The Reality of Kony 2012

By Kelsey Byard 

  By this point, it’s a safe bet to say that everyone and their mother has either watched or heard about the viral sensation that is Kony 2012. The twenty-nine minute, fifty-nine-second video circulated by Invisible Children is about Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which kidnaps children and forces them to be child soldiers or sex slaves.

   Regions in Africa affected by Joseph Kony and the LRA include northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. According to the video, YOU can stop these atrocities by watching the video and buying bracelets and posters to raise awareness about Kony and his crimes. The idea is to get celebrities like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie and policymakers like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry to take notice and use their influence to encourage greater action by the United States military to bring Kony to justice.

   The video and concept behind Kony 2012 have garnered an unprecedented following, and it seems that countless numbers of Americans have raised the alarm about the ferocious African warlord, sharing the video through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. At this rate, Joseph Kony and his massive army should be a matter of the past in just a few short weeks. The problem?  Joseph  Kony is no longer a ferocious entity in Uganda, and his army isn’t massive. In fact, Kony was driven out of Uganda years ago and the LRA hasn’t been as active as the video portrays since 2006. It’s now scattered to various isolated jungles in the countries surrounding Uganda.

   According to Louisa Lombard, a cultural anthropology doctoral student at Duke University, the LRA “…consists of about 200 people who don’t even have shoes, who are hanging out in this extremely isolated part of central Africa” (Justin Quesinberry, NBC News). The Invisible Children viral video portrays Kony’s army to be over 30,000 strong.  

Another negative of the video, Lombard mentions, is that it “perpetuates an image of Africans as helpless and unable to solve their own conflicts and the idea that Americans are the only ones who can step in and solve this problem for them. “That is absolutely false,” (Justin Quesinberry, NBC News). This idea goes along with what critics of the movie are calling the a reprise of the “white man’s burden,” which is the concept that white Westerners are the only ones who can, and therefore must, fix African problems.

   However well intentioned, Invisible Children’s campaign is not the answer. By asking people to buy wristbands and kits to raise awareness about Kony and his crimes, Invisible Children is perpetuating the idea that simply buying these products is enough, and thus you have done your part to help the nations touched by Kony’s devastating campaign of terror recover.

   In reality, the money you would spend on a thirty dollar “action kit” could go towards a non-governmental organization (NGO) or advocacy group doing work to help rebuild the communities Kony and others like him have destroyed. A bracelet on your wrist may make you feel good, but the amount of good it’s doing is minuscule, at best.

   Joseph Kony is cowering in a jungle in some remote region of Africa. He needs to be brought to justice, yes, but at the same time the victims of his crimes need to heal and move forward with addressing the causes that lead to people like Kony gaining so much influence. Wearing the name of the man who caused them so much torment in the form of a wristband or T-shirt is not going to facilitate healing. In fact, it’s only re-opening old wounds and creating anger amongst those who were affected by Joseph Kony.

One caller to a Ugandan radio station stated that the government of Uganda needed to “…protect us victims not only from Kony but also from things that hurt us like these T-shirts. And as people of northern Uganda we will not accept anyone to cross Karuma with that T-shirt” (Rosebell Kagumire, Lira and David Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald).

The best advice for those wishing to help people in Uganda and other regions affected by Kony is to research the organization to which you are donating your money. Learn where your donation is going, what it is being used for and how much of it will actually go towards helping. When you see something like Kony 2012, do independent research on the issue. Do not take everything you hear at face value, especially when it is loaded with emotional material.

Uganda needs help, but it needs help to realize its own strength and devise solutions that best work for it. American intervention is not the best solution, and by no means the only solution as purported by the video. The best solution for Uganda is the healing of its people and helping them move forward and address internal issues.

   However well intentioned, Invisible Children’s campaign is not the answer. By asking people to buy wristbands and kits to raise awareness about Kony and his crimes, Invisible Children is perpetuating the idea that simply buying these products is enough, and thus you have done your part to help the nations touched by Kony’s devastating campaign of terror recover.

   In reality, the money you would spend on a thirty dollar “action kit” could go towards a non-governmental organization (NGO) or advocacy group doing work to help rebuild the communities Kony and others like him have destroyed. A bracelet on your wrist may make you feel good, but the amount of good it’s doing is minuscule, at best.

   Joseph Kony is cowering in a jungle in some remote region of Africa. He needs to be brought to justice, yes, but at the same time the victims of his crimes need to heal and move forward with addressing the causes that lead to people like Kony gaining so much influence. Wearing the name of the man who caused them so much torment in the form of a wristband or T-shirt is not going to facilitate healing. In fact, it’s only re-opening old wounds and creating anger amongst those who were affected by Joseph Kony.

One caller to a Ugandan radio station stated that the government of Uganda needed to “…protect us victims not only from Kony but also from things that hurt us like these T-shirts. And as people of northern Uganda we will not accept anyone to cross Karuma with that T-shirt” (Rosebell Kagumire, Lira and David Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald).
 
The best advice for those wishing to help people in Uganda and other regions affected by Kony is to research the organization to which you are donating your money. Learn where your donation is going, what it is being used for and how much of it will actually go towards helping. When you see something like Kony 2012, do independent research on the issue. Do not take everything you hear at face value, especially when it is loaded with emotional material.
 
Uganda needs help, but it needs help to realize its own strength and devise solutions that best work for it. American intervention is not the best solution, and by no means the only solution as purported by the video. The best solution for Uganda is the healing of its people and helping them move forward and address internal issues.

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