Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Stop Kony - Not For Invisible Children But For Justice

If you have been anywhere near a social network today you will no doubt have seen the words Kony 2012 plastered across every other status. If you’ve yet to watch the 29minute viral video which is spreading, and don’t know what the whole campaign is about allow me to first fill you in on the basics of what is an incredibly complex situation.

Joseph Kony is the leader of a rebel militia in Uganda which calls itself the Lord's Resistance Army (or simply the LRA). The group have massacred huge groups of people, and abducted hundreds of young children, brainwashing some for their cause - making them child soldiers.

In 2008 the International Criminal Court issued warrants for Kony and several other members of the LRA including Vincent Otti (Kony’s deputy and second in command), but all of the organisations major players have to date evaded capture.

Kony 2012 as the campaign is being called is a campaign which seeks to “make Joseph Kony famous.” It does not seek to justify nor deify his actions, but rather to make the entire world (many of whom, myself included, were not aware of the LRA’s attrocities) stand up and demand change, and demand of policy makers the the Kony be captured before the years end. 

A noble cause no doubt, but of course like so many things that seem to good to be true, the truth in and of itself is not so simple, and in the 24hours since the explosion of the campaign into the public consciousness there has been an equal explosion of questioning of the partys involved in bringing it to light in the first place.

The campaign is being spearheaded by Invisible Children, a not for profit organisation who have been working to raise awareness of the plight in Uganda for several years, and an organisation who are themselves not unbridled by controversy - not least over the way they use donations. For an indepth look at some of the problems with IC as an organisation I suggest reading and which both offer a far more indepth analysis than I could hope to offer, but again below you will find an incredibly condensed version of what they have to offer.

The 3 top people at the company are on close to $90,000 a year, which does not include any travel expenses (which for a US organisation working in Africa then proceeds to take up an even larger portion of the donations which are supposed to be going to aid).

So while the idealism of the campaign - there is a bad guy, lets all come together to try and stop him - is fantastic, the methodology (pay IC a certain amount per month and they will send you a kit full of posters and wristbands to raise awareness) are problematic.

Indeed in the video itself IC effectively set a deadline for Kony’s capture: December 31st 2012, when they say the video which started this whole movement will expire. This feels misguided, as Kony has been at large for years, and has evaded capture to date despite numerous attempts to bring him to justice.

It’s important that now the eyes of the world are on him because it means politicians around the globe will step up and help to bring international condemnation down upon him in a way which they would be less ready to do were their no public support. But if come December 31st Kony has still evaded capture we can’t just allow our efforts to expire in the same way as the video. Because the moment we show a sign of letting up so will the political pressure.

Equally problematic seems to be Invisible Children’s proposal for exactly how to go about stopping Kony. They are currently using donation money to fund the Ugandan national army as well as lobbying for US and international troops and advisors on the ground going after Kony.

After the blunders in Iraq, effectively starting a war to take out one person, it feels like the idea of ground troops is one which is going to hold little water with anyone, policy makers or civilians once they take a step back from the furore of the campaign.

Is all this to say we should do nothing? Not all, and if it takes a somewhat misguided organisation to at least have raised awareness of the issues then fantastic. I still wholeheartedly support the idea of spreading Kony’s face far and wide, making it so that the whole world knows who he is, and have the whole world in support of his capture, but I simply do not believe that paying Invisible Children for the privilege is a requirement nor a necessity.

What is really important: keep posting Facebook statuses, keep tweeting, keep writing to your MP or congressperson. Write to celebrities who can spread the message to their followers, spread the message as far and wide as possible. Joseph Kony and his mob need to be stopped. They need to stand trial and the families of the children who were abducted deserve justice.

For decades’ Kony has gone undeterred, and now the spotlight is finally on him it is up to each and every person who sees this story to keep it on him. The moment the pressure lets up, and the world goes back to it’s complacency is the moment people like Joseph Kony win.

But above all else: let us make this campaign about Joseph Kony and not about a viral propaganda video - let it grow beyond the misgivings of Invisible Children as an organisation and let it take on a mind of it’s own.

Let’s make history, but let’s do it the right way, so that one day our children can grow up in a better world.