My take on KONY2012 Campaign and Lessons learnt

8 03 2012

Disclaimer: Even though I write from an informed perspective, my comments do not represent the voices of millions of survivors or victims of the war in Northern Uganda and Central Africa at large. I have seen some people on twitter being rude about my opinions on KONY2012. If you are interested – READ below else hold your peace forever! Again, dont ask me why I havent stopped Kony or whether I intend to stop him and how. I am a civilian and I have my own ways of promoting social change, peace and reconciliation in Uganda – through promoting and sharing skills on use of technology to enhance access information and advocating for human right. That I have done!

I can’t certainly remember the first time I saw Kony’s photo in Uganda’s newspaper. What I certainly remember is that his picture has been stuck in my mind since then. I cant forget his famous picture with dreadlocks, wearing the army uniform – he sure looked “bad”. Since then every other day I learnt that Kony was and is a bad guy. There were more horrible stories of his crimes against humanity as I grew up in the newspapers, on radio and television. Stories such as: how Kony abducted children and turned them into child soldiers, how he rapped women, burnt them alive or even ripped off their lips! Of course there were some controversial stories where Kony denied some of the reported crimes claiming that they were committed by the Uganda People’s Defense Force to tarnish his image. This was very hard to believe because if Kony had an image, he had tarnished it himself.

Now that you are reading this you have probably already seen the KONY2012 video or heard about it somewhere. The KONY2012 campaign video which started going viral just 2days ago has been viewed over 32 million YouTube (also available on Vimeo).  The topics #StopKony and #KONY2012 are trending on twitter.

The Campaign is aimed at making Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his capture – according to Invisible Children’s co-founder Jason Russell.

If you have seen the video and you think that KONY2012 is a brilliant campaign, you should read on.

Fact about Joseph Kony:

  1. He is a war lord and together with his Lord’s Resistance Army, he has committed terrible crimes against humanity
  2. Kony was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005
  3. For over 26years Kony abducted children and turned them into child soldiers in Northern Uganda
  4. Kony fled Uganda with the LRA in 2008 following Operation Lightening Thunder in which the US provided financial support and equipment to Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF). Kony is expected to be somewhere in Central Africa jungle – probably Congo or South Sudan.

My basis of criticism:

I despise Joseph Kony and the LRA but I have no confidence in Invisible Children. Rebuilding Northern Uganda should be through promoting peace and reconciliation NOT through endorsing war – (I wonder whether you have seen the picture of Jason Russell (of Invisible Children) posing with weapons and SPLA – Human Rights Activists don’t show off with guns like this – I know this because I am an activist myself! A picture like this actually declares war. There is a difference between an armed civilian or “human rights activist” and a soldier.

Kony fled Uganda because of the pressure from Uganda People’s Defense Forces, this is evidence that Uganda has made some remarkable progress in fighting the LRA. Why is Invisible Children not pressuring the Uganda Government to collaborate with regional forces in Central Africa – South Sudan and Congo to capture Kony? This is a gap that this campaign leaves uncovered. Such a gap continues to create an impression that Africa cannot bring the desired change without western support.

The approach this campaign takes is aimed at deriving support from the United States and other western countries to intervene. It’s about time that the whole world realised that Africa appreciates the support (foreign aid and donations) but we – Africans want to be more involved in solving our own problems. Over the years Africans have tried to prove to the world that we can contribute sustainable solutions not just to Africa’s problems but also to some of the world’s biggest challenges. The problem is that, often Africa’s opinions are disregarded. I must acknowledge that it’s partly an African problem – that some lazy Africans like to be provided for – or spoon-fed.

@RosebellK reckons here “my major problem with this video is that it simplifies the story of millions of people in Northern Uganda and makes out a narrative that is often heard about Africa – about how hopeless people are in terms of conflict the only people off this continent can help and yet that is not entirely true: there are local initiatives to end this war…”

In the video Invisible Children claims that they pressured the US government to intervene. “After 8 years of work, the government finally heard us, and in october of 2011 100 American advisers were sent in to Central Africa to assist the Ugandan Army in arresting Kony and Stopping the LRA. It was the first time in History that the United Stated took that kind of action because the People demanded it. Not for self defense but because it was right.” Says Jason Russell.  This is not necessarily true because as a Ugandan I know that the United States has provided a lot of financial support to the Uganda government to fight Kony since 2008’s Operation Lightening Thunder. This is one example of the many flaws in the video. And I must say that KONY2012 is a misrepresentation of the voices of Ugandans and Central Africans who have been victims of this war.

