At this point, it’s almost impossible to not have heard about the Kony2012 campaign. From the inflammatory 30-minute long video, to the allegations of Invisible Children’s irresponsible budgeting, and the recent detaining of co-founder Jason Russell after he was seen running through San Diego in the midst of a mental break down, this charity and its cause have become a household name overnight.
This recent outburst of “activism” flowing from Facebook has ignited the youth culture with the will and drive to help save the “invisible” child soldiers in Uganda by defeating the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and capturing the world’s most wanted warlord, Joseph Kony.
While the energy displayed by my generation is admirable, it is misguided and misinformed. And what’s worse, it’s rather insulting to those who they are trying to help — the people of Uganda.
The terror that is Joseph Kony and his child-soldier army isn’t a new problem. He’s been terrorizing most of Uganda for nearly 30 years, abducting thousands of children into his army and making them work as soldiers or sex slaves. He is also responsible for driving millions of Africans out of their homes, and destroying countless villages.
Without question, this man’s crimes are horrendous and inexcusable. But let’s not light our torches and march to Uganda just yet. While flashy and well put together, the Invisible Children video didn’t exactly get it right.
As many of Uganda’s scholars and journalists were quick to point out once the video was released, the LRA hasn’t been present in Uganda since 2006. It’s believed that Kony is somewhere in southern Sudan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After failed peace talks, the Ugandan government took military action and the LRA successfully run out of the country. Military forces in Uganda have been tracking and trying to catch Kony since then, and have even received help from U.S. army advisers.
Because of the huge popularity of the video and its call for military action to find Kony, many people fear that this will drive Kony to rebuild his army and go on the offensive. The leaders of Invisible Children are making an irresponsible move in calling for more violence to bring an end to the LRA. They have to leave this complex issue in the hands of the Ugandan government, who already has troops looking for Kony.
Also, at this point, it is believed that Kony’s army has dwindled down to somewhere in the hundreds. While they are still causing problems and have yet to be caught, most of Uganda is trying to pick up the pieces and return to a normal life.
So, as one can imagine, the resurgence of Kony’s name is severely troubling to Ugandans. At a showing of the “Kony 2012” video in the village of Lira, rocks were thrown at the movie screen, and people began to yell about the video. The fact that Kony, someone who had terrorized them and their families, mutilated and killed loved ones now has his name and face plastered across America is deeply insulting. Through Invisible Children’s sale of posters, T-shirts and bracelets, Kony’s name is making money, and that itself is a crime.
Worst of all, this Kony 2012 campaign has just further perpetuated the idea that the African people can’t help themselves. The Ugandan government and other local charities were doing a fine job of helping it’s citizens get back into their homes, start businesses and send their children to school. The threat of Joseph Kony is waning, and now those affected just need the resources to move on with their lives. But no one is hearing about that story.