Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kony 2012: why listen to me?

The video Kony 2012 has been a mega-hit on YouTube, with 21 million hits. It is also deeply, deeply problematic for anyone engaged in international development. You don't have to have me tell you why, though. First, here is the video:

Next, here is an excellent response from Rosebell Kagumire in Uganda.

Chris Webb has very usefully transcribed what Kagumire said: "I viewed it this morning and the first 5 minutes told me this was another effort by a good white American guy trying to save my people. In this story Ugandans are just mere watchers as Kony kills our children. In this story not much can an African do. It is the same old sensationalization of African stories and simplification of our problems to tell the western world using even his son that they should save Africa. How? by giving us money.

It’s a narrative that many of us of the continent who work in the media always look at in disbelief but such videos are easy to enter the hearts of an ignorant Western audience who do not question the narrative.

The film is void of any means like peace efforts that have gone on and it simplifies the war to Joseph Kony — a mad evil man. This war was bigger than Joseph Kony and those who will end it won’t be Americans. It’s a complex war that requires African governments of Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic to work together to pacify the region. And when I heard him say that Uganda is in central Africa despite [him] having visited here I almost stopped watching.

All in all it’s a very imperialistic film trying to touch sentiments of those who can ‘save’ Africa i.e. Hollywood and the West.

I am glad for social media that we are able to watch this kind of work and we react. This kind of condescending attitude towards Africa and its problems shouldn’t be given space in the 21st century."

As I said, why listen to me?

Postscript: the arrest of Jason Russell, a co-founder of Invisible Children, on 16 March 2012 will, I hope, bring this sorry affair to a close.

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