If you’re looking to learn more about Joseph Kony and the LRA, and develop an informed opinion, I cannot imagine a better guide than React and Respond: The Phenomenon of Kony 2012, released last week by the African Studies Association. It’ll only take you ten minutes to read and you’ll probably learn more than you did in Kony 2012 Part I and II combined. You owe it to yourself to read this guide.
If you read nothing else, read section I (“A Brief Guide to the LRA & Joseph Kony”) and section V (“What Can We Do about Uganda and the LRA?”). There’s also a section for teachers and students containing questions to ask and consider regarding the film, and a section of additional resources for further reading. Please read this.
Hat tip to Amber Ha at the Un-Cover The Night project, which seeks to inform Cover The Night participants on April 20th about the complexities of these issues.
35,000 people attended a screening of the Invisible Children film in Lira, Northern Uganda. The screening was organized by a great local organization called The African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET). Here is a video of the community response. HINT: they’re not happy.
The quote the video ends with speaks volumes: “Kony2012 may be the most watched video on youtube this year, but it clearly doesn’t resonate with many of the people it claims it’s meant to help”
(trigger for potentially graphic images of war wounds)
So, yeah, when KONY 2012 went viral, there were bunch of critical articles that pointed out that Ugandans have been running organizations that are much, much better at meeting Uganda’s present-day needs. And I compiled some of them as I was reading. But I’m sure this is missing many, many organizations, and this is more of a preliminary post than anything else.
All descriptions come from the groups’ wesbsites.
Concerned Children and Youth Organization (CCYA): In the aftermath of abduction, war, disease and poverty, we cultivate communities of resilient children and youth. Co-founded in 2001 by concerned individuals including Angelina Atyam, named a 1998 U.N. Human Rights Prize Winner, we invite you to become a new “we:” to practice reconciliation, rebuilding, reforesting so we may live into a more beautiful, hopeful peace.
Concerned Parents Association (CPA) Lira: Concerned Parents Association is a direct implementation agency of relief and development programs by working through grass root structures called Parent Support Groups (PSG) and Youth Groups that address the needs of communities in Northern Uganda. To date the organization has more than 500 active Parent Support Groups and more than 100 youth groups in that above districts in Northern Uganda.
Art For Children Uganda: Art for Children Uganda (ACU) is a nongovernmental organization that is committed to lift the voice of all children through creative means, especially art, that promotes creative participation and cultural awareness and develops creativity, critical thinking, self-expression, influence historical events, recreate and promote psychosocial healing. Using our theater for development approach, Art for children Uganda empowers children to break the silence on what affects them.
Friends of Orphans: Friends of Orphans (FRO) was founded and is administered by former child soldiers, orphans and abductees from Pader District, all of whom were and continue to be affected by the war in Northern Uganda. It is a fully registered non-for-profit NGO… FRO founder Ricky Anywar Richard and others conceived Friends of Orphans in 1999 whilst pursuing degrees at the University of Makerere. From their experiences as former abductees and orphans – many of whom lost immediate and extended family members, friends and neighbours and suffered displacement – led them to commit to the ongoing and unmet needs of their community displaced in IDP camps and resettlement communities.
Grassroots Uganda: Grassroots Uganda was started as a marketing tool to promote income generating activities for impoverished Ugandan women as a way of female empowerment. Grassroots Uganda provides the women with training, supplies, and a market for their products. 100 % of all profits paid to Grassroots Uganda goes back to the village which made the crafts.
Women of Kireka: An initiative to economically emancipate ninenteen internally displaced women in Kampala, Uganda. The women fled Uganda’s long-running rebel war against Joseph Kony in Northern Uganda to an IDP camp near the Kireka rock quarry. The project is designed to transition them from their current low-wage, dangerous occupation as rock crushers to a new life as jewelry designers and artisans.
Children’s Chance International: Committed to serve the disadvantaged Children, youth and women affected by war through reaching out to them, advocating for their rights and assisting them grow and develop fully.
What a motherfucking coincidence.
14 Jan 2009 “The Times” - -Heritage Oil announced details of a large oil discovery in Uganda yesterday, which the company claimed could be the largest onshore discovery in sub-Saharan Africa.
Heritage said that its latest discovery – Giraffe1 – in the Lake Albert region, could total at least 400 million barrels of oil.
However, Paul Atherton, chief financial officer, told The Times that the wider field it was developing, dubbed Buffalo-Giraffe, had several “billions of barrels of oil in place”, although it was unclear how much of this would be recoverable.
