What’s Wrong with the Kony 2012 Campaign

Editor’s Note: We at The CIHA Blog thank you for your interest in our post critiquing the Kony 2012 campaign, which has received thousands of hits and was also picked up by several media outlets. Adam Branch, writing from Kampala, just sent us a slightly revised update, posted below, that includes the syllabus for his class on the conflict (we also include a link to the original post). Our In The News section links to numerous additional articles on this issue, as well as to sources on the impact of US military collaboration with East African nations.

We also want to second Adam’s query about whether it is best to ignore this type of campaign. While we strongly believe the Kony campaign needed to be challenged — indeed, we have challenged the IC filmmakers’ campaigns before (see our engagement with the UN Foundation over the anti-malaria film “When the Night Comes”), we are committed to finding ways to open the space for deeper reflection on very pressing issues, including the land grabs that are going on in numerous parts of the continent, which are sure to produce additional humanitarian crises. Pushing ourselves (Africans, North Americans, Europeans, and anyone else) to think more deeply about the meaning, message, images, and modes of humanitarianism in Africa (see the Mitchell/Mathers discussion), and finding new ways to engage in causes of peace and justice, is what this blog is all about. We urge you to read Adam’s update as well as our other posts on these issues and tell us what you think!


KONY 2012 FROM KAMPALA

By Adam Branch, Makerere Institute of Social Research

March 11, 2012
Kampala, Uganda

From Kampala, the Kony 2012 hysteria was easy to miss. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, I don’t watch YouTube, and the Ugandan papers didn’t pick up the story for several days. But what I could not avoid were the hundreds of emails from friends, colleagues, and students in the US about the video by Invisible Children and the massive on-line response to it.

I have not watched the video. As someone who has worked in northern Uganda and done research on the war there for over a decade, much of it with a local human rights organization based in Gulu, the Invisible Children organization and their videos have often left me infuriated—I remember the sleepless night after I watched their “Rough Cut” film for the first time and then tried to explain to the audience of students what was wrong with the film while sitting on stage with one of the filmmakers.

My frustration with the group has largely reflected the concerns expressed so convincingly by those on-line critics who have been willing to bring the fury of Invisible Children’s true believers down upon themselves. They have pointed out what is wrong with the group’s approach: the warmongering, the narcissism, the commercialization, the reductive and one-sided story they tell, their portrayal of Africans as helpless children in need of rescue by white Americans. As a result of Invisible Children’s irresponsible advocacy, civilians in Uganda and central Africa may have to pay a steep price in their own lives so that a lot of young Americans can feel good about themselves, and a few can make good money. This, of course, is sickening, and I think that Kony 2012 is a case of Invisible Children having finally gone too far. They are now facing a backlash from people of conscience who refuse to abandon their capacity to think for themselves.

But, as I said, I wouldn’t have known about Kony 2012 if it hadn’t been for the flood of emails I received from the US. And that, I think, is telling. Kony 2012 and the debate around it are not about Uganda, but about America. Uganda is largely just the stage for a debate over the meaning of political activism in the US today. Likewise, in my view, the Kony 2012 campaign itself is basically irrelevant here in Uganda, and perhaps the best approach might be to just ignore it. This is for a couple reasons.

First, Invisible Children’s campaign is a symptom, not a cause. It is an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are “useful idiots,” being used by those in the US government who seek to militarize Africa, to send more weapons and military aid to the continent, and to build the power of states that are US allies. The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy—how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources? The US government would be pursuing this militarization with or without Invisible Children—Kony 2012 just makes it a little easier. Therefore, it is the militarization we need to worry about, not Invisible Children.

Second, in northern Uganda, people’s lives will be left untouched by this campaign, even if it were to achieve its stated objectives. This is not because all the problems have been resolved in the years since open fighting ended, but because the most serious problems people face today have little to do with Kony. The most pressing are over land. Land speculators and so-called investors, many foreign, in collaboration with the Ugandan government and military, are grabbing the land of the Acholi people in northern Uganda, land that they were forced off of a decade ago when the government herded them into internment camps. Another serious problem for northern Uganda is so-called “nodding disease”—a deadly illness that has broken out among thousands of children who had the bad luck to be born and grow up in the camps, subsisting on relief aid. Indeed, the problems people face today are the legacy of the camps, where over a million Acholi were forced to live, and die, for years by their own government as part of a counterinsurgency that received essential support from the US and from international aid agencies.

