I watched the Kony video, because everyone is forwarding it. While I agree with the sentiment, the video itself is a serious case of white man’s burden. They state a goal as being to lobby billionaires and celebrities to lobby the US government to support US troops in Uganda. Which is kinda dubious.
Among foreign activists there’s this fetish with Facebook and celebrity and the US government, despite the fact that these can only support local movements. When I’ve talked to Egyptian activists, they say that while Facebook helped, what made the difference was activists on the ground, literally walking around, talking to people and trying, failing and finally marshaling popular support.
Joseph Kony is undeniably a murderous asshole, using bad religion, poverty and trauma to enslave women and children into a morbid army of torturers, mutilators and killers, ravaging Uganda. Any thing to put pressure on him is good, but this video itself is more about itself and where it’s from than Uganda.
Criticism Of Invisible Children
The founders of Invisible Children with guns they do support.
Awareness is fine, but their prescription is lobbying the US government to stage a military intervention in Uganda, and to support the flawed Ugandan military directly. And their more direct focus is raising awareness among, like, hipsters, celebrities and billionaires. So, getting largely ignorant elites (outside of the agit-prop they see from Invisible Children) to support US troops to take sides with a national military (Uganda).
Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 31% went to their charity program (page 6). This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/5 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that…
The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children funds this military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention. (Sam M. Hayden)
However, I guess I could even understand military intervention. What puts me off is that the agency belongs to people on Facebook and in the US government and military, and that Ugandans are victims waiting to be saved. There is this idea that the US knows what’s right for Africa, and that actual implementation and execution is irrelevant.
Here is what Invisible Children are lobbying to do:
“In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. They need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle [hence they need US advisers]…
Here is how we’re going to make him visible: we are targeting 20 culture makers and 12 policy makers. Celebrities, athletes and billionaires. Oprah, Ryan Seacrest, Bono. Then we’re going after policy makers, the ones who have the authority to see Kony captured.”
They are quite literally not trying to influence anyone in Uganda or Africa at all. So basically get a bunch of money and guns and hand them off to a Ugandan military and state that you have no stake or connection with at all. That’s a pretty big and dangerous black box, no pun intended.
Seriously, the end game is where you kill Kony along with the 300 loyal soldiers he feels he will die with, and rings upon rings of child soldiers. Much like the the Sri Lankan Army finally killed Prabhakaran, with significant civilian casualties. That’s a decision, but a damn big one. Who has Invisible Children lobbied or even talked to in Uganda to see if they’re OK with that decision? What capacity have they built up to ensure that the Ugandan military and other military’s behave proportionally and remain under civilian oversight and control? Are George Clooney and Condoleeza Rice and the millions of people who’ve spent 30 minutes on the issue going to do that? And isn’t that important?
Anyways, Al Jazeera’s Stream has a great roundup on all of these criticisms and more. I fully recommend reading it, there’s tweets from bloggers in Uganda and all over. I also recommend watching the video above.
I think Kony is a murderous criminal and should be stopped. I think the Invisible Children, however, is pretentious twaddle, more about itself and the insular world of Facebook and US politics than Africa. IMHO.