Our Thoughts on Invisible Children’s Newest film, MOVE
MOVE traces the history of Invisible Children (IC), the making of KONY2012, the aftermath of KONY2012, and culminates with a call to action to participate in their Washington DC rally and lobby. Thankfully, Invisible Children has summarized the entire 30 minute film better than we ever could (and in less than 150 characters!): “A movie about a movie about a movement about you”. No, this is not a joke.
Jason Russell Takes Center Stage:
At the peak of KONY2012 the only thing competing for headlines with Joseph Kony was filmmaker Jason Russell, so it is no surprise that Russell’s nervous breakdown is addressed head on. An explanation and an apology is offered to viewers in an attempt to restore confidence in the integrity of their organization. Unfortunately, too much time is spent dwelling on Russell’s breakdown and recovery and he is once again placed on center stage. Although we are happy to hear that Russell has made a full recovery, MOVE feels like a painfully longer repeat of his interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter (both premiered on the same night). Besides making it difficult to stay engaged, the generous time spent on Russell’s story is another missed opportunity to allocate time to a number of other worthy mentions (real lessons learned from KONY2012, how participation in the DC event translates into an arrest of Kony, etc).
IC Frames Millennials as the Center of Backlash:
This is really where MOVE is most clever. After KONY2012 a public conversation emerged around the intentions and ability of youth, or “millennials”, to create meaningful change. Words like “slacktivism” dominated public discourse as many weighed in on the trouble with IC’s activism (sharing tweets, wearing t-shirts, etc). Although this was an important conversation, this did not characterize the majority of backlash against Invisible Children—contrary to what MOVE strongly suggests (at one point a clip is shown labeling millennials as “unfit to live”).
By framing backlash to KONY2012 as a wider attack waged against all millennials and their ability to create change, MOVE deflects the need to address the true grievances with IC’s advocacy and approach. Backlash against KONY2012 is transformed into backlash against You, The Millennial, and room for reflection takes a backseat as you are rallied to “move” and prove your attackers wrong.
Does MOVE Achieve its Stated Aims?
According to it’s official description on Youtube, MOVE aims to garner your participation for their Washington DC event on November 17 where they will “rally by the thousands to stand for peace and justice”. Although this is their only stated aim for the film, mention of the event isn’t made until the last three minutes of the movie; but for Invisible Children, whose brevity and oversimplifications are admittedly intentional, perhaps three minutes are enough. Time will tell. With 100+ million views and millions pledging support, KONY2012 still did not reach its aim to “Cover the Night” and event participation was both a disappointment and example of slacktivism at its worst.
Will You Move?
Do your research, then move. Or stand still. Or sit… just do your research first.
The Militarization of Poaching & the Slaughter of Elephants
Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits -The New York Times
” Park officials, scientists and the Congolese authorities now believe that the Ugandan military — one of the Pentagon’s closest partners in Africa — killed the 22 elephants from a helicopter and spirited away more than a million dollars’ worth of ivory”
” Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized.”
“The United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in recent years for fuel and transport services for the Ugandan Army to hunt down Mr. Kony in central Africa, while training Congolese and South Sudanese to help”
** This is not the first time the Ugandan Army has been accused of similar crimes as the LRA. At this alarming rate the Garamba Forrest may never be the same. We can’t help but wonder if our US Tax dollars helped fund the Ugandan helicopter that shot down 22 elephants while it was supposedly on the hunt to #stopKony.
Will Putting a Price Tag on Kony’s Head Work?
US Congress Passes Reward Legislation to Capture LRA Leader - Sudan Tribune
Will putting a price tag on Kony’s head only further demonize and dehumanize Kony? Kony has committed inhumane atrocities, but continuing to objectify him fails to contextualize the conflict. Not only that, but it only continues to portray the conflict in black and white. Bad guys: LRA. Good guys: UPDF. However, sometimes we have to realize that things are not always black and white, but somewhere in between.
#AFRICOM2012, Stop the real threat to Uganda
The Secretary General’s [Biased & Incomplete] Report on the LRA
This report also seems to fail to mention the atrocities committed by the Ugandan military and government and the involvement of AFRICOM in “Operation Lighting Thunder”. It seems this is another biased report, rather than a comprehensive one.
#AFRICOM2012, Stop the real threat to Uganda
“Saying “I support a military operation to capture Joseph Kony because I believe the long-term benefits of assassinating or capturing him are sufficiently great that they outweigh the consequences of this policy, which will almost certainly include massive reprisal attacks against civilians, and the deaths, in battle, of LRA members who were conscripted into the group against their will” is a morally defensible position. However, that defense is not an easy one: it requires acceptance of the consequences of such a policy, and acknowledgment that they may well be tragic.