“I find this strange… The Ugandan military together with some local militias fought for 20 years to uproot Kony from Northern Uganda, Most of these service men died in this war. Without any state of the art technology nor weapons, they were able to defeat Kony…. But to date, no one gives them credit for that! No one… When the US sends 100 “military advisors”, then all of a sudden, 15million people share one “video” showing that they really care! Where were they all this time???? With or without these so called military advisors, Kony will be brought to justice by the men and women in the Ugandan Armed forces!!!! For they are our true heroes! We don’t need to make this crook famous for he ain’t anything…” comment from a Facebook Friend

The message this campaign brings to me is based on mostly events which happened in Northern Uganda in 2003 – since Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fled Uganda, the strategy of this “war” must change. People of Northern Uganda are in the process of rebuilding their communities based on peace and reconciliation. It is evident that people are already settling back in their abandoned homes.

“We will fight war”  “We will stop at nothing” – as stated by the action group in the video. The issue is messages or slogans like this are very provocative.  Daring Kony in a mocking way like this could cause more pain to the people in Central Africa. Such statements could either make Kony weaker or stronger – the later is more likely to happen. I wonder whether Jason thought through the consequences of using such words before he used them! I want Kony captured but not through use of provocative statements which could cause more harm than good!

Just like Invisible Children many non-profit organizations continue to market their work in the name of “helping Africans” the only difference is that, some campaigns collapse even before they start.

Lessons learnt from #KONY2012: For Western Countries

  • People in America, UK and other countries spend more time paying attention to events in their own little bubbles that they know so little about the world. When such people encounter a campaign like #KONY2012 they will think that it’s actually going to change the world in a snap.
  • If you are seeking to solve a problem outside your own country involve the people who are being affected/ local people. The magnitude of some problems is much bigger than you would anticipate and some of your approaches will not necessarily work.
  • It’s a western syndrome to think about Africans as a bunch of helpless goons. That we are not. And again if you think this way, this is another reason for you to get out of your deadlocked-bubble
  • It’s important to think about the consequences of your campaign before you make it go viral

Lesson Learnt from #KONY2012: For Ugandans and Africans at large

  • Like the saying goes “if you don’t speak for yourself, someone will speak for you”. This is exactly what Jason Russell is doing – speaking for a bunch of “voiceless Ugandans”. But even as a storyteller I will tell you that there is a multiplicity of stories. And no one can ever tell my story for me!
  • Foreign aid and support has greatly contributed to our economies but has also made corruption rampant in our governments because of lack of transparency and accountability. Our economies have now grown to be sustainable and it’s about time we quenched the “begging syndrome”.
  • Be careful when you deal with the international media and other international organizations they can take away your dignity in the name of “social good”. From my travels I have had several encounters where people ask me about Idi Amin. Branding Uganda based on Idi Amin’s actions and Kony’s atrocities is unacceptable – this doesn’t make our international image, it makes it worse! Actually there is more to Uganda than that. There is a part of Uganda’s history which is PAST and that doesn’t determine who we are now.

The bottom line is the people in Northern Uganda have seen enough weapons, wars and been oppressed enough. They just want to live a new (normal) life – without war. Plus, the child soldiers are not total strangers; they are relatives of the survivors or victims – brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews of the same oppressed people. The children were used and now, they are caught up in a war which was never theirs. I would really appreciate this campaign if Invisible Children really worked with people in (Northern) Uganda and the regional governments to bring this desired change as opposed to mobilising people who technically have no influence in this region.

I have been to different parts of Northern Uganda where Kony’s army committed most of these crimes and I have talked to people. Even though the memories of this terror is still fresh in their minds, they are ready to start a new life and indeed this is already happening.

Now we all know that NGOs need donations to remain in “business” but then again what happened to ethics? From my point of view, Invisible Children is using the story of KONY to solicit more money from their supporters. And this is NOT okay because it is misrepresentation of the people of Uganda who endured many years of pain and now settling back in their homes.

Other Important Opinions about KONY2012:



27 responses

9 03 2012

Reblogged this on The Gallivanting Graduate and commented:
This, I think, is a perfect response to the Kony movement. I wish I could write it myself, but the whole point is, I can’t.
Also, re: Thinking of Ugandans in terms of Idi Amin. Do you meet someone from Germany and automatically ask them about Hitler? Something to think about.

