Kony 2012 – Ugandans Speak

By Wangui Muchiri – ONE

Since Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video went viral many Ugandans have been infuriated by what they refer to as a gross misrepresentation of their country. Let’s give credit where it’s due. The Kony 2012 video has been hailed worldwide as a success for advocacy.  The effect this video has had in terms spreading a message is almost unprecedented.  It has also refocussed the world’s attention to the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony, and re-energized a global will to capture him once and for all.  What hasn’t been heard by as many people however is the voice of the Ugandan people.

A couple of contradictions have emerged. The video purports to represent thousands of people who are still going through unimaginable hell under Joseph Kony’s torturous anarchy in Northern Uganda and that Kony is backed by 30 000 child soldiers.  The video also places Uganda in Central Africa.  The reality however, cannot be further from the truth. According to a statement released by the Ugandan government, the last time Joseph Kony was in Uganda was in 2006.  A combination of Ugandan, Congolese and US forces continue to hunt for him in the densely thick forests of Congo to date.  The number of Kony’s supporters are also nowhere near the 30000 child soldiers that Invisible Children claim in their ‘Kony 2012′ video.  In fact, his supporters number no more than 300 today.

It’s also ironical that while Ugandans and other Africans in general viewed the video as parochial, judging from the more than 70 million hits the video has received, most of the rest of the world thought it was great! Other than the contradictions, there has also been a collective amnesia about the policy solution proposed by Invisible Children. The proposal to get American forces to come and solve an African problem has not gone down very well here.

Overall, it seems like there are some things that the majority of citizens from the north and south agree on, and some on which they don’t.  Agreed: Joseph Kony, wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity needs to be apprehended and brought to justice quickly.  Agreed: Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video was an extremely successful communications and marketing tool, harnessing and portraying the power of social media.  Not sure: Who does this video truly represent? Not sure: What were the true intentions or motives of releasing the video.  Disagree: That the video is a true representation of the people of Northern Uganda today,and their challenges in 2012.

The two questions posed above are in debate in Africa today. Local NGO’s in Northern Uganda have pointed out that communities in Northern Uganda have been on an upward trajectory since 2006, rebuilding their lives, and moving on from the scars left behind by the LRA massacres.  Their kids are beginning to go school, they’re busy making great strides towards a path of healing and restoration. According to them, the true story is this, today, against all odds, baby step by baby step, Northern Uganda, is rising.

On Wednesday night 40 000 Ugandans from a Northern town called Lira gathered for a public viewing of the Kony 2012 video for the first time.  There is very little internet connectivity in the area so local NGO’s brought the documentary to town. The people of Lira are among those in Northern Uganda who witnessed first-hand Joseph Kony and his henchmen maim or kill their children, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers before 2006. Media reports say that the communities of Lira gathered to watch the famous movie they had heard about, expecting to see the story of their past tribulations including the countless atrocities from Kony and his rebels.  This is not what they saw and they were outraged.  Stones were thrown as the people vented their anger. What seemed to exasperate them even further is Invisible Children’s sale of Kony 2012 merchandise in the name of raising funds for charity and exposing Joseph Kony further.  They wondered why anyone would want to promote a murderer right in front of the eyes of the real victims of Kony’s merciless carnage. The people of Lira  viewed this as totally insensitive.

What one really wonders though, is whether Northern Uganda’s people’s true story is being told.  What if their real challenges, such as nodding disease were expressed. Would the world listen?  Would there be a rising up for a people reshaping their future, would the world respond with equal force? Equal measure? What can be done to have the same viral effect when telling stories of an Africa that is rising, so that Africa is not always sterotyped as a continent full of chaos and hopeless decay? Granted, Africa has it challenges, and these cannot be ignored. BUT, there’s more to Africa than meets the eye.


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discuss this post

  • http://www.blackacrylic.net blackacrylic

    Thank you so much for this !! I just discovered the site and as Ugandan in London I really appreciate it as a space to engage with Ugandan opinions and policy. Please check out my blog on Kony 2012 if you can: http://www.blackacrylic.net/post/19057316195/the-anti-kony2012

    • admin

      Hi Juliet,
      thanks for the kind comment. Your blog is actually very interesting. Was wondering whether its ok for me to feature your blog -”The Anti Kony 2012″ here on Uganda Speaks. I found some very interesting thoughts in the article.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405865792 Asrul

        Yes, this is a terrible thing for a child to know but with the smehces that a young child has we need to accommodate their smehces but also remember that within their experience of being hurt the most they’ve (hopefully) been hurt is nothing more then a spanking or being yelled at so by saying that Kony is just a bad man that hurts people and little kids doesn’t have the same effect as Kony is a man that kills people and little kids. For a child would know that kill is permanent. That you can never undo death. They understand that as a serious thing. Yes, at 4 yrs old a child is still in their preoperational stage but they can still understand the seriousness of things before they hit their concrete operational stage. To say that their still just a baby, in my opinion is a little too protective because they never stop being YOUR baby. At what point would you draw a line and say they are old enough? Why should we wait until they are older to instill conventional moral reasoning? Maybe my experience as a child was different but even at a young age I had postconventional moral reasoning. As a young child, I was always telling others about things like recycling to save the planet and treating others nicely. I taught myself a lot about civil rights. I carried that into my middle school years. I even started telling my peers about earth hour and a day of silence. Now as a high school student I am more aware of more serious issues and am willing to battle against them. The older I get, the more I understand and the more tools I have to stand up against the injustice only because my parents encouraged me to keep being aware of the issues I felt so strongly about. I am only a special child if you labeled it that way. Every child could have the same experience I did if you just taught them. The children REALLY ARE our future and they cannot only make a big difference later but make a big difference NOW! And how great would it be to instill that type of power and confidence into a young child.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405852490 Hiroyuki

