środa, 14 marca 2012

Kony 2012: Does the end justify the means?

Delayed bomb detonation

22-year history of abudctions in Northern Uganda by LRA has been a very attractive and catchy story; forgotten and forsaken for long, just like the war in Congo. It wasn’t until LRA moved out of Uganda - to Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic - when the articles and books about Joseph Kony started to spring up like mushrooms.

It also had to take a movie of Invisible Children, the most watched piece worldwide this month, for journalists and publishers to re-take on the subject and express their ‘specialist’ opinions, but not many know why the movie deserves its criticism.

Kony 2012 is a component of a really great marketing strategy. Probably greater than the one used by people who really do help on the ground but don’t know how to market themselves. The movie grasps your attention and moves you. You see the night commuters, children living on the streets of cities in Acholi land. It gives you an impression that it is a problem based in Uganda and you can take an effective action by 'making Kony famous' (through buying a kit with T-shirt depicting Kony). It is made very obvious that us, Europeans, Americans, can make a change and it suggest that the governments in the region are ineffective in dealing with the problem on its own.

1. How does Invisible Children’s work translate to real help on the ground?

If you, however, do buy the 15USD/month kit with bracelet along with other stuff, is it going to translate to tangible, often psychological help for the people of Northern Uganda?

Since I am not part of the organization it is hard for me to answer this question. The biggest problem definitely in 2008 and reportedly also now the rehabilitation of children in this zone, a need expressed widely by many workers on the ground, Ugandans by citizenship. Who has been in the "business"? Some 4000, mainly international NGOs registered in Gulu (figure quoted from my interview with a UN officer three years ago;  4000 outnumbers the number of street children on the streets of Gulu; a simple count gives you the right idea that if one NGO would take care of one child, one problem would have been solved). Up to now, however, there are not many psychologists in the field. What takes it to be one? Well, let's face it, if you don’t know the local language, you can’t do a lot, to be honest, and that is the reality for the vast majority of foreign NGOs employing expatriate workers who come as volunteers for a few week or month period, without understanding the culture or the reality on the ground, and without being able to anyhow contribute to the communities.

2. If we picture the past, we need to picture the present, too.

A. Kony’s army is not in Uganda

As a reporter for the Polish Radio I travelled to Northern Uganda in 2008. While recording this soundbite I heard that the last recorded abduction in the region happened 2 years beforehand and the refugees were rather complaining about Karamojongs stealing their cows than LRA. My friends in the East Africa region agree that last time they heard anything on Joseph Kony's atrocities was already a few years ago.

In 2009 the Ugandan government started liquidation of refugee camps, many people went back home and were able to start new life from scratch. This has been the Uganda government’s main focus, along with the continuous attempts of peace talks. Hardly will you find night commuters now like it is indirectly suggested in the movie, many people are back home.

They didn't focus on LRA which moved to the neighbouring countries, they focused on helping their own people.

B. Patronizing tendencies of the West

American army was sent in 2011 not by the Ugandan government’s request.

"We didn't solicit for this support but now that it has come we welcome it," Felix Kulaigye, spokesman for the Ugandan army, told Reuters by telephone. "Kony is a regional security menace and the earlier we end it, the better."

Well, what else can you say if your donor decides to deal with your problem for you. Truly, what else can you say? Should we be at all surprised that it is the USA dealing with all the terrorists worldwide not Ugandan troops bringing peace to other parts of the world? Well not Ugandan priority, really, at the moment, not their aspiration, maybe not their strenght.

You would wonder why the communication focuses on the troops being sent to Uganda instead of Sudan/Congo/Central African Republic, where the LRA actually is. Why does the movie focus on Uganda instead of other countries? Just because the conflict originated here, before moving to other parts of Central Africa?

It's good to ask yourself: WHY NOW? What is the American interest to bring up the story and situate it in Uganda? Well, many say it strangely conincides with Uganda starting to produce oil. That's right, no longer drill, produce. Production of 150,000 barrels of oil per day by 2015 will place Uganda among top 50 oil producing nations.

3.  Does the end justify the means?

A lot comes down to the question asked by Sam Childres at the end of the movie “Machine Gun Preacher”, which focuses on the same conflict (in cinemas now).

“If a madmen abducted your child or a family member and I said I could bring them home, does it matter how I bring them home?".

After watching "Machine Gun Preacher" you may wonder if the end justify the means.

Well, Kony 2012 action may not bring anyone home. May not help anyone. And, too, it is using means which Northern Ugandans feel offended by: Video by Al Jazeera and my text on Mapo Oput, a Northern Uganda tradition to forgive their brothers. Northern Ugandans from the Al Jazeera video says that they feel that the video  uses their personal tragedies for the benefit of the Westerners making profit on the video.

Isn't the time of the debate on the movie the right time we finally count the organizations accountable for what they can really do and for how much it would help? Primum non nocere, right?

More on: Uganda speaks, Al Jazeera. Opinions by Ugandans themselves, on Al Jazeera platform.

2 komentarze:

Edgar pisze...

USA has involved actions against LRA since 2008, when they planned operation Iron Fist (which was a disaster), also later on USA continued supporting Uganda's army with intelligence officers and, also, money.
Tim Allen has a nice book on this topic, published in 2008 or something,

Helena Gołdon pisze...

Thanks Edgar. Yeah, I have the book.