Much Ado About Kony 2012

by Carla Johnson on March 10th, 2012

A few days ago my 15 year old daughter came home and almost lost her breath telling about the Kony 2012 video and her desire to get involved. My initial reaction was 3-fold.

Inspiration. I was inspired to see her so passionate to make a change. Young people are idealists and they galvanize. I can’t blame her for wanting to step in to solve something that adults have failed to do. I want to support her in her growing awareness.

Awe. While I have seen the power of social media, I have never seen it sweep this far and this wide and create such momentum.

Uneasiness. Would my daughter be safe taping up posters all night? Could we really solve this severely complex problem with a video & posters? Often when we focus on something it grows. If Kony is captured, could 50 more rise up? If this doesn’t “work” would Kony’s bravado and power increase? This is vigilante justice on an international scale. Much could go wrong.

Dr. Anna-Marie Ball, Carla Johnson

Dr. Anna-Marie Ball

My amazing friend Anna-Marie Ball has spent most of her life living and working in many parts of Africa. Right now she lives in Kampala, Uganda. I like to say that while Anna is pale on the outside, she is African on the inside. We have had many interesting conversations about her deep concerns regarding North Americans intervening in Africa.

Anna has seen too many times how good intentions bring unintended consequences. Africa is littered with abandoned buildings and equipment, gifts outsiders thought were needed, but with no infrastructure to maintain, they are unusable. Infrastructure is the key to sustainability and requires a lot more time than most outsiders can give.

This article in the September/October 2010 issue of “Engineering Dimensions” (pages 40-44) explains it well.

Carla Johnson

Click to enlarge this excerpt from the article

When the Kony 2012 video went viral, I looked to Anna for some perspective. Here is what she had to say.

What struck me in viewing the Invisible Children’s (IC) video were two things:

1) Holy crap!  The power of  social media to mobilize so effectively – I’m in awe.  I want to use that for my work!

2) Lord have mercy!  Besides the gazillion more well meaning people that will descend onto Uganda to solve the Kony problem, see the disfigured people in the north – and save the prostitutes in Gulu, and go to the game parks – they have NO IDEA that Museveni does NOT WANT KONY CAPTURED!  Kony has made it patently clear that if he goes to the ICC, he will tell what brutal things Museveni did in the bush as a rebel fighter so that he too can be prosecuted by the ICC.  Museveni clearly does not want that.  It does not take 20 years for the armed forces to find Kony. (Ok there are a few more nuances about this – but it would require a bottle or two of Carla’s well stocked alcohol!)

That Kony needs to be stopped?  Absolutely!  His movement into DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), CAR (Central African Republic) and South Sudan – although his numbers are down – is tragedy beyond what we can comprehend because he has moved into areas of those 3 countries that are far away from the capitals and in areas where those governments will not defend at all – so those people are being terrorized without the world bearing witness. That has to break your heart.

But the naivety of IC is that they are not taking into account the local politics and situation.  Sometimes leaders don’t want to be “saved or assisted” because they have their own agendas … that the local population needs help – for sure – but IC is not the only movement – and they plus the people that started the Gulu Walk should be humble enough to know that it was the religious leaders of the north (Gulu) that brought the world’s attention to the children sleeping in Gulu.  The Anglican Bishop took his sleeping mat and slept with the children and the Ugandan government was so shamed and embarrassed by his actions … and then something started to happen.

Here are excellent links sent by Anna and others:

An MCC worker who spent a lot of time in northern Uganda. A very thorough analysis: Kiss the Joy As it Flies: Responding to Kony 2012

An African woman working in social justice. Look at all 5 pages: Innovate Africa: Before you Give, Think.

Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)

An African perspective. The west hasn’t paid attention to Africans calling for help with Kony. We only listen to our own hype.  LRA Leader Joseph Kony and Western Hegemony

My final thoughts. As I watched the Kony 2012 video it bothered me that the videographer’s charming pale son got more camera time than any African children. The insight and “heroic” actions of pale people were the focus. It may be kinder, gentler and much more well-intentioned, but it still looks like colonialism. (Plus, I’m just being caustic here, but me thinks his son will get an agent from this.)

A call to action. I’m going to let my daughter put Kony 2012 posters up, but I want to redirect the focus. Free The Children, a phenomenally well respected group (and truly youth-based) is organizing Five Days of Freedom from April 16-20 (The IC day of action is April 20). I would like to see this enormous wave of energy channeled toward Free The Children as they truly understand change starts within.

Following our hearts takes a lot more work than we want it to sometimes.

From → Carla Johnson

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