Let me start out by saying this is one of those topics I’d rather not offer my opinion on. I first saw people posting on Facebook and Twitter about Kony 2012 on Thursday and I bit my tongue. Then Friday it was EVERYWHERE and I felt compelled to share this article on Facebook. I received several responses from friends asking for my thoughts. So, here you go.
No doubt, if I was still living in the States, and had not spent the past 14 months in Uganda, I would have been all up on this bandwagon. I bought the Invisible Children t-shirt, I’ve given the bracelets to friends, I’m totally that guy. I am not posting this to start a debate. I do not wish to attack anyone, but simply want to offer some insight, as a person who is on the ground, for all my well meaning friends who are just like I used to be - caring, generous, but a little ill-informed.
You see, there are a number of organizations I’ve gained a new perspective on that before living in Uganda I was totally behind. After living here, talking to Ugandan friends who have worked with and around certain US based aid organization, I’ve seen how more often than not - things do not actually play out in the way you would think. In addition to this, experience has taught me that, a lot of the time, people would rather not know that. They are happy to be a part of something that is “making the world a better place” and, especially, when it comes to “helping the poor children in Africa”. I am not hating on these things/people/etc, as I said, I was that guy. It’s just the past year I’ve spent here has been an eye opening experience and I feel obliged to share.
I do want to be clear, I think Joseph Kony is an evil man. The atrocities he led for years on the people of Northern Uganda were inhuman and, I believe, he should face judgment for it. LRA thugs killed Scovia’s parents when she was just a baby and Paska, her biological Aunt, (who I wrote about here) fled with her to Kampala. I’ve shared a room with Scovia for the past 7 months. I love her dearly. It pains my heart to think she was robbed of ever knowing the mother and father who birthed and loved her as a baby. This is just one of countless devastating stories from the LRA’s heyday in Northern Uganda. I am in no way attempting to refute the claim that Joseph Kony is a monster. I think everyone is in agreement of this fact.
Here’s my beef with the whole thing. When the footage for the first IC video was taken Gulu was a different place. Hear me folks, that is not the Gulu today. Northern Uganda is not the war torn, rebel devastated place it once was. Children no longer move around in fear of abduction. Men and women work the fields without worrying of a looming attack from rebel soldiers. Like, get this people, Gulu is even a good place. It’s a lovely, bustling and growing city. Is that surprising? I feel like this would be quite surprising, especially to people who are getting all of their information from IC. No doubt in my mind some of the credit for the change this area has seen definitely goes to IC for the work they did to expose the issues in Northern Uganda to a worldwide audience. BUT, it seems to me that these guys have worked themselves out of a job! This is absolutely something to celebrate! Right? The sad thing is, that is not what’s happening. Instead millions of dollars are poured into a (in my opinion) misleading video marketing campaign. Why? So IC can stay relevant.
I’ve read IC’s response to the critics, it doesn’t offer me any peace of mind and frankly brings confirmation to the claims in articles like this and this. I’m not trying to be a hater. Really, I’m not. I just wish if they were going to pour all their time, money and effort into a campaign that does an amazing job getting all of the western world behind them it would paint a more legit picture of what is going on. Additionally, I encourage all of you - if you are going to spend your money and time in support of a cause educate yourself on what organizations are available, how they spending their money and what exactly it is they do on the ground.
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