The Stop Kony 2012 campaign launched recently by Invisible Children to raise awareness of the issues of child soldiers in Uganda in which they propose what they believe to be the ultimate solution — arrest Kony, the LRA rebel leader responsible for over 30,000 child abductions — was met with overnight “success” (i.e. over 50 million views on YouTube) and then heightened controversy; there are critiques that suggest the video promotes a white saviorist approach to humanitarianism, others that applaud the effort but challenge the film’s inaccuracies, and many more that call for the inclusion of more African voices in Invisible Children’s advocacy efforts.
Almost overnight, the web was flooded with so much commentary from western media on the erasure of African voices that it became challenging for me to even locate perspectives from fellow Africans; ironically, African voices weren’t initially just being drowned out by the success of IC’s viral campaign, but by western voices sharing their own take. Fortunately, African voices stepped up to the plate, offering a wide range of perspectives; you can find a compilation of African responses to the campaign here, and a more general roundup of the Kony2012 issue here.
Nevertheless, I’m (as always) acutely aware of the amplification of male voices on the Kony 2012 campaign. Hence — and in the spirit of women’s history month — I’d like to highlight African women’s voices. The 5 women below aren’t just adding to the conversation, but inspiring critical thinking about how we can be more conscious about the media we consume, more humble in our efforts to provide support to fellow global citizens, and mindful of the gift social media has given us. Africans now have the power to combat harmful narratives about Africa simply by telling our own.
So, here they are: 5 responses from African women to Kony 2012, and westerners seeking to support Africa, ethically and responsibly, now and in the future.
A story by Alternet’s Bruce Wilson revealed that the group’s co-founder, Jason Russell, gave a speech last November at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University likening his organization to the school’s evangelical Christian students (emphasis his):
A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children – because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, “You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God.” And it freaks them out.
Some of the people who appear in the group’s “Stop Kony” video campaign against Kony also share evangelical ties. Among the celebrity allies listed are NFL quarterback and anti-abortion spokesman Tim Tebow as well as megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
Inhofe, who has gained the most notoriety for his attempts to refute scientific evidence of global warming, has also proposed the United States use the Bible as the framework for policy involving Israel; he has also blamed the 9/11 attacks on a lack of support for Israel.
For his part, Brownback has has introduced legislation requiring companies to disclose their use of conflict materials taken from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also been praised as a “Champion of Darfur”by the Genocide Intervention Network for his efforts to resolve tensions in that region.
However, Brownback’s record when it comes to certain U.S. citizens have been decidedly less generous: he has actively opposed abortion rights and LGBT rights while supporting the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
Brownback and Inhofe are also allegedly members of an evangelical group credited with fueling anti-gay legislation in Uganda. According to a book by journalist Jeff Sharlet, the two men are part of The Family, which has been linked with support for a proposed Ugandan bill making homosexuality punishable by death. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who has previously said gay relationships were against God’s will, is reportedly considering the implications of passing the law.
David Bagati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament, told The New York Times that conversations with members of The Family, also known as The Fellowship, provided the impetus for him to submit the bill…
—Arturo García sums up how deep the Stop Kony campaign is in the pockets of the Religious (and Political) Right on the R today.
Invisible Children’s video ends with a call for a mass protest on April 20, “Cover The Night,” with the goal of putting up posters – available for sale on its’ website as part of an “action kit” – in major cities around the world with the goal of expanding the campaign’s reach as far as possible. But the way the campaign is presented – led by a white man’s voice, with groups of predominantly white American activists juxtaposed with survivors/victims who are African – paints a picture of neo-colonialism, and justifiably so, according to Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama:This is because these campaigns are disempowering of their own voices. After all the conflict and suffering is affecting them directly regardless of if they hit the re-tweet button or not. At the end of the day the Kony2012 campaign will not make Joseph Kony more famous but it will make Invisible Children famous. It will also make many, including P.Diddy, feel like they have contributed some good to his capture- assuming Kony is even alive. For many in the conflict prevention community including those who worry about the militarization of it in Central Africa this campaign is just another nightmare that will end soon. Hopefully.
—Arturo García summarizes the controversy (and rightfully so, due to its neo-colonialism) around the Stop Kony campaign at the R today.