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……