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Africa: KONY 2012, Selected Reflections "The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims the civilian population of the area trust neither the LRA nor government forces. Sandwiched between the t…

Africa: KONY 2012, Selected Reflections

"The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims the
civilian population of the area trust neither the LRA nor
government forces. Sandwiched between the two, civilians
need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilization and
offered the hope of a political process. Alas, this message
has no room in the Invisible Children video that ends with a
call to arms." - Mahmood Mamdani, Professor and Director of
Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala and Herbert
Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New
York City.

For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable
for printing, go to,
and click on "print this page."

The volume of commentary on all sides of the controversy
about the viral video KONY 2012, produced by the American
NGO Invisible Children, is far too great to summarize. Last
week, AfricaFocus sent out a short video by Ugandan
journalist Rosebell Kagumire (available at, which is still
the best presentation I have seen so far of the critical
case. If you haven't yet watched it, do so now, and pass it
on. As of today, it had over 500,000 views on YouTube, no
match for the 77 million who had watched the Invisible
Children video, but still a significant exposure for a more
nuanced view.

I have compiled two lists, available on-line at, of videos, blog posts, and
articles with Ugandan voices and other commentaries. These
lists are by no means comprehensive, which would be both
impossible and overwhelming. Instead, they represent a
selection of those that I have found most useful. The lists
will be updated when feasible, and AfricaFocus readers are
invited to send in additional suggestions for consideration.


JUST RELEASED! Statement by the Association of Concerned
Africa Scholars outlining suggested U.S. policy framework
rejecting the simplistic U.S.-led military approach
advocated by Invisible Children. Visit


This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a transcript of the
Rosebell Kagumire video, as well as an article by the
distinguished Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, explaining
why both the victims of the terror attacks of the Lord's
Resistance Army and the vast majority of those knowledgeable
about the conflict reject the simplistic conclusion of
Invisible Children that the imperative is intensified
military action by Ugandan and American troops. In fact,
such action, even if it did kill or capture Kony, would be
more likely to increase conflict and human suffering.

Also below is an article with a similar message by noted
Sudan scholar Alex de Waal, who has been a key advisor to
African Union mediation in Sudan.

Added at the last minute before posting, at the risk of
making this too long, is a very important notice from the
African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET), a Ugandan NGO
which screened the KONY 2012 to an audience of over 35,000
people in Northern Uganda, in the belief that they should
see what is being said about them. The audience, many of
them victims of the LRA, responded angrily to what they
regarded as the film maker's commercialization of their
situation. AYINET has suspended further screenings of the

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, not sent out by
e-mail but available on the web at, contains
several articles on the military realities of the conflict,
and what they mean for the prospects of increasing security
for the people of the region affected by the depredations of
Joseph Kony's Lord's resistance army. The key point is that
activism which is based on simplistic analyses and promotes
false solutions, as does that promoted by Invisible
Children, risks doing far more harm than good.

What is true is that the video has indeed promoted
unprecedented attention. Whether the net result is positive
or negative will depend on whether the resulting actions are
guided by respect for the people of the region and by
understanding rather than by simplistic slogans, messianic
rhetoric, and magical belief in military solutions.

For a clear statement of an alternative U.S. policy
framework, see the statement released by the Association of
Concerned Africa Scholars

Hopefully these and other related materials can be used,
among other places, in campus teach-ins, with a wider range
of views than those of Invisible Children.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Uganda, visit

In particular, these same issues were discussed in an
AfricaFocus Bulletin in June 2009, available at

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Rosebell Kagumire

My response to KONY2012.

Uganda 7 Mar 2012

Video available at

Transcription thanks to

Hello, my name is Rosebell Kagumire and I am a blogger from
Uganda. So today, we have been talking about the story of
Joseph Kony that has been trending on Twitter. I first saw
this story from friends links on Facebook and I was like,
This is a new issue out on Kony; I need to update myself on
what is going on. So the first five minutes of the video I
was trying to figure out What is this video about? I could
not even have the slightest idea that it would be about
Joseph Kony.

