I touched briefly on the subject of Kony 2012 on this blog some months ago. Since I’m woefully tired and facing a deadline for another “Representing International Politics” blog post after this one, I’ve decided to elaborate on a topic from last month that’s a bit more controversial than you may realize. Sorry if that’s exactly what you didn’t come here for :-)
Here is a brief outline: Kony is the believed current head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who had sought to form a Ugandan theocracy before allegedly being forced out of the country. He is charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity, recruiting children as soldiers in his army as well as sex slaves. Many of the LRA’s most brutal crimes occurred over a decade ago, but the group’s campaigns displaced thousands if not millions of people and the body count is high.
I was first made aware of this charming psychopath in my International Human Rights course last semester, but Kony’s name did not stick in my mind. I was reminded after viewing the now infamous 30-minute Kony 2012 Youtube video made by Invisible Children co-founder James Russell. The video was amazing and struck a chord in my heart. Of course, now we know Russell is having an emotional and perhaps psychological breakdown, but I don’t think that necessarily discounts his work for this cause.
On April 20, 2012, I participated in “Cover the Night,” an event organized by Invisible Children’s off-shoot Kony 2012 where participants put up posters around their respective city in order to raise awareness on the Ugandan, and perhaps African, situation surrounding the crimes of Joseph Kony. After “covering” the night, I felt like I did something. And it was exactly what I intended to do: raise awareness. That’s all I need to do, right? Heck, I got off my butt and gave up valuable study time.
After the video was released and garnered over 100 million views in less than two weeks, there were many cries of “slacktivism.” The term is perfectly legitimate. I agree that in our quick access and instant gratification society, it’s nice to press a button and feel like you’re helping to make the world a better place. I also agree that sometimes, this is not enough to affect change. But what I found to be particularly insulting was the term’s application to this video. The purpose of the clip was to raise awareness, to raise concern. The very fact that so many people felt compelled to write about how uninspired the campaign was reiterates how effective the clip was.
And to add, I’m almost positive that a majority of the writers of these “slacktivist” articles bought any plane tickets to Africa to go save the nation, build schools, adopt underprivileged babies, end famine...Let’s be honest. The real slacktivists are opinion writers.
Besides the slacktivist argument, others argued that the situation pertaining to child abductions by the LRA has calmed down and now Uganda and the whole of Africa is an awesome place to be. Look, I understand that African countries are on the up. But let’s not be forget the past. If Kony is still alive and there are still accounts of him abducting children, then he needs to be brought to trial. I viewed a video clip of a teenage Ugandan-American girl who permanently resides in the United States speak about how dishonest the Kony 2012 video was. Essentially, she argues that Kony 2012 is just a front for the US military to swoop in and take African resources.
Sorry, kids, China is beating us to that.
While I understand her concern because you can never trust white Americans, I have to stop her right at the beginning of her video when she promotes her pedigree:
“I’m 100% Ugandan. Both of my parents were born and raised in Uganda. And...I tend to visit there from time to time. The last time I went was the summer of 2010[. . .].”
Stop right there! Do not tell me how Ugandan you are though you are clearly American-born and raised. If Uganda was so great, why aren’t you living there now? She goes on to say that Uganda had problems with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, not the LRA, the last time she visited. So while the country is at peace, there are still problems with extreme fundamentalist religious groups.
Look, there were problems ten years ago that aren’t resolved today. Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity! These aren’t light charges. We are not talking about a slap on the wrist. Why are people so complacent? And for every child that was kidnapped and forced into slavery by the LRA, there should be an accounting. If Kony isn’t in Uganda, then perhaps the US military advisors won’t stay in Uganda. This is an international effort.
So, I praise Invisible Children and Kony 2012 for being able to mobilize people around the world about an otherwise forgotten tragedy. Let’s not forget that.
I'm aware that the situation concerning solely the organization Invisible Children is extremely complicated. This is just my view on one aspect. If you’re interested, here’s more reading on the topic: