Kony 2012 is just what we needed to spin us into action

With all the questions and buzz around me about Kony 2012, I can’t help but add my say. And am going to offend some people, I know, but can’t help it.

This is one of those moments when I can claim my Ugandaness in full–as if it is contested! Just to show my perspective. And here I’ll add a disclaimer and say this may not be the view of all Ugandans. Am glad if some folks can partake in it, but it really is my individual analysis. That’s all am standing on. So yes, I’ve watched the 30 mins documentary that’s garnered 50 million hits/views. That is amazing. We are angry–Ugandans and other Black folks–because the man behind it–Jason Russell, White–reminds us of the terrible narrative in which the west attempts to save Africa without acknowledging the local people’s efforts and initiatives. The documentary is also simplistic but not bad enough. Russell has left out some important facts–mainly what the locals have been doing for the last 20 years to end the Northern Uganda bloody war. But can we step outside ourselves a little and say perhaps that’s not his story to tell after all. That is our story to tell? He’s only doing what he can from his perspective. With just a few editorial tweaks that documentary will be fine. And if we so very much want to correct the facts, why can’t we? Why should it be him to tell it the way we want the story to be told?

Before you get me wrong since I’m writing from the margin, I know there are Ugandans who have been involved in trying to end the Kony war. I know journalists–me included once upon a time–tried our best to write about what was going on hoping we could change the situation through our pens, our media campaigns and what not. We never got 50 million hits, not even 1 perhaps, but we tried. Most of our politicians and policy makers were busy benefiting from what was going on, and I remember President Yoweri Museveni appearing on the TV when Kony was gaining momentum and saying: ‘Kony is just a jigger in the foot. We will stamp him out of Northern Uganda.’ That jigger grew and worsted itself five years, ten years, twenty years…where was the president then? What was the Ugandan Army doing all that time? This is an army that prides itself in training from Sandhurst, Cuba, Russia, US…and I’m told it really is a competent army. If it needed to catch Kony it would have caught him a long time ago, but it didn’t. Instead, Kony abducted, maimed, raped and killed women, and indoctrinated the children to take up guns and kill. Wanton massacres. The newspapers printed the horrific images until we screamed no. We do not want to see them.

Today, there isn’t active fighting in Uganda especially since Southern Sudan became liberated. Kony spilled into the Central African Republic and some parts of Congo where he continues to wreck havoc on the ordinary people. He was our responsibility as Ugandans and look what we’ve done. I do not understand therefore why some Ugandans are suggesting that since Kony is no longer in Northern Ugandan, he is no longer Uganda’s problem. I do not understand why they’re angry that the Invisible Children documentary used night commuters–who are no longer night commuting–as a continuing Kony problem. I would like to ask: Where are these children? Who is taking care of them? Are they in school? Are they being provided for? Those who have been maimed and raped, how many of them are being rehabilitated? How many have access to the necessary plastic surgery to try and restore their beautiful images that are now defaced? If we cannot answer these questions, or if we realize that the effects of Kony’s war on the children haven’t been sufficiently addressed, then we have no right to say we are doing our best to solve our own problems. And when do we accept failure? When do we accept help?

We get consumed with ‘saving Africa,’ and how we Ugandans are in fact trying to save Uganda…bullshit. There’s no ‘saving’ but there is helping. There is service. There is duty, commitment, and there is responsibility. Not the same thing as saving. The moment you have it in your head that you’re involved in saving a country, a continent, when perhaps you’re the one who needs saving, you run the risk of believing delusions. This is what I know: When I cry for help, I do not care whether that help comes in form of my mother, my friends, ants, goats, trees, Whites, Blacks, Yellows, Browns, stones…the whole spectrum. I only care that I’ve cried out and I’ve been heard. That someone appears to help. Back to the affected children and people, they’ve been calling for help and some of us heard and helped the best way we could, but not enough. I don’t care if the boy, Jacob, in the documentary, asked Russell to remember him and help those still in suffering. I’m happy that he did. In fact, if we ask the kids in Northern Uganda who have escaped from Kony what they think of the documentary, I’m 100% sure that they will embrace it and say it’s what they’ve been waiting for. They’ll realize that maybe they’re not alone after all. That maybe the ‘world’ might help. There are still hundreds of them–if not thousands–in captivity in the jungle. Even if there were only two kids under Kony’s grip, the documentary would still matter. Let’s not get into the danger of numbers. Human life is precious. My only fear is to create false hope, but cynicism aside, most other things that some of us are worried about–like getting the facts right–won’t matter to these kids because they’ve been through hell and they know help is all that they need.