Amanda Taub (lawyer and professor of International law and human rights at Fordham University) and Kate Cronin-Furman (human rights lawyer who is pursuing a PhD in Political Science at Columbia University). Quote can be found here http://leanpub.com/beyondkony2012
Contrast that with the pledge that Invisible Children asks Kony 2012 supporters to sign, which calls on world leaders to “provide the African Union effort with the logistical support needed to arrest Joseph Kony and his top commanders and protect civilians.” Informed readers will realize that this policy is the same one as in the previous paragraph. But the targets of Kony 2012 and other awareness campaigns are not, for the most part, informed.”
ACAS Statement to the U.S. Government
Scholars are not only stepping out of their ivory towers, but they are taking action!
Association of Concerned Africa Scholars - Statement to the U.S. Government
ACAS- Engaged analysis for 35 years about U.S. policy affecting Africa
March 14, 2012
Scholars in the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS) are encouraged whenever U.S. citizens become knowledgeably involved in debates about important policy regarding Africa. However, after consulting with scholars of Uganda and Central Africa and with other experts in the region, we are deeply concerned that the recent campaign in the United States to pursue and arrest Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), could have dangerous unintended consequences.
Expanding U.S. military operations with the Ugandan army to capture Kony could increase the militarization of the region and lead to deaths of civilians who are caught in the crossfire or become targets of retaliatory attacks by the LRA, as has occurred in the past. Indeed, the Ugandan army itself has been guilty of atrocities and abuse of civilians. First and foremost, the U.S. government must refrain from actions that could undermine peace and security.
The Association of Concerned Africa Scholars calls on President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Carson, Ambassador Barrie Walkley (Special Advisor for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and relevant members of Congress:
· To cooperate closely with the African Union (AU) and its new Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Counter‐Terrorism Cooperation, Ambassador Francisco Caetano José Madeira. The U.S. also should provide financial, logistical, and equipment support to the AU as needed in efforts to end the destabilizing activities and atrocities committed against civilians by various militias, including the LRA, and by the national armies in this region.
· To acknowledge that ending the violence and its resulting devastation in Uganda and Central Africa primarily requires negotiations with the goal of creating a favorable environment for beginning to build sustainable and productive economies and to reintegrate members of the various militias into their societies. Aggressive military action and the active involvement of the U.S. military is highly likely to be counter‐productive, increasing rather than solving the problems of violence, disorganization, weak governance, and lack of development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Uganda.
· To take a strong stand against the use of child soldiers by fully complying with the U.S. Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2009 by prohibiting military assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other governments until they meet specific benchmarks, including ending recruitment of child soldiers, demobilizing children from existing forces, and bringing recruiters of child soldiers to justice, as urged by Amnesty International.
· To actively seek an effective United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to end irresponsible trade in weapons, munitions, and other military and policing equipment that often inflict misery and carnage on people, especially in Africa.
· To provide all possible support, funding, and facilitation to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for their enduring and as yet not fully funded work to meet the needs of former child soldiers, refugees, victims of rape and abuse, and the wider population displaced by the militias, including the LRA, and armies of the Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, and Uganda.
*For further information:
Chair, ACAS Task Force on Demilitarizing Africa and African Studies:
Prof. David Wiley, (Michigan State University) email@example.com, (517‐332‐0333)
Prof. Eve Sandberg (Oberlin College) firstname.lastname@example.org (440‐775‐3003)
Prof. Noah Zerbe (Humboldt State University) email@example.com
The Politics of KONY 2012.
It is exciting that this time, KONY 2012 has spurred not only blind “activism”, but also a ferocious debate. What is most exciting about this debate is that it seems that many professors and academics are stepping out of their ivory towers and stepping into the spotlight.
Mahmood Mamdani is a Professor and the Director of Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala and a Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York City.
What Jason Did Not Tell Gavin and His Army of Invisible Children: The Downside of the Kony 2012 Video
March 12, 2012
Only two weeks ago, Ugandan papers carried front-page reports from the highly respected Social Science Research Council of New York, accusing the Uganda army of atrocities against civilians in Central African Republic while on a mission to fight Joseph Kony and the LRA. The Army denied the allegations. Many in the civilian population, especially in the north, were skeptical of the denial. Like all victims, they have long and enduring memories.
The adult population recalls the brutal government-directed counterinsurgency campaign beginning 1986, and evolving into Operation North, the first big operation that people talk about as massively destructive for civilians, and creating the conditions that gave rise to the LRA of Joseph Kony and, before it, the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Lakwena.
