Views on “Stop Kony 2012” by Ruvimbo Gwatirisa

“Stop Kony 2012” is a movement that was started by the Invisible Children to raise awareness of the atrocities performed by Joseph Kony in Uganda during his reign in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in order to inspire his capture. This started off as a media campaign, to have awareness raised about Joseph Kony and his practices in the region of Uganda and the effects they have had on Central African Republic, the DRC and South Sudan. It is a controversial topic that makes it difficult to draw the line between the character and aim of the philanthropist, the definition of philanthropy and how these relate to the recipients of the philanthropic actions.

The “Kony 2012” video has sparked conversation from polarised viewpoints, where some are praising the efforts of advocacy by the Invisible Children, and where others are opposing the strategy used and protesting a level of ignorance that the video is seen to show through its campaign. A summary of the arguments highlighted are that:

The film has resonances of colonialism – the West is out to portray itself (once more) as a saviour of the “dark continent” that is Africa.

Africa is seen on many levels as a dark continent, where poverty is rife and governments are constantly marred as a result of corrupt leaders. It also is a continent where the economy is unstable, where hunger and war continue to rage. Thus, countries from the West have been seen as saviours through varied kinds of aid, and now military action. Many, however, oppose aid as it tends to mirror the colonialism of previous decades and thus the thirty minute film on Kony has sparked the same argument: this is yet another example of the West taking over.

My question to this would be “must the world then do nothing when there are crimes against humanity constantly occurring?” How much of a say does anyone actually have and who has the power to help or stop others from helping others? The way I see it, if you recognise a need, create strategies and work towards meeting that need. Invisible Children face the wrath of critics and always will, but they believe in their cause and have evidence of some of the positives that have come out from them strategizing and moving forward with their plan.

The taking away of African agency

Well, let’s all face it, we need help. I love my Africa, and I, like most, am averse to people from their own homes not being able to do things for themselves. The arguments have been that Uganda and the other countries in its region were not given enough freedom to choose their own Stop Kony strategy. I would agree to an extent, but I always think that there are greater forces that could make an impact at a quicker level than has been happening so far. It is a matter of contestation that the film does not speak enough to the victims, but I will say in the same breath, it does serve as a means of communicating the reason for the “Stop Kony” campaign and how it began. It is not a documentary on Uganda and the LRA, and thus the product is awareness and ultimately a call to action.  What I do hope is that Invisible Children continues to work with its own agenda and makes sure to include the people it aims to serve with a huge dose of sensitivity for the victims. There will always be critics, and Africa does not lose its agency for as long as it acknowledges that it is powerful enough to allow others to tell its story, and is powerful enough to let others be of assistance where there is room for it.

The campaign itself is not criticised but the inaccurate and outdated information shown on the film is

My take on this? That’s okay; at least people are becoming more aware of what is happening in the world. It is a joy to see young people interested and rising up from their technological distractions and social networks to read up and discuss, tweet, post about the real issues and struggles within our world. Though the information given through the video is seen as outdated and inaccurate, there are many who have read more and informed themselves better since watching the short clip. Had this campaign not existed, I, and I am sure many others, would not have even known WHO Kony was, let alone cared! So therefore, Step 1 is a success – we have been alerted. However, what now?

Activism vs ‘slacktevism’: liking a status, sharing a video, re-tweeting are  not enough action

Perhaps not, however, the point is, again, raising awareness, and that is crucial because it is a reflection of what our world cares about. If it means making anti-war a trending topic on twitter, so be it! The point is, people create a movement, and it being in the limelight makes it a matter of accountability and brings rise to a greater need to give. Invisible Children will surely not back down now as the world is watching. We need to give, and for as long as the giving is for a good cause – then do it in whatever way you know how, in whatever way you can! Do not underestimate the power of liking a status – the awareness is enough to provoke others to action.

It is a controversial world we are living in, and a world requiring every form of philanthropic creativity to get the word out that we all need help. I say, pick one cause, and run with it, acknowledge the criticism and do the best you can to make a better world for all. There will always be political contestations and questions of power and who manages it even within the spectrum of philanthropy – the space where people are trying to help! Politics is all about power dynamics, we are political beings – be your own dynamic!  It can never be a fail if we are doing our best to make a better world for someone, let alone a whole nation. It’s a risk to stand up for something but yes, we live and we learn. Stop Kony 2012? Simplistic, courageous, disrespectful? Someone’s doing something out there – where do you stand?

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