Therefore, whose opinion should we consider? The kids who are still trying to cope and understand what happened to them, the people who want to feel safe that Kony won’t show up again, or a few privileged Ugandans with permanent internet connection, who can watch the documentary and pass it on to their friends asking for opinions, most of them living in the US, in Europe, and in safe African countries away from the conflict territories? Should we trust the views of the pot-bellied politicians and the government officials belching after sumptuous meals, rubbing their full tummies and releasing a statement demanding that facts be made right? At least the Invisible Children Initiative has a budget, a plan, and a sense of direction, whether it works out or not. Which Ugandan official or Ministry has ever said; Look, this is our budget, this is what we are going to spend trying to catch that bastard Kony? Which Ministry can say, Here, we got this money to resettle all those in refugee camps. We’ve restored their land and we are providing some education…

I don’t like the name Invisible Children. They are not invisible. They are people who need to be assured of their dignity and integrity. I think it destroys their self-esteem to call them invisible. I don’t like the part in the documentary where Russell shows his young son a picture of Kony and says this is the bad guy. I would have preferred him to have images of Hitler, Gaddafi, Bin Laden, and any other well known bad guys so the child can know evil exists in many faces and colors, not just black. I was imagining this kid standing on the street and seeing a black guy approaching and the kid running, screaming the bad guy is here because the only bad guy shown to him happens to be a black man. But I still think the documentary isn’t bad enough. If only we can look at it through the eyes of those who have suffered, who have experienced the war first hand and bear the effects on their bodies and memories. When Martin Luther King Jr. was fundraising for his civil rights movement, he was questioned about some of the money that he received from ‘suspicious’ corporations known to have contributed to the enslavement of the Black people. Those critical of his efforts said he was accepting tainted money. He said, ‘the only problem with tainted money was that there wasn’t enough of it.’ I feel the Invisible Children documentary isn’t tainted enough, and not enough of such documentaries to spin us into action. And here I’m being influenced by Leonard Cohen’s Anthem lyrics: Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.

Betty Bigombe

Bring on help and catch the bastard. Forget that the documentary has flaws. Mission is everything. I think the greatest fear here is not failure but rather possible success. Uganda will be ‘shamed,’ if indeed a bunch of enthusiastic White kids manage through their initiative to catch Kony, who has eluded Ugandans these 20 plus years. It will reveal the government’s inefficiency, selfishness, and  lack of commitment to helping the people. That is what some ‘influential’ Ugandans don’t want to acknowledge. Success frightens them since it shines a light on their failed duties.

I hope the documentary folks aren’t in bed with someone else. Latent motives. We now have oil, brothers and sisters.

As for Ugandan leaders and NGO’s who are involved one way or another in resettling the war victims, like Hope North, keep up the good work. When it is necessary, invest more in documentaries that bring the stories and local initiatives to life. I remember when Betty Bigombe was influential in negotiating the peace process. I feel she did a lot. Why can’t we do a documentary featuring her efforts instead of complaining that she’s left out of the acknowledgment?  Where’s our budget for this? And remember the Hollywood crap: The Last King of Scotland? We were so angry that it left out the efforts and complexity of the ordinary folks who were fighting Idi Amin. Yet, we still haven’t come up with a movie showing how the Tanzanians liberated us from Idi Amin’s rule. All we know is how to criticize and complain. If we feel angst and righteous that we have a narrative, that we care, we would do whatever it takes to document it and thank our heroes. Since we don’t, bring in the tainted and the flawed. Make the cracks wider and let the light stream in.

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5 Responses to Kony 2012 is just what we needed to spin us into action

  1. ADONG March 10, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    FINALLY SOMEONE WHO SEES THE IC FILM MY WAY! THANK YOU SO MUCH, MILDRED! Why are we very good at critiquing and none objectivity but NOT actually doing what we believe it should be. People are not going to make films according to your perspective, so just wake up already and make one according to your perspective. We are only in recess of the Kony terror people. He will be back so what better time to DO something NOW even if it’s for the sake of the people in the countries he is terrorizing right now. Reading people’s responses, it is as if they are saying it is no big deal now since Kony is not in Uganda but in Congo, South Sudan and Central Africa. How are victims from these countries supposed to feel?