Which brings up the question that I am constantly asked in the US: “What can we do?” where “we” tends to mean relatively privileged Americans. In response, and as a contribution to the debate going on in the US about Kony 2012, I have a few proposals. The first, perhaps not surprising from a professor, is to learn. The conflict in northern Uganda and central Africa is complicated, yes—but not impossible to understand. For several years, I have taught an undergraduate class on the conflict, and, although it takes some time and effort, the students end up informed enough to be able to come to their own opinions about what can be done. I am more than happy to share the syllabus with anyone interested! In terms of activism, I think the first step is to re-think the question: instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa’s conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we, as consumers, contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as Americans, allowing our government to militarize Africa as part of its War on Terror and its effort to secure oil resources? These are the questions that those of us who represent Kony 2012’s target audience must ask ourselves, because we are indeed responsible for the conflict in northern Uganda—responsible for helping to cause and prolong it. It is not, however, our responsibility, as Invisible Children encourages us to believe, to try to end the conflict by sending in military force. In our desire to ameliorate suffering, we must not be complicit in making it worse.

Adam Branch is a Senior Research Fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda, and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University, USA. He is the author of Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda (Oxford, 2011) and can be reached at abranch2(at)mail.sdsu.edu.

61 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with the Kony 2012 Campaign

  1. The Kony 2012 story shows the capacity of new media to generate its own stories, driven often by prurient and ill-informed interest, rather than specific local knowledge. I appreciate this post, and Adam Branch’s ability to marshal concrete evidence in support of his important reminder: “In our desire to ameliorate suffering, we must not be complicit in making it worse.”

  2. This is a very interesting article. I’m a supporter of Invisible Children currently, and I knew there was a significant amount of controversy around, but this is the first critique I’ve seen that has seemed truly well-informed. I’m definitely going to do more research into the ways Invisible Children’s work has been affecting Uganda and the other countries it is at work in. If you wouldn’t mind, could you send me the syllabus for the class you teach? I’d also like any other resources you can give me on this situation, if you have the time.

    Thank you,
    Christy Harrington
    charrington42@gmail.com

    • Yes, thank you Dr. Branch for your time and energy and for sharing your thoughts. He has experience and insight from a long effort of trying to understand a situation, and that is valuable. The problem I see with his position, is that in this posting he makes assumptions about motivation for intrigue (judgements about the character of people outside Uganda) and also judgements about the motivation of the U.S. Government in its potential involvement in the situation (the U.S. will only get involved for its own capitalist interests).

      Two points:

      1) These assumptions are possibilities (one could even say probabilities). However good it is to note them, it is in Uganda’s interest for this strong proponent, Dr. Branch, to try to coordinate existing and developing forces to accomplish the greatest change for the good of Uganda and its people. The force that Invisible Children has will be tremendous, and to try to trip this force instead of joining it and guiding it is a mistake.

      2) I think the good doctor would do well to revisit the topic and concentrate on the reality of the situation. Millions of people in the world have been informed and motivated to do something about Uganda. How can existing minds and organizations coordinate efforts to take advantage of this watershed moment?

  3. Very interesting article, I too support Invisible Children from Australia, I would very much appreciate a copy of the syllabus as well if that is okay. Cheers,

    Wil

  4. Although there are nuggets of information above, over all this article captures the age old battle that consistently diffuses important efforts. Kony 2012 serves an important purpose. Is it it naive? Of course it is. But is it a watershed movement? Without a doubt. Post your syllabus. And next time less about ‘you’ and ‘your work’ please.

    • Zahra, Dr. Adam Branch definitely knows his stuff and has spent a great deal of time in Uganda. For more information on his views, check out his book (just google the name) Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda. He was my professor at SDSU in this subject. Hope this helps shed some light for you on him and his work.

    • Zahra you don’t know what you are talking about. You have not taken the time to visit Uganda, or Africa. And you have not taken the time to research this specific issue from multiple primary sources. In sum, you are ill-informed. You’re amateur opinions are unwelcome and useless for the informed critic. Many people have said the same thing as Adam has written here, I think he posted his credentials to prove that he is a credible source. We don’t ask engineers to deal with these issues or write critiques. We ask people like Adam. Zahra which one are you?

  5. Thank you for addressing the complexities of this situation. It seems too easy to do further harm in a rush to apply well meaning but simplistic solutions.
    Incidentally, I’m glad you were clear about your academic qualifications and your current work. Readers need to know that your ideas have validity.

