Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education
The world of social media has been bombarded recently with a campaign called KONY2012, the product of a not-for-profit organisation named Invisible Children, in an effort to capture Joseph Kony. Kony is the leader of a Ugandan guerrilla group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which has spread terror through eastern and central Africa for almost three decades. It has killed thousands of people, primarily using an army of abducted child soldiers. At one point it forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. The message, wrapped in a glossy Hollywood-style 30-minute video, is to “raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice”. Sounds good, right? Instead, it comes across as a highly polished piece of propaganda inciting an American occupation of Uganda.
The social media have played a pivotal role in recent events. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have been used in ways that were unforeseen and powerful. In the Arab spring, social networking sites were used by pro-democracy protesters as a platform to organise and communicate with the outside world about their struggle. It seems only fitting that Invisible Children use them as a viable platform, aimed at “young people”. The video went viral and within days had millions of viewers. Young people everywhere felt compelled to help. In a matter of 24 hours, they all supported military intervention in Africa.
Do people really still believe that the West invade other nations to save them? That has never been why we go to war. That has always been an excuse. The real reason is economic. Look at the long trail of destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya. Invisible Children, with their questionable finances, are in favour of direct military intervention. The video makers claim that their money will fund 100 US military advisors sent to train African armies to capture Kony. I guess saying that Kony has “weapons of mass destruction” doesn’t work anymore. Don’t ask the help of war criminals to catch a war criminal! Has no one realised the implications of so many people being ready to support a cause they have done no research on? Oh, and did I mention that Uganda just struck oil? Coincidence?
This campaign trivialises the problems facing Uganda. It is the product of a three-decade-long civil war. Capturing Kony will not end it. Buying bracelets and action kits is no solution.
The video overlooks imperative facts: most importantly, that Kony hasn’t been active in Uganda for the past six years. So why the emphasis on military intervention? And why now? Since the LRA left, regions in northern Uganda are rebuilding, and need supplies for schools, education, the economy, clean water, health care and a strong organised government. The Ugandan people are the only ones who haven’t had their voices heard. They are trying to rebuild their lives. It is demeaning to belittle their efforts in a 30-minute video, pleading for their children to be ‘saved’. Uganda isn’t there to make self-righteous individuals with imperialistic saviour complexes feel good about themselves by clicking ‘like’ on a video. These “invisible children” aren’t invisible to the African people.
“Kony is nowhere near the top of the concerns for us Ugandans… Kony is a sore in our history. We are not defined by him or Idi Amin”, writes Teddy Ruge, who runs Project Diaspora in Uganda.
What about Israel and the USA’s imminent attack on Iran? Is Uganda’s so called ‘Kony problem’ just a distraction from this? And if we believe in the rule of law, then isn’t everybody innocent until proven guilty? So where is Kony’s case? Everybody just suddenly hit the guilty verdict.
Yes, raising awareness of the shocking nature of the Kony’s crimes is great. And yes, he does need to be captured and tried. However, the idea that imperialist intervention should be induced by viral marketing techniques is dangerous. I leave you with Teddy Ruge’s comment: “What will a $30 kit do? Did I ask you to sell my story for an action kit to make uninformed college students feel good?”