The Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony have been in the news for years (here’s a 2006 story from the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent). But this week the issue went viral thanks to a video by advocacy group Invisible Children.
With help from celebrities like Rihanna, Sean Combs, Alec Baldwin and Zooey Deschanel, Invisible Children gathered more than more than 329,000 Twitter followers and more than 2 million Facebook fans in support of their KONY 2012 campaign. Here’s the video, links to some of the controversy it generated, and some background.
White Mans Burden? "There’s … something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. It’s often not an accidental choice of words, even if it’s unwitting. It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden." Chris Blattman.
Commodifying misery: "If there was a prize for the NGO who best commodifies white man’s burden on the African continent, and more specifically in Uganda, Invisible Children would win." Siena Anstis.
Invisible Children’s campaign of infamy: "To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement. While it draws attention to the fact that Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, is still on the loose, it’s portrayal of his alleged crimes in Northern Uganda are from a bygone era." Angelo Opi-aiya Izama.
Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions: "I understand the anger and resentment at Invisible Children’s approach, which with its paternalism has unpleasant echoes of colonialism. I will admit to being perturbed by its apparent top-down prescriptiveness, when so much diligent work is already being done at Northern Uganda’s grassroots. On the other hand, I am very happy – relieved, more than anything – that Invisible Children have raised worldwide awareness of this issue." Musa Okwonga, The Independent.
Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things): "It would be great to get rid of Kony. He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years. But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality. " Michael Wilkerson, Foreign Policy.
Bursting bubbles: "So, now I’m in a bit of a quandary. I’m worried that the real reason I went to seek out the downsides of the Kony 2012 phenomenon was simply because I’m a snob who enjoys bursting people’s bubbles, and because I find the promotional film they made for it embarrassingly produced. What a horrible reason that would be to ignore a charity." Alex Miller, Vice.
Talking with Kony: "I had set out to find a monster, but Kony turned out to be a rather pathetic, frightened man." Matthew Green.
An Insider’s Portrait of Joseph Kony: "It is difficult to overstate Mr. Kony’s exaggerated style of public weirdness and calculated ferocity." CJ Chivers, At War, The New York Times.
Obama Takes on the LRA: "During the past decade, U.S.-based activists concerned about the LRA have successfully, if quietly, pressured the George W. Bush and Obama administrations to take a side in the fight between the LRA and the Ugandan government. Among the most influential of advocacy groups focusing specifically on the LRA are the Enough project, the Resolve campaign, the Canadian-based group GuluWalk, and the media-oriented group Invisible Children." Mareike Schomerus, Tim Allen, and Koen Vlassenroot, Foreign Affairs.
2011 – Obama Sends U.S. Forces to Help African Troops Confront Lord’s Resistance Army: "President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment to central Africa of 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces whose mission is to help regional forces fight the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony." Cheryl Pellerin, US Africa Command (Oct 14, 2011).
2011 – Limbaugh Defends Lord’s Resistance Army: "Apparently sensing an opportunity to tarnish President Obama’s standing with listeners who were unaware of the suffering caused by the African rebels who call themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army, Rush Limbaugh responded to the president’s deployment of 100 military advisers to combat the group in central Africa on Friday in a segment of his radio show headlined, “Obama Invades Uganda, Targets Christians." Robert Mackey, The Lede, New York Times.
2006 – Childhood’s End: "The Acholi people of northern Uganda, who are the chief sufferers in all this, have to suffer everything twice. Their children are murdered or abducted and enslaved and then come back to murder and abduct and enslave even more children. Yet if the Ugandan Army were allowed to use extreme measures to destroy the L.R.A., the victims would be … Acholi children again." Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair.