Mamdani on #Kony2012

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

GV Uganda: Can a Viral Video Really #StopKony?

I’ve taken a (too long) hiatus from writing for Global Voices, but the flood of responses to Invisible Children’s new Kony 2012 film has me back:

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.

Read the full post »

The post features quotes from Rosebell Kagumire, Solome Lemma, Muse Okwonga, Angelo Izama, Siena Antsis, Julian Mwine, Teddy Ruge, Ernest Bazanye, and a few others.

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:

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Ugandan Government!

Uganda’s State Minister for Ethics and Integrity crashed a private conference for gay rights activists in Entebbe today, announcing, “I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home.”

The comments on the Daily Monitor article about the incident are largely in support of the minister, including this logical stunner (emphasis mine):

I applaud the minister!! If homosexual was good why so secretive? Uganda should not allow the evil habit to erode our society. Even animals know better. Thumbs up Uganda

#headdesk, on so many fronts that I’m not going to bother to list them. Among them, as helpfully pointed out by the Monitor:

This comes on the heels of a private members bill recently tabled in Parliament by David Bahati that seeks to punish “aggravated homosexuality,” and proposes the death sentence for someone deemed to be a “serial offender.” Although homosexuality is illegal under the penal code, public assembly of gay persons is not a crime. But that would change once Bahati’s bill is signed into law.

A little more background on why gay rights organizers in Uganda are treading carefully—including the fact that “serial offenders” under the new bill would include those who are not themselves gay but neglect to report two gay friends to the police—is here.

Remembering David Kato

Earlier this year, I blogged about Call Me Kuchu, a documentary about Uganda’s LGBT community:

Two documentary filmmakers traveled to Uganda last year to help tell the story of Uganda’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community — a community that is besieged by a hostile administration, media, and culture. Their film, Call Me Kuchu (“kuchu” is a slang term for Ugandan LGBTs), centers largely on David Kato, one of Uganda’s most outspoken LGBT activists.

The story behind the film shifted abruptly after Kato was murdered this January. The filmmakers returned to Kampala to document the impact of this loss; the resulting film both celebrates the courage of Kato and the LGBT community and mourns his death.

Filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall were interviewed for the New York Times in an article published today, the one year anniversary of David’s murder. The article included a highlights from CMK, focused on David’s life and work:

Kalinaki: Ugandan tweeps should pay closer attention to “‘old school’ dissenters”

Daniel Kalinaki berates Uganda’s “middle-class intellectuals whose rarefied dialogue takes place on Facebook and Twitter” for not paying closer attention to the fate of “old school” activists:

For years the government came for journalists and few people cared. Some even said we deserved it. Now they are going after authors and civil society activists and many still remain indifferent. The real story will come the day a blogger or a “tweep” is arrested for something they put online. That is the day we will all realise that we should have been concerned and worried all the time.

Read the whole article in last week’s Sunday Monitor.