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Invisible Children

March 7, 2012

“KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice” (Invisible Children, 2012).

I think it’s a great that the world finally pays attention to this tragedy, and I’m amazed by how fast this video and its message are spreading! Kony has for far too long been allowed to continue his cruel practices and abuse of children, without consequences. If Kony had been operating in Europe or the United States, he would have been stopped long ago. The video has really helped making the “invisible” children in Uganda visible to the general public, and done a great job at showing how you as an individual have a lot of power to change something for the better, and spread awareness of issues! Their whole marketing campaign has done an excellent job at exploiting the social media and persuades the minds of the general public – for a good cause. If KONY 2012 is successful, I hope people realize their potential to relate this learning experience to other issues that also needs the general public’s attention and will power to be solved. Imagine a similar campaign for environmental issues, extreme poverty, preventable diseases, malnutrition, and the list goes on and on.

However, no matter what cause, it’s important to do some research before supporting something.

The Invisible Children organization (IC) has a good purpose – to help the children in Uganda – but is not rated very well as a non-Governmental Organization (NGO). In fact, the organization only gets 2 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator in the category “Accountability and Transparency”. The organization is also in favor of a military intervention in Uganda (perhaps especially after different failed attempts by the international community to make Kony sign peace treaties in between 2006-2008) and supports the UPDF, the Ugandan armed forces, to carry out the mission of capturing Kony.

Sometimes I would have to agree that military interventions (even though I don’t like to say it) can be for the greater good. Rwanda stands out the ultimate example of how badly things can end when no one intervenes. However, military interventions are the absolute last resort, and other alternatives should first be discussed and attempted.

The movie is drawing some very fast conclusions to a very complicated ethical and political issue. As Morten Bøås, the research director of FAFO Norway and a man who has followed the conflict in Uganda since 1995 puts it; the filmmakers seem to forget that those who are and will be killed in the conflict between the LRA (Kony’s armed forces) and government forces if a military intervention were to take place, are child soldiers. The LRA is made up of child soldiers, and if the IC’s approach is meant to save child soldiers’ tragic fate in Africa, it would also mean they would also most likely have to kill child soldiers (Morten Bøås, 2012, paraphrased). This is of course very contradicting with the purpose of the organization.

There are also some issues with the movie that I think should be mentioned.

– First, the movie fails to mention the background of the entire conflict, and how Kony became a war lord in the first place. There is no doubt that he is a criminal and should be held accountable for his actions, but it’s important to bring him to justice for the right reasons.

– Second, and very importantly, Kony is no longer located in Uganda, and hasn’t been for the past six years (VG, 2012). Funding the UPDF to capture him would then perhaps not be the right approach. In addition, the UPDF itself, which the IC wants to use in its military intervention, has a record of unethical behavior.

– Third, the movie is spreading the message of the “White Man going in and saving all the Africans” concept, which I think is an issue in itself. Those who know a little history might see through this illusion, but I’m not sure everyone will, and subliminally it affects people’s perceptions of the world.

Back in 2007 I travelled on behalf of my high school to Sierra Leone in West-Africa, which at that time was (and still is) one of the world’s least developed nations (UN, 2007). The civil war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, and the devastation and damages were enormous on both land and people.

I met several children who had been used as child soldiers during the war. Many had lost their entire families. More had lost one or more limbs. All had lost a happy childhood. It was so heart breaking to hear their experiences and see their scars. It felt wonderful to be able to help them, and see their joy and pure happiness from the little we contributed. We had helped funding a school to be build in the small town of Ribbi. To be able to give someone a brighter future, see kids who had been abused and vulnerable now thriving and enjoying a better life; that was and is a cause worth fighting for.

The IC wants to end Kony’s cruelties and bring him to justice for all the crimes he has committed, and all the lives he has ruined. They should be praised for their efforts to create awareness among the general public about this issue, and for their work for the children in Uganda. They have managed to do something about it.

Helping children out of misery and hopelessness is worth fighting for. Justice is worth fighting for.

I hope the spreading of the KONY 2012 video increases awareness of one of many conflicts and issues on our planet, and that it fuels a curiosity to learn more about this conflict, and also about other conflicts. There is nothing we need more than an engaged population that is willing and passionate about helping fellow human beings and secure a better future for us humans, other species and our beloved planet.

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