Hello, my name is Rosebell Kagumire and I am a blogger from Uganda. So today, we have been talking about the story of Joseph Kony that has been trending on Twitter. I first saw this story from friends’ links on Facebook and I was like, This is a new issue out on Kony; I need to update myself on what is going on. So the first five minutes of the video I was trying to figure out What is this video about? I could not even have the slightest idea that it would be about Joseph Kony.
So basically my major problem with this video is that it simplifies the story of millions of people in Northern Uganda and makes out a narrative that is often hard about Africa, about how hopeless people are in times of conflict that only people off this continent can help. Yet it’s not entirely true; there are local initiatives. There have been local initiatives to end this war. We know people, famous, like Betty Bigombe — this woman is a great woman who went into the bush and tried to convince Joseph Kony to come out, and she tried because the war was more than just an evil man killing children; the war is much more complex than just one man called Joseph Kony and it was much more in the beginning about resources and about marginalization of people in Northern Uganda. So we have got to the stage where the war is about an indicted leader of a group, but even still, we still have actors in this war that have committed crimes. These are certain issues that need to be told when you’re telling a story of a war and trying to end it.
The other problem was that he [director Jason Russell] plays so much on the idea that this war has been going on because millions of Americans or … in the Western world people have been ignorant about it, yet it is not entirely true, and there have been certain steps made towards ending the war.
Right now, Joseph Kony’s not in Uganda. The situation in the video was five, six years ago. The situation has tremendously improved in Northern Uganda: people sleep at home and people are back home, children are going to school; it’s about post-conflict recovery right now, and we don’t see those issues of now what needs to be done, especially when he puts Uganda at the center of this conflict. We need to see the situation that is currently on the ground, which I don’t see in the video.
And, as many people have raised, this is another video where you see an outsider trying to be a hero rescuing African children. We have seen these stories a lot in Ethiopia, celebrities coming in Somalia … it does not end the problem. I think we need to have kind of sound, intelligent campaigns that are geared towards real policy shifts rather than a very sensationalized story that is out to make just one person cry, and at the end of the day we forget about it.
I think it’s all about trying to make a difference, but how do you tell the story of Africans is much more important [than] what the story is, actually. Because if you’re showing me as voiceless, as hopeless… you have no space telling my story; you shouldn’t be telling my story if you don’t believe that I also have the power to change what is going on, and this video seems to say that the power lies in America and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground… that aspect is lacking and this is the problem. It is furthering that narrative about Africans: totally unable to help themselves and needing outside help all the time.
And don’t get me wrong, Joseph Kony is a wanted man; he has been indicted and he has committed so many crimes and he should be brought to book, but how do we go about it? We have to see governments of South Sudan, DRC, Uganda, Central African Republic, paying more commitment because ultimately these are the governments that will bring this war to an end, and also pledging much more to greater efforts of reconciling communities — that’s why I said the war is not just about Joseph Kony; the war — solving this war — is about pacifying the region, making sure communities do not go back to rebellion, making sure you stop a rebellion before it starts, and as far as I’m concerned, this video basically tries to bring one man— it’s one bad guy against good guys, and against we, the mighty West, trying to save Africa. So I have a problem with that because this is the same narrative we have seen about Africa for centuries, and in this 21st century, we ought to see something more different. And I don’t doubt his intentions — maybe his intentions are good — but how he goes about it, I will not agree with that.
And I think there are people doing great initiatives on the ground, even before he went there. I covered this while I was in Northern Uganda in 2005. I saw the kind of suffering he is talking about. But yet, we do not think that this story can be told in that simple way: just to say it’s about a good guy and a bad guy. Yes, there are bad guys. Yes, we need to end the war. But how we tell the story of children — trying to give these children a voice; trying to give elders who have contributed to peace in the region a voice also. Voice their concerns, question even the involvement— as far as I know, the involvement of America has been questioned — Why is America in? — and it’s important that these discussions are captured if you’re genuinely trying to end a war and make sure that another rebellion does not begin.