9 03 2012
_Adam (@adam_Mukendi)

I like your approach Javie. We have to be very careful when taking position on such issues, especially wars/rebellions in central Africa which serve interests of the west. The #Kony2012 may well be a strategy to shift cards or validate a planned action. War in DR Congo has shown us how interests of the west do prevail over lives of children and women in Africa. Therefore we must question the intention of #Kony2012 video considering low moral/ethic of the author as in this pic:

9 03 2012
MTN One Young World » Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012″ viral video causes an uproar in Uganda

[…] blogger Javie Ssozi says that “Invisible Children is advocating for a good cause but using a WRONG […]

9 03 2012

I’m leaving a comment on your blog because a saw a line in the telegraph quoting you. due to this i was forced to search for your blog!

I’m rather obliged not to believe in your analysis here!
we the Ugandans faced the wrath of Kony for more than 20 years, we cannot just let it go. he killed quite a number of valuable people, just like you and me!
Remember the English saying “iron sharpens iron.” well Kony has already showed us that he doesn’t want peace. Remember the flopped peace talks!

So the only way here to bring Kony to justice will have to be force!
all my support is with invisible children and the story they are trying to tell!

Well you as Mr Ssozi, a Muganda man, could have not been affected by the war in any way, that’s the reason i believe you are saying that you cant let anyone tell your story! well i have news for you, there are thousands of young kids who don’t have a future, as its depicted in the video! they are voiceless and that’s why definitely some one has to tell there story. there lives have been shattered for ever. they could be having peace right now but no future!………. and that’s what invisible children is doing, restoring their future.

Their timing could be bad (after 6 years) but remember “Less is more”
That’s my humble opinion!

9 03 2012

This is the beauty of social media and the 21st Century – everybody is entitled to their opinion and they can speak out with their own voice!
Now the basic of my criticism to the KONY2012 campaign starts from there. They have the resources to documents people’s voices why didnt they take the cameras to northern Uganda and have the victims/ survivors of this war speak in their own voices? Thats why in my article I said that “you cant tell my story”! Because my friend I know what it means to tell some one’s story – you could end up manipulating someone if you are not careful.
I am not against Invisible Children – just in case you got me wrong: I am against their approach to this cause. They are doing manipulative advocacy and that is not acceptable. I will tell you that a lot of organisatons have done this over the years and they have managed to go away with it because the communities they “claimed to serve” or advocate for didnt have access to the information.
Thanks for reminding me that I am a Muganda who was probably not affected by the war in Northern Uganda. By the way, that sounded very judgmental for a person who claims to be airing out an opinion! Let me remind you that I am a Ugandan and a human being – anything that threatens the well-being of humans affects me too. I have friend who lost brothers, parents, sister – people they loved so much in this war. And you think I was not affected or I dont care about Kony’s atrocities? Like I said, I despise Kony and I want him captured but read my arguments carefully!
Do you even know that Kony is no longer in Northern Uganda? Do you know how long Kony and the LRA have been away from Ugandan soil? This video/ campaign is using information of Yesterday to address today’s issues. let me remind you that many international organisations closed offices i northern Uganda because there was no more business for them. WHY IS THIS CAMPAIGN NOW and why is it focused on Uganda when we know that the war in northern Uganda has ended.
The situation in Northern Uganda has shifted from fighting war to peace and reconciliation.
Let me ask you a question: According to you, what is the KONY2012 Campaign going to achieve?

9 03 2012

I’m starting with the last question.
what happened in Northern Uganda should not happen any where else!
for your information, this is not only about Uganda! Kony is now in Central African Republic, with this awareness, the people in CAR will be in a position of not facing the same problems we faced.
and yes, i’m very certain that Kony left Uganda 5 years ago actually.

You will pardon me if i sounded judgmental on you being a Muganda.
my conclusion is that, invisible children is starting a revolution. i don’t know if you have been following them lately, but the attention will shift to other rebel groups and dictators, the moment KONY 2012 is a success!
This gives me more reason to support their campaigns.
like i had earlier said, the reason quite a number of people are frustrated (especially Ugandans) is the timing of this campaign. i also admit that the time is past, but these guys have been preparing their campaign and this is the time for the results.

Again, this is my opinion!