  6. It’s good to see so many young people who might have a spark of social conscience, being interested in this film. However, it’s sad that they think by watching and reposting the film, and buying a $30 wrist band they think they’re actually doing something constructive. Too bad all this interest can’t be channeled into causes closer to home that actually do something constructive.

  7. Hey branch! Your students have been posting this email you sent on fb and elsewhere for the last two days..a good example of how we can fight social media with social media. Nonetheless you should post your SDSU page that already has the syllabus linked to save you some time when people ask.

  8. Thanks for the post. I’m not a supporter of Invisible Children for a lot of the reasons you outlined. I wanted to ask two questions. First, do you really think that the U.S. is in a rush to militarize Africa? The U.S., after all, ignored the genocide in Rwanda so quickly after proclaiming that ethnically-based mass murder would never again be tolerated. We have not sent substantial military forces to Congo, Sudan, Liberia and other places of conflict. We’ve put a hundred military advisors on the ground in Uganda to chase down Joseph Kony, and by a extension a symbolic victory over tyranny, but I don’t see how this operation advances American oil interests. Our main African oil exporters are far from Sudan in Nigeria and Angola. Exactly what type of militarization should I fear? The second questions regards what I should actually do as a consumer to ameliorate the problem. Just changing the question doesn’t give me much guidance in how to respond. Refusing to purchase from Chevron, the Gap, Nike, and other corporations profiting from the cheap labor and low human rights standards doesn’t seem to be what you’re talking about. Thanks!

  9. Awesome Adam, awesome!!! Just to add that, through the use of a small kid, the film has very well infantalised a majority of the American public and a good chunk of the 55 or so millions of people who have watched it. Glad to know that not all Americans have been wrapped-up in ICs war-mongering.

  10. I must admit, i thought about these North American’s “side-iterests” when I first saw the video. And to be honest, I’m not a fan of the North American’s “lets help the world” tales; precisely for these facts Mr. Branch mentioned.
    But as a human being, I guess I want to give North America a second, triple…..seventh chance, to believe this time they are actually trying to do something right and helpful for OTHERS, without seeking for any personal interests.
    And if this, again, is not their purpose, they just showed us how powerful we humans can be, when we’re united for a cause. So we’ll unite if necessary, to then make “Invisible Children” famous for what their true interests were.
    But lets not jump into conclusions, just because past North Americans have done it wrong. We are more, we are stronger, we are tired….its getting harder to shut us up.

  11. Well, for one thing, in response to using the narrator’s child in the video is meant to show that even a small child can tell whether something is right or wrong. Two, is if you actually watched the video you would see that the American government was very hesitant on sending any troops into Uganda. Third, the “troops” that were sent in were not there to start a war, but to mentor and aid the Ugandian people on how to defend themselves. Another thing to point out is that this is not only American, white people trying to help children who apparently can’t help themselves, this is about Uganda and helping them no matter who I am or where I am from. America is doing this mainly because we can, while other countries can’t. In America, if the people really want it, the people will get it and often that rule is forgotten. The government is for the people, not the other way around. Lastly, I have no heard of any other country trying to help. And how is America directly effecting Uganda? Your points were very vague, you’re a professor and you know how to word something well so that you can sway people’s opinions’ from one way to another.

  12. Megan: Did you know America already had special forces in Uganda well before this happened? That the Ugandan army has received military aid and training from the US for a long time? Why do you think Ugandans need mentoring from Americans on how to defend themselves? Did you know in many cases Ugandans have been abused and killed by their own military, the same forces Americans are supporting?

  13. I enjoyed reading your article but I find your particular brand of intellectual proselytizing to be patronizing and misdirected.

    You want to make the conversation about Uganda and the US, IC and KONY2012 seek to make it about Kony and the LRA. If the author of the IC video happened to be visiting Somalia we may very well be discussing GADANE2012 and you would be bemoaning the policies of the US there instead.

    The problem here is your perceived notions of how the wast should be acting instead of how they do act which is primarily driven by self interest and not altruism.

    You also fail at making any kind of convincing call to arms that people can engage with “Learn more – I run a course” is not engaging or interesting. Learning about it is not the same as doing anything about it.

    Capturing Kony may not solve anything at all. I concede that it might even make things worse (although I doubt it). But if the focus on capturing Kony destroys the LRA’s effectiveness and/or disrupts its activities long enough to make a real difference it will be worth it.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

    • He asked you to take the time to learn about the issue, because that will lead you to find better solutions. If you were informed about this issue you would not be saying the things your are saying. They are naive and ill-informed. Do some learning, find out the truth, and then silence your amateur opinions. Adam is a professional who has taken the time to understand this at a level that you will probably never attain, so enough comments from the peanut gallery please!

