Discussion on Invisible Children and Joseph Kony
While many people think its a scam (that only 25-32% of the profits actually are sent to the children and such) they must also be aware that the MAIN purpose of the campaign is in fact to promote awareness and spread word of Kony’s war crimes. Supporting the movement breaks down basically into a) donating to the campaign (where your money would be used to pay other awareness campaigns as well as payment to printing and advertising agents) and b) spreading the propaganda and promoting awareness firsthand via putting up posters and wearing shirts and bracelets (where your money also goes into producing). It’s a good cause in my book.
The percentage of funds going to children is not the main issue, rather it’s the way that invisible children (IC) frames the conflict that is doing a disservice to the Ugandan people. They may be drawing attention to certain issues in the country, but by laying the blame on a single player, Joseph Kony, they run the risk of oversimplifying a complex situation, and burying the responsibility of other actors that should be implicated in the crisis. The problems Uganda faces are not orchestrated by the hand of a single man.
IC is not simply a benevolent organization trying to highlight the problems facing the Uganda nation and its children, rather it is attempting to blanket the airwaves with its perspective, with the intention of pushing forward its agenda, and it’s this agenda, and the way they veil it, that I draw issue with. They are not simply exposing a humanitarian crisis, but rather stirring up our emotions in an attempt to get us to donate, and in effect blindly condone whatever course of action they see fit.
My two main issues with their approach are the free pass they give the Ugandan government led by Yoweri Museveni, and the way they are aggressively pushing for US intervention. Throughout the video they draw all the attention to Kony, and even state that their overarching objective is to publicize him and the atrocities committed in his name. At times they accomplish this with shameful tactics that would make an expert soviet propagandist weep with envy (the moment when they have the guy asking his child who the bad guy is.) Yes, they may be trying to shine a light on a war criminal, but they are also limiting the focus to such a degree that they bury the atrocities committed by the Uganda military. Here is a description of the conflict by Human Rights Watch:
“The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to wage war against the Ugandan government, whose undisciplined army has committed crimes against civilians, the very people they are supposed to protect, with near-total impunity. Today, as the war continues into its 19th year, 1.9 million displaced civilians in northern Uganda remain isolated, ignored and unprotected, vulnerable to abuses by both rebel and army forces. The 76-page report, “Uprooted and Forgotten: Impunity and Human Rights Abuses in Northern Uganda,” documents how the ongoing lack of accountability and civilian protection in the north has fueled atrocities by both sides. In each of the displaced persons camps visited, Human Rights Watch found cases of abuse by Ugandan government forces as well as rebel combatants.
Leaving the military aside, we should also not allow President Yoweri Museveni to escape scrutiny. He has been ruling the country since 1986, and in that time he has:
1. Changed the constitution to extend term limits for presidential office, therefore upsetting a system that “was designed to prevent a dangerous centralization of power around a long-serving leader.” He has given himself the tools of a dictator.
2. Won elections that were disputed by outside observers, and described as being “marred by intimidation, violence, (and) voter disenfranchisement.”
3. Gravely injured the democratic process by trying to intimidate and silence legal political opposition to his regime.
Trying to reduce Uganda’s issues to Kony runs the risk of missing the complexity of the situation, and leaving the Ugandan people under the oppression of other forces.
IC also seems hell bent on getting the US government to further intervene in the conflict. They pushed hard for the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.” Hasn’t the past decade, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, shown us that we don’t have the moral credentials to play world police, that trying to ally ourselves with corrupt governments’ untimely backfires, and that our direct involvement only seems to increase tensions?
IC claims that Kony is the key to the puzzle, and that they want to put his name out there. Did they forget that he was already indicted for war crimes by The Hague in 2005? Have they failed to notice that his group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, has been dealt devastating blows by the Ugandan army, and that Kony has been forced to live in hiding? No one has been able to capture Kony, not even the Ugandan army during the 2009, US supported ‘Operation Lightning Thunder.’ How does IC think we can accomplish his capture? Should we send an invasion force into the area? Should we continue to give military support to the Ugandan military which has a history of committing atrocities against its own people? Should we launch drone strikes in an attempt to knock out LRA leadership, and risk the devastating collateral damage that such tactics have inflicted in Pakistan? In trying to pin everything on Kony, we seem to be recreating the environment that led to the now debunked idea that killing Osama Bin Laden would end the threat of terrorism. Monsters like Kony are a dime a dozen, and can easily be replaced. Focusing entirely on Kony, makes it impossible to appreciate the entire framework of the crisis, and all but ensures that it will continue indefinitely.
Don’t get me wrong, drawing attention to this conflict is a noble endeavor, but that is only one facet of what IC is trying to accomplish. I can’t shake the feeling that they are trying to distract us with Kony, get into our wallets, and pursue their goals without any accountability.