He said that the field, which is 9,000 square kilometers in size – or six times the size of Greater London – was unquestionably the largest onshore discovery made in sub-Saharan Africa in at least 20 years, possibly ever.
Mr Atherton said that of the 18 wells the company had drilled in the basin so far, all had produced oil. “Clearly the entire basin is full of oil,” he said. “It’s a world-class discovery, the most exciting new basin in Africa in decades.”
Previously, the largest onshore fields discovered in sub-Saharan Africa were at Rabi-Kounga in Gabon, where 900 million barrels were found in 1985, and at Kome in Chad, where 485 million barrels were found in 1977.
Mr Atherton said that it would take at least another three years to start commercial production. [this was posted in 2009, do the math] The crude could be exported by road or rail, he said, but analysts believe that the most practical solution would be to build an 806-mile pipeline to take it to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and then the Kenyan coast. The pipeline would need to be heated and designed to traverse swampy and mountainous land. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion (£1 billion) to complete.
Heritage and its partner Tullow Oil, which also has a 50 per cent equity stake in the project, would need to demonstrate that the field could produce at least 400 million barrels of oil to justify the cost of building such a pipeline. Richard Griffith, an Evolution Securities analyst, said the latest discovery “thrashed” this commerciality threshold.
See Also - Uganda : Pressure Mounts To Make Public Oil Agreements:Uganda’s oil discovery is already attracting major players like Italian oil giant Eni Spa, U.S. Exxon Mobil, France’s Total and of recent the China National Offshore Oil Company. The country does not have the funds to finance the production of oil and instead signed agreements with oil giants spelling out how the revenue will be shared with investors willing to fund the production phase. The companies will build an oil refinery in Uganda and an oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean. This will enable the landlocked country to sell its estimated two billion barrels of crude oil internationally
Uganda’s oil contracts leaked - a bad deal made worse: The repeated claims by the Ugandan government and the oil companies that Uganda has received a very good deal and the best in the region are not only a fiction, but were reliant on the real terms of the contracts being kept secret. While the contracts will deliver vast profits to Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil, the contracts will prevent the Ugandan people from receiving their due benefits.
Oil extraction and the potential for domestic instability in Uganda: The paper identifies and discusses in detail three sources of domestic volatility that may arise as a result of oil development.
Uganda: Oil could cause war : The attacks are by armed gangs suspected to be rebels of the FDLR, LRA, and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In the ongoing campaign in DR Congo, President Joseph Kabila is being criticised for failing to restore peace in this vital area.
As always, these are just my personal opinions and observations, feel free to message me, tell me what you think.
The reason that so many people have jumped on this bandwagon is essentially due to a misguided at best and racist at worst mindframe. I feel like it’s like a movie for some people; that African warlord kidnapping children to make an army terrorizing everything in their path. And this is your feel-good moment to do something to “stop him” …and you get a trendy bracelet in the process. Do you see what I’m getting at? The video wasn’t even as bad as many I’ve seen say from Iraq or Palestine or recently Syria, but it got so many people mobilized because it requires no effort, they didn’t have to research anything; learn about the complex history or culture or even the specifics of this man and his crimes; “omg he kidnapped 30, 000 children, and the cute little 5 year old in the video says we have to stop him!!!” Well let me tell you about a few people who killed 500, 000 children -perhaps one million civilians all together, and condemned thousands of babies to a life with deformities (kinda like the way Kony got his soldiers to mutilate people’s faces)- and guess what? You won’t even have to go 8000 miles to get these guys. They’re in your country; they’re running your country. Getting Kony is a long shot, but you can actually get these guys! In fact Amnestly International even asked for one of them to be arrested. Multiple times.
Only I forgot, they’re not African warlords and it’s not as romantic arresting old white dudes in suits, is it?
“If you are showing me as voiceless, as hopeless, you have no space telling my story. You shouldn’t be telling my story if you don’t believe that I also have the power to change what is going on. And this video [KONY 2012] seems to say that the power lies in America and it does not lie with my government; it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground. … It is furthering that narrative that Africans are totally unable to help themselves and need outside help all of the time.”
Rosebell Kagumire, a blogger from Uganda, speaks on the Western condescension in the KONY 2012 campaign, and how the West thinking they it sweep into Africa with generalized, ignorant ideas of what actually goes on in Africa can “save” Africa and Africans like the “great Western heroes” they are.
I honestly was not expecting this sort of response when I wrote my letter. It has only been a day and my letter seems to have, somehow, “gone viral”. Thank you to everyone who has read it. I am grateful and humbled that so many people took the time to read my letter. (For those of you who have asked, I have not received an official response from Jason Russell or even a confirmation that he has read it).