      • Yes, attack the person, not the argument… that’s the way forward!

        As a matter of fact, having been born and raised in Africa, I feel far more qualified to comment than most. I understand the politics and nuances of this situation far more than I believe you do. Or Adam for that matter.

        I do not disagree with his desire to spread his message of how to improve the plight of struggling African nations I just think that his criticism of the Kony2012 efforts by IC are misguided and self serving.

        He has made a living about writing a great deal about it but not really doing anything substantive.

        If only half the people claiming to know how to solve the continents problems actually did something like IC is doing the world would be a better place.

        But its just easier for armchair academics to make proclamations of woe whilst belittling the efforts of people trying to do something that actually achieves something.

        • I don’t have the time to tell you where you’re wrong. I’ve already written far too much about this issue in other places so reading you idiotic comments is bothersome to say the least. But I should probably ask the question, Bob what do you do for a living? Do you obsess 10-20 hrs a day about this issue in an attempt to find solutions…no you do not because you have other priorities. Adam and people like adam have committed their lives to finding a solution, the fact that they have not, should shut you up. But you grew up there so you knew best right???HAHAHA I grew up in public housing, it doesn’t mean that I know how to overcome poverty and relieve the need for public housing…your sources of information are weak at best, leave these discussions to the professionals buddy!

          • Yes, good idea. Don’t write anymore here. We wouldn’t want to keep you from your numerous fans elsewhere.

            Since you ask I am a manager in an international voluntary services organization. My primary responsibility is recruiting site managers for development projects in Aisa and Africa. We provide staff for schools, hospitals and public projects.

            Your attempts to compare growing up in public housing with actually living on a the African continent is strange.
            What does it have to do with enforcing your argument? You seem to be equating growing up in housing provided by a western government is something you feel relevant to the discussion. I fail to see your point. Unless you are saying that, despite growing up in public housing, you don’t know or care much about it, which is not something to be proud of.

            Clearly your obsession with Adam is bordering on sycophantic. Spending 20 hours thinking about how to fry an egg is different to actually frying one.

            But all of this is entirely besides the point. My argument against the article is that IC seeks to bring Kony to justice, not solve Uganda’s problems. KONY2012 is something worthwhile that deserves support. But It seems easier for armchair academics to sit on the sidelines and critique people who are doing something.

            This ‘debate’ has descended into mindless trolling and I think everything useful has been said.

            Good bye.

          • Ok bye Bob, You can give up now. Its not like your argument was factual anyways. Merely a waste of everyone’s time. The problem with people like Bob getting involved in issues like this, is that they compare solving “the problems of Uganda” to frying an egg. It far more complicated, its sad that you cannot see that. I have faith that you could educate yourself, but you probably don’t have the time, bills to pay and all that…I understand you feel like you need to help and that you are superior and should therefore help, but your advice is unwanted. You are an amateur political analyst and PHD candidates don’t need to hear a word of your under-educated opinions. Have a nice day, Bob don’t get too worked up with issues that you know nothing about and have nothing to do with you, beyond the fact that you saw a 30 minute video that somehow enlightened you!

          • I should also point out that your entire argument is self-fulfilling. You are making these arguments because your job depends on it. You rely on convincing people to meddle in foreign affairs under the auspices of “help them, you have to, or are you some kind of monster?” You try to make others feel guilty and you then employ that emotional sensationalism to further your economic ends. If people start agreeing with me, then your out of work. You should really think about why you are making the arguments that you persist with. Its fairly transparent.

          • PS. its sad that you think everything useful has been said. I guess that sums up your knowledge of these events! I’ve been faced with several people with your views and by opening their eyes to past historical comparisons I convinced them to join my side. I don’t have the time or patients to do this with you. I’m only bringing this up because you think your special…your not. Your just another naive vocalist, who I don’t want to enlighten, largely because you offended me by scrutinizing my mental capacity. Good luck finding the light on your own….

      • Wow, megan exactly what results has Adam achieved? Great, he made a syllabus in which he shows exactly how little his actions have affected Africa, and made it a better place. He calls for more foreign aid to be washed down the tubes so he can feel good about himself.

