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Comment: The Kony Washout

23rd April 2012 11:00:00

This weekend was supposed to be the next stage of the Kony 2012 campaign by the group Invisible Children, whose 30-minute documentary on Joseph Kony became a viral sensation. The next stage of the campaign was called Cover the Night, an attempt to make people protest publicly about the crimes of Kony. The plan did not work.

Joseph KonyChris Paine of The Telegraph in Australia reported that at a protest in Brisbane just 50 people turned up and it ‘amounted to little more than an awkward square dance’. Guardian reporter Rory Carrol was in Los Angeles, he wrote about a 24-year-old activist Elissa O’Dell who ‘put on a brave face on the fact just her and two other volunteers attending the painting of a mural on an auto dealership off Santa Monica Boulevard’. He also quoted a tweet which really summed it up best, ‘Kony is so last month’.

I have no quarrel with the people at Invisible Children, despite what other people have written about them. They had their moment and it does look like their star will wane. But I still wonder, why Uganda, and why now?

Uganda has many problems; an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV there. President Museveni has been in power since 1986, his election results have been called into question. Kony and the LRA are not on Uganda’s list of problems as they were 5-10 years ago. His forces number in the hundreds not thousands, and he is currently hiding in Congo according to The Washington Post. As one blogger astutely put it way back in 2006 ‘Watching Invisible Children is watching old news. Will watching it alert you to what has occurred in Uganda? Yes, but it will not let you know what is happening there today.’

Their campaign also drew fury from African commentators, rightly linking it to the Rudyard Kipling poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’. Teju Cole nailed it on Twitter, writing ‘The white saviour supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening’ and The White Saviour Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.'

A lot of this is recycled news but it does pose some questions, what can we learn from this? Three things, number one we aren’t as well informed as we should be about world events. Secondly, be very wary of jumping on bandwagons, when the wheels come off you will look foolish. Thirdly, if you really want to commit to something don’t just share a video on Facebook and pretend to care, actually do something.

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