Young adults recall the time from the mid-90s when most rural residents of the three Acholi districts was forcibly interned in camps – the Government claimed it was to ‘protect’ them from the LRA. But there were allegations of murder, bombing, and burning of entire villages, first to force people into the camps and then to force them to stay put. By 2005, the camp population grew from a few hundred thousand to over 1.8 million in the entire region – which included Teso and Lango – of which over a million were from the three Acholi districts. Comprising practically the entire rural population of the three Acholi districts, they were expected to live on handouts from relief agencies. According to the Government’s own Ministry of Health, the excess mortality rate in these camps was approximately one thousand persons per week – inviting comparisons to the numbers killed by the LRA even in the worst year.
Determined to find a political solution to enduring mass misery, Parliament passed a bill in December 1999 offering amnesty to the entire leadership of the LRA provided they laid down their arms. The President refused to sign the bill.
Opposed to an amnesty, the President invited the ICC, newly formed in 2002, to charge that same LRA leadership with crimes against humanity. Moreno Ocampo grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Joseph Kony became the subject of the ICC’s first indictment.
Critics asked why the ICC was indicting only the leadership of the LRA, and not also of government forces. Ocampo said only one step at a time. In his words: “The criteria for selection of the first case was gravity. We analyzed the gravity of all crimes in northern Uganda committed by the LRA and the Ugandan forces. Crimes committed by the LRA were much more numerous and of much higher gravity than alleged crimes committed by the UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defense Force). We therefore started with an investigation of the LRA.” That ‘first case’ was in 2004. There has been none other in the eight years that have followed.
As the internment of the civilian population continued into its second decade, there was another attempt at a political solution, this time involving the new Government of South Sudan (GOSS). Under great pressure from both the population and from parliament, the government of Uganda agreed to enter into direct negotiations with the LRA, facilitated and mediated by GOSS. These dragged on for years, from 2006 on, but hopes soared as first the terms of the agreement, and then its finer details, were agreed on between the two sides. Once again, the only thing standing between war and peace was an amnesty for the top leadership of the LRA, Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti in particular. In the words of Vincent Otti, the second in command: “… to come out, the ICC must revoke the indictment…If Kony or Otti does not come out, no other rebel will come out.” Yet again, the ICC refused, calling for a military campaign to get Kony, joined by the Ugandan government which refused to provide guarantees for his safety. Predictably, the talks broke down and the LRA withdrew, first to the Democratic Republic of Congo and then to the Central African Republic.
The government responded with further militarization, starting with the disastrous Operation Lightning Thunder in the DRC in December, 2008, then sending thousands of Ugandan troops to the CAR, and then asking for American advisors. The ICC called on AFRICOM, the Africa Command of the US Army, to act as its implementing arm by sending more troops to capture Kony. The US under President Obama responded by sending an unspecified number of advisors armed with drones – though the US insists that these drones are unarmed for now.
Now Invisible Children has joined the ranks of those calling for the US to press for a military solution – presumably supported by a mostly children’s army of over 70 million viewers of its video, Kony 2012! What is the LRA that it should merit the attention of an audience ranging from Hollywood celebrities to ‘humanitarian interventionists’ to AFRICOM to children of America?
The LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundred at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed, and poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped as children and then turned into tormentors. It is a story not very different from that of abused children who in time turn into abusive adults. In short, the LRA is no military power.
Addressing the problem called the LRA does not call for a military operation. And yet, the LRA is given as the reason why there must be a constant military mobilization, at first in northern Uganda, and now in the entire region, why the military budget must have priority and, now, why the US must sent soldiers and weaponry, including drones, to the region. Rather than the reason for accelerated military mobilization in the region, the LRA is the excuse for it.
The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims – the civilian population of the area – trust neither the LRA nor government forces. Sandwiched between the two, civilians need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilization and offered the hope of a political process.
Alas, this message has no room in the Invisible Children video that ends with a call to arms. Thus one must ask: Will this mobilization of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarize the region further? If so, this well-intentioned but unsuspecting army of children will be responsible for magnifying the very crisis to which they claim to be the solution.
The 70 million plus who have watched the Invisible Children video need to realize that the LRA – both the leaders and the children pressed into their service – are not an alien force but sons and daughters of the soil. The solution is not to eliminate them physically, but to find ways of integrating them into (Ugandan) society.
Those in the Ugandan and the US governments – and now apparently the owners of Invisible Children – must bear responsibility for regionalizing the problem as the LRA and, in its toe, the Ugandan army and US advisors crisscross the region, from Uganda to DRC to CAR. Yet, at its core the LRA remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political solution.