        I’m not sending a dime to Africa in Adam’s name. Not when I worked 8 hours days for it. He’s been there a decade and all he has done is find reasons that brutal men should be excused. Yes, the Ugandan Army isn’t clean either, but 1 for 2 is better than 0 for 2. Between bringing a brutal man to justice (Joe Kony) and letting some armchair academic who got his birkenstocks dirty in Uganda once, I’ll side with getting Kony in jail.

        And so what if he isn’t in Uganda anymore? We don’t need a full Iraq-style invasion to get him. A quick raid in and out would work.

        And he bases his whole belief (and pretends to know) that the US is really just interested in Uganda for oil on… what exactly? The belief that that is why there was war in Iraq and Afghanistan? And that because the US may not be full of saints, that somehow its involvement other than guided by him is somehow wrong?

        I’m not in this for Uganda. I’m in it to bring Kony before the Hague. That is all.

  14. I’m not sure how to respond,

    KONY 2012 seems to want to help, the fact that the US government is likely to use this movement to finally get those Oil reserves? bad, understood. The likely-hood that the Kony 2012 movement will go on to attack each person on the ‘list’ they show as ‘the big bad guys of the world’.. Hmm interesting.. More interesting is the narrators idea that the ‘web movement’ can start becoming something big enough to topple bad guys, topple bad leaders, topple bad governments..

    You ask people to read a syllabus, while K2012 asks to spend $2-$30 for the average american, I think the simple spend will suffice for their concience. Maybe your movement should mimic the pattern and use the money in a way that works better for you and your points.

    The people with money and movement write the blogs that get read, and this becomes history, the truth gets blurred under all the hype, and reality will be adbstract.

  15. Interesting article! There is always two or more sides to every story. It is good to hear it from different perspective in order have an unbiased information. This way, it is easier to arrive a better judgement.

  16. Thanks for the reasoned response. My daughter is an 11th grader at a suburban high school, and growing into a 4th generation socialist (although she likes Sephora makeup…) I heard about the big excitement at her school about the Kony project, and I was pleased that she was reluctantly suspicious. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about the slickness of the presentation and the obvious marketing element made her uncomfortable. It goes to show, I think, the disconnect between the new mastery of marketing and communication by the emerging generation of internet viral artists (and hustlers), giving them the benefit of the doubt, the combination of good intentions and lack of historical, economic, and political perspective. The things that are increasingly being de-emphasized in American education. The notion of re-purposing the “Peace Sign” to mobilize potentially millions of young Amercans to urge the government to send in “advisers” to yet another third world nation with complex problems would be funny, were the consequences not so serious. Kind of a new angle to take, like sending troops to Columbia over the endless drug war. Anyway, glad to see your article; too bad I had to find it on Al Jazeera instead of the New York Times.

    Best wishes,
    Bob Hill

  17. The only good that has come from Kony 2012 is that a few rich white kids finally realized there is suffering in Africa. That is the only positive, the rest are negatives.

    • What a wonderful comment, full of thought and analysis. I can see a great deal of your mental capacity and time was put into crafting such a succinct and coherent comment. Truly, you are a scholar among men. Let us all retire to our houses safe in the knowledge that intellectual powerhouses like megan is ill-informed are handling the debate with such competence.

      • You’re not going to like the way I say this, but get over it Bob! no watching the video will not help him become more informed because the video does not contain truthful information. By spending more than 10 years researching this issue he could make countless similar videos with double the amount of information, but they would be very different videos because they would be truthful. Adam is like a skilled brain surgeon in his area of expertise. Would you let someone who watched a video about brain surgery perform the surgery on you….no you wouldn’t, because you would certainly die from it! This issue is similar because ill-informed people like you get involved in international politics and you don’t see it, but people die as a result. Their suffering could be increased as history has shown us in countless examples. Do you think a brain surgeon who has been training for 10 years would learn anything from a video 30 minute video about brain surgery…this is basic stuff kids…

        • Yes yes Megan… thank you… you can go now. Someone of your mental stature with such mature and thought out arguments clearly need not spend any more of your valuable time educating us in the ways of the world.

          Bye now.

          • Thanks for your comments Bob. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve followed Invisible Children for nearly the entirety of their existence, and I’ve always been a fan. Their goal has never been to showcase their superiority in terms of knowledge, but to highlight a problem and to do their best to bring awareness. They aren’t professors. When they began, they were just recent graduates from film school who wanted to make a difference in the only way they knew how. They have always been film makers first, who saw their trade as a way to do good. The experiences they became part of, the people they met, and the things they saw, inspired them to take action. They’re a great example of what humans are capable of when inspired by altruism. They didn’t start Invisible Children so they could one day write articles highlighting their intelligence. They started it to help others. End of story.

