I know Glenna Gordon from her time in Uganda and she was one of the few American journalists who covered the later stages of the Kony war in northern Uganda. She was part of a group of journalists who travelled well with Ugandan and South Sudan officials between 2005-2009 as they went into the jungles to try and secure a peace deal with Kony. In fact she’s the one who took that photo of Invisible Children founders holding guns among SPLA soldiers. She lived in Uganda for years and worked in West Africa too. She’s the kind of journalist and voice that I wish viewers of this video would hear more often. This was her take on the video when she spoke to the Washington Post.
I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I found all of their previous efforts to be emotionally manipulative, and all the things I try as a journalist not to be. After the peace talks in 2008, they put out another video, and I saw the footage used in these videos blending archival footage with LRA and SPLA and videos of them goofing off. It was the most irresponsible act of image-making that I’d seen in a long time. They conflated the SPLA with the LRA. The SPLA is a government army, holding weapons given by the government, and yet they did not create any division between them and LRA. That’s terrible.
And for that Ms Gordon got a response from filmmaker defending Invisible Children with the worst of all narrative of three boys trying to save Africans instead of playing Angry Birds.
I also spoke to Victor Ochen who has lived in this war and now is a director of African Youth Initiative Network, which is working in northern Uganda to rehabilitate the community. The organization has different approaches that cover trauma and war related conditions that need surgery. These are the kind of good willed humble people that should be getting the much needed help to bring back generations in northern Uganda to their feet.
It’s good piece of video put together and they had good intentions. We agree on one thing we need to end the atrocities. But Invisible Children are focusing more on an American solution to an African conflict that the holistic approach which should include regional governments and people who are very key to make this a success. The video also looks at LRA from a bush perspective but there’s a political perspective and in this campaign we are far from stopping more harm on the victims. Campaigning on killing one man and that’s the end is not enough. To me even a bullet isn’t good enough for Kony, killing him alone will not be enough. There are many people who are caught up in this war. Every war has its own victims. We should be looking at ways to support victims not just in Uganda but all other countries affected. As far as I know Invisible Children in invisible on the ground and in communities. They have good access to international media but they have no connection with the community they claim to represent.
Teddy Ruge is Ugandan and a lead social media strategist for the Connect4Climate campaign at the World Bank. He is co-founder of Project Diaspora, an online platform for mobilizing members of Africa Diaspora to engage in the continent’s development. In January he received a Champion of Change award from the White House for his community development work in East Africa. This is what he said on the Kony2012 video.
It is a slap in the face to so many of us who want to rise from the ashes of our tumultuous past and the noose of benevolent, paternalistic, aid-driven development memes. We, Africans, are sandwiched between our historically factual imperfections and well-intentioned, road-to-hell-building-do-gooders. It is a suffocating state of existence. To be properly heard, we must ride the coattails of self-righteous idiocy train. Even then, we have to fight for our voices to be respected.
Another Ugandan Citizen journalist Maureen Agena grew up in Northern Uganda, Lango sub region and studied at St. Mary’s College Aboke, a school from which Joseph Kony’s rebels abducted 139 girls in ordinary level. She blogs at Dignity in Poverty wrote: I am a visible child from Northern Uganda. Who are the “Invisible Children”?
I hardly doubt that the people of Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions in Uganda, the most affected by this war have any idea that a video talking about their plight has gone viral on the internet. It’s 2012 and the people of Northern and eastern Uganda are in the post conflict era and re-settling. Why doesn’t the video at least give a brief highlight of this current situation rather than threaten the entire globe with out-dated information? Does “Invisible Children” have an idea what impression of Uganda has been portrayed to a world that still believes Idi Amin is alive and still terrorising us? What will happen to our tourism sector?
A Uganda journalist writes for Insight on Conflict.
Is it about the dollars or a false belief that unless Americans know about it, no solution comes our way? Could it be that we are leaving the real change agents in oblivion as we search for solutions elsewhere? For example, the Juba Peace Talks 2006-2008, which restored stability and paved way for the end to abductions in northern Uganda, was not an American invention. It was local civil society and peace actors like the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiatives (ARLPI) who pushed for a negotiated solution. In fact the moment America got involved, we witnessed “Operation Lightening Thunder”- a military operation with disastrous effects as the LRA eluded air strikes, and scattered into DR Congo and the Central African Republic where they continue to commit atrocities in retaliation.