10 03 2012

1.Problem with the campaign is, its based on information that is not correct – such as Kony being in Northern Uganda. Invisible children should know where Kony is presently. This is called Manipulative Advocacy.
2. Invisible Children as a humanitarian organisation is supposed to package messages carefully avoiding words/ slogans which could provoke more war – people of (Northern) Uganda have seen enough wars.
3. This campaign came too late – again you already said this so I dont have to explain that to you.
4. Africa cant always wait on American or western “messiahs” to save us from our own problems. If they do, they should make us involved at every stage. Now this campaign jumped the people of Uganda and went all the way to the US. Do I have to remind you that Invisible CHildren has offices here in Uganda but they have NOT even once brought this campaign up? Thats very selfish and its a WRONG APPROACH!

9 03 2012
kelly allen

I must say, I say the Kony 2012 video and read this. I don’t generally agree with what you wrote, mostly picking out negatives from what he has said and done. Nothing positive. If you don’t want the United States help, well too bad. If you haven’t stopped him, why should we believe you and “your Uganda army” can now? All we are is hers to help. We don’t need to continue a remake of Hitler!

10 03 2012

Kelly, I think you missed the part where I said that Kony is no longer on Ugandan soil! This is one of the many facts that the video doesn’t reveal. I think you missed the actual point in this whole article.
In you comment you said “All we are is hers to help. ” can you please elaborate how “you” intend to help?

13 03 2012

The video does say he is no longer in Uganda.

10 03 2012
Beyond the Kony 2012 video. | Siena Anstis

[…] Some journalists have their own blogs, and I would recommend you read some of Rosebell’s stories (particularly on maternal health care) here. Ssozi Javie, another excellent blogger, posts his articles here. He posted a blog on the Kony video here. […]

10 03 2012

Thank you for your enlightenment. As long as the court in Haag has sent for his arrest he should still be in the spotlight.
If a percent of the campaign about child crime is true i hope the campaign leeds to his arrest. I hope this campaign makes your government more transparent to scare the corrupt people from stealing the peoples money and food.
But lets fix one problem at the time….

10 03 2012
Abiye Ketema (@abiyek)

Kelly, r u serious? all u r here is to help? why should i trust u? The west never come to help Africa always want to be heard after zillions of people are dead and thanks but no thanks don’t need your damn help.

10 03 2012
Abiye Ketema (@abiyek)

BrightMugabe, wake up and smell the coffee homie…. the only person genuinely will help is the people who feel the pain forget about this motherfuckers all they want to do is gain something out of their mission. Missionaries been coming to Africa for centuries just to see what they could take with them not to help.

12 03 2012

well mister! i stick to my opinions and i strongly know and believe that this campaign is spot on. if you dont support the campaign, then its mostdefinate you dont want kony to face justice. this sucker killed many people and he has never accounted for all those innocent souls lost! we have tried all the means and we have failed to get him. appreciate the little facts buddy!
Remeber as it is said! less is more!

11 03 2012

Awesome read. Thanks for inside information that most Americans are ingnoring.

Just wondering, because I can not find a clear answer, but is the LRA still active and violent in other countries?

Once again, thank you for the inside information and I hope you continue bringing it to us. The truth would be nice to hear.

Also, why aren’t Amercians thinking logically on this, from a military perspective (I am American, by the way)? After awareness is raised, then what? Do Americans think we can just walk up to Kony and expect him to say “aw man, you got me.” I don’t think it will work like that. He’s crazy!! There’s no telling what he is thinking!! We have no idea what he will try to do. My biggest problem with it is Americans just aren’t thinking about potential consequences. All they want to do is capture Kony, but have no real plan to do it. How should this mission be carried out, if at all? And is raising all this awareness really a good thing? Could that force Kony to capture more children soldiers or go farther into hiding? We never know. No real plan was ever established.

And why should the US military do anything about this. Sounds to me most Ugandans (I could be wrong) don’t want US aid. Does aid really work? All these questions are left absent and unanswered in the minds of most American people. Raising awareness is NOT going to be enough. I feel if the Ugandans ask for military aid, and the US agrees to help, this should be a silent, secret mission. One that takes tons of intelligence and great technology. One where taking extra time is beneficial to save lifes of the allied troops. One where a small amount of soldiers are necessary to bring Kony to justice. The type of warfare needs to be considered and how it should be done. And being loud doesn’t work, so Americans should consider being more silent about this. Why can’t peace be an option. Attempting to bring peace by war is scary to me.

Thanks for your time. And I do realize I could be wrong, which is why I’m seeking more info from Ugandans.

