Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 12 March 2012

Why critics of Invisible Children 2012 Campaign to stop LRA’s Joseph Kony miss the point

By Steve Paterno

March 11, 2012 — The Invisible Children is an advocacy group, which has been in existence for the last nine years,with the aim to stop the atrocities of Uganda’s LRA rebels. The organization just released a campaign film, “Kony 2012,” to create global awareness that will eventually lead to the arrest of LRA leader Joseph Kony and disarmament of his rebel group.

Just moments within its release, the web based film went viral over the Internet, instantly reaching millions of viewers from around the world and hitting the major news outlets like never before. The film also immediately drew criticism from within some circles. However, almost all the criticism leveled against the film and Invisible Children tactics are missing the point.

First and for most, the Kony2012 campaign film is right by focusing and targeting Joseph Kony individually to be arrested, at least by the year 2012. Kony is not just an average ordinary rebel leader, but he is also an internationally wanted fugitive who has an outstanding arrest warrant against him for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Kony’s survival lies in his ability to maintain his followers around his cult personality. His followers believe he is somehow possessed by holy ghost. Kony single handedly acts as the catalyst that ensures the cohesion of the rebel movement and propels their atrocities. To his cult followers, Kony is a messianic figure, albeit with demonic qualities. Therefore, a removal of Kony from the battlefield, dead or alive, can certainly guarantee an end to LRA rebellion and their atrocious history.

Secondly, even if the LRA rebels are currently not operational in Northern Uganda, it should not mean that the advocacy groups in the position of Invisible Children should not pursue this issue with the same fervor in a similar case if the rebels were to be operational in Uganda. More importantly, highlighting the atrocities the LRA committed in Northern Uganda like the Kony 2012 campaign film captured, should not be misconstrued as out of context and inaccurate portrayal of the situation, especially if the aim of the film is to create awareness to the audience who never heard of LRA before.

There are important facts the critics who advance the argument that the LRA is a spent force, simply because they are out of Ugandan borders ought to be made aware of. In the first place, Joseph Kony is indicted for the crimes he already committed, not the ones he has not committed yet. So, wherever he is, he needs to be detained. The effort to stop him sooner than later, goes a long way to prevent his future actions. Hence, it is essential in the effort to apprehend Kony that all are to be reminded of LRA’s brutalities; past, present, and future potential, just as it is portrayed in the Kony 2012 campaign film. Second, even though the LRA are currently not operational in Northern Uganda, the group still remains mainly of Ugandan origin and is firmly intact. Perhaps those critics who believe that the LRA is a spent force, simply because they are out of Uganda need to be reminded that the group actually becomes a much bigger regional threat that continues with the routine looting, kidnapping, rapping, and killing of innocent lives in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. It may be true the life in Northern Uganda returns to normal, but not in areas currently affected by LRA and those captives under their custody, who by the way include Ugandans.

Besides, the aim of the group to wage the war in Uganda never changed one iota, and the group is doing everything in its powers in trying to stay alive. For the group, the move farther from Ugandan borders, even though done under pressure, serves as a tactical withdrawal, while the group buys all the time it gets. Third, it is a culmination of mounted pressure such as the one exerted by Kony 2012 campaign film, which in part drove the LRA out of Ugandan borders. If anything, such pressure must be sustained, not just to keep the LRA off the Ugandan borders, but to also ultimately end their insurgency completely.

Thirdly, the Afrocentric criticism that the campaign to stop LRA atrocities should not be spearheaded by foreigners from abroad, because it portrays a negative impression of Africans not capable of solving their problems and that such effort imposes foreign solutions to African problem is just a lame excuse motivated by empty ideological pride. First, the effort to stop the LRA menace requires multiple pressures exerted by multiple actors, from within Africa and from without. Kony 2012 campaign film is one among many of such required strategies and it does not in any way stop those who think they also have better solutions to the problem from executing their plans. Otherwise, the burden of proof remains with those critics to yet come up with their better solutions to the problem.

It is ironic that those critics select to selfishly own the problems that they are yet to resolve, while trying to downplay an effort that shines light to the atrocities of LRA and creates empathy to their victims on a global scale. The fact that the LRA has been in existence over the last two decades should serve as a stark reminder for those Afrocentric critics that the problem has developed beyond Africans ability to resolve. Second, it is none other than an African country in the name of Uganda, which referred the LRA case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution, hence, internationalising the issue.

Not only that, the LRA activities affects more than five countries of Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and the Sudan, making the situation a regional one and by default an international concern. The United Nations is already involved and so are other countries like the US, which deployed troops on the ground.

It is an acknowledged fact that the LRA issue is a complex one, which requires complex solution.Therefore, Kony 2012 campaign film is one such great effort toward better solution for the problem. Let all those who are concerned join in the effort, in whatever ways they see fit rather than trying to thwart an already successful campaign that shines light into Joseph Kony and can potential lead into his demise.

Because of the Kony 2012 campaign film, millions of people of good will are now know of who Kony is and the evil he represents. Kony himself is aware that the focus is zoomed on him. Evil thrives better in an environment of darkness, silence, isolation, and secrecy, but with such sustained pressure and focus, Kony will be caught, dead or alive, and that will mark an end to the LRA atrocities and a new chapter for recovery for the enduring victims.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at stevepaterno@yahoo.com