KONY2012: simplifying the Kony cause?

Is the KONY2012 hype really the answer to Uganda’s problems? Or is this another case of the West trying to ‘save’ Africa?

Fabiola Buchele<--break->

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a man who roamed jungles and spread fear amongst villagers evaded capture for a quarter of a century.

His name is Joseph Kony, a textbook villain in a sense; he raped, pillaged, cut off limbs, destroyed, burnt and slaughtered civilians. He is – you guessed it – the bad guy.

KONY2012 has been the feel good click of the last week and Invisible Children, the campaigners behind the internet sensation, have achieved their goal to make famous what they call “the world’s worst war criminal.”

Knight in shining armour

The problem with this fairy tale is that there is no brave young man, no knight in shining armour with a heart of similar quality, to rid the helpless locals of this devil of a human.

Kony needs to be captured and brought to justice.  It’s something we can all agree on. But that will not be it. There will be no happy ever after if this hype does not recognise that there is more to this already overlooked humanitarian crisis than one evil man.

Kony is just one evil man of many. His notorious guerilla army the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) has abducted over 30,000 children and traumatised a whole community. Kony is a dangerous man whose atrocities have never been under the media’s spotlight as much as they have deserved.

Jumping on the bandwagon

The reason that he has not yet been captured however is not just that the West – currently collective bleeding heart upon hearing of Kony for the first time – has not stepped in, but because the underlying geopolitical complextities have denied many the ability.

A corrupt Ugandan army and Yoweri Museveni’s borderline dictatorship has had other interests for example: oil, land disputes, complex historical structures of land distribution amongst others.

KONY2012’s portrayal of the situation in Northern Uganda is, at best, naive and at worst spreading clever propaganda. Either way, the population of Facebook and other inhabitants of the virtual world have jumped on the bandwagon and it is off with an exhilarating speed to a potentially dangerous place.

Fairy tale narratives

Fairy tale narratives, especially ones that reemphasis the need for the mighty West to rescue the African damsel in distress, have no place in a highly complicated political situation.  Simplifying such complex crises can potentially lead to very shortsighted solutions.

KONY2012 has finally got Joseph Kony the spot on the news agenda he should have had 26 years ago, but in order for this not to spoil the fragile rebuilding of communities that has taken place in Uganda since the Kony-led war officially ended in 2007, it is important to not adopt the rhetoric or the proposed ways Invisible Children think you can help.

Make it about Kony, not KONY2012

Make sure that you do not lose sight of the fact that is not a problem that can be solved with the necessary capture of one bad guy.  Make sure you further your research and find out what is actually going on, who is helping, in what way and whether your time and donations are best spent on KONY2012, or those who are in the field tackling the problems Kony’s guerilla army has left behind.

Getting Kony to The Hague in handcuffs will be only a starting point to tackling the problems of Ugandan children affected by his wrong doings. Any approach to doing so should be treated with caution; naive and misguided campaigns have the potential to cause greater damage than good.

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