20 March 2012

Uganda, Kony2012 and colonial mindsets

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There has been great uproar and excitement in social media as a result of the launch by the organisation Invisible Children of a campaign called Kony2012, whipping up hysteria about a war which is over. 

Some of the 'children' impacted by the LRA war in Uganda are very visible to me. Today I have an email from Fred Obala, with whom I have been in contact since 2004, himself once a kidnapped boy soldier of the Lords Resistance Army. Here is Fred's view: 

KONY 2012:  
This movie broke me in shock and some families who lost their loves one we in tears. I watch many angry Uganda in the North reacting on TV news with protest.  In my opinion, the children and community of northern Uganda went through a lot and this is the time people are rebuilding their life. Many are trying to put what happened behind, and then start a normal life based on education and economic activities. The present of NGOs has drastically reduced compared to 2002. Kony2012 produced by Invisible children misrepresent certain factual background information about Uganda politics, culture in regards to LRA. The terrible thing is that it’s over presented and at exactly wrong timing because people are trying their best to overcome this but it being thrown back to their face without strong consultation. Secondly, Kony is not just a bad gay as American kid is being told but remember the present government come to power by gun and by over throwing the Acholi son Gen. Tito Okello out of power. In the beginning the local people supported Kony with expectation that they would recover their lost glory to Museveni but it went off hand. Thirdly the practice is spiritual belief which Kony probably inherited from Alice Lawkena for Rebel leader escalated into this war. We are also know government of relaxing with their obligation to protect the citizen led to increase in the rebel powers. On this note, it’s known that Northern Sudan government was supporting Kony to fight in Uganda because Uganda government was supporting Dr. Garrang SPLA rebel in southern Sudan to fight for their independent.  Kony was hiding in Sudan with a lot of comfort but of course Diplomats always keep their hand soft. The movie also destroys a lot of moral and emotions energy in children who have been abducted and trying to overcome this bush killing by presenting horrible memories. It never shows respect for their private life.  In this movie its show how some NGOs are using children to generate money and selfish popularity,  these children are too vulnerable to speak for themselves and people use them just like Kony is doing, and I hate it. Government should come in to protect children/youth from this exploitation and question activities of this nature, I have seen many of them here and I don’t like how they takes victims stories for fundraising only without sense of moral. People here are not interested in those things for now, we want move on with our life with a settled atmosphere, lets gives time to for the brain to settle first then others later. We have already seen billions of dollars spent here in humanitarian aids but little impact on the ground, this mean there is more to do as a country than this method of fund raising. When I look the at idea of making Kony famous for the purpose of arresting him it sound very good to me but I don’t think approach like this brings unity, instead these will generate local conflicts and scaring former child soldiers. Mr. Russbell probably did this project with good and honest intension I belief, but he did not consult the local victims on how to proceeds or overcome the moral impacts. It’s beyond my imagination how feasible it is for America to capture Kony without attracting extra political interest or triggering another war that will end with controlling Uganda oil newly developed. The good thing, Kony is now famous can we build on this to arrest him. Where are here, again we have to deal with psychological impacts of kony2012 movie on our own as it comes so fresh in my mind now. We don’t have proper counseling centre within the community. We don’t have much empowerment program for children that are even a threat to future society. The present is very much needed as added value not foreign initiators. I have been in war since 1986 and it’s difficult to forget what happen. 
 Fred Obala, 29, from Lira, Northern Uganda.

See also Rosebell's Blog, watch her video.

The startling new development this week is psychotic behaviour of Invisible Children's Kony2012 film maker in San Diego, which apparently saw social media turn on him. This led a brain injury physician to write a column in The Atlantic, calling for fairness for the film maker, Jason Russell and respect for what the physician thought was his psychological state. Without expectation of it being published, I have written to The Atlantic today thus:

"Ford Vox [the brain injury physician) while sensibly deeply sensitive to the traumatic mind-state of Jason Russell, creator of the Kony2012 video, seems extraordinarily naive in not similarly being sensitive to the deep and divisive offence that video has done to people in Uganda who have been putting their lives together since the war with the LRA - which, contrary to Russell's wild assertions in the video, is over.......  or has been 'over' until this violent intervention via social media.
We need to give equal value to the lives of others far away, to avoid commodification of their affairs in social media, recognise their need for self-empowerment and not impose colonial visions of superior command of their world. The great tragedies of western strategic policy are made up of such deeply confused thinking about what we can fix because we think we are clever (or we equate cleverness with our imagined power) when we have very slight knowledge of local affairs.
I write from Australia, have been using the internet to help some individual young Ugandans and their organisations rebuild their lives with their own plans, since 2004.
When will we, collectively - when will the big international NGOs especially - get the point. You don't fix people just by shoving things down their throats, doctor...  they need respect such as Ford Vox asks be given to Jason Russell."