Thanks for this provoking piece! As a peosrfsor of Peace and Conflict Studies, I am squarely in the critique camp. The situation on the ground in N. Uganda is complicated. In the process of overgeneralizing, Stop Kony makes the organization Invisible Children the sole arbiters of what needs to be done to ‘fix’ the problem there. As Laura notes in her post, there are many able and willing Ugandans who are doing incredible and important work to rebuild Acholi society. These stories are sorely missing from the narrative of Invisible Children.The approach of Invisible Children also negates the complexities behind the violence in N. Uganda (and surrounding countries). The abduction of children, their integration into the LRA and the violence they commit is part of a deeper, broader and more complex structural problems that plague much of the African continent. For example, basic rights are near nil, and are certainly not assured by the Museveni’ government, nor his Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF). Food, clean water and healthcare are lacking, making drafting children into armies more compelling than they might otherwise be. These are all structural forms of violence!Invisible Children, the organization, 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.Lastly, the documentary will do little if anything to impact people’s lives in N. Uganda. 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 by the UPDF. 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. For me, it is the militarization of Ugandan society by its government, with outside resources and support is where we should be directing our advocacy.
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