All of this activity has also entailed receiving many messages. I appreciate them all and I apologize that I have not addressed them. The past day has been so overwhelming that I needed some time before I could properly respond and react.
The biggest question that I have been asked is:
As my professor, Mahmood Mamdani, once said, “Certain assumptions drive research efforts, solutions and so much effort is expended in solving the problem as opposed to defining the problem. Once you have defined the problem, 90% of the solution is already there. Most of the time the solution is in the problem’s definition itself” (Columbia University, 10/20/10).
I believe this is important advice because I think often times there are actually more problems within the “solution”. Therefore, I suggest that the next step is to further explore the problems and continue to ask questions.
**I would like to clarify, I am not saying that we should “simply sit back and let people die”. I am saying that we should make sure that we fully understand the situation and the consequences of our actions, so it is not our very actions (no matter how good the intentions) that are actually responsible for more deaths. This way we can be sure we are responding to problems, not causing problems. However, for those of you who are still antsy, I will reassure you somewhat by saying that we are currently working on something…
Anyways, as I said in my previous post, “We must act on knowledge, not emotions.” Therefore, for now, I have gathered a preliminary mini “informational kit”:
1. SCHOLARY RESPONSE TO KONY 2012:
2. CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION IN UGANDA:
3. CITATIONS (For people who have questioned my sources, I apologize for not providing them in the letter):
Sverker, Finnström. Living With Bad Surroundings : War, History, and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
Branch, Adam. Displacing Human Rights : War and Intervention in Northern Uganda. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Nibbe, Ayesha Anne. “The Effects of a Narrative: Humanitarian Aid and Action in the Northern Uganda Conflict”. Diss. University of California, Davis, 2011. 3456852
My own research that I conducted in the summer of 2010 and 2011 in Northern Uganda that focused on the effectiveness and role of NGOs, especially Invisible Children (even though it is actually a corporation) in the area. I will provide the report upon its official completion.
Lastly, my mentors and close family and friends in Uganda.
Again, thank you again for your support. I really appreciate it. It has been exciting to be a part of this process of questioning, problematizing, debating, sharing, and learning. It really goes to prove that we are not only capable of, but also demand, a higher level of discourse than that of a toddler. (No matter how cute he is).
Dear Jason Russell,
After being bombarded with your KONY 2012 crusade, I have no choice but to respond to your highly inaccurate, offensive, and harmful propaganda. I realized I had to respond in hopes of stopping you before you cause more violence and deaths to the Acholi people (Northern Ugandans), the very people you are claiming to protect.
Firstly, I would like to question your timing of this KONY 2012 crusade in Uganda when most of the violence from Joseph Kony and the LRA (The Lord’s Resistance Army) has subsided in Uganda in the past 5 years. The LRA has moved onto neighboring countries like the DRC and Sudan. Why are you not urging action in the countries he is currently in? Why are you worried about Kony all of a sudden when Ugandans are not at this present moment?
This grossly illogical timing and statements on your website such as “Click here to buy your KONY 2012 products” makes me believe that the timing has more to do with your commercial interests than humanitarian interests. With the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the waning interest in Invisible Children, it seems to be perfect timing to start a crusade. I also must add at this point how much it personally disgusts me the way in which you have commercialized a conflict in which thousands of people have died.
Secondly, I would like to address the highly inaccurate content of your video. Your video did not leave the viewer any more knowledgeable about the conflict in Uganda, but only emotionally assaulted. I could not help but notice how conveniently one-sided the “explanation” in your video was. There was absolutely no mention of the role of the Ugandan government and military in the conflict. Let alone the role of the U.S. government and military. The only information given is “KONY MUST BE STOPPED.”
I would like to inform you that stopping Kony would not end the conflict. (It is correctly pronounced “Kohn” by the way). This conflict is deeply embedded in Uganda’s history that neither starts nor ends with Kony. Therefore, your solution to the problem is flawed. There is no way to know the solution, without full knowledge of the problem itself. We must act on knowledge, not emotions.
