Saturday, March 10, 2012

Adam Branch Tackles The Kony Issue

Adam Branch
Senior Research Fellow
Makerere Institute of Social Research

March 8, 2012
Kampala, Uganda
From Kampala, the Kony 2012 hysteria is easy to miss. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, and I don’t watch YouTube—but over the last twenty-four hours, I have received dozens of emails from friends, colleagues, and students in the US about the video by Invisible Children and the massive on-line response to it.

I have not watched the video. As someone who has worked in and done research on the war in northern Uganda for over a decade, much of it with a local human rights organization based in Gulu, the Invisible Children organization and their videos have infuriated me to no end—I remember one sleepless night after I watched their “Rough Cut” film for the first time with a group of students, after which I tried to explain to the audience what was wrong with the film while on stage with one of the filmmakers.

My frustration with the group has largely reflected the concerns expressed so eloquently by those individuals who have been willing to bring the fury of Invisible Children’s true believers down upon themselves in order to point out what is wrong with this group's approach: the warmongering, the self-indulgence, the commercialization, the reductive and one-sided story they tell, their portrayal of Africans as helpless children in need of rescue by white Americans, and the fact that civilians in Uganda and central Africa may have to pay a steep price in their own lives so that a lot of young Americans can feel good about themselves, and a few can make good money. This, of course, is sickening, and I think that Kony 2012 is a case of Invisible Children having finally gone too far. They are now facing a backlash from people of conscience who refuse to abandon their capacity to think for themselves.

But, as I said, I wouldn’t have known about Kony 2012 if it hadn’t been for the emails I’ve been receiving from the US. I have heard nothing about Kony 2012 here in Kampala because, in a sense, it just does not matter. So, as a response to the on-line debate that has been going on for the last couple days, I want to explain why, from here, Kony 2012 can be ignored.

First, because Invisible Children is a symptom, not a cause. It is an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are “useful idiots,” being used by those in the US government who seek to militarize Africa, to send more and more weapons and military aid, and to build the power of military rulers who are US allies. The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy—how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources? The US government would be pursuing this militarization with or without Invisible Children—Kony 2012 just makes it a bit easier. Therefore, it is the militarization we need to worry about, not Invisible Children.

Second, because in northern Uganda, people’s lives will be left untouched by this campaign, even if it were to achieve its stated objectives. This is not because things have entirely improved in the years since open fighting ended, but because the very serious problems people face today have little to do with Kony. The most significant problem people face is over land. Land speculators and so-called investors, many foreign, in collaboration with the Ugandan government and military, are trying to grab the land of the Acholi people, land that they were forced off of a decade ago when they were herded into camps. Another prominent problem is nodding disease—a deadly illness that has broken out among thousands of children who grew up in the government’s internment camps, subsisting on relief aid. Indeed, the problems people face today are the legacy of the camps, where over a million Acholi were forced to live, and die, for years by their own government. Today’s problems are the legacy of the government’s counterinsurgency, which received full support from the US government and international aid agencies.

Which brings up the question that I am constantly asked in the US: “what can we do?”, where “we” tends to mean American citizens. In response, I have a few proposals. The first, perhaps not surprising from a professor, is to learn. The conflict in northern Uganda and central Africa is complicated, yes—but not impossible to understand. For several years, I have taught an undergraduate class on the conflict, and although it takes some time and effort, the students end up being well informed and able to come to their own opinions about what can be done. I am more than happy to share the syllabus with anyone interested! In terms of activism, I think the first thing we need to do is to re-think the question: instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa’s conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we, as consumers, contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as American citizens, allowing our government to militarize Africa in the name of the War on Terror and securing oil resources? That is what we have to ask ourselves, because we are indeed responsible for the conflict in northern Uganda—however, we are not responsible to end it by sending military force, as Invisible Children tells us, but responsible for helping to cause and prolong it. In our desire to ameliorate suffering, we must not be complicit in making it worse.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

INVISIBLE CHILDREN has made a First Class propaganda film that will help pave the way for U.S. imposition of AFRICOM (the U.S. Africa Military Command

By Milton Allimadi
This is Classic propaganda. Look at the way the exploit U.S. children and then transplant the audience to Uganda, where again they take advantage of Ugandan children, who are the victims of both the LRA and the Ugandan government. Dr. Joseph Goebbels' would have been proud of this piece by Invisible Children; and he would have made something similar himself had he lived in our era of the 21st Century.

If Invisible Children was serious, the outfit would show that the first person who needs to be arrested is Uganda's and East Africa's biggest nightmare Dictator Yoweri Museveni, the biggest U.S. ally in Africa since Ronald Reagan's days. (And a first class racist African who told Atlantic Monthly Magazine, in September 1994: “I have never blamed the whites for colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves. If you are stupid, you should be taken a slave” But ironically, these are the kind of perverted minds that some White folk like. That's why Invisible Children only goes after Kony and leaves Museveni alone when in fact they are two sides of the same coin).

These young folks of Invisible Children are really super dangerous. They don't understand the conflict in Uganda, yet they have made themselves the spokesperson. It's like a bunch of White boys coming to Harlem and saying let me tell you what the solution to you woes are. Who would accept that. They would be run out of Harlem, right? Does anyone really think it would work? And who really believes it's a GOOD thing for the United States to be sending troops to Uganda or anywhere in Africa? Why would they act any differently than in Iraq and Afghanistan? The U.S. government and Invisible Children (which are allies of the U.S. and Uganda governments) are using the brutal Joseph Kony as a bogeyman to justify the U.S. long-term plan to impose AFRICOM on Africa. The U.S. knows all African countries oppose AFRICOM. So what does the U.S. do? Pick a "devil" and in this case Kony and say we are really going to Uganda to help them get rid of a "devil." And since everyone knows about Kony's atrocities, who would object if the U.S. sends 100 U.S. "advisors" to help Uganda (then 200 troops, then 300, then 1,000 troops...Then we suddenly have the AFRICOM command in Africa). IF THE US GOAL WAS TO GET JOSEPH KONY don't you think they could just use one or two PREDATOR DRONES? I don't for a minute believe Invisible Children is an independent do-good outfit. They are paving the way (with Kony, brutal as he is, as the bogeyman) for AFRICOM which would then make it easier for U.S. to control the rich oil fields in the northern part of Uganda, in South Sudan, in Congo's lake Albert region, and in Central Africa). The U.S. only needs ONE PREDATOR DRONE to take out Kony. Invisible Children have either been duped or are being manipulated by clever grown ups. Kony is a nightmare, but Museveni, who is a DISASTER and a friend of Invisible Children and the U.S. government has caused the deaths of millions of people in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. In 2005 the International Court of Justice found Uganda liable for what amounts to war crimes in Congo (which lost 6 million people after Uganda's occupation of Congo) and awarded Congo $10 billion; not a dime has been paid. Congo then referred the same crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for war crimes charges. On June 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gen. Museveni personally contacted Kofi Anan, then UN Secretary General and asked him to block the criminal investigation. It's clear that the U.S. and ICC Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo have indeed blocked that investigation and shielded Museveni from war crimes indictment.

I will make some time to do a rebuttal piece on Not-so-Invisible Children's clever propaganda. A apologia for U.S. military imperialism in Africa and an apologia for the U.S. to side with one of Africa's worst dictators. In the meantime, please also watch the following short documentary. And, as you share Invisible Children's propaganda please also share the following short documentary.

But better, don't take my word for it. Google "Yoweri Museveni and genocide" and "Museveni and Congo genocide" and "U.S. support for dictator Museveni" and become better informed so you'll be able to withstand clever, slick propaganda such as Invisible Children's....

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