|Wilkinson Road, Freetown, Sierra Leone / February 2005|
It seems fitting Buffalo Surf should wade into the Kony2012 debate. This blog’s author is funded in part by a pay cheque earned in the development sector with a faith-based organization, so it would seem fair comment. (While I wrote this back in the middle of March, technological glitches have continued to hound this blog space.) Thus a brief recap is in order. Invisible Children is an American NGO that believes Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is a war criminal because among other appalling acts he reportedly kidnaps children to serve as child soldiers, sexually brutalizes his victims and tortures those who don’t comply. So Invisible Children made a video in the hopes that Kony2012 will galvanize the world into sustained and unified protest, leading to Kony’s immediate arrest and speedy trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Except that Kony2012 is another dumbed down, Manichean mess of “us and them” propaganda. After ingesting this unimaginative and manipulative film aimed at 7-year-olds (you know, Africa is so complicated), the armchair slacktavists will know just what to do. Cue to smiling white university students selling plastic bracelets on campus because clearly the “Africans” themselves haven’t done anything to stop this monster.
Invisible Children also has invisible, but deep, roots as a faith-based nongovernmental organization, staffed by clean-scrubbed, young college grads who say things like “gosh” and burst into spontaneous group prayer. Which is fine. What’s not is this same staff unblinkingly accepting funding from anti-gay Evangelical right wing groups. Invisible Children has been linked to a virulent homophobe pastor who is trying to pass a death penalty law in Uganda for any and all acts of homosexuality.
It is a strange advocacy triangulation: the LRA on one side plus Invisible Children on another side plus Ugandan church congregations watching hard-core gay porn to stir up mighty righteous indignation. One group of believers rape and slaughter in the name of God, but another group of believers are going to create a tide of protest with a staggeringly bigoted video and ride it to sweet, sweet (Hallelujah!) victory of “getting the bad guy,” while funded by other group of believers who prefer to see people executed for practicing lifestyles different than their own. And in fact, I’m just guessing about the tide of protest thing because Invisible Children actually doesn’t want Kony to stand trial. The NGO is calling for the use of force via an international military intervention.
Nowhere have any of these concerned citizens seemed to have consulted their own reference material that urges the imperative “Do unto others.”
But do yourself a favour and don’t do as I did and watch Kony2012 without assistance. In a blog post I wish I had written, the good women at Wronging Rights have prepared The Definitive ‘Kony2012’ Drinking Game for your salvation.
I spent so much time there that this post hasn’t even got started on the paternalistic clap-trap of do-gooders, collective “Africans” and the assumption that “no one” cared about Joseph Kony and the LRA for decades until some American (read: white) students “saw” and rescued those victimized (read: black) children.
Ending the horrors of child soldiers isn’t going to happen with the Kony2012 campaign. Proselytizing missionaries is what got us into this mess in the first place when the British turned up in Uganda 150 years ago. Educate yourself about the men and women who have been working for decades in Uganda to “do something.” Focus on what political action you can take with your local government to put international pressure on Joseph Kony the man and not how many panacea stickers you get buying the Invisible Children Action Kit.