Critics have argued that Lubanga is a ‘small fish’ compared to other suspects wanted by the ICC, such as Joseph Kony, who was suddenly made world famous after the Kony2012 campaign was initiated by an American advocacy group earlier this month. This campaign gained mass popularity in the social media, and has since stirred a lot of discussion between avid campaigning advocates and equally fierce opponents.
The latter have pointed out that Joseph Kony committed his gravest crimes several years ago, that the region where he used to operate is no longer the scene of violence, and that the man himself is thought to be hiding outside Uganda. They have also questioned the organisation’s fundraising activities and its spending patterns. If there is one thing the Kony2012 case shows, however, it is that these types of campaigns are uniquely capable of creating worldwide attention and putting old (and often forgotten) issues back on the international agenda.
How will a campaign to ‘make Kony famous’ improve the chances that, seven years after his arrest warrant was issued, Kony will now be handed over to the ICC? Does Uganda’s future depend on American activism and the users of social media? And more fundamentally, should the victims of the conflict in Uganda not have a more prominent voice in such calls for justice, as well as in decisions about the future of their country? In short, who actually benefits from this increased international attention?
The updated version of ‘Peace versus Justice’, which will screen on 25 March on Hollanddoc24 (see also here and here), will address the issue of international involvement in the aftermath of Uganda’s conflict.
For further discussion on the Kony2012 campaign, the following sources are a very small selection of the extensive debate about Kony2012 that is currently taking place online:
I have read with deepending concern the harsh criticism on the Kony2012 campaign. The vast majority of the critiques, while castigating what they perceive as a typical ‘western’ NGO’s paternalistic and patronising view of Africa, also impose their own (largely ‘western’) normative notions and ideologies of what is morally acceptable in a ‘campaign’ , much abstracted from local ‘realities’ on the ground. While criticising the video as being simplistic, these critiques also advance their own simplistic and narrow minded idealised views of what they perceive to be the ‘voices of local communities’ ‘local agency’ or the ‘role of indigenous Ugandans’. These critiques beg several observations:
One: Communities in Northern Uganda are not a homogenous, monolythic group with a single view on the ‘peace vs Justice’ debate or indeed whether and how to proceed with the Kony/LRA menace. These critiques therefore fail to recognise the very complexity they advocate for in the divergent and conflicting views in the local communities in question. Unfortunaltely, the ‘Peace versus Justice’ documentary by Klaartje Qurijns also simplifies the debate by portraying the two ends as binary and mutually exclusive.
Two: The view (though in a simplified form) appeals to our common and shared humanity, what in some African philosphy is termed Ubuntu. With increased globalisation and interdependency (not all globalisation is evil), our common destiny and obligation to stand up for the voiceless is implicit and thats what the camoaign attempts to do. I’d much rather have a global action that may lead to drawing attention to an issue of such grave concern, provoking global debate on how to respond and hopefully leading to consideration of appropriate action, than total inaction or ineffectual ‘slactivism’ that only serves to assuage our conscience without leading to any real change. Consequently, the question as to whether Uganda’s future depends on American activism and the users of social media is equally simplistic and one sided, while the campaign highlights one component of the solution: International pressure and action, it doesnt by default delegitimise the importance of local agency. A campaign is single issue focused and is not the place to turn to if one is looking for a nuanced, multifasceted dissection of social issues and to expecta that is in itself erroneous.
Three: Although its common knowledge born by historical evidence that humanitariana nd development NGOs tend to have an inbuilt self-perpetuating approach to their programmes, the question as to ‘who actually benefits from this increased international attention’ reveals the cynicism prevalent in the avalanche of armchair criticism of the Kony 2012 campaign. An approach that the agent of such an action is ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is counter-productive. Its ironic and perhaps redundant that the writer should ask such a question, having given testimony in the very same article to the observation that ‘If there is one thing the Kony2012 case shows, however, it is that these types of campaigns are uniquely capable of creating worldwide attention and putting old (and often forgotten) issues back on the international agenda’.
Indeed, the campaign is already galvanising action within the African union for a renewed attempt to resolve the LRA question. While projections that military action may lead to more civilian casualties, the reluctance of Kony to embrace dialogue and his withdrawal from the Juba peace talks leaves little alternatives. Evidence from Angola’s long civil war shows that the ‘removal’ of a rebel leader (Jonas Savimbi), could easily lead to cessation of conflict and a return to peace. Every analysis of the LRA structure suggestst that the capture or killing of Joseph Kony will most definitely be the end of the LRA, an outcome that few would disagree with.