            Meanwhile, people like Adam have dedicated their lives to LEARNING about the issues, but have done nothing to fix them. I’ve been reading about Kony for many years, and wondered why no one has done more to make it a widely discussed issue. Invisible Children has done just that. It’s not complete in its information. It’s not perfect. But it has done more in a few weeks to engage the world than Adam has done in his entire life.

            And let me respond to you, Megan, before you jump on board. I have researched the issues in Africa. I have researched Adam himself. And I have researched the Invisible Children. Do I have a Doctorate in the field of African atrocities? No. But implying that someone must first be a “PHD candidate” in order to have an informed and well rounded opinion is pretentious (at best) and smacks of a superiority complex. If no one were allowed to have an opinion or take action lest they first obtained a Doctorate in the field of study, then activism would be nonexistent. On the plus side, we’d have plenty more articles and blog posting from self-righteous individuals who believe they know everything, and everyone else should stop having opposing opinions.

            You seem to place quite a bit of importance on your mental capacity. I find that amusing. Do you know what you could create if you were to take your incredibly high IQ and combine it with Adam’s super human IQ? A syllabus. Congratulations. You can now teach a class and be as condescending as you would like.

            Meanwhile, a couple of film students, who may or may not be as intelligent as you, but who clearly have much larger hearts than you, created a half an hour film that will do more to bring a war criminal to justice, to raise awareness, and to raise money in order help rebuild what has been lost, than Adam has done in his entire career. They couldn’t be involved for a small fraction of time without being compelled to help. Adam has been involved for over 20 years and yet has no call to action? If you can’t see the downside to intellectualism at the expense of activism, than this entire discussion is without merit.

            So please, stop with the condescension and the infatuation with Adam. Come down from your soapbox, take Adam down from his pedestal, and try putting all of your intelligence and knowledge towards actually making a difference. Because I for one have tried to discuss Kony and Africa with people regularly over the last ten years and 9 out of 10 people had no idea what I was talking about, and generally, the 10th person didn’t care even if they did know. However, in the past week, I’ve had countless conversations about Kony and the plights of Africa. Because people are researching. Because people are becoming aware. It takes a spark to start a fire. And while Adam’s well thought out, long winded, and no doubt, all encompassing syllabus has not yet caused any sparks, Kony 2012 has.

          • So, from your long-winded argument I take it you would be alright with me performing brain surgery on you…Since you don’t think people need PHD’s to undertake serious operations where peoples lives are at stake. You’re like a priest performing brain surgery, you think you know what is best, but you haven’t taken the time to ensure that you can actually perform the operation without incurring the death of another person….you have a typical western superiority complex. But you are human just like the rest of us and you have no place taking the superior role. A gift that cannot be reciprocated, like the gift you wish to give to ugandans is merely a burden of debt that maintains your domination of Africa.

          • There is a reason we leave brain surgery to brain surgeons, because reckless know-it-alls like you don’t think they need people with PHD’s, because you have your heart in the right place. Well, your wrong, period. People like you do more harm than good in international conflict / development.

          • And in the same way that a king gives a peasant a gift to ensure their loyal servitude, you wish to give your gift to the people of central africa. But they know they cannot repay their masters, so they will stand in awe of your power. Bowing down to their knees whenever you request.

          • No need to resort to name calling Megan. I’m not a know-it-all. In fact, I’m keeping an open mind and trying to have a discussion. You’re insulting, belittling, poor at communicating, and obviously under the impression that the white western man is the devil.

            So, to quote you, “get over it”.

            Comparing a Priest doing brain surgery to informed activists making a video is ludicrous. You make analogies that not only don’t apply, they’re laughable. And then you follow them up with condescension and insults. And to tack on a wildly inaccurate comparison of Americans trying to help and a King handing out a gift to peasants and expecting something in return, is simply put, completely wrong. All this talk about your intelligence and our lack-there-of now baffles me. An intelligent person doesn’t make character assumptions in such a manner. It’s very ill-advised, obnoxious, incorrect, and makes conversing with you a pointless activity.

            So let me clarify. American citizens do not want to help because they expect anything in return. They want to help because they want to help. To assume otherwise does not mean we have a superiority complex; rather, it is a tell-tale sign of your inferiority complex. We are not, and have not, been the ones spouting off about what we expect in return. That was you. If you want to make a case of why we shouldn’t do anything to help, please, by all means. But don’t use the King comparison. It’s not applicable and wastes your time and ours.

