Over the last two weeks or so, a video called 'Kony 2012' has gone viral on many social media sites. This video is part of a campaign launched by Invisible Children, an organisation committed to "end[ing] the longest running armed conflict in Africa," that conflict being mainly perpetuated by the LRA, or Lords Resistance Army, whose works were, until 2007, based mainly in Uganda. Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' campaign aims to be the final push in the effort to find Joseph Kony, the leader or the LRA, and have him arrested, thus supposedly halting the LRA in their tracks and putting an end to the many abuses against human rights that have been committed by the LRA. This video has spread like wildfire across Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, many blogs, and has also been picked up by most main news providers and boradcasted across the world. For the past fortnight, when I log on to Facebook, all I can see are status' supporting Invisible Children, linking the Kony 2012 film, or referencing something to do with Kony.
I got in to rather a heated discussion with someone about this overwhelming support of the IC campaign. Because, quite frankly, I don't agree with it. Whilst the person I was talking to took great offence to my lack of support and seemed to think that I was an inhumane Satanist with questionable morals and no desire to help anyone but myself , I want to point out that in no way do I condone what Kony and his followers do, in no way do I think that it is OK for conflicts like those we see in East Africa to be allowed, and above all else, I want these conflicts to be stopped, and people to be allowed to live in peace and safety.
What I do object to, however, is the attitudes that this IC campaign encourages, and the ideologies and approaches that are behind it. I think it is very important to read the following opinions and articles before we get in to the central point of my argument - and if you read only one, read the last link from the Huffington Post, written by Michael Deibert;
What I object to, in regards to this campaign is first and foremost the misconstrued facts within the campaign. During the entire 30 minutes of the Kony 2012 film, in which Uganda is portrayed as a war-stricken country in desperate need of foreign aid, the narrator neglects to mention the fact that in fact the LRA fled Uganda in 2007 and since then the country is rebuilding itself up in quite a peaceful manner. Whilst it is all very well the be passionately desiring to help people in Uganda, the LRA's crimes are in actual fact now being commited in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are five years (and more) too late for Uganda.
Not only that, but the video also fails to mention that the Ugandan government is not the "good guy" as portrayed, but in fact came to power in the very way that Kony now tried to - through guerrilla warfare and the use of child soldiers, not to mention countless rapes, murders and tortures.
Secondly, I resent the attitudes created by this kind of campaign. As a development studies student I have seen my fair share of the "White Mans Burden" attitude. For some reason, we see these indigenous people as poor victims of circumstance, and think ourselves to be the only ones fit to save them from themselves. God forbid we actually gave the the resources, opportunities and help to advocate for themselves - no, we must march in with guns waving and archaic colonial attitudes, to become to White Saviour of the day!
The Kony 2012 campaign and its proposed solution is to dispatch US troops (or as they call them, "advisors") in to Uganda to be at the disposal of the Ugandan government. This, it is hoped, will lead to the discovery and arrest of Kony and an end to the conflict. It is questionable, though, how the dispatching of US military personnel is going to help restore peace to any African nation - one only has to look at Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or, more recently, Libya, to see that foreign military intervention often sows strife more than it reaps peace. By assuming the we are the answer to Uganda (or Sudans, or the Congo's) issues, and that changing out Facebook status or plastering a poster on the wall of our University library will be the solution, we in fact strip the Ugandan people of their dignity and integrity by a) saying that they are not able to be the answer themselves and b) belittling them by over-simplifying a hugely complex and multifaceted political and social issue.
Another thing that I am uncomfortable about in regards to military intervention is that in itself - military intervention. Kony uses child soldiers as protection and as an army. As idealisitc as we want to be, it cannot be denied that if Kony is found and captured, people will have to be killed in the process of getting to him. This means the murder of the very children we are campaigning to save. Not only that, but is the introduction of more arms in to the conflict really going to stop it? I don't think so - to fight a war in the name of peace seems to be the epitome of foolhardiness. Martin Luther Kind said, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word" and I tend to agree with him.
For the sake of brevity, my final point is summed up nicely by Deibert in the Huffington Posrt - "Kony is a grotesque war criminal, to be sure, but the Ugandan government currently in power also came to power through the use of kadogo (child soldiers) and fought alongside militias employing child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, something that Invisible Children seem wilfully ignorant of. [...] The problem with Invisible Children's whitewashing of the role of the government of Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni in the violence of Central Africa is that it gives Museveni and company a free pass, and added ammunition with which to bludgeon virtually any domestic opposition, such as Kizza Besigye and the Forum for Democratic Change. By blindly supporting Uganda's current government and its military adventures beyond its borders, as Invisible Children suggests that people do, Invisible Children is in fact guaranteeing that there will be more violence, not less, in Central Africa. I have seen the well-meaning foreigners do plenty of damage before, so that is why people understanding the context and the history of the region is important before they blunder blindly forward to "help" a people they don't understand."
In summary, there are a number of hugely complicated political, social and cultural issues that surround the issue of the LRA and thier atrocious war crimes, and the simplified viewpoint, explanation and solution offered by Invisible Children (not to mention dounbts around the integrity of Invisible Children as a charity, an issue which needs to be addressed separately) fails, in my opinion, to address these concerns. I object to the blind reposting of status' by people who have no idea about these concerns, and while raising awareness of such an issue may be neccessary, how is the awareness of White, "first-world" students going to change anything when we have no idea about the world from which these people come and the issues they face day to day?
By all means, support 'Kony 2012' and Invisible Children if you have done your research and support them, their ideals, and their plan-of-attack, if you will. But for the sake of the people of Uganda, do not blindly jump on the bandwagon until you realise that foreign military intervention has huge consequences for the countries involved, and not all of those consequences are positive.