of child soldiers and to save them. The LRA is made up of many child soldiers. And the campaign wants to send troops to kill the LRA. Right…

Okay, I’ll stop my rant against the weaknesses of the military intervention strategies called for. I could start an attack on the reputation of Invisible Children now (only 32% of the budget actually goes on charity work, exaggerations made etc. etc.), but there’s already a lot of material on that already circulating out there, I recommend you check it out; just think before you donate. Instead, I’ll move onto what really niggles me: the whole bandwagon-ness of everything!

Kony 2012 could be described as a ‘trend’ – it’s the new Pokémon. Overnight it has reached astronomic levels of publicity. There have been millions of people showing their support on Facebook. The problem with a campaign such as Kony 2012 is that it’s such a minesweeper: it tells people how they should think, how this is the most atrocious thing happening, how this is the one thing that we should act on, and how we should act on it. Don’t let it end at a video, go out there and research the facts, question things, and see what more can be done! The situation in Africa with the LRA is shocking, and I don’t have the solutions, but I’m just skeptical at what the results will be from this campaign.

Don’t let this one issue overshadow many more in the continent, just because it’s become the fashionable thing on Facebook. It is reported that 48 women are raped an hour in the D.R.Congo; in several African countries up to 98% of women are genitally mutilated, and there are many more travesties going on unnoticed around the world. I’m not saying we can solve these problems, but don’t forget them, and don’t let them be pushed into the background by more populist issues. By all means, go ahead and pledge your support for Kony 2012, follow your friends and click attend on the event, like the page, change your profile picture. But make sure you do it for the right reasons. Do it for Joseph Kony, not Kony 2012. And I don’t want to lecture, but PLEASE don’t let a click of a button put your mind at rest.

Liv House looks at the other side of the coin…… Liv House looks at the other side of the coin…… Liv House looks at the other side of the coin…… Liv House looks at the other side of the coin……

29 Comments »

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  • Name
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    So fad culture has discovered altruism, how is that bad?

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  • Name
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    Good article. It is also worth noting that the ICC arrest warrant arguably drove Kony et al. away from the Juba peace negotiations, so perpetuating the conflict. There is a hell of a lot of literature out there on this issue, with some arguing that justice is more important than securing peace, others vice versa. Personally I prefer the idea of a continuum, with peace being secured before justice processes begin, and justice processes then contributing to lasting peace. Plus Kony is only on the ICC ‘list’ because he was referred there by the Ugandan government, who as you point out are also guilty of atrocities.

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  • Luke Murphy
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    FTB

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  • Brothers and Sisters
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    Ridiculous article, this is just a hate article trying to put a downer on people getting behind a worthwhile cause as usual. Kony is number 1 war criminal in the world and should be stopped, end of.

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  • Sam
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    yes it isn’t perfect. yes kony isn’t as active in Uganda as he once was. yes kony 2012 might not be the most transparent charity. but for once can people be optimistic? can we at least try and make it work? why shoot it down before we’ve given it a chance? can humanity be optimistic instead of sceptical? because if we aren’t willing to try every once in a while, then whats the point?

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  • John
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    Fantastic article. I personally think that anything that raises awareness of such a horrible situation can only be a good thing. The point about the charities finance is good, but realistically how many people sharing the video are likely to donate to invisible children. What might be useful would be people more familiar with the situation recommending more suitable charities for people to support.

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  • LivHouse
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    Don’t get me wrong, this may seem like a negative article, but I really believe that the motives and support behind the campaign are fantastic. I’m just developing some criticisms of the plan of action, sorry for putting a realist dampener on things! And I’m saying that we should go for optimism in this world, that we can achieve more, but I think that people should be even more willing, and go out and find more things they can do or support to help, rather than wait until something comes along and is spoonfed to them!

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    Sam
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    surely spoonfed people can achieve good if they are led by a truly moral cause? would you argue that oxfam, save the children or greenpeace (or any charity) act in a different way? people see a cause that other people identify as good and they identify with it. it is a shame we cant all be experts but in a world where that isnt feasible surely this form of action is a force for good?

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    LivHouse
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    Hey, being spoonfed is fine, like I said it’s a moral cause etc etc. But people should use the cause to springboard them to other issues as well. You clearly care about it and have been motivated enough to read this point of view and contest me, but of the thousands who clicked like on facebook, most will probably sit back and think that’s their charitable efforts done for a year, and not give much thought to the meaning behind everything, or what else is out there.

