By now you have surely heard of Kony 2012, the viral video produced by Invisible Children that is all over the social media universe. Now it is being covered by most news sources. I heard back to back stories about it on NPR this afternoon. The video is beautifully produced, heartbreaking and inspiring in content, and covers an issue that, as you know, I am intimately familiar with.
But there are some problems. Though what I said above is true (hell, I wish I had that level of sophistication to generate interest in our Uganda projects), I do not know what Invisible Children is trying to accomplish. It is not simply about raising awareness, I imagine. The time for raising awareness was two decades ago when Ugandans were truly being terrorized by the LRA and the government forces. Better late than never, I suppose. But this is not the goal that I gleaned from the video.
Invisible Children is arguing that they want Kony off the battlefield (as I type, he is likely in the Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of Congo). It also appears to me that they want United States forces to get the job done. We do have 100 "advisers" in the region now. See Blog Post 12. But what does it mean to take him off the battlefield? Ostensibly Invisible Children would like to see Kony captured and tried at the International Criminal Court. But they appear to forget that the United States is not a signatory to the Rome Statute so it would be highly unlikely for the US to turn him over to the Hague for prosecution. What's the other alternative? Assassination? That strikes me as an odd position for a human rights organization to take.
What's more, Invisible Children appears to want United States forces to collaborate with Ugandan forces to get the job, whatever that my entail, done. What they forget is that the Ugandan Army is as culpable for atrocities and human rights violations as the LRA. But now they are the good guys?
The problems that continue to plague the region in Africa go far beyond Kony. I discuss this in detail in Post 12. Any villain with a gun and some ambition can bring immeasurably suffering to villagers simply because it is so easy to exploit mineral resources. But that is beyond the scope of my critique.
While I am glad that people are talking about this and I congratulate Invisible Children for their success in spreading their message, I find their message poorly thought to conclusion. But maybe this is a start to continue conversations and sharing of ideas to bring the change that Africa really needs. Like, for example, applying pressure to the companies that make all of our fancy electronic gadgets to innovate and use component parts that are not reliant on conflict minerals. Until we stop blindly buying the toys we like so much and our governments and corporations seek to exploit Africa's natural resources, Africa's problems will soldier on whether or not Joseph Kony is dead and gone.
James Pirtle is a trial lawyer and owner of The Sentinel Law Group, PLLC, a Seattle law firm and he is an attorney on the ground for Legal Advocacy Worldwide (LAW), a non-profit devoted to financing direct legal advocacy on behalf of the oppressed abroad, including the state-sanctioned persecution of the LGBT community in Africa. This blog chronicles how his involvement in the defense of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, developed into a broad international human rights practice with crusading Ugandan attorney John Francis Onyango. This blog begins with their involvement in the Kwoyelo case and continues with updates and developments in the human rights cases. Read from the bottom up to see how it all unfolds.