So basically my major problem with this video is that it
simplifies the story of millions of people in Northern
Uganda and makes out a narrative that is often hard about
Africa, about how hopeless people are in times of conflict
that only people off this continent can help. Yet its not
entirely true; there are local initiatives. There have been
local initiatives to end this war. We know people, famous,
like Betty Bigombe this woman is a great woman who went
into the bush and tried to convince Joseph Kony to come out,
and she tried because the war was more than just an evil man
killing children; the war is much more complex than just one
man called Joseph Kony and it was much more in the beginning
about resources and about marginalization of people in
Northern Uganda. So we have got to the stage where the war
is about an indicted leader of a group, but even still, we
still have actors in this war that have committed crimes.
These are certain issues that need to be told when youre
telling a story of a war and trying to end it.

The other problem was that he [director Jason Russell] plays
so much on the idea that this war has been going on because
millions of Americans or … in the Western world people have
been ignorant about it, yet it is not entirely true, and
there have been certain steps made towards ending the war.

Right now, Joseph Konys not in Uganda. The situation in the
video was five, six years ago. The situation has
tremendously improved in Northern Uganda: people sleep at
home and people are back home, children are going to school;
its about post-conflict recovery right now, and we dont
see those issues of now what needs to be done, especially
when he puts Uganda at the center of this conflict. We need
to see the situation that is currently on the ground, which
I dont see in the video.

And, as many people have raised, this is another video where
you see an outsider trying to be a hero rescuing African
children. We have seen these stories a lot in Ethiopia,
celebrities coming in Somalia … it does not end the problem.
I think we need to have kind of sound, intelligent campaigns
that are geared towards real policy shifts rather than a
very sensationalized story that is out to make just one
person cry, and at the end of the day we forget about it.

I think its all about trying to make a difference, but how
do you tell the story of Africans is much more important
[than] what the story is, actually. Because if youre
showing me as voiceless, as hopeless… you have no space
telling my story; you shouldnt be telling my story if you
dont believe that I also have the power to change what is
going on, and this video seems to say that the power lies in
America and it does not lie with my government, it does not
lie with local initiatives on the ground… that aspect is
lacking and this is the problem. It is furthering that
narrative about Africans: totally unable to help themselves
and needing outside help all the time.

And dont get me wrong, Joseph Kony is a wanted man; he has
been indicted and he has committed so many crimes and he
should be brought to book, but how do we go about it? We
have to see governments of South Sudan, DRC, Uganda, Central
African Republic, paying more commitment because ultimately
these are the governments that will bring this war to an
end, and also pledging much more to greater efforts of
reconciling communities thats why I said the war is not
just about Joseph Kony; the war solving this war is
about pacifying the region, making sure communities do not
go back to rebellion, making sure you stop a rebellion
before it starts, and as far as Im concerned, this video
basically tries to bring one man its one bad guy against
good guys, and against we, the mighty West, trying to save
Africa. So I have a problem with that because this is the
same narrative we have seen about Africa for centuries, and
in this 21st century, we ought to see something more
different. And I dont doubt his intentions maybe his
intentions are good but how he goes about it, I will not
agree with that.

And I think there are people doing great initiatives on the
ground, even before he went there. I covered this while I
was in Northern Uganda in 2005. I saw the kind of suffering
he is talking about. But yet, we do not think that this
story can be told in that simple way: just to say its about
a good guy and a bad guy. Yes, there are bad guys. Yes, we
need to end the war. But how we tell the story of children
trying to give these children a voice; trying to give elders
who have contributed to peace in the region a voice also.
Voice their concerns, question even the involvement as far
as I know, the involvement of America has been questioned
Why is America in? and its important that these
discussions are captured if youre genuinely trying to end a
war and make sure that another rebellion does not begin.

Thank you.


Mamdani on Kony 2012 Video

What Jason Did Not Tell Gavin and His Army of Invisible
Children: The Downside of the Kony 2012 Video

Mahmood Mamdani

Mahmood Mamdani is Professor and Director of Makerere
Institute of Social Research in Kampala and Herbert Lehman
Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York
City. / Direct url:

Only two weeks ago, Ugandan papers carried front-page
reports from the highly respected Social Science Research
Council of New York, accusing the Uganda army of atrocities
against civilians in Central African Republic while on a
mission to fight Joseph Kony and the LRA. The Army denied
the allegations. Many in the civilian population,
especially in the north, were skeptical of the denial. Like
all victims, they have long and enduring memories.

