Sunday, March 11, 2012

Our thoughts on Kony 2012

Kony 2012

There is no doubt that this is a very successful attempt at raising awareness about a series of atrocities that have taken place over the past 25 years in central Africa. It is by far the best example of the power of social media to spread information about social justice we’ve ever seen!

Having lived in Uganda for 6 months in 2010, I have a bit of knowledge about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). While there my wife and I had the privilege of working with some of the escaped child soldiers of the LRA. It was a life changing experience for us. We were deeply impacted by what we saw. Some of the things that we heard about were horrendous and some of the examples of resilience and healing amongst those children who had been affected were nothing short of miraculous.

Invisible Children have long had a goal to end the work of the LRA and to arrest Kony. Since 2009 Kony has been in hiding away from Uganda. He was pushed away from his base of support and was (and is still) in hiding in another African country- last reports of his whereabouts centre on the region around the border of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some of the credit for this can be attributed to Invisible Children. They succeeded in raising awareness about what had gone on. This latest campaign is, as far as I can work out, an attempt to finish the job.

I support a push for the arrest of Kony as he is a war criminal and bringing him to justice is important. It is also refreshing to see people caring deeply about something going on in Africa. However, I have reservations about the oversimplification of the situation and the proposed methods outlined in the video. Central Africa is a very complex region of the world. In 2010 (while we were in Uganda) the United Nations released a report about atrocities committed by the Ugandan army in the DRC. These atrocities included massacres of civilians and mass rape. Most of the military efforts to capture Kony have come from this same organisation- the Ugandan army. In effect we are being asked to agitate for the capture of Kony by any means possible. The most likely way this would happen is through the Ugandan army operating in the DRC with US military advice and support. Perhaps this is one of the dangers of social media campaigns. Is it action based on emotion rather than thought?

A last thought- there are other massive and urgent needs right now in Africa. In the Sahel region of West Africa there is a looming food crisis. Another one. Just like the Horn of Africa last year in East Africa. A lack of rain has resulted in widespread crop failure. It is reliably estimated by the UN that 7-10 million people could face starvation if nothing is done. My wife wrote about this here:

There’s some food for thought. Excuse the pun.
Tim and Helen Manson

1 comment:

  1. Social media has created an environment and platform where the individual and "little man" can band together with like minded folk and achieve a voice that is really heard. However it is not without pitfalls either.

    Have to agree, I like the awareness of the campaign and their primary aims, however their video, while very well done, does portray the situation in Uganda/DRC/Central Africa (indeed-many African nations) in a far too simplistic light.

    The danger is for those who do not have an education on the issues at hand, or do not undertake to educate themselves about the extent of the situation, that are then likely to base their feelings and actions on their emotional reactions and feelings.

    Whichever way one approaches it, the needs in Africa are huge with a long 'to do' list. Dealing with injustices (which to me includes the missaproppriation of wealth and resources - ie food scarcity as well as crimes against people) is pretty much top of the list.
    If campaigns such as the Kony 2012 one raise awareness, that is an awesome thing, but it would be good to see some longer term planning and strategy developed on the back of it.

    At least this is showing that a relatively small group of people who get passionate sbout an issue can create a platform for change.