    What I like about the IC film is that it got a big percentage of the world to know about the Kony problem. Yes, Kony is not in northern Uganda but he is still doing the same things in neighboring countries and he always re-mobilizes from neighboring countries and return to make our life hell again in Gulu and northern districts. So, while we argue, pictures from bygone era, let’s remember Kony is still out whole. Let’s stop the shallow -mindedness of merely looking at now that there is a semblance of peace in northern Uganda and let’ think the bigger picture. If Kony crossed over to Gulu now, the kids WILL be back at the Gulu bus park and other shop veranda as in the IC film and with immediate effect. Do you want to start thinking about that only when Kony is back? This is always the challenge in Africa, trying to think solutions only when the problem is here, when even thinking is hard because of the terror. Why not prevent it? I think that is what the IC film is calling for. PREVENTION of the return of Kony to terrorize Acholi children and community. TRUE 100% that the solution they suggest CAN’T work. But what are you going to suggest and/or start up that works? I believe the the publicity about who Kony is, is what I take as positive from that film. Again TRUE some people have known about Kony for decades but haven’t done anything because they are not in position to do anything. But also give room for those who haven’t known and have just know from this video-and these are many too. I am an Acholi and there are places I have tried to talk about our northern Uganda Kony challenge and have been looked at like am from mars BECAUSE all people out there know is that Uganda is now a peaceful democratic country. Even if all the IC film ever achieve is calling the world to witness, I am okay with that. Let the world know that Uganda is not as peaceful and as democratic and it is marketed out there by gov’t tools. NOW LET’S HEAR SOMEONE CLAIM THEY NEVER KNEW! Plus, I am puzzled and saddened if there are people out there critiquing IC for using bygone pictures and adding that Kony is not a problem now in northern Uganda because he is in Congo, Southern Sudan and Central Africa. PLEASE PEOPLE, what does this imply? So, don’t you care that he is still out there (and in for Congo, Southern Sudan and Central Africa) and doing what he did to Acholi children? Acholi people? Kony is still at large moving freely between Congo, South Sudan, Central Africa, all places very close to northern Uganda and he will return to northern Uganda if not intersected now. And that’s what IC is drawing attention to. Now we know they solution is not practical, OBVIOUSLY, so let’s brainstorm as planet earth for THE SOLUTIONS. Again TRUE, we should be making these films but we don’t have support systems. No national art funds so what options would we have to make this film and market it, turn for funding support to the same west we don’t like. S.A took charge of its truth and reconciliation justice and theatre even creating an arts fund because there was political will-internal political will. The Acholi tragedy doesn’t have any internal political will and let’s stop pretending. Of course the gov’t is also a problem in the Acholi tragedy, as much a problem as Kony and his LRA team. But obviously this isn’t something IC could have in their film otherwise it would be risking their work in the country. I was listening to Milton Allimadi’s speech posted on facebook where he points fingers at the gov’t tools so directly and my whole family went like: of course this is something you can only say from out of the country. Here no one would say that because of fear for their lives. And looking at the video of that DARING speech on facebook, only Acholi people are liking it and yet the Ugandans making the most noise about the IC film’s negativity are not even Acholi people. Comments from most Acholi people about the IC film are objective-while they critique the solution IC is suggestion (military intervention, which we have had enough of), they also recognize IC’s contribution to publicizing the tragedy, school construction and children’s scholarship etc in the region. Unlike those who are just not seeing anything positive about the IC film…..It is like while we are accusing IC of looking for fame, we are also looking for fame by rubbishing everything about IC. SAD! SAD! SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!

    I ma surprised at some so called initiative, some by even Acholi people that are now being glorified on facebook all in the name of disproving the IC film. If only the people posting these so called initiative knew how much the initiators have also used Acholi children by fund raising in the same North America soil for projects that if you asked many Acholi people, their responses would make you think twice about the sentiments you hold about IC. I see the posts on facebook and smile to myself. THIS IS NOT A CONTEST PEOPLE!

  2. Doc Waller March 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    I can agree with most of what is written here. But your point about his son and the picture of Kony is exaggerated by the simple fact that he set that picture right next to the picture of the Ugandan child (forget his name) that his son easily identified as a good person and even a friend of the family.

  3. MB March 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Thanks, Doc, for your observation.

  4. Danya March 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I totally co-sign this. Thank you.

  5. winnie March 13, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    i totally agree,his son knows that Jacob is the good guy and kony the bad one and he has made that quite clear.but that’s besides the point the point is that Kony is still out there and he needs to be caught if it means a bunch of white kinds did it or the government it does not matter,what is important is for him to be caught and brought to book .and not every one has good things to say about the Ugandan government but they have their good side and bad side.so that you so very much Russel for the documentary may be some one will get Kony were ever he is hiding

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