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    Sam
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    I totally agree. most will. but the vast majority of those would have done nothing whatsoever without Kony 2012 going viral, surely clicking a button is better then nothing? and what of the small percentage that will act? that will move on to other issues? surely, if nothing else, Kony 2012 has that to its credit?

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  • Russ
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    the US forces are not becoming themselves embroiled in the conflict therefore it cant really be seen as a military intervention. it is just a training mission so that Ugandans themselves can better hope to rectify this terrible situation. In some ways this is very similar to the deployment of UK troops to Sierra Leone in 2000 which actually brought a swift end to the conflict and the genocide that went with it. the deployment of further troops is a response to the greater demand for training from the Ugandan Army not an effort to initiate US combat operations. finally, if you have no faith in the US surely you must see that with an upcoming election Obama will not allow US troops to become immersed in another conflict? it just doesnt make political sense.

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  • Mandy
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    You are very good at pointing at all the methods that won’t work, what would you prefer? do nothing? or do you actually have a plan or spent 8 years working on this? (I too have volunteered in Uganda and Gambia throughout my life, my parents are aid workers out there)

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    LivHouse
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    I’m saying the opposite, don’t do nothing, but don’t stop at this one campaign! I don’t have a plan, and I’ve said that, but I don’t have much faith in the military objectives behind this one. I think the actual charity work they do in Uganda is good, but if you look at the stats only a small percentage of donations actually go to that. But that’s standard with big charities I suppose, so I tend to support smaller ones, such as African Village Support.

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  • LivHouse
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    Russ, at the moment, there is virtually no LRA presence in Uganda, so increased training for the Ugandan army isn’t really that relevant to Uganda for this purpose; and the situation is completely different to that in Sierra Leone. I think this sort of action may have been relevant ten years ago, but possibly not today.

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    Russ
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    sorry, but what has happened in the last decade that would change the way we should act? what watershed moment has occurred that means people shouldn’t join charities? even if they are spoonfed!

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    LivHouse
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    I was talking about the specific situation, not in general. After living in Uganda and knowing the effect of the LRA, and seeing how the army works there, I don’t think that the charity’s aim of sending the Ugandan army to find Kony will be of much use, as he isn’t in Uganda anymore; and I don’t think a military solution will work very well in this case. On the other hand, I can’t tell you what will work well. I think best part of the charity work is the rehabilitation of the children who have been left behind affected by everything. And people should still join charities, but hopefully be stimulated by this to research different charities and broaden their horizens!

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  • Jerry
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    Shamelessly ripped off from http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/

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  • subaltern cntrl delete
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    Kony2012 is old news, all the cool kids are criticizing invisible children now.

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  • Ash
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    The thing I’m concerned about is the typically American idea that if you knock the top, the rest will fall apart: as they did with Osama Bin Laden. In the video, the narrator very explicitly reports that once Kony has been captured, thats the end of the problem. I’m not sure they realise that like with most organisations like these, you have more than one leader and usually a number 2, 3, 4 and so on. I really support the idea and goals of the charity, but I’m not totally sure they’ve thought it through… killing Osama didn’t disband Al-Qaeda, nor did killing most of its leaders bring an end to the Taliban. In the same way, I think this is doomed to fail if all they intend to do is get rid of Kony and then forget about the rest.

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  • Ashley
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    Amazing article. Basically what I’ve been saying to people all day, especially the part about them killing LRA soldiers AKA children, and have had LOADS of backlash for it. Glad I’m not the only one who is skeptical. Again, brilliant article. Thankyou

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  • Bandwagon Jumper
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    **Jumps onto Kony bandwagon**
    **Jumps off Kony bandwagon, onto “Invisible Children is a scam” bandwagon**

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  • Gavin
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    A very well written article and a refreshing read :)
    Whilst I no way do I condone the actions of Kony or the use of child soldiers etc. you make a good an valid point about reading the facts before jumping on the bandwagon.
    Who should say that we should go and intefere with Africa? Whilst I agree we have a moral union in saying this is wrong, why should we self-impose a superior knowledge and understanding of the situation and go in and sort things out? Throughout history in Africa many people and countries have been screwed over by non African people getting involved (e.g the former D.R. Congo when the Belgians left, resulting in massacres) and the same is true elsewhere in the world (is Iraq really that better off without Saddam Hussein?! Have sending troops into Iraq completely solved the problem? I think not.)

