Invisible Children responds to critics of Joseph Kony 2012 campaign
Invisible Children's chief executive defended his NGO's 'thoughtful and strategic' campaign against the murderous militia leader Joseph Kony.
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“My major problem with this video is that it simplifies the problems of millions of people of northern Uganda and makes out another thing that is often heard about Africa, how hopeless people are in terms of conflict,” she says. “It’s not entirely true, there are many local initiatives to end this war…. The war is much more complex than one man called Joseph Kony. It was much more in the beginning about resources and the marginalization of people.”Skip to next paragraph
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“This is another video where we see an outsider trying to be a hero rescuing African children,” she adds. “We have seen these stories a lot in Ethiopia, celebrities coming in Somalia. It does not end the problem. I think we need a kind of sound intelligent campaign that are geared to real policy shifts, rather than adverse sensationalized stories that lead one person to cry.”
In his response video, Keesey does make a careful attempt to correct some of the mistakes of the past, pointing out Invisible Children’s African partners on the ground, and recognizing that conditions have improved in northern Uganda as Kony’s group has shifted into the borderlands of Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
But if this was all just one huge misunderstanding, it is a misunderstanding that is likely to persist long after YouTube viewers have shifted their attention to the next sensation, such as, perhaps, these videos of lions of the Masai Mara captured on remote controlled robot-cam.
Africans are increasingly connected to broadband Internet. They have increasing resources as their economies boom, and they are taking on more and more of the peacekeeping and conflict-resolution responsibilities in hotspots such as Somalia and Sudan. The Invisible Children video campaign – unintentionally, I believe – was a little too close to the old-style Western aid campaigns like “We are the world,” when American and British rock stars urged people to dig deep in their pockets to end hunger in the Horn of Africa nearly 30 years ago. Western generosity and guilt may have worked in 1983, but they just aren’t going to work for a proudly African audience in 2012.
Do Africans want American teens to go back to the days when they didn’t know about or care about Africa? Do they want Americans to remain unengaged? Hardly. But now that Invisible Children has gotten millions of young Americans engaged, it’s time to study the subject a little more, to assist those who are already working to solve the problems. The people of Uganda, DRC, Central African Republic, and Sudan are happy to have the help of equal partners, not conquering heroes.
* Keep Calm, a winking reference to the World War II slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On," is a new blog that aims to provide a bit of context to help make sense of confusing news events.
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