Friday, 9 March 2012

And the Kony 2012 juggernaut rolls on

I spent yesterday trying to write a post on my views on Invisible Children's KONY 2012 video that has gone viral and garnered millions of views (38,430181 on YouTube as I write this). More specifically, I wanted to write about what I thought was wrong with both the approach of the film-makers and the way people without the slightest clue about the LRA (besides the misinformation gleaned from KONY 2012) were taking up the Stop Kony cause with such fervour.

However, Twitter could not let me do that in peace because almost every 5  minutes I received links to articles and blog posts reacting to the Invisible Children campaign. Posts like this one by Michael Wilkerson guest posting at Foreign Policy, and this post by  Ugandan blogger Angelo Izama are just two of the many that are out there echoing my feelings.  There is also this video from Ugandan blogger Rosebell Kagumire

As a result I feel what I had to say has already been said by many other people-many times over-and I do not see my self adding much to this debate.

But just when I was thinking of moving on I saw #konysurrender, which just confirmed that most people out there psyched about doing their bit to stop a murdering warlord are really clueless. What do they expect? That Kony is going to be so overwhelmed by millions of earnest pleas from American high school and college kids that he will cave in and surrender himself to a police station near him. The naivety of this later campaign is so incredible it hurts.

Kony will not surrender and Jason Russell and Co. know this because I am sure they know about the failed peace initiatives between the Ugandan government and the LRA in Southern Sudan in 2006. They also know about a US funded operation called Operation Lightening Thunder meant to capture Kony, after the failed peace talks, that was botched spectacularly. They know that the US government is more than aware of the Kony problem.

What exactly Invisible Children expects to achieve by Covering the night I cannot farthom. Getting people aware is OK, I guess, but ultimately there is nothing useful that can come of this campaign except cranking up the hysteria and misinformation.

There are efforts afoot to get the child soldiers abducted by Kony to abandon his army and surrender already. There are also numerous organisations that are on the ground attempting to find solutions to the problem that is Kony that are actually doing useful work that has a shot at working. However these efforts run the risk of being sidelined in favour of interventions that are ill-conceived which only play to the emotions and offer a sense of having helped solve a problem by buying an action-kit. These efforts on the ground need support from clear headed and sober people who know exactly what they are talking about. Here is a report  by the International Crisis Group on the LRA conflict as it is at the moment, work on the ground being done to end it and some meaningful recommendations on possible interventions by different parties. If only people bothered first to seek out reports like this before jumping on whatever save-the-hapless-Africans bandwagon that happens to be passing at the time, maybe initiatives like KONY 2012 just might be taken in stride and treated with the cautious scepticism they deserve.

But then again maybe I am being overly cynical and not giving the campaign a chance. Either way the StopKony juggernaut is on the roll and there seems to be no stopping it for now. I will see how this plays out-reservations and all.


  1. Well said ;-)

    Reservations and all, we can only hope for the best.

  2. Julian,

    Yes, I've seen lots of news and feeds on this issue over the last few days (and thought why there couldn't be such a high-level global attention on Northern Uganda unless we have this kind of debate).

    As you said, 'But then again maybe I am being overly cynical and not giving the campaign a chance' is probably the exact point for which people are debating. Without knowing so much details on the organisation and background, I watched the video and felt, as many critiques say, 'This is only one part of the whole stories on Northern Uganda, probably not updated, and therefore something is missing.' However, I also thought (1) they seem to be successful in providing entry points for those who don't know about Northern Uganda at all to learn further (only if they wish though), (2) their simple and clear message (therefore risking of omitting details at the same time) allowed them to increase the number of supporters.

    There are pros and cons as we see over the last few days, though there seem to be more cons. ODI blog named them 'Badvocacy'( I also saw a Monitor reporter expressing her arguments against the campaign on BBC news. I don't think there is no right answer.

    People's perception and ways of thinking are influenced by what we experience as well as what we learn by reading, listening and watching. As we cannot experience all the realities in the world, the latter especially through social media has strong power in influencing peoples perception.

    However, I believe that what you experience in Uganda, how you think about it as an Ugandan is the most important thing, which should form and lead the argument. So, keep posting, keep expressing as you do.


    1. Thanks Masumi,
      I've had to acknowledge that as a Ugandan who has known about kony and his atrocities since the beginning I will definitely have a different take on the campaign. Besides it was not directed at people like me to begin with but to those who had no idea about the LRA before.

      I still doubt that it will have much of an impact in as far as its set goal is i.e having Kony captured. There are efforts to capture Kony started before the KONY 2012 video and the reasons they have failed dont look like they will be sorted out by more Americans sharing the video. But I will just watch and see and hope that maybe the spotlight on the conflict that has now moved to DRC and Central African Republic might have some results.

      But then again everyone knows that Syria's on fire and not much is happening on that front.

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