In short: #Kony2012 #StopKony misrepresents N. Uganda, spreads misinformation abt Kony/the LRA, denies Africans’ agency and is imperialist. It raises the perennial question of “Who represents Africa?”
For example: This tweet (one of many prime examples) succinctly exemplifies all that I critique in this piece:
In fact, it reminded me of my post-colonial readings of Karl Marx. Reading this quote from his “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “Sie können sich nicht vertreten, sie müssen vertreten werden” spurred me deeper into my anti-colonialist, post-colonialist fervor. Literally translated from German, “Those who cannot represent themselves must themselves be represented,” the quote revealed to me just how insidious the narrative of “saving” and “speaking for” the subaltern is.
HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 CAMPAIGN?
If “awareness” is the payoff for paternalistic, imperialist, “white man’s burden” NGO campaigns, I don’t want it. (Just the name “Invisible Children” denies and co-opts the agency of Ugandans- many of whom have organized to protect child soldiers…). I stand by this: if you’re more comfortable talking about Africans than you are talking to an African person, you really should not be in the business of representing Africa. Furthermore, if you cannot find an African nation on a map, let alone acknowledge Africans’ agency, you should not be providing “solutions” or “aid. Certainly, if you think that Uganda is in Central Africa, you should not be disseminating (mis)information that could have implications on policy.
Presumably, this campaign is supposed to raise awareness in the international community of Joseph Kony and lead to his arrest and/or death. The assumption is that taking down the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army will eliminate the problems. Thing is, Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are symptoms of corrupt governance. Invisible Children’s video strangely omits Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s complicity in the horrors of the conflict that began in the late 1980s in Northern Uganda at the beginning of his (prolonged) presidency. Clearly, the international justice community is aware of Joseph Kony, because his name has been on top of the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s “most wanted” list for nearly a decade. Not to mention the fact that the United States armed forces have made several attempts at fighting the LRA and killing Joseph Kony, all of which resulted in the displacement of Sudanese and Congolese civilians as the LRA scattered about Central Africa.
[Also, I suggest a little light research into Invisible Children’s spending practices.]
A BIT OF CONTEXT
I’m not going to pretend that the Lord’s Resistance Army does not have a track record of egregious abuses that includes labor and sex trafficking, child soldiers, looting, murder, rape and other crimes. However, in the conveniently binary framing, Kony is depicted as the “bad guy” while everyone who fights against him is “good.” Never mind that the Ugandan Army, UPDF has been accused of rape, looting and land grabbing. Amid the hasty generalizations, one small forgotten detail is obscured: Joseph Kony and the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army fled from Northern Uganda to the Congo, and the Central African Republic over 6 years ago.
Also, let’s talk about how Northern Uganda’s Acholi people face a second genocide w/ US military involvement, and land grabs for oil deposits. Remember, Northern Uganda has oil deposits. Companies in China & the UK already tried to claim some. Now the US wants a turn. The same thing is happening in Southern Somalia. The UK has been baldfaced about their desire to claim the oil there. This is, of course, in keeping with the idea of a “resource curse”- where a region’s resources are valued more than its people and their rights.
I also urge you to pay attention to where military intervention by “western” nations on the continent of Africa occurs. It’s usually where the resources are. I addressed the United States’ increased military presence in Northern Uganda in the context of the 2009 Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act in an article entitled “The Greater WE: Military Interventions in a Globalized World,” excerpted below:
“What are the implications of President Obama’s decision to send military advisers to Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Can we learn from the United States armed forces’ forays into Africa? Can we look at the First (1993) and Second (2006) Battles of Mogadishu (Somalia) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008) and learn from the resultant civilian casualties, displacement and heightened risk of hunger and famine?
Billed as a strategy to force Joseph Kony (head of the Lord‘s Resistance Army) to sign the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) (a peace agreement that even the Ugandan government has refused to sign), Operation Lightning Thunder destroyed the Lord‘s Resistance Army (LRA) base camp and scattered the LRA over the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR). Tens of thousands of Congolese and Sudanese were displaced in the December 2008 military operation, comprising a percentage of the 200,000 displaced.
In the DRC, citizens either fled to major towns or across the border to Sudan. Thousands of Sudanese left their villages along the border and sought shelter and security in major towns. However, in towns, it was unclear whether the army was providing security. Other factors, including the rainy season, lack of food, housing, medical care, exacerbated the plight of those displaced by the fighting.”
WHAT ARE MY ALTERNATIVES? ARE THERE AFRICAN AGENTS OF CHANGE IN NORTHERN UGANDA?
I recommend you send your donations to the following community-based organizations in Northern Uganda:
Concerned Children & Youth Association (CCYA)
Art for Children Uganda
Children Chance International, founded by Kenneth Odur
Friends of Orphans
- Solome Lemma’s “Unmuted | You Don’t Have My Vote”
- UN Dispatch: Invisible Children: Saviors or Sensationalists?
- Joseph Kony 2012: It’s fine to ‘Stop Kony’ and the LRA. But Learn to Respect Africans.
- …My heart’s in Accra » Teju Cole on American sentimentality towards Africa
- Response to the Deployment of U.S. Military Advisors to LRA Affected Regions
- Foreign Policy: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)
- Taking ‘Kony 2012′ Down A Notch
- How Matters / Bad Guys, Good Guys, and the People in Between
- Foreign Affairs: Obama takes on the LRA
- On Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 Campaign. | Siena Anstis
- Dear Coquette – On Donating to Kony 2012
“… They’re [Invisible Children] essentially a well-funded production company that makes slick documentaries. Noble intentions aside, they aren’t doing charity so much as they’re playing charity.
Then of course, there’s the project founder, Jason Russell. Read this interview where he says, “If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby.”
- Invisible Children and Joseph Kony
- Crisis Group: Lord’s Resistance Army: End Game? (report)
- Stop Kony, Yes. But Don’t Stop Asking Questions
“…The thing is that Joseph Kony has been doing this for a very, very, very long time. He emerged about a quarter of a century, which is about the same time that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni came to power. As a result the fates of these two leaders must, I think, be viewed together. Yet, though President Museveni must be integral to any solution to this problem, I didn’t hear him mentioned once in the 30-minute video. I thought that this was a crucial omission. Invisible Children asked viewers to seek the engagement of American policymakers and celebrities, but – and this is a major red flag – it didn’t introduce them to the many Northern Ugandans already doing fantastic work both in their local communities and in the diaspora. It didn’t ask its viewers to seek diplomatic pressure on President Museveni’s administration.”
- Africa is a Country (blog): The #Kony2012 show
- A critique from a former LRA child soldier and Director of Friends of Orphans Uganda, Anywar Ricky Richard:
“I am writing from Pader, Uganda, because I believe the recent conversation about Joseph Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Invisible Children is not including the voice of those that matter most– the people of Northern Uganda. I know more than I would like to know about the LRA, not from watching “Kony 2012” or reading insightful accounts of the conflict, but because personally I have seen it, have lived it, and have been in it. I was one of the now-famous “child soldiers.” …”