Invisible Children KONY 2012 and Ugandan Journalists - My thoughts

With the forthcoming American elections and all, when you see the first part of my title, you would think that was someone running for office, right? Well, you would be wrong. You may already have seen the video below or not, it has just gone viral in the last couple of days and was trending on Twitter. But as much as I think I'm plugged in, I missed it until Atala called my attention to it this morning. Kony is a rebel leader in Northern Uganda with a guerilla group under the name the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and has been operating for the past almost 30 years now. Of course I've heard about them, either in books, fiction, or snatches in the news. Somehow, the leader's name never stuck. Until now. Thanks to the video below.

My first reaction as I began to watch was, "Africa is not a country, geddit?" Then, Ahhh...the white hero comes to save Africa. But at the end of the video, I had to put aside my nationalistic and racial pride to focus on the core of the message of the video which is - Kony and his LRA are committing crimes against the civilians in Northern Uganda, he has been indicted by International Criminal Court, he is wanted by the Ugandan Government and I can help stop him, even from America. The question was, will I support Invisible Children to Cover the Night on April 20?

Since it was right beside the Kony 2012 video, and I wanted to fully satisfy myself that I have enough information to answer the question, I had to hear from the horse's mouth himself. This is an interview with Kony done about six years ago. I took most of what he said with a heavy dose of salt, of course. I think, if he's really genuine, he would come out of the bush and answer to the allegations against him. It is clear from the interview that he's open to peace talks and has been working with local authorities to stabilize the region. It is also obvious that why he does not have as much power as Invisible Children ascribes to him, he's a deluded man, and quite dangerous.

As I pondered the situation with Atala, I got an email from AfricaFocus, a Bulletin I subscribe to, containing a link to a video reply by a Ugandan Journalist. I think Rosebell Kagumire's response is on point and presents a more rounded and updated perspective on the issue of Kony, the LRA and Uganda. She laments the narrative that presents a single story of Africans as helpless and in need of outside/western salvation. It also asks questions about the American involvement in trying to arrest Kony. After watching it, I felt it was not as informative as it could have been, but I guess she wanted to put it out while the trending video was still a hot button topic.

There is also a link to her BLOG where I was able to get more information about Invisible Children and their campaigns. I also read an article by another Ugandan journalist who is from Northern Uganda where the LRA used to terrorize massively. Maureen Agema of The Citizen Journalist titled her piece, I am a visible child from Northern Uganda. Who are the “Invisible Children”? It is an emotive op-ed and states the danger of sidelining the work that is already being done by local authorities, and bringing in foreigners who may further alienate the rebels.

I get that, but still, I would not totally dismiss Invisible Children. Sure, their video is emotionally manipulative, it presents a western agenda, and it was not be as rounded or up to date as it could have. But we have to remember the video was intended for a predominantly American audience. The people behind Invisible Children are obviously not journalists, they are a charity, and they wanted a video that will move people enough to do something.

I choose to cut Invisible Children some slack because they have been on ground in Uganda for almost 10 years and there were a couple of Ugandan politicians and other local voices represented in the Kony 2012 video. Finally, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Kony is a criminal, he is a part of an ongoing war, and he needs to be arrested.