11 03 2012

I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been trying to to find the words to express my scepticism about this viral video and your analysis is spot on. I’m posting a link to it on FB

11 03 2012
Abiye Ketema (@abiyek)

Here is more info from other elite (don’t assume) may be more knowledgeable ppl but i still don’t take their words just analyze it —- read the article not the video

12 03 2012
Sarasan Se

Kony and similar dish dashers like him should be brought down. If I had a gun, if he was in front me, bang, I would shoot that man. Period.

12 03 2012

As a South African, I cringed listening to Jason Russell in his video #KONY2012 – its that typical American/West rhetoric about saving the children in Africa. But I know many Americans who don’t live up to this stereotype and many others who naively really believe that they can make a positive difference in this way. Russell knows how to appeal to the average Westerner of the social media generation. I believe he also thinks that what they’re doing is going to help. He’s just naive, which also makes him brave.

I was also naive once. I spent my inheritance R90,000 ($12,000) buying basic supplies for 3 Zimbabwean families (refugees in SA) to return to Zim and establish small scale chicken farming businesses. This was during the hight of xenophobia in SA, cholera outbreak in Zim, hyper-inflation and high tensions between Mugabe and Tsvangari. Farming chickens was their idea and promised to be financially viable given the market price for chicken at the time. But we were ripped off along the way, telecoms in Zim were down for several months and the money didn’t stretch far enough to buy the first batch of chickens.

What I regret the most is that I was too hasty that I didn’t seek to partner with existing NGO’s and too proud and therefore too ashamed to ask them for help afterwards.

As Africans, how can we help the KONY 2012 campaign achieve something worthwhile rather than letting it be a passing trend that helps the West feel better about themselves for a week and makes us Africans feel more bitter about “overseas development aid”?

14 03 2012

Great response…

I am sorry to hear about your misfortune whilst trying to do good, please not be discouraged because good seeds planted will eventually spring to life.

its very refreshing to hear a more intelligent and balanced response to what has become a high-jacked debate serving various parties to score points again each other rather than focusing on the merit of what could be a big missed opportunity to create a long lasting system which could(if used responsibly) help bring to an end the old age culture of impunity (Kony Being one example)which is widely spread across Africa.

In response to your question:……

“how can we help the KONY 2012 campaign achieve something worthwhile rather than letting it be a passing trend that helps the West feel better about themselves for a week and makes us Africans feel more bitter about “overseas development aid”?”….

The message to everyone (journalist, blogers, social-medialites, Africans and indeed westerners)is: Lets take the positive out of the Kony2012 Campaign, Combine it with various positive opinions of well informed sources to create a debate that can form a positive revolution with lasting legacy.

I know from experience that there will always be someone somewhere who is prepared to make money out of every situation including human catastrophes, I am afraid that’s the nature of the veil side of human being, But i honestly believe the vast majority of human kind are ready to work together for the greater good.

I hope we can manage to stir this debate in the right direction….

13 03 2012
Do we really want to make Kony famous? « White Nile Religion

[…] What do Ugandans think? At least one, blogger Javie Ssozi, remains unconvinced: […]

14 03 2012
Qualche domanda su “Kony2012″ « A.L.M.A.Blog

[…] prima linea una serie di articoli approfonditi pubblicati (naturalmente) da quotidiani stranieri, e questo interessante approfondimento di Ssozi, blogger ugandese molto seguito. Di link in link mi sono […]

14 03 2012
Kony2012: The Controversy (Part II) | CharacteRistic

[…] for financial gain and simplifying it to the point of insult, for making the African people look weak and defenseless to help themselves, for making it seem as if the LRA is still in Uganda although they have been out […]

16 03 2012
I am a visible child from Northern Uganda. Who are the “Invisible Children”?

[…] children might be advocating for a good Cause but used a very wrong Approach” like @jssozi put it. I hardly doubt that the people of Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions in Uganda, the […]

20 03 2012
Globalists Pull Plug on Kony 2012 with Spectacular Crash & Burn - Page 3 - ALIPAC

[…] once were, that the crimes mentioned in Kony 2012 are an issue of the past and not ongoing, that Kony is believed to no longer be in Uganda, or that a tremendous amount of criticism has come out among Ugandans and other Africans against […]

30 05 2012
Don’t Be Scammed Into Another War (7 Ways Kony 2012 Does Exactly That) |

[…] once were, that the crimes mentioned in Kony 2012 are an issue of the past and not ongoing, that Kony is believed to no longer be in Uganda, or that a tremendous amount of criticism has come out among Ugandans and other Africans […]

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