            In conclusion, it’s obvious that trying to communicate with you is pointless. I sincerely wish you and your continent the absolute best. But to date, your struggles have been many and constant, with lectures and syllabi doing nothing to help.

          • Yes communication is impossible when you refuse to listen. But you know best right, since you spent a couple hours researching this stuff…too bad you have never made any sacrifices for those you supposedly wish to help. You sacrifice nothing, but offer all the dangerous solutions. You are insane my friend.

          • You do have your heart in the right place. But the only difference between you performing brain surgery or you giving your gift to the people of Africa, is that you won’t see the africans die in front of your eyes with their warm blood on your hands. You will be safe at home viewing through the hazy eyes of your local media outlet.

          • Thanks Bob & Matt for your (useful) input/comments. :-))
            Megan (the ‘is ill-informed’): your comments show us you’re, in fact, ill-informed! For the sake of argument you have no arguments (other than those 10 year researching professor blabla)! Bob & Matt said it all.
            I also know a lot of people (professors included), researching for more than 10, 20 years, but they still don’t ‘understand’ much of what they’re supposed to ‘know’ about…
            (Note: I’m not saying that this is the case here, I’m only stating that it is not THE – or the only, if you wish – valid argument here).
            You might not like it, you might not agree with it! You can’t start stupidifying everyone who (you think) hasn’t a “10 year research” on whatever, or doesn’t share the same perspectives or agree with you and the god’ished professor!
            Knowledge is not wisdom!
            We (“the world”) have been governed (mostly) by “professionals” and look at where (and how) we are!!
            Hello and goodbye.

          • Your argument is that people like you who has spent less time, sacrificed less, and cares less, somehow has a better understanding of events in Central Africa. You should listen to yourself. its ridiculous!

          • PS. I guess you were too lazy to read the rest of the thread! Wow, you really care. It would have taken 20 seconds to read, but thats too much of a commitment and sacrifice for amateur political analysts such as yourself. Please be silent on this issue. You have no explored the possibilities for increased suffering due to your involvement. In short, you are unqualified to speak on this issue because you are an un-knowing outsider.

          • BOB and MATT DID NOT SAY IT ALL. It your simple thinking that makes your involvement dangerous. People’s lives are at stake when foreign populations and their governments get involved in conflicts such as this one. I did not say it all. It cannot all be said, that is one of my points. You think you have the full picture because that is why the video was meant to make you feel. You are naive and it is unfortunate you think you are doing a good thing by getting involved. I am here to tell you that you are doing a bad thing and you should cease and desist.

  18. I just felt I needed to comment, I saw this on Al Jazeera first.

    Adam, you’ve been in Uganda a decade. Yes, the LRA left in 2006, meaning you were there when Kony still raided into Uganda.

    And in that decade, what have you done? Oh, that’s right, NOTHING. You have taken foreign aid money, and achieved NOTHING but to sit there and tell people what you “know” and how its wrong to bring brutal men to justice.

    What’s more, you “know” that the US Government is using Kony 2012 has a font for an… invasion of Uganda? Making you a conspiracy theorist at best. Yes, foreign investors are buying land in Uganda, but did you really think anyone was going to try and develop a country without getting a share of it? Did you think people were just going to give Ugandan’s money to build their businesses and lives, and expect no ownership of what their money purchased?

    And yes, the Ugandan military is involved in war crimes, of this I have no doubt. I have no doubt that the US military has killed civilians during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as I know for certain that Al Qaeda and Saddam committed far more numerous crimes themselves, but fortunately for them those don’t go reported as often (unlike the US Military, reporters don’t get to embed with Al Qaeda units).

    Your whole argument is that we need to sit down and spend our money on you to continue to get no results in bringing ANYONE to justice. You know what? If I could choose between bringing Kony to justice and leaving the Ugandan military alone, or not having anyone brought to trial for their crimes, I’ll choose 1 for 2. It’s certainly better than your results.

    And who says the US would maintain a permanent military presence in Uganda? The goal is to get Kony and bring him to the Hague, not build camps. The US can ill-afford to and as the video you are lambasting says, its not like the US has much interest in the country anyway. Sure, there is oil. There is in Russia, China, Australia, etc as well.

