The pursuit of war criminals
07 Wednesday Mar 2012
I came across Kony 2012, a few hours ago, but boy did I come across it. suddenly it exploded all over my social media, with three posts on Facebook, five tweets and a thread on Reddit. I’ve very vaguely heard of Joseph Kony before,but suddenly his name was everywhere, associated with a very slick video.
A charity called Invisible Children have produced this video with an aim of raising awareness of the war crimes of Kony. Its a call to purchase their action pack, highlight Kony to celebs and high profile politicians and raise awareness of Kony. Now being the activisty sort, I’m quite familiar with awareness raising and how important it is, but something about this stinks to high heaven.
The video, however well meaning has a white US narrator and features his blond young son – a bit part is played by a former child soldier, with random shots of rallies featuring well scrubbed activists (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Its very emotive, and very professional, with a clear appeal to the modern, the high tech and the young, yet lacks facts or any kind of analysis of the situation. Its primary demand appears to be to agitate for US intervention in Central Africa. It jars; seriously jars.
Now, I’m not saying that Joseph Kony is a nice man, and I’m not suggesting that its not right that he should be brought to justice at the ICC where he’s been wanted since 2005, but why so suddenly, why now? The main conflict in Uganda stopped in 2006, Kony has fled Uganda to the very rich and very unstable Congo, 100 US troops were already sent in in October. The timing is strange and very abrupt.
The organisation behind this campaign seems very questionable with only 31% of their funding being spent on their purpose, their defence of the Ugandan army and photo-opportunities with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the tone set by the video isnt a new one – as Chris Blattman point outs, their on their general communication style leans to the colonial.
There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming.
The whole thing smacks to me of a well funded organisation, garnering grassroots support to pressurise the US government into taking a particular course of action. The question then becomes: if the demand is ready made and presented in a nice box set, complete with jewellery and ready made posters that can be yours for only $20, where is that demand springing from?
We have seen “campaigns” of a similar nature before – Make Poverty History, springs to mind where the Labour government urged citizens to pressurise it to take the course of action that it wanted to take at the 2007 G8 summit, the Soros foundation intervention in the former soviet states and the “Red” campaign with corporate sponsorship (you too can be an activist if you get one of our credit cards). All high profile media campaigns with a stamp of approval, large donors and a solemn nod of agreement from on high that something must be done.
Thing is, sitting here in the UK, all I can think is that we had our own war criminal right here in our midst, leading the UK state until 2007, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Would it not be more appropriate for us to campaign to see him brought before the ICC, rather than allowing him to hideout in Israel? Shouldn’t we be pressurising the government to intervene in Israel to find and eradicate him? No need to make Tony Blair famous – he already is; no need to track him down, we already know where he is – we just need to make him accountable for his actions.
And we as citizens of the UK need to be accountable for our actions too. We elected him, we funded his misadventures and we should bring him to justice.