    As many have said, and will say, a cultural change is required – but this is not something a group of people liking a video on facebook, or soldiers training the army, can achieve.

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  • Zach P
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    While yes, this is about the children in Uganda and yes, its about Joseph Kony. This is also about us, WE THE PEOPLE, the very idea on which this country was founded on right? This is showing our country and the world that we have a say in what our government does. If we pull this off and if this happens, then we have taken steps in the right direction as a country and as a world. We should have a say in what our government does, while we do for elections and other public events. Were making a stand as a public community here in America, and across the globe. So while things may not be what they are cracked up to be, Lets also look what we could accomplish with this.

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    LivHouse
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    Hi Zach, great you’ve read the article. I agree that having a say in government action is right, and it’s always important for the people to have a voice – massive supporter of the 99% campaing. However, in Britain anyway, the Kony 2012 campaign has not been so much about standing up to government, it’s more been the taking part in a global phenomenon, less romantically anarchistic than you suggest. With the issues addressed by the Kony 2012 campaign, I just don’t think it’s the right weapon to use as a popular stand against government – if you look at the facts, there’s very little the government can actively do to capture Kony without full scale war which would have devastating effects, as the LRA is a covert guerrilla movement, who don’t stay in one place. You can’t train a local East African country’s army to find them, such as Uganda’s, because you can’t send Uganda into the D.R. Congo, or Central African Republic; and those countries are highly unlikely to cooperate with this. The US government has already shown support for the capturing of Kony and the LRA in the act passed unanimously in 2010 – the government is behind the people on this! The charity has wonderful morals behind the campaign, but their action plans are severely flawed. The education about Kony and the support for victims of the LRA may succeed, but sending military to capture him is a lot more complicated.

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  • willhamilton
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    Ok enough people have questioned the Invisible Children group. My question is, aren’t we being too cynical about all this? Admittedly my knowledge of the LRA is basic, but surely a global grassroots movement is a good thing right? Especially when we’re talking about the arrest of the leader of an internationally condemned rebel group leader (which, if someone had suggested last week, hardly a single person would have objected to).

    More to the point, is it any better to blindly condemn the Kony2012 movement than to blindly join it? Cynicism in this country has been widespread and persistant. Consider the return of the troops from the Falkland Islands versus their return from Iraq. It seems to be much easier these days to hate something than to admit that you love it.

    As I’ve already said, I’m still undecided on the whole Kony2012 movement. And I do think that Liv has a point when she warns against blindly joining a group after watching one documentary. But, similarly, I’d warn against blindly condemning the movement simply because everyone else seems to like it.

    Have some faith in other people and believe that their mind was made up for the right reasons, even if seems go against yours. Try to understand their position before you try to justify your own. A politically active global youth, even if they are divided, is still better than an apathetic one.

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  • luke
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    **Jumps onto Kony bandwagon**

    **Jumps off Kony bandwagon, onto “Invisible Children is a scam” bandwagon**

    ** jumps off “Invisible Children is a scam” bandwagon, onto “acting superior towards ‘bandwagon jumpers’ ” bandwagon**

    you could do this all day. stop being so self righteous.

    When have the mainstream masses ever had a clue about anything? see politics, music, film etc. To have a well constructed informed opinion on anything (especially an issue as complex as this) takes quite serious research especially with all the noise out there. its hardly surprisingly people have been misled with all the crap out there.

    Personally i praise the unique promotional approach of this charity, its made people get emotive once again about such tragic issues that we’ve known about all of our lives – yet we were able to live with for so long.

    Yes its not perfect but the more people (or sheep if you’d prefer) behind a cause the better.

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  • steve-ooooo
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    Fact is it is vitally important for their to be voices on both ‘sides’ of this debate. There needs to be scepticism and cynicism to a degree to ensure that the best outcome is achieved. Kony 2012 is a worthwhile campaign, the people looking around it to understand it’s intentions and methods are also worthwhile. every debate, story etc needs at least two sides to it and every debate, story etc will have two sides to it due to the numerous opinions and standpoints out there…

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  • Hubert Tugstain
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    Sounds like the Ugandan government dislikes this Kony chap slightly more than they hate gays.

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