The adult population recalls the brutal government-directed
counterinsurgency campaign beginning 1986, and evolving into
Operation North, the first big operation that people talk
about as massively destructive for civilians, and creating
the conditions that gave rise to the LRA of Joseph Kony and,
before it, the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Lakwena.

Young adults recall the time from the mid-90s when most
rural residents of the three Acholi districts was forcibly
interned in camps the Government claimed it was to
'protect' them from the LRA. But there were allegations of
murder, bombing, and burning of entire villages, first to
force people into the camps and then to force them to stay
put. By 2005, the camp population grew from a few hundred
thousand to over 1.8 million in the entire region which
included Teso and Lango of which over a million were from
the three Acholi districts. Comprising practically the
entire rural population of the three Acholi districts, they
were expected to live on handouts from relief agencies.
According to the Governments own Ministry of Health, the
excess mortality rate in these camps was approximately one
thousand persons per week inviting comparisons to the
numbers killed by the LRA even in the worst year.

Determined to find a political solution to enduring mass
misery, Parliament passed a bill in December 1999 offering
amnesty to the entire leadership of the LRA provided they
laid down their arms. The President refused to sign the

Opposed to an amnesty, the President invited the ICC, newly
formed in 2002, to charge that same LRA leadership with
crimes against humanity. Moreno Ocampo grabbed the
opportunity with both hands. Joseph Kony became the subject
of the ICCs first indictment.

Critics asked why the ICC was indicting only the leadership
of the LRA, and not also of government forces. Ocampo said
only one step at a time. In his words: "The criteria for
selection of the first case was gravity. We analyzed the
gravity of all crimes in northern Uganda committed by the
LRA and the Ugandan forces. Crimes committed by the LRA were
much more numerous and of much higher gravity than alleged
crimes committed by the UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defense Force).
We therefore started with an investigation of the LRA." That
first case was in 2004. There has been none other in the
eight years that have followed.

As the internment of the civilian population continued into
its second decade, there was another attempt at a political
solution, this time involving the new Government of South
Sudan (GOSS). Under great pressure from both the population
and from parliament, the government of Uganda agreed to
enter into direct negotiations with the LRA, facilitated and
mediated by GOSS. These dragged on for years, from 2006 on,
but hopes soared as first the terms of the agreement, and
then its finer details, were agreed on between the two
sides. Once again, the only thing standing between war and
peace was an amnesty for the top leadership of the LRA,
Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti in particular. In the words of
Vincent Otti, the second in command: "… to come out, the ICC
must revoke the indictment…If Kony or Otti does not come
out, no other rebel will come out." Yet again, the ICC
refused, calling for a military campaign to get Kony, joined
by the Ugandan government which refused to provide
guarantees for his safety. Predictably, the talks broke down
and the LRA withdrew, first to the Democratic Republic of
Congo and then to the Central African Republic.

The government responded with further militarization,
starting with the disastrous Operation Lightning Thunder in
the DRC in December, 2008, then sending thousands of Ugandan
troops to the CAR, and then asking for American advisors.
The ICC called on AFRICOM, the Africa Command of the US
Army, to act as its implementing arm by sending more troops
to capture Kony. The US under President Obama responded by
sending an unspecified number of advisors armed with drones
though the US insists that these drones are unarmed for

Now Invisible Children has joined the ranks of those calling
for the US to press for a military solution presumably
supported by a mostly childrens army of over 70 million
viewers of its video, Kony 2012! What is the LRA that it
should merit the attention of an audience ranging from
Hollywood celebrities to humanitarian interventionists to
AFRICOM to children of America? The LRA is a raggedy bunch
of a few hundred at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed, and
poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped
as children and then turned into tormentors. It is a story
not very different from that of abused children who in time
turn into abusive adults. In short, the LRA is no military

Addressing the problem called the LRA does not call for a
military operation. And yet, the LRA is given as the reason
why there must be a constant military mobilization, at first
in northern Uganda, and now in the entire region, why the
military budget must have priority and, now, why the US must
sent soldiers and weaponry, including drones, to the region.
Rather than the reason for accelerated military mobilization
in the region, the LRA is the excuse for it.

The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims the
civilian population of the area trust neither the LRA nor
government forces. Sandwiched between the two, civilians
need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilization and
offered the hope of a political process.

