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Opinion: Kony 2012 doesn’t warrant a movement

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A 30-minute YouTube documentary by activist group Invisible Children hit internet stardom when it launched on March 6. It reached 70 million views in its first four days, grabbing the attention social media users. The campaign’s goal is to capture Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony who, along with other atrocities, was responsible for kidnapping around 66,000 Ugandan children in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

The story took an unexpected twist when a co-founder of the group, Jason Russell, was detained on March 15 by San Diego Police and taken to a medical facility after it was reported that he was running around a San Diego neighborhood in his underwear yelling incoherently. No charges were pressed.

The video has elements of a disturbing point of view that has been around since colonial times. Those colonial powers used the “White Man’s Burden” to excuse their exploitation of Africa with the idea that they were civilizing barbaric people. In that same underlying tone this is saying that America is the solution, that Ugandans aren’t smart or well-equipped enough to take Kony down on their own. The group was founded by three young white privileged 20-somethings whose video sends the message that America is the Western savior of Africa and that these people are hopeless on their own.

Some Ugandans criticize the movement for this reason, like Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire, who posted a response video and blog.  She says the founders are “Three boys trying to save Africans instead of playing Angry Birds.”  She goes on to say that we have seen these stories in Ethiopia and other countries were celebrities like Bono come to third world countries to play the savior role.

“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 one person cry, and at the end of the day, we forget about it,” Kagumire said on the video.

The founders seemed to further the idea that of trying to be the colonial savior of Ugandans when they posed for a picture with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army before peace talks in 2008. It gave off an image of three “badass” young men trying to save the world.

The Ugandan army didn’t need American intervention to drive Kony’s small group of rebels out of Uganda in the 1990s and into the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Because he is no longer in Uganda, the video’s focus should not be on military intervention nor should it be about making him famous.

Instead, it should be about diplomatic relations and making his capture a priority for the border countries of Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan. One of those countries is keeping Kony safe considering he has managed to evade capture for two decades.

With policy shifts that favor capturing him in these countries, eventually he is going to capture or kill him without our help.

It’s interesting that when America takes out Saddam or gets involved in Libya, some complain that we are the world’s police. But now it’s popular to advocate for us to be the global force for good.  Kony is a bad guy for sure, but this world is full of bad guys so do we go down the international community’s wanted list and become the world’s bounty hunter? It’s not like we don’t have $15 trillion in debt racked up already.

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Opinion: Kony 2012 doesn’t warrant a movement