Thursday, March 8, 2012

Before You Forward the "KONY 2012" Video...

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Yesterday, Invisible Children's thirty minute video profiling the evil of Joseph Kony was all over Facebook, and while he's definitely a terrible guy, Foreign Policy has a thoughtful and thorough blog post up today that discusses some of the issues with the campaign. First of all, Kony's not actually in Uganda these days. Second, "Nodding disease" is a far more troubling issue facing Ugandan children these days. Third, there are serious questions about Invisible Children's finances. Also, it's unclear what buying a bracelet from Invisible Children will do, exactly:

What worries me more is that it's unclear what exactly Invisible Children wants to do, other than raise a lot of money and attention. Here's Russell in the video (21:40):

"We know what to do. Here it is, ready? In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. In order to find him, they need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle. That's where the American advisors come in. But in order for the American advisors to be there, the American government has to deploy them. They've done that, but if the government doesn't believe the people care about Kony, the mission will be cancelled. In order for the people to care, they have to know. And they will only know if Kony's name is everywhere."

So the goal is to make sure that President Obama doesn't withdraw the advisors he deployed until Kony is captured or killed. That seems noble enough, except that there has been no mention by the government of withdrawing those forces — at least any I can find. Does anyone else have any evidence about this urgent threat of cancellation? One that justifies such a massive production campaign and surely lucrative donation drive?

Also, worth reading: Justice in Conflict's discussion of the Kony issue, which questions whether the Ugandan government are really the "good guys" in this conflict, and whether we're missing the point on what the terms "peace" and "justice" actually mean for the region.

Invisible Children has a site up responding to some of the criticisms, which is helpful and admirable, but it's clear that the issues facing Uganda are more complicated than what can be solved by through slogans, t-shirts, and bracelets.

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