Alas, this message has no room in the Invisible Children
video that ends with a call to arms. Thus one must ask: Will
this mobilization of millions be subverted into yet another
weapon in the hands of those who want to militarize the
region further? If so, this well-intentioned but
unsuspecting army of children will be responsible for
magnifying the very crisis to which they claim to be the

The 70 million plus who have watched the Invisible Children
video need to realize that the LRA both the leaders and
the children pressed into their service are not an alien
force but sons and daughters of the soil. The solution is
not to eliminate them physically, but to find ways of
integrating them into (Ugandan) society.

Those in the Ugandan and the US governments and now
apparently the owners of Invisible Children must bear
responsibility for regionalizing the problem as the LRA and,
in its toe, the Ugandan army and US advisors crisscross the
region, from Uganda to DRC to CAR. Yet, at its core the LRA
remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political


Central Africa: Don't Elevate Joseph Kony

By Alex de Waal, 11 March 2012

Joseph Kony is a household name, thanks to a 30 minute video
raising awareness about his brutal rebel group, the Lord's
Resistance Army (LRA).

Put yourself in Joseph Kony's shoes: imagine you are a
fugitive leader of a rebel band in the forests of central
Africa, travelling on foot and avoiding encounter with any
organized military force. You have spurned peace talks and
bribes because the only existence you know is surviving off
the land and its fearful people.

Every high profile offensive by the armies of three
neighbouring countries, or international Special Forces,
that fails to capture or kill you, adds to your mystique.
Your army is run as a cult, using charisma and fear. For a
quarter century your reputation has grown, even while your
political agenda has dwindled. In fact, since the killing of
Osama bin Laden, you are arguably the most wanted man on the

Today, eight years after abandoning northern Uganda, the
LRA's depleted band of a couple of hundred barefoot fighters
is somewhere in the borderlands between the Democratic
Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
According to the 'LRA Crisis Tracker' they have killed 98
civilians in the last 12 months and abducted 477. That's an
impressively high infamy-to-atrocity ratio, testament to the
effectiveness of terrorist advertising. In earlier days, the
LRA achieved spread terror throughout northern Uganda by its
gruesome mutilations. Severed lips and noses spread the
message better than a radio station.

Today, Kony's supernatural powers are newly validated by his
newest enemy, the earthly superpower, which is staking its
power and prestige on catching or killing him. The LRA's new
echo chamber is an advocacy group, Invisible Children.

The armies of Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, backed by
American advisers, may yet succeed in putting handcuffs on
Kony and delivering him to The Hague. But there are plenty
of dismal precedents for failure. In 2002, following the
U.S. declaration that the LRA was a terrorist organization,
the Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) won the reluctant
cooperation of Sudan and launched Operation Iron Fist on
both sides of the Uganda-Sudan border. It didn't succeed. In
2008, after the LRA had relocated to north-eastern Congo and
the adjoining areas of southern Sudan, a joint offensive by
the armies of Uganda, Congo and South Sudan also failed.
Another episode was a 2006 operation by Special Forces
attached to the UN mission in Congo. Experts in jungle
warfare, Guatemalan commandos, were dispatched to the
Garamba national park with the objective of executing the
recently-unveiled ICC arrest warrant against Joseph Kony and
senior commanders. The operation ended in disaster with the
UN soldiers fatally shooting each other.

The problem hasn't been that Kony isn't well-known. Compared
to the host of other rebel groups and militia that have
inflicted comparable or greater destruction on the region
over the last quarter century, he enjoys by far the highest
profile. The problem is that he is hard to catch, and that
his adversaries have too often colluded in keeping the war

The Ugandan army had an incentive for keeping the LRA alive
and kicking - it justified a high defence budget and gave
the generals plenty of opportunities for getting rich.
Principle and profit have also driven Ugandan military
adventurism across its borders. Invisible Children's
solution to the LRA is for the Ugandan army to pursue them
through the jungles of Congo. It doesn't mention that
fifteen years ago, Uganda and Rwanda invaded Congo (then
called Zaire) to pursue Rwandese genocidaires and Ugandan
rebels through those same forests. The world hadn't cared
enough to stop the Rwandese killers regrouping and rearming
in Zairean refugee camps, so the leaders of the Uganda and
Rwanda, with a nod from Washington DC, took unilateral
action themselves. It didn't work out so well for the
Congolese people. Let's hope that this time Ugandan soldiers
and their proxies kill fewer than 98 Congolese civilians.

