The K in Con-y: A Congolese insult

The first time I checked the Kony 2012 campaign video on Youtube was on  Wednesday 7th March at approximately 21:00 thank God for social media timelines  it had an impressive 7 million views! On March 9th when I began drafting this post, the video created by the not-for-profit organisation Invisible Children (IC) it had accumulated a staggering 43,354,020  hits!  To date the campaign film has amounted to 76,343,876 views , with a media frenzy to match and all its comments on Youtube now disabled.

Initially, I felt elated that such an important topic could become a  top trending topic on the social networking site Twitter. Let’s face it, Twitterville would make #marshmallows a trending topic over any good cause happening on the planet on any given day of the week! #restassured

If you have yet to watch the viral video,  please fill-in the appropriate adjective to condemn your actions here…………………………………………………….

A little reminder for your viewership:

Key facts to place the argument into perspective:

  • Joseph Kony is the rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) militia group
  • Joseph Kony is said to have abducted and used approximately 60,000 children since the LRA’s operation began in 1987
  • Joseph Kony and the LRA are not in Uganda and have not been for six years
  • The LRA  now operates in the DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic

Uganda is a country in ………. “Central Africa”

If raising awareness was based solely upon Invisible children’s knowledge of geography then we would all be doomed! Uganda is in fact located in eastern Africa. More precisely ‘on the East African plateau, lying mostly between latitudes 4°N and 2°S (a small area is north of 4°), and longitudes 29° and 35°E. It averages about 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) above sea level, and this slopes very steadily downwards to the Sudanese Plain to the north’.  (OK Wikipedia; calm yourself down!!)

NGOs pride themselves at ‘raising awareness’  to gain support for their cause. Invisible children’s approach of advocacy is therefore not an unusual one, in that it plays on human sentiments of compassion to justify a means to an end. For years advertorial campaigns such as those from  Save the children  and UNICEF for example, have tried endlessly to persuade us to donate money, but even looking at the combined number of views both links have accumulated on Youtube, it makes one wonder; what has Invisible children done ‘right’ that the others have failed to achieve?

The White Man’s Burden springs to mind – a reminder of the inequality which still thrives in the world whereby, in order to gain any form of serious  attention in African humanitarian crises, the white man must make the loudest noise first in order for the suffering to form part of greater discourse. The Unwatchable campaign is a good example,  in which a Caucasian family is used to portay the rape victims instead of a black family to depict the atrocities occurring in Eastern Congo and hopefully transmit the severity of the rapes in  a more effective way.

Admittedly, the use of Jason Russell’s child in the Kony 2012 film moved me. It is that ability to capture the audience in the first two minutes, the use of words such as ‘Facebook’  ‘humanity’,  of the innocence of the child and the very personal account of his birth and of the relationship between father and son inexplicably laid bare to invite us to be part of something so private that pulls us  in the way that no other campaign has managed to do. Essentially, the video follows the storytelling pattern developed by Public Policy lecturer Marshall Ganz (PhD). This pattern uses three stories: the story of self (his experiences which led him to become a co-founder of IC), the story of us (how the viewer is connected in the global issue and the unity we must take to catch the villain), and the story of now (the viewer as the hero). Our emotions are so well manipulated that we cannot help but share the video.

The Disney-fication of a crisis

The solution is simple; through people-power, make Joseph Kony as famous as Michael Jackson in order to pressurize the US government to send troops to Uganda  to ‘catch the bad guy’.  Get Justin Beiber to tweet #Kony2012 to his millions of fans, ‘@’ Oprah Winfrey, ‘@’ Rihanna to spread the word a little bit more,  organise a film screening at your school, college or university, buy a bracelet or  a t-shirt, tweet Kony’s name to your followers, update your Facebook status with his photo or better yet, purchase the Kony 2012 Action Kit for $30.00 from the website.

A propaganda campaign? Is Obama trying to use this wave of humanitarian euphoria to get re-elected? Is AFRICOM (The United States Africa Command)  finally going to impose  itself enter DRC or Africa and set a military base there  as they search for Joseph Kony? Is this another strategic means of keeping  hold of Africa into Western iron fists to prevent China from having a monopoly on the continent? Briefly put, the speculations pot is almost reaching boiling point.

A Ugandan issue but  a Congolese torment

The most important piece of  information to have been left out in many, if not all the news reports surrounding the Kony effect (as I like to call it), is that more that 5 million people have died in the Congo as a result of this conflict. More than in Uganda and the neighbouring countries combined in the past 10 years! Joseph Kony and the LRA have not operated in Uganda since 2006. The dictator president of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986 – 26 years, has utilized his army to kill millions of Ugandans. His government is supported by the United states. Rwanda is also a perpetrator in the deaths of millions of Congolese people, and as the Hutus and the Tutsies play hide and seek in the Congolese rainforest, they loot  mineral resources and rape women and girls in remote villages without impunity in the process.

Perhaps Invisible Children should have addressed the pending  implementation of the already passed but since underfunded and non-implemented DRC Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 introduced in Congress by then Senator Barack Obama; and signed into law in 2006, Public Law no. 109-456: the law  vouched to bring to justice and hold responsible  U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda  for destabilizing DRC and the the Great Lakes region. The impact of this Act being implemented would have significant impact  as it even has power to stop aid being donated to these countries.

Perhaps Invisible Children should have addressed the geo-strategic importance of the DRC in Africa and its importance to the interests of  US  multinational companies along with their  allies. The ‘curse of the minerals’ on Congolese soil has tourmented its countrymen for the last 130 years.  In the passed decade, they have become an excuse for choreographed proxy wars where  rebel groups  are cheered as they dance on its soil to the beat of moral responsibility.

Perhaps Invisible children should have addressed the oil exploration in Lake Albert and Lake Edward which borders DRC and Uganda and how this is now a race for Western multinationals to get their hands on as swiftly as possible.

Perhaps Invisible Children should have addressed the non-violence plea of countries who frown at the thought of  U.S. military  intervention on their soil before they promoted the latter in their campaign video. Uganda, like Congo has endured years of conflict so cementing  stability and rebuilding the lives of its inhabitants is very challenging. Us Africans have witnessed the condemning efforts and ineffectiveness of military assistance in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Have the social lives of the inhabitants improved or has peace arrived?

………………..And perhaps none of the above formed part of Invisible Children’s advocacy aims and objectives.

Kony is a nightmare, but Museveni 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: mass rapes of both women and men; disemboweling pregnant women; burning people inside their homes alive; massacres and; plunder of resources. Congo lost six million people after Uganda’s occupation of parts of Congo. The Court awarded Congo $10 billion in reparations; not a dime has been paid.

There is something wrong here! This is not by any means a contest of villains nor about which country has accumulated the most dead bodies and should weep the most about the attrocities commited by Joseph Kony. By leaving these key factors and players out of the film, Invisible Children has distorted the truth  by simplifying a complex issue in a very infantile manner. It seems that democracy has yet to become a tangible word in the Great Lakes region, the biggest losers are the Congolese people.

Further readings

I’d be interested to know your thoughts  and what you think about my stance on the topic…….


One comment

  1. i completely agree with this, as i too feel that the crisis in congo is constantly over looked, if any reports is about congo its always to do with influencing others negatively of the country and the people, my question is what can be done about this…. people are literaly living in hell and every one is turning a blind eye


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