Kony 2012 and the dangers of a complex issue going viral

Allie Maxwell, Contributor

The big question on many people’s minds lately is: where is Joseph Kony? The simple answer is: not in Uganda. He and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are in the Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His specific location is unknown, but he is certainly not in Uganda.
The Kony 2012 video that recently went viral is an oversimplification of a highly complex issue in the Great Lakes region of Africa. This video is being used as propaganda to encourage American citizens to support U.S. troop intervention in the search for Kony in Uganda. Sending troops to Uganda in order to capture Kony has been tried, and has failed, before. There are many reasons for this failure, including that there are four countries involved in his disappearance routine.
A bigger question looms: why is America so concerned so long after the fact? An interesting hypothesis that is gaining validity is that Uganda has discovered substantial oil deposits. Uganda has also been a political ally against the war on terrorism, specifically in Somalia.  One thing is clear: the U.S. would not send troops to Uganda if it did not further the its political interests.  These are oversimplifications of what is happening in Central Africa today, but this reasoning helps to build a better understanding of the complexities.
Having spent a semester there I can say with certainty that the streets of Gulu, Uganda are not ridden with homeless, sleeping children at night. Rather, they are filled with people going about their daily lives. It is a travesty of sensationalized media that the world is seeing northern Uganda as a war-torn place. Uganda is not the place portrayed in the Kony 2012 video, and people should be encouraged to visit rather than be discouraged by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Invisible Children.

This is a case of NGOs taking advantage of extreme images as a tactic to get funding. Their images of youth standing against Kony are just as horrific as images of child soldiers. They are preying on the naivety and psyche of westernized youth who are constantly encouraged to participate in community service activities to better their resume.
Invisible Children, and specifically Jason Russell, the director of the Kony 2012 video, have taken a conflict that ended six years ago and reopened an emotional wound that would be better left to heal. This misinformation spread all over the world is doing more harm than good. It is also a narrow, one-sided interpretation of the conflict.
Additionally, less than one-third of Invisible Children’s donation based budget is spent on programs in Africa. They say that this money is going to awareness about Africa, but to what end? This movie plays to the worst parts of activism—spontaneous, knee-jerk reactions of emotionality not based on the reality of the situation.  The production of this movie must have been a great expense; why not put that money back into the Gulu community instead of using it to generate income that does not go directly to Uganda?
It is always commendable when large groups of people pay attention to international issues.  It is clear that Kony is a terrible man who has done terrible things; that is indisputable.  But why bring this to light now?  There are questions to ask before succumbing to the drama and reacting to the sentiment of irresponsible documentaries.



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