Since peace and stability began returning to northern Uganda
six years ago, the agenda has been reconstruction and
reconciliation. There are programs of social healing to
address the roots of the LRA rebellion, which lie in a
complicated history of marginalization and the traumas of
the war and massacres of the 1980s. Demystifying Kony -
reducing him to a common criminal and a failed provincial
politician - should be part of this effort to normalize

During these years, the LRA has survived in the
frontierlands of central Africa because the reach of
government doesn't extend there, and because the inhabitants
of these places have as much reason to distrust the
depredations of officialdom as they have to fear the
cruelties of the LRA. If Kony dies or is captured, the few
hundred LRA fighters may disband, but the lawlessness that
made possible his reign of fear will not be so easily

In elevating Kony to a global celebrity, the embodiment of
evil, and advocating a military solution, the campaign isn't
just simplifying, it is irresponsibly naive. 'Big man' style
rulers - of which President Yoweri Museveni is one - prefer
to dismiss their opponents as disturbed individuals, and
like to short-cut civil politics by military action. The
"let's get the bad guy" script is a problem, not a solution.

Millions of young Americans are being told about a bizarre
and murderous African cult. They are also being told that
for 25 years Africa has been waiting for America to solve
this problem, which can be done by capturing Africa's crazed
evildoer and handing him over to international justice. And
they are led to believe that what has stopped this from
happening is that American leaders don't care enough. The
apologists for Invisible Children call this "raising
awareness." I call it peddling dangerous and patronizing


AYINET to Suspend Further Screenings of Kony 2012

14 March, 2012

The first public screening of Invisible Childrens video
Kony 2012 in northern Uganda took place in Lira Town on 13
March 2012. It was organized by AYINET (the African Youth
Initiative Network) a Ugandan NGO that works in support of
the victims of the LRA war. The screening was attended by
over 35,000 people from across northern Uganda; it was
broadcast live on five local FM radio stations that reach
approximately 2 million people in northern Uganda.

Because most victims have no access to internet,
electricity, and television, AYINET had intended to screen
the film KONY 2012 throughout remote locations of northern
Uganda so that victims and their communities could see and
comment on the film that so many people around the world are
talking about. However, at the Lira screening, the film
produced such outrage, anger and hurt that AYINET has
decided that in order not to further harm victims or provoke
any violent response that it is better to halt any further
screenings for now.

What follows is an overview of some of the dominant
reactions by viewers during the Lira screening. While people
clearly voiced the opinion that Kony, the top LRA commanders
and those most responsible for the harms people suffered
should be brought to justice and that international support
was needed, the films overall messages were very upsetting
to many audience members.

In particular, viewers were outraged by the KONY 2012
campaigns strategy to make Kony famous and their marketing
of items with his image. One victim was applauded upon
saying, "If you care for us the victims, you will respect
our feelings and acknowledge how hurting it is for us to see
you mobilizing the world to make Kony famous, the guy who is
the world most wanted criminal." It was very hurtful for
victims and their families to see posters, bracelets and t-
shirts, all looking like a slick marketing campaign,
promoting the person most responsible for their shattered
lives. One young man who lost four brothers and one of his
arms said afterwards: "How can anybody expect a person to
wear a T-shirt with Konys name on it?" Many people were
asking: "Why give such criminals celebrity status? Why not
make the plight of the victims and the war-ravaged
communities, people whose sufferings are real and visible,
the focus of a campaign to help?"

There was a strong sense from the audience that the video
was insensitive to African and Ugandan audiences, and that
it did not accurately portray the conflict or the victims.
Watching the film was upsetting for many audience members,
and a group of viewers nodded their heads in affirmation
when one viewer said, "This was very painful to watch, it
brings back to me many bad memories and that is not good."

Viewers also spoke about their hopes that their abducted and
disappeared loved ones from the war will return to them.
They also called for the protection of their fellow Africans
in those areas now being subjected to the kind of LRA
atrocities and terror that was visited upon northern Uganda
in the past.

The video has succeeded in triggering worldwide awareness of
LRA brutality. Let us hope that that this heightened
awareness can be built upon to find real solutions to the
conflict and to address the suffering of the tens-of-
thousands of victims affected by this war in the region.

For inquiry please contact:

Victor OCHEN, Executive Director
Tel: +256772539879

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