Mar 8, 2012

Who is Kony?

I rarely address issues and topics like this one on my blog, but this is an exception I'm more than glad to make. I'm sure that in the course of the last two days everyone stumbled across the name of Joseph Kony. I know that your Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of that name, links to the video that's made us cry and links to Invisible Children, the NGO behind the entire campaign.

KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

The video explains a lot about who Joseph Kony is and what crimes he's committed in the past 26 years-and still does, with the world, as it turned out after the campaign went viral, being either completely ignorant or paying little attention. I saw the video this morning. It was a powerful experience, needless to say. I was crying. If I did my best to suspend my tears, I broke down at the point when Jacob tells the things he wishes he could say to his brother.

Before I jumped on the bandwagon and shouted from the rooftops, I wanted to know more about what's going on and I did some research. Apparently, it didn't take long for criticism to emerge, and for a moment, it cast quite a dark shadow on everything Invisible Children is doing. Here's an article that enumerates all the faults of the campaign. The organization was under attack for using only 31 % of the money raised as actual aids. The rest of the money is used for the production of movies, travel expenses for the leaders of the organization and other things that the children in question don't directly benefit from. The worst accusation was that the funds are used for financing the Uganda government military, who themselves are guilty of crimes such as raping and looting. Furthermore, there are no African members on the board of IC, which immediately brought upon the "white-messiah/ American saviors" debates. IC promptly responded to that critics, but the discussions are still going strong and I believe that we'll hear a lot of these in the days to come from all sides.

Every so often, there's news articles or campaigns on the Internet addressing that topic. Child-soldiers, sadly, isn't exactly fresh news. Why is this campaign different? Why did it generate more attention? Why does it matter so much to me?

I'm not going to pretend that I completely understand what's going on in Central Africa. I  realize it's a complicated web of wars between tribes and self-proclaimed war-lords constantly at each others throats, with the tragic outcome of innocent people and children being deprived of their basic human rights. The problem is much bigger than just one Joseph Kony, and it's probably a bit naive to believe that the evil will be eradicated once Kony is arrested and brought before the face of justice.

I'm an outsider to this story. I'm not American, and I'm not really concerned with the colonialistic nuances that some critics see in the campaign. I'm also not African. I cannot begin to imagine what atrocities those children have witnessed or experienced on their own skin. I live in Europe, in Croatia, in a country that also has a not-so-distant history of violent wars and crimes committed by people whose names are up there on the ICC list with Joseph Kony. I'm in the middle, as I believe millions of people who have joined the cause are. People aching for something to be done. I joined, not particularly for Kony, because God knows there's many more like him on this world and many more battles will be fought before they're wiped off the face of the earth. I joined, not for Invisible Children, because there are probably dozens of organizations who are doing a better and more extensive work on protecting children, but whose efforts doesn't receive so much attention as the work of IC does.

I joined because of the overwhelming idea that the world can get united. Someone ignited a spark that shook up the world, and no doubt something will move and something will be done. People are doing what little they can, if it's just clicking share buttons, printing posters and ordering action-kits, but they are doing something, anything, to raise awareness.

No child should ever go through something like that. Not a single child. And yet, there are not just the thousands that have been abducted, molested, harmed or killed under Kony's regime of terror, but thousands of other invisible children that have suffered under this or that lunatic. It seems that finally the world has gotten the necessary incentive to take a step forward. And I'm more than happy to be part of it in every way I can. I'm aware that this particular campaign is not the solution to all the problems in Africa, and that the steps IC is taking may not be the best possible. If just one child is returned home, it was worth all the effort. But let's start with Kony. Tomorrow there'll be someone else.

Please, spread the word. 

Stop Kony, yes. But also, don't stop asking questions. 

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