Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kony2012: Our thoughts.

We just finally viewed the video and must say that it is compelling, with the producer's adorable little son and the heartbreaking story of the abducted Ugandan boy. But our critique and questions are:

1. The film is very misleading in terms of the facts: Joseph Kony has not been in Uganda for years, but is in Democratic Republic Congo where he only has a few hundred followers. He is a threat to local people, but is not, under international law (which the film keeps referring to) under the domain of the Ugandan Army which
2. Was responsible for human rights violations – murdering of villagers who, themselves, had been victims of Kony’s terror.
3. The disaster that is eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where many armies and militias plunder, murder and rape over the spoils of coltan (used in your mobile phone), gold and diamonds will not be resolved if Joseph Kony is captured. It is the result of multinational-supported looting of one of the most minerally-rich areas of the world. Uganda and Rwanda are particularly guilty for the continuing violence in this area.

So if the film ignores important facts, what does it do?
  1. It likens Kony to with Hitler on posters, in the footage and in the date for the actions (Hitler’s birthday, 2012). That is extremely inflammatory and equates a mass-murdering dictator who threatened all of Europe with the leader of a small militia in an isolated jungle in central Africa.
  2. It says that young people can make a difference and almost all of the young people pictured in the film seem white.
  3. It demands the arrest of Kony and, though never quite clear, seems to say that that should be done by intervention by the US military (presumably along with Ugandan military). It implies guilt on behalf of the US government (with reactionary oilman Senator Inhofe leading the charge for justice) for not having done more.
  4. It diverts youthful righteous anger about violence and war away from the violence and war that the US is committing: Afghanistan, Iraq, soon-to-be Iran where much broader devastation and killing of children has occurred.
  5. A very small amount of the money raised by Invisible Children is going to benefit the victims of Kony’s violence. They advertise it as 37% but that does not account for millions that “disappeared” from the records – taken in but not accounted for.
Kony is a horrible, evil man and does need to be brought to the International Criminal Court. No question. And there needs to be support for rebuilding of Northern Uganda’s infrastructure and security. But focusing American youth’s energies in support of military intervention in Africa is dangerous and diverts that longing for justice and peace from the genuine peace movement to bolster further violence and war. There are oil discoveries all over the continent now that oil companies would love to take advantage of, but cannot do so without the support of the military. This “human-rights-based” intervention could help pave the way.

Further, there is more than a hint of racism here. Once again Africans are portrayed as either helpless, suffering victims in need of (white, American/European/Christian, etc) support, or vicious and crazed gunmen who only know how to plunder, murder, mutilate and rape. There is an appeal to “save Africa and Africans” that does not respect African agency and ability to take care of their own business.

And let us not forget that this intervention is being called for at the same time that the United Nations’ Global Fund’s spending on treating and preventing AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is being cut. Costly military intervention comes at the expense of many other things that have proven effectiveness on the ground in countries such as Uganda. 
For peace and justice, Marty and Elliot


  1. The YouTube video is so compelling and seductive that I didn't stop to question its veracity. I appreciate your posting Rosebell Kagumire's comments. Your response has brought me to my senses! Thank you.

  2. thank you marty and elliot for this eloquent and sharp critique! it is so important to stop and question what's behind a flashy video. i've also heard some pretty severe criticisms of their non-profit, invisible children.


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  4. Another shocking angle surfaced today:

    "Invisible Children receives major funding from far-right, anti-gay fundamentalist donors and organizations, chief among them the U.S.-based National Christian Foundation (NCF). The NCF has also provided significant funds to fanatical groups deeply tied to the persecution of LGBT people in Uganda, including that nation’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill."

  5. Once again we can be appreciative for the clear thinking and eloquent critique furnished by Eliot and Marty. Thank you!