Before reading the article, if you haven’t seen it so far, you might be interested watching the video first:
If you haven’t heardt of it by now, you might have been away from the internet for some days. Some point last week the online viral campaign “KONY 2012″ hit the net and spreaded around in lightspeed. In a few days millions of people have seen it. Interestingly enough youtube stats tell that it’s main audience is girls between 13 and 17 and guys between 18-24, what tell a lot about the key audience that Invisible Children, the organisation behind the campaign, is reaching first. An audience one might say is also perfect for creating a (not too critical) movement, where the feeling of standing up together is an important part, not too much dependend on the cause itself.
The cause itself is important to say the least. Joseph Kony is the leader of the LRA for a long time and responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity from child soldiers (where he is particularly famous for) to rape and murder. The campaigns goal: To stop Kony.
The days after the video spreaded all over, the critique on the campaign and the organisation started floating around as well. Some focus on the “shady” status of the organisation or the fact that only one third of the money is spend on actual projects in Uganda. Others argue that Kony is not in Uganda since quite some years now, but operates his 200-250 people army between CAR, DRC and Southern Sudan, so the focus on supporting the Ugandan army is wrong, also because they are to some extend accused for the same crimes as Kony’s army. The fact that the solution for the problem in the eyes of Invisible Children is a military intervention with US troops is more than questionable. So you see, the list can go on and on why we should not support “KONY 2012″.
In my opinion the campaign has it’s positive and negative sides. For me the big problem with the campaign is not the fact that money donated might not reach the people in Uganda with programs. At the end the organisation has the purpose to do huge lobbying for their cause. What I find difficult is the way how the story is told. There is a huge simplification of the problem together with a very simplified solution, made in a very black and white emotional way that leaves not too much to say against, when you trust what is being said and don’t critically learn about the problem. The solution in itself might be compelling to many that never had a direct contact with that. It leaves us with the classic stereotypes of Africa, Africans and so on. Getting Kony will solve the problem, that is the message. For that we (as Americans or Western citizens) have to get there and do it. Why are no locals involved in the solution, is none of the policy makers from there, why don’t we hear voices from people in Uganda that speak up? It comes back to an idea of development work that most serious organisations try to work against nowadays: We come to save you, because you can’t save yourself. The campaign triggers more the feeling of: “I can do something, change the world!” The effect, even when Kony gets arrested, for the region might still be small. The problems are more complex and as one of the articles stated: Kony is just a Con. This might sound cynical in the first moment, but I believe that more is helped when actual projects that work with the situation of the people are being supported. The idea to fight fire with fire never really worked.
The good effect of the campaign is not that it will solve the problem, but that many people now talk about it. The fact that I’m writing about it and you read it, shows only how much potential there still is for a topic like that to move people. And when at the end more people read about the crimes of the LRA, but try to understand a bit more of the complexity of the problem and think about ways to do it justice, like supporting organisations that do important work on the ground, KONY 2012 was a success. Plastering thousands of posters and calling for military intervention might be the wrong way to “solve” the issue, but raising awarness is very important and that is what it does right now in a way like never before.
If you are interested in more information and the criticism, here are some articles worth reading on the topic:
And if your are interested in hearing some actual people from there talk about the situation, watch this video by Marcus Bleasdale, who worked in the region for ages together with organizations like Human Rights Watch:
Interviews of the children abducted by the Lords Resistance Army shot over a period of several months in 2010 in Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Uganda for Human Rights Watch and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.