Congratulations to @jssozi, @RosebellK, @maureenagena, and @echwalu on taking steps to provide Ugandan perspectives on the LRA. Wishing the team had more northern Ugandan voices, particularly given the complex relationship between southern Uganda (where most of these bloggers are from) and northern Uganda in the context of the LRA conflict.
Norbert Mao, whom I met in 2007 while he was the Chairman of Gulu District in northern Uganda and I was putting together a program for American and Ugandan youth on peace building and post-conflict development, has a guest post in Foreign Policy today about Joseph Kony and the Kony 2012 video. The whole piece is worth a read, but two sections are key.
First, Mao’s criticism of film’s support of an American military partnership with the Ugandan government:
It has to be said that official neglect on the part of the Ugandan government is responsible for much of the suffering we witness in Kony 2012—suffering that was brought on by an incompetent counterinsurgency strategy that, at its height, herded over one million civilians into disease infested and poorly protected camps. Right now it is a point of controversy that U.S. troops are standing shoulder to shoulder with certain Ugandan officers who ought to be charged with war crimes. Americans should shudder at this partnership and demand that the Ugandan government hold accountable those members of its military establishment who need to be tried for crimes against humanity.
And second, Mao’s support for the film’s role in forcing discussion about northern Uganda to the forefront of last week’s international media agenda:
It’s clear that the aim of the video was never intellectual stimulation. I don’t think the founders of Invisible Children are the foremost analysts of the complicated political, historical and security dynamics in our troubled part of Africa. They certainly wouldn’t earn high marks in African Studies. But I will go to my grave convinced that they have the most beautiful trait on earth — compassion.
Such sentiments matter, even today. There are those who say the war is over in Northern Uganda. I say the guns are silent but the war is not over. The sky is overcast with an explosive mix of dubious oil deals, land grabs, arms proliferation, neglected ex-combatants, and a volatile neighborhood full of regimes determined to fish in troubled waters. What we have is a tentative peace. Our region is pregnant with the seeds of conflict. The military action in the jungles of Congo may capture Kony, but we need to do more to plant the seeds of peace founded on democracy, equitable development, and justice. Like peace, war too has its mothers, fathers, midwives, babysitters, and patrons. Perhaps Kony 2012 will help sort out the actors. The video has certainly shaken the fence, making fence-sitting very uncomfortable, indeed.
Lots to chew on, there.
I’ve been wavering on whether to write a hotly angry post about Kony 2012 this week or to wait until the furor dies down and I have the time and patience to write something more measured and, hopefully, intelligent. I think I’ve come down on the latter side, but in the meantime, I want to share Mahmood Mamdani’s article on the topic with you.
Mamdani is a Kampala, Uganda native as well as a professor at my alma mater, the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He recently published a piece in Uganda’s Daily Monitor arguing against the military approach to the LRA conflict advocated by Invisible Children:
Addressing the problem called the LRA does not call for a military operation. And yet, the LRA is given as the reason why there must be a constant military mobilisation, at first in northern Uganda, and now in the entire region, why the military budget must have priority and, now, why the US must sent soldiers and weaponry, including drones, to the region. Rather than the reason for accelerated military mobilisation in the region, the LRA is the excuse for it.
The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims – the civilian population of the area – trust neither the LRA nor government forces.
Sandwiched between the two, civilians need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilisation and offered the hope of a political process.
Alas, this message has no room in the Invisible Children video that ends with a call to arms. Thus one must ask: Will this mobilisation of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarise the region further? If so, this well-intentioned but unsuspecting army of children will be responsible for magnifying the very crisis to which they claim to be the solution.
The entire article is worth a read: What Jason didn’t tell Gavin and his Army of Invisible Children
A film aimed at making Joseph Kony—a Ugandan guerilla leader currently wanted by International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity—”famous” in order to raise support for his arrest has swept the Internet by storm, pushing #StopKony onto Twitter’s trending topics list and prompting a wave of backlash from bloggers who worry the film and its associated campaign are overly simplistic.
I’m still mulling over my own response to the film; hoping to post something in the next day or two. In the meantime, please do yourself a favor and check out two essential pieces of reading:
After I published an article for the Committee to Protect Journalists on citizen journalism during the Kampala riots, Shevonne Hunt of Australian radio show The Fourth Estate contacted me to talk about the role Twitter and blogs played in the crisis.
Solomon King (the force behind Ugandan blog aggregator Blogspirit and one of the most prolific tweeters during the riots) and I are featured in the show’s most recent podcast. You can access it at The Fourth Estate (scroll down to the bottom, click “Show Episodes,” and choose the episode from September 25).
As Solomon says, hope I did all of you justice!