Joseph Kony formed the LRA in retaliation to the brutality of President Museveni (from the south) committing mass atrocities on the Acholi people (from the north) when President Museveni came to power in 1986. This follows a long history of Ugandan politics that can be traced back to pre-colonial times. The conflict must be contextualized within this history. (If you want to have this proper knowledge, I suggest you start by working with scholars, not celebrities). President Museveni is still in power and in his reign of 26 years he has arguably killed as many, if not more Acholi people, than Joseph Kony. Why is President Museveni not demonized, let alone mentioned? I would like to give you more credit than just ignorance. I have three guesses. One is that Invisible Children has close ties with the Ugandan government and military, which it has been accused of many times. Second, is that you are willing to fight Kony, but not the U.S. Government, which openly supports President Museveni. Third, is that Invisible Children feels the need to reduce the conflict to better commercialize it.
This brings me to my third issue, the highly offensive nature of your video. Firstly, it is offensive to your viewer. The scene with your “explanation” of the conflict to your toddler son suggests that the viewers have the mental capacity of a toddler and can only handle information given in such a reductionist manner. I would like to think American teenagers and young adults (which is clearly your target audience) are smarter than your toddler son. I would hope that we are able to realize that it is not a “Star Wars” game with aliens and robots in some far off galaxy as your son suggests, but a real world conflict with real world people in Uganda. This is a real life conflict with real life consequences.
Secondly, and more importantly, it is offensive to Ugandans. The very name “Invisible Children” is offensive. You claim you make the invisible, visible. The statements, “We have seen these kids.” and “No one knew about these kids.” are part of your slogan. You seem to be strongly hinting that you somehow have validated and found these kids and their struggles.
Whether you see them or not, they were always there. Your having seen the kids does not validate their existence in any shape or form or bring it any more significance. You say “no one” knew about the kids. What about the kids themselves? What about the families of the kids who were killed and abducted? Are they “no one?” Are they not human?
These children are not invisible, you are making them invisible by silencing, dehumanizing, marketing, and invalidating them.
Last year I went to Gulu, Uganda, where Invisible Children is based, and interviewed over 50 locals. Every single person questioned Invisible Children’s legitimacy and intention. Every single person. If anything, it seemed the people saw Invisible Children as a bigger threat than Joseph Kony at the time. Why is it the very people you are trying to “help” feel more offense than relief with your aid?
“They come here to make money and use us.”
“It makes us feel terrible to be presented as being so stupid and helpless.”
These are direct quotes. This was the sentiment of the majority of the people that I interviewed in varying degrees. I definitely didn’t see or hear these voices or opinions in your video. If you are to be “saving” the Acholi people, the very least you can be doing is holding yourself accountable to them and actually listening to what they have to say.
This offensive, inaccurate misconstruction of Ugandans and its conflict makes me wonder what and whom this is really about. It seems that you feel very good about yourself being a savior, a Luke Skywalker of sorts, and same with the girl in your video who passionately states, “This is what defines us”. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if Invisible Children is more about defining the American do-gooders (and making them feel good), rather than the Ugandans; profiteering the American military and corporations (which Invisible Children is officially and legally) than the conflict.
Lastly, I would like to address the harmful nature of your propaganda. I believe your actions will actually bring back the fighting in Northern Uganda. You are not asking for peace, but violence. The fighting has stopped in the past 5 years and the Acholi are finally enjoying some peace. You will be inviting the LRA and the fighting back into Uganda and disturbing this peace. The last time Invisible Children got politically involved and began lobbying it actually caused more violence and deaths. I beg you not to do it again.
If you open your eyes and see the actions of the Ugandan government and the U.S. government, you will see why. Why is it that suddenly in October of 2011 when there has been relative peace in Uganda for 4 years, President Obama decided to send troops into Uganda? Why is it that the U.S. military is so involved with AFRICOM, which has been pervading African countries, including Uganda? Why is it that U.S. has been traced to creating the very weapons that has been used in the violence? The U.S. is entering Uganda and other countries in Africa not to stop violence, but to create a new battlefield.
In your video you urge that the first course of action is that the Ugandan military needs American military and weapons. You are giving weapons to the very people who were killing the Acholi people in the first place. You are helping to open the grounds for America to make Uganda into a battlefield in which it can profit and gain power. Please recognize this is all part of a bigger military movement, not a humanitarian movement. This will cause deaths, not save lives. This will be doing more harm, than good.
You end your video with saying, “I will stop at nothing”. If nothing else, will you not stop for the lives of the Acholi people? Haven’t enough Acholi people suffered in the violence between the LRA and the Ugandan government? Our alliance should not be with the U.S. government or the Ugandan military or the LRA, but the Acholi people. There is a Ugandan saying that goes, “The grass will always suffer when two elephants fight.” Isn’t it time we let the grass grow?
“KONY 2012 is Bullshit”
Meet Betty Bigombe.
