Over the last few days, a video posted on YouTube that aims to raise the profile — and potential for arrest — of the infamous African warlord Joseph Kony has been hugely popular and, in the eyes of many, so simplistic and inaccurate it is likely to do much more harm than good.
The non-profit organization has been accused of spending the vast majority of its donations on film production, staff salaries and transport.
It’s very compelling, but it has also prompted a major backlash from many experts on Africa, conflict resolution, development and foreign policy.
Invisible Children has taken (and probably deserves) credit for earlier convincing the Obama Administration to send 100 military advisers to Uganda to help the government there try to capture and arrest Kony. But Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore and some say urging more aggressive military actions by the Ugandan military (given its track record) could be more disruptive than Kony has been lately.
As one Ugandan journalist wrote for AllAfrica.com:
To call the campaign a misrepresentation is something of an understatement…. For many in the conflict prevention community, including those who worry about the further militarization of Central Africa, this campaign is just another bad solution to a more difficult problem.
After the video campaign was launched earlier this week, many knowledgeable people responded saying they have serious problems with this whole campaign.
Vancouver Sun To catch a warlord, get the word out on Twitter
Foreign Policy Kony is not in Uganda (and other complications)
The Atlantic The soft bigotry of Kony 2012
Globe and Mail Invisible Children hits back at its critics
Clearly, the organization Invisible Children is counting on the power of Facebook, Twitter and other social media (and celebrities) to spread the word and create a global movement aimed at finally putting Kony out of business. Everyone, perhaps with the exception of Kony and his cronies, would want that.
And it is sort of thrilling to witness, or engage in, what could become a web-mediated, massive people-driven global push for justice against one of the world’s worst war criminals.
Yet while the power of social media to launch and sustain popular movements is undisputed, this episode has raised questions about the lack of accountability and factual reliability of such phenomena.
Invisible Children’s campaign (which goes by the name Kony 2012, or #StopKony or #Kony2012 on Twitter) appears well on its way to having already succeeded in raising public awareness of Joseph Kony.
One of its next goals is to convince people all around the world to blanket their communities on April 20 with posters and images of Kony. They are pretty cool-looking posters and, if this call for a mass demonstration works, should keep Kony nervous.
But, in reality, Kony has been in the crosshairs of the international community for a long time. He is actually already quite infamous, at least among those who work on human rights, poverty, governance, aid and development.
Will getting Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga involved in all this actually do more to put Joseph Kony behind bars?
More importantly, will it improve the safety and quality of life for the people living in central and east Africa? Or will we have gotten rid of one bad guy without fixing the problem of systemic poverty, weak governments and apathy?
Thanks to Glenna Gordon, the photographer of the somewhat controversial photo of the film-makers above, for permission to use it. It’s worth getting Gordon’s take on this photo, so read her blog post.
For a look at the local reaction to the Stop Kony campaign, see this KPLU report by Evan Hoover.
We often hear about how dictatorial Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has made puppets of all government officials. Here’s some great street puppetry he can’t take credit for: Thanks and HT to my buddy Andrew Meldrum, AP’s assistant editor for Africa, … Read More
- Drones: Amazon talks the talk, the UN walks the walk
- A 3-D printer for health in Haiti
Norway, like other Scandinavian countries, is widely recognized within the humanitarian community for its steadfast and significant support for aid and development efforts in Africa. It is also a country that sees the humor in some of these efforts. So … Read More
- The challenge of determining cancer's burden in Africa
- Can schools profit from farming? This one might
Poor conditions at the PCSI workers’ labor camp in Doha’s Industrial Area. Amnesty A broken migrant worker scheme in Qatar has allowed widespread abuse in the construction sector, says Amnesty International. The human rights group released a new report today … Read More
- What are our responsibilities towards Haiti?
- Video shows brutality of force-feeding prisoners
Robert Young Pelton AP This week we covered Expedition Kony, a crowdsourced project by swashbuckling adventurer/author/journalist Robert Young Pelton to find warlord Joseph Kony in northern Uganda. “This is a project that seeks to shine a light on this hunt, … Read More
- Kony 2: Shining a light on hunt for the notorious African warlord
- Samantha Power affirms atrocity prevention vision at Invisible Children event
The international community is trying to figure out what it — the world — wants to do next to make the world a better place. Social media like Twitter offers a look at what people, at least those who use … Read More
- UNICEF asks people to stop 'liking' things on Facebook & send money
- Gates Fdn's Tweets reveal passive, insular global health community
This time, the video by Invisible Children is not so much a repeat of their first call to action as a defense of their action. It’s kind of like when the Star Wars franchise put out a sequel that actually … Read More
- Guest post: The lessons of the Kony campaign
- Victory for Kony2012 campaign? AP: African Union to hunt harder for Kony