Join us on our faith journey as we follow Jesus to Ghana, West Africa!

Friday, March 09, 2012

My Take on KONY 2012

Mary Kay writes: 

It has been fascinating to me to watch KONY 2012 go viral this week.  This is the first time I personally have seen this phenomenon, partly because I am “a clueless old fogie” (as my high school senior would put it) and partly because we live in Ghana, where we are just beginning to explore all the uses of social media.  True confession:  I only figured out how to participate in Twitter this week, follow me at @ghanawaterwoman.  It has been doubly interesting as it follows on the heels of and illustrates two books that Charlie and I have been reading lately about the new world social order – ala Facebook and Google – What Would Google Do and Public Parts, both by Jeff Jarvis (@JeffJarvis and  Watching the video gave me more insight into how the web could be used to form a critical mass for change – ala Tahrir Square, or Yemen, or Libya, or I guess even Wall Street (though I still haven’t figured out the whole “occupy” movement).

The video does bring attention to one of the major problems in Africa over the last 50 years– that of child soldiers.  But Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Rebellion Army are hardly the only ones involved in this practice.  Child soldiers have been used in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and elsewhere, as well.  The movie does bring infamy to Joseph Kony, but since he has been under indictment by the International Criminal Court since 2005, I would argue that he already was infamous.  In the end, all KONY 2012 does is vilify Joseph Kony and call for his capture and prosecution.  Easier said than done since he is hiding out in dense and sparsely populated jungle and could be in one of three or four different countries in Central Africa, in a geographic area approximately half the size of the United States.  After all how long did it take the FBI to find Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympics bomber, when he was hiding out in the mountains of North Carolina?  Or for the international community to find Osama bin Laden, for that matter?  And why pick only on Joseph Kony?  Three other leaders of the LRA are also under indictment for the same crimes against humanity.  A two others were indicted in 2005, but have since died, so the charges against them have been dropped.

My biggest beef with the movie and the KONY 2012 movement is that it doesn’t really address the underlying issues in Uganda that led to the formation of the LRA or provide any solutions.  Let’s say we arrest Kony, try him, execute him.  Or that he dies in a gun battle when they try to arrest him.  What happens next?  What will keep another from stepping into his shoes?

Many of the blogs and news sources I have read on the internet, from people living and working in Uganda, and more importantly, from Ugandans themselves, don’t see Kony as their biggest problem anymore.  Yes, he is evil, and did atrocious things.  But he is not nearly as active in that part of Africa as he was 10 or even 5 years ago.  His power has diminished greatly.  But the conditions that led to his rise to power are still in Uganda and throughout Africa.  Corruption.  Oppressive governments.  Grinding poverty.  Malaria and HIV/AIDS.    Lack of access to health care, or potable water, or sanitation, or education.  Kony and the LRA may have abducted as many as 70,000 children over the course of his rebellion, and certainly they killed more than that.  But approximately 4,500 children die every day from preventable waterborne diseases, most of them in Africa.  And 1,400 children die every day in sub-Saharan Africa from malaria.    EVERY DAY!  That would equate to over 50,000,000 children from these two causes alone, over the 25 years that Kony has terrorized children.  And this does not include the children who are ill but recover.

Of course, there are plenty of organizations that are mobilizing around the issues of malaria, waterborne disease, education, or other issues as well.  You can google any of these topics and find heart-breaking videos of the impacts of disease and poverty on God’s children in Africa (or Asia or the United States for that matter).  I can point you to a lot – and I can show you my own photographs and videos. 

But the myriad issues in Africa, or specifically in Uganda, have been going on for 25, 50 or even 100 years or more.  They are too complex to distill into a video like KONY 2012.  They won’t be solved overnight, or in 2012, or with the arrest or death of one person.   The United States can’t just “come to the rescue” like some governmental version of Superman.  And these problems certainly won’t be solved without the input and effort of Ugandans and other Africans.  Africans should be engaging in conversations, whether face-to-face or on Facebook, Twitter and the like, with other Africans about what they see as their greatest problems, most significant needs and their proposed solutions.  Then we in the west can follow along, learn, and in turn ask how we can best support and encourage them to achieve their dreams and meet their own needs. 

THAT approach, my friends, is community development.  That is development with dignity.  That moves past colonialism, or neo-colonialism, or the Western “we’re here to fix you (and remold you into our image)” mentality.  That would recognize and celebrate the image of our creator God in Africans.  And that is what I pray that I am learning to do, with sensitivity and love.

I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken. My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people. Little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets.  (Lamentations 2:11, NLT)


Sissy said...

I don't know you but came across your blog through Jamie Miles. While I agree with a majority of your opinions, I could disagree with you more about not seeking out and destroying the LRA leadership and Kony in particular. If your child was one of the 70,000 abducted and forced to mutilate at best and kill at worst your own family and countless others, you would want the person(s) responsible to held accountable for these actions. That is what the arrest of Joseph Kony will do. The eradication of the LRA makes for a safer Africa. And a safer Africa can prosper in ways we've yet to see.

Charlie and Mary Kay said...


I read back through the blog again to be sure. I never said that I didn't think Joseph Kony should be arrested. I absolutely do! He should be arrested and tried and his victims, including all these children, should be given the opportunity for closure. They shouldn't have to live in fear of him or others like him in the future.

I just have a problem with the deadline. I don't think finding him will be easy, or we would have captured him by now. So if we don't get him in 2012, but do in 2013, have we failed? It isn't necessarily a task that can be done in a year, no matter how many resources the international community throws at it.

My overarching point, though, is that we need to look at the bigger picture and the underlying causes, not just the symptoms.