Born into the Acholi tribe of Northern Uganda in 1957, Betty has spent the majority of her life fighting the injustices faced by the people of Uganda. Not only has she spent time in displacement camps talking to those who have been directly affected by Kony’s militia, she’s personally worked to build trust with Kony and arguably would’ve succeeded in bringing the rebels and government to peace 1990s, if not for last-minute interference by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.
After Museveni’s interference after the “Bigombe talks”, Bigombe moved to the United States and earned a Masters of Public Policy from the Harvard Institute for International Development (on top of her Bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Uganda). She began working with the World Bank, first as a senior social scientist, then as a consultant to the World Bank’s Social Protection and Human Development department.
In 2004, after seeing the a news broadcast that displayed the devastation still happening in her homeland and being toted as the only person to come close to succeeding at bringing peace to Uganda, Bigombe left the United States and moved back to Uganda with hopes of once again making a difference.
Once in Uganda, Bigombe organized a series of peace talks between the rebel forces and the Ugandan government. Though she was backed by government support, she used much of her own money to facilitate the talks in hopes bringing peace to Uganda. Once the LRA started expanding into neighbouring countries, Bigombe invited them along to the talks as well. Peace was looking promising. After talks that Kony and other LRA commanders would be indicted by the International Criminal Court for their numerous crimes against humanity, Kony fought back and war broke out once again.
Bigombe has since moved back to the United States and works as a senior fellow for the U.S. Institute of Peace. She has founded two non-profit organizations since her return — one to raise awareness about the children of war, and another to fight corruption in world governments.
Women like Bigombe are who we should be listening to. Her and people like her should be at the forefront of this movement. We should raise up the decades of work she has already accomplished, rather than re-focus this fight on white North Americans and our desire to save the world.
This is a list provided by Charity Watch which gives letter grades (A+ to F) to organizations based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency.
Action Against Hunger - USA (A)
Church World Service (B+)
Doctors Without Borders - USA (A)
From Charity Watch’s site:
Americans wanting to help people facing a humanitarian crisis in Uganda should send contributions to only those charities with an established track record of helping people in this region. During a highly publicized crisis, it is common for disreputable, fly-by-night “charities” to take advantage of the public’s generosity.”
Charity Navigator is another place where you can go and check to see if an organization is reputable or not.
Ugandans haven’t been sitting on their asses doing nothing about Kony and the LRA rebels for the past 20 years. This war has lasted over 2 decades and it’s disrespectful to the countrymen & women who’ve actually been doing something about this war all along, even before this viral campaign, to see comments like,”we should let the Ugandans fight their own battles”…”why did the kids let themselves be abducted?”.
Trust me; if we had the resources that the western world had, we would’ve dealt with this war on our own, we don’t want anymore hidden agenda-attached aid to be held over our heads. We’re happy about the campaign, it’s great exposure, it’s a good cause but i also wanted to pay homage to a strong Ugandan lady who was one of the pioneers of the fight against Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army; Betty Bigombe.
In 1988, President Yoweri Museveni appointed her “Minister of State for Pacification of Northern Uganda, Resident in Gulu,” a post in which she was tasked with convincing the LRA rebels to give up their struggle.Unable to convince any other government members to go with her, including her own aides, Betty Bigombe set off North to hear the Acholi grievances and find a way to bring hope in a hopeless and hurting land. Her journey took her through mined roads, past destroyed military vehicles and deep into the jungles where abducted child soldiers stood guard in the bushes with Ak-47’s. Fearing she would not return alive, she sent letters to her children and the president expressing her last will that her children be given education and care.Following the failure of military efforts to defeat the rebels, Bigombe initiated contact with rebel leader Joseph Kony in June 1993. This began what would be known as the “Bigombe talks”. Read more of Betty Bigombe’s full inspirational story AND watch Betty’s 2008 PBS interview
Since Uganda is getting a lot of interest on the internet right now, I figured it was important to try to present an alternative source of information. Invisible Children is, as many already know, a highly problematic organization, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to help. Here are some other sources of information, statistics, and ways to donate/help.
- American Progress’s 2007 report, “What to Do About Joseph Kony”
- Amnesty International’s 2011 report on Uganda
- Global Security’s page on the Lord’s Resistance Army
- Washington Post, “A Child’s Hell in the Lord’s Resistance Army,” May 2006.
- HRW: “Protect civilians from LRA abuses,” May 2011
- AllAfrica.com, “Amnesty International wants Kony arrested,” May 2010
- AI’s Uganda Portal
- Human Rights Watch’s Uganda portal
- Democracy Now!’s Uganda portal