    • So your a resurcher.And you say”we do not need to worry about the Invisible Children” Just the militarization?And who pays you?
      How much awareness have you raised.?
      Your right we are not worring we are taking action.You should try it sometime.I cant believe I read this rubbish.
      I think for myself.
      You are triing to gain Notoriety.
      If you are not part of the sollution the least you can do is shut up.

  19. A diverse array of posts to a ver interesting article. A crucial point missing. Kony is not in Uganda, so how is having troops there going to help in capturing him… Surely this is actually the crux of the matter? if this was about capturing Kony then lets talk DRC, South Sudan and CAR!

  20. The point was actually not to militarise at all, so let’s please not talk about the US going to South Sudan, CAR, Congo, or anywhere else they don’t have any business being.

    Someone asked why the US didn’t go to Rwanda. Well, given its history in intervention, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have “paid off”. Which is not to say I agree with their decision. Just reminding people that the situation has since changed – it was never enough for there to be a humanitarian crisis for the US to invade. There needed to be an economic outcome that benefited the US (or any other nation – I’m not singling the US out, just responding to the topic).

    I don’t know what the actual situation is now, but we are hearing about massive oil and gas reserves these last couple of years. Certainly that would explain the timing of a sudden imperative to intervene, despite the humanitarian crisis for nearly 10 years – though to a much less threatening degree now.

    The best thing any of us can hope for is that awareness and education will win the day. This is actually a way in which we can really contribute – getting informed and checking our internet information sources with reliable, refereed sites. Not clicking and/or donating after being emotionally motivated by attractive packaging. It’s never enough to react based on any single piece you’ve read or seen – and the KONY 2012 video is the case in point. If something you have read makes you care enough to sign a petition or send a check, just STOP and do some basic research first, before sharing on FB or Twitter. Don’t be gullible. Don’t be another credulous victim of slick marketing. You CAN be analytical. You don’t have to be intellectually lazy. If you aren’t familiar with a topic, RESEARCH it. Then act on your conscience.

    Thanks!

    • I only read the first sentence of your comment. The U.S has had military interests in Central Republic since 2002, so your clearly not on-the-ball. Get a clue my friend then come back to debate. Support of Kony 2012 will only re-enforce U.S plans for militarization in the area. If there is large-scale U.S intervention, it will be accompanied by new U.S Navy, Air Force, or Army Bases. You didn’t even know the U.S was already militarily involved?

  21. I’m finding this article a little late in the game, but I do appreciate the tact and informed stance from which it is written. That is refreshing. I appreciate your perspective on the tone of the organization, too. I do hope you won’t judge them too heavily based on experiences you had years and years ago, though, as they are a new organization and have grown tremendously over the last nine years (one change I was pleased to discover is that now, nearly all of their staff in Uganda are locals, and they bring Ugandans on the speaking/film screening tours to speak on behalf of their own people).

    I do have a few questions, though.

    First, I was under the impression that the oil in Uganda is actually pretty bad (not worth investing in), and perhaps it is just Museveni looking for good attention that would lead anyone to believe otherwise. I can’t find the information I was looking for, but hopefully this article will suffice to at least raise a question in your mind: http://mobile.monitor.co.ug/LifeandStyle/-/691254/1259722/-/format/xhtml/-/4dw23rz/-/index.html

    Second, there are already plenty of military officers from the U.S. floating around Uganda. Why would the U.S. be fishing for an “excuse” to send more?

    Your second point, “people’s lives [in Northern Uganda] will be left untouched by this campaign, even if it were to achieve its stated objectives” shows a misunderstanding of the campaign in general, which is focusing on the Congo, CAR, and South Sudan, primarily, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by Kony and, in certain regions, currently live in fear. I think this misunderstanding comes from the face that the video starts the story in Uganda, for context, and then later goes on to explain where the LRA is operating now. The problem is that only 20% of viewers watched the entire film, and missed this particular point. I think we ought to fault the viewers who leap to action with partial information, rather than the organization (whose film apparently wasn’t slick ENOUGH to hold most people’s attention for a mere 30 minutes).

    I agree that land issues and nodding disease are some of the primary problems facing Northern Uganda at the moment, but these things are on their radar (http://blog.invisiblechildren.com/2012/03/27/nodding-disease-mysterious-illness-debilitates-children/) and who is to say they won’t address them in the future? How can we fault an organization for not doing everything at once? Especially when they’ve already received so much criticism for trying to do two things at once (advocacy and development).

    I’d love to see an article from someone who is well-informed about the region but who has ALSO committed time to really understand this organization and their programs and intentions.

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