      Thanks for your comments, Megyn. I agree whaeehlortedly with you about the level of children’s understanding. Hence, the reason I think Jason Russell’s discussions with his son were inappropriate. My son is three and he is immersed in the world of superheros. And yes, superheros kill the bad guys and so does my son in his play. It’s a basic good vs. evil theme and the good guy always wins. However, the dialogue between these two was more than just about a bad guy killing other people. He also addressed topics such as children being kidnapped and then killing their parents to his four year old son. I haven’t watched any Superhero cartoons where the parents get killed, let alone, by their own offspring. Why? Because it doesn’t fit with any schema that toddlers have of the world in which they live and it shouldn’t. Not at 4. It’s very simple to explain to young children the concept of killing bad guys. But this was not the case. He took it a step further. I wonder how he will explain his recent actions to his four year old. Honestly, any chance of credibility or integrity that Jason Russell may have had will probably be non-existent after today.

  • http://www.ReduceTheBurden.org Ricci

    ‎Wangui Muchiri , You write some interesting things: ”Let’s give credit where it’s due.” and my response: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”
    - Voltaire

    ”Agreed: Joseph Kony, wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity” My response: How can you be so naive?

    ”Who does this video truly represent?” suggests you haven’t researched to find out who is behind IC?
    ”What were the true intentions or motives of releasing the video” and my response: What do you think the true intentions behind US invasion of Iraq, Finding WMD and liberation !!!!!!!!

    ”kids (in the North) are beginning to go school, ” but are the teachers knowledgeable or are children supporting teachers by sitting in classrooms for 11 years plus?

    ”According to a statement released by the Ugandan government, the last time Joseph Kony was in Uganda was in 2006.” and my response; According to ”educated” Ugandans why are Kony’s atrocities not even weighed up against M7s atrocities? Kony 2012 – EXPOSED DEBUNKED – Invisible Children Inc. supports crimes against humanity and lies!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405874467 Jun

      I have to vehemently diresgae with your take on how the director spoke with his son. I found that he used VERY age appropriate language. At his son’s age, he most likely understands what the word kill means. Assuming he is like most preschoolers, he has watched the normal children’s shows and movies. And what is the premise of many of these programs? Kill the bad guy. It’s a very obvious reoccurring theme in children’s programming, especially movies. Thus, telling his son that a bad man is killing people is definitely understandable. Need another example? Our almost 4 year old understands that meat that people eat comes from killing an animal. We want him to be aware of his choices, and right now, he chooses not to eat meat. He chooses not to because he understands what it means to kill (to some extent), and he doesn’t think it’s right. Please don’t understand the comprehension of young children. Truly, they grasp more than you give them credit for.

  • http://www.precioustoursafrica.com Preciousuganda
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405850165 David

      Just wish to say your article is as ssniriuprg. The clearness on your put up is simply great and i can think you’re an expert in this subject. Well together with your permission allow me to take hold of your RSS feed to keep updated with imminent post. Thank you a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405853100 Parameswari

      Thanks for providing your reerads with all this info Nate! After having researched Kony and the LRA pretty extensively over the past 6 months, I am saddened to hear a lot of people throwing around these kinds of false information about this whole thing. The organization I worked with in northern Uganda this summer (villageofhopeuganda.com) is working to provide a home and care for children orphaned by the LRA, many of whom were also forced to be part of the LRA in some way. I have found those in the US to be very unaware of what has happened and who Kony is in a very complicated situation with a complicated history! And most are completely unaware about the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Ugandan Recovery Act that Obama signed in May of 2010 and the background that gives for his actions now. Another organization that gives a lot of info on the effects of the LRA on the Ugandan children is Invisible Children. I too encourage folks to keep this part of the world and this situation especially in their prayers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405850497 Dariano

    had just watched this video it shows how peolpe can be enlightened by social media and lets hope this video continues to spread so this evil can be stoppedartminou.blogspot.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405850516 James

    I understand this is your oiiopnn. I’m not saying your oiiopnn is wrong. I cannot level with you as a mother because I am just a senior in high school but in my oiiopnn the way he handled telling his son would be the best way to tell a young child something like that. I believe that if we are to raise awareness in the United States we need to be telling everyone. Yes, it is a scary thing for a child to know but the children in Uganda are the same age as his young boy and older and they are forced to be made aware of this. I think that from a young age we need to protect our children as much as we can but also remember that someday they are going to be subjected to this world. We need to be responsible about how we present things to them and tell them on a level they understand and let them know they are lucky to live where they are and that they are safe. Though we may try to protect them, keeping them from these issues isn’t necessarily protecting them. We need to instill security in our children but remind them that the world isn’t a safe place for all children. Its important that we teach our kids to stand up against the injustices in the world as well as their own community.


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