Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012

Allow me to pontificate about current events for a while - something I think I woefully regret when it comes to the wider world. Any thoughts of yours would be appreciated.

My wonderful sister-in-law (who should keep a blog cause when she did, it was hilarious) sent me a link to the famous Kony 2012 video. I watched it, and was impressed with the passion of the filmmakers, who have been at this for nine years, and their personal involvement with many of the victims. I love people who see a problem and want to find a solution, instead of just showing people "look how awful this is."

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a military group operating in central Africa, including Uganda. His most infamous crimes include kidnapping young children to make them sex slaves and soliders in his army; he forces them to work for him by slaughtering their families so that they have nowhere to go. 

Right after Tom and I got married, I woke up one day and realized I knew nothing about the Rwandan genocide. So I went to the library, got tons of books, read all about it online, searched news archives, and only then watched the famed movie "Hotel Rwanda." It blew me away that all this happened during my lifetime and I knew nothing about it. Rwanda's political situation now can barely be called stable, but at least it's not all out genocide. I was struck with sorrow realizing this happened under the watchful eyes of the world and no one did anything to help these people.

This is the Ntrama Catholic Church altar in Rwanda. During the genocide, people came here for sanctuary, only to be cut down and burned alive. Nearly one million people of the ethnic group Tutsi were murdered by the ethnic group the Hutus in 100 days during the summer of 1994. There was no distinction made between man, woman, or child. 

The situation in Uganda (from my 24 hrs worth of research) appears to be different. This is not purely a situation of ethnic cleansing, although there are ethnic tensions involved (Kony is a member of the Acholi ethnic group, which started it's military activities because it felt slighted by the Ugandan government, who they allege favors other southern ethnic groups more). Kony's army appears to be quite small at this point in time, about 250 armed members, and although they are still active, they are mostly on the run and in hiding. They are not active in Uganda at this point in time, but have moved to South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic. The video in question calls for international pressure so that Kony will be arrested this year and brought to justice by the ICC (International Criminal Court).

A map of Africa. Uganda is the tiny purple country next to D.R. Congo; directly beneath it is Rwanda. 

There are many who have criticized the group running the publicity, the Invisibile Children Incorporation, claiming they keep too much of their funds. I am fairly dismissive of this. Without going into their finances too much, I think it's admirable what they're doing. Shouldn't there be people, prophets of our age, that stand up and cry: this is wrong! Even if we don't like the company, we can support their message and their point. It is wrong - this man should be brought to justice. They're not calling for him to be killed, they're calling for justice. That is a good thing to do.

And yet a part of me wonders. When the genocide in Rwanda was over, restoring a working peace was nearly impossible. Survivors talked about how the men who had raped them or tried to kill them were walking free, because they had not yet been prosecuted - or when they were, they got off or were only sentenced to a year. The man that took over the government after everything that happened is Paul Kagame, who led the Rwandan Patriotic Army (an army of Tutsis led to beat the Hutus and stop the genocide) and he is still the president - he has been the president (in reality, if not in title) now for 26 years. He alone controls the allegiance of the RPF and so holds all of the power in the country. The government owns all of the industries and major companies; there are rumors that Kagame actively supports discrimination against Hutus, doing nothing to quell the hatred and resentment between the two ethnic groups that started the genocide in the first place.

When we intervene in places where politics are vastly more complicated, in which corrupt government is a way of life, how can we ever be sure that we are doing any good?  I would have thought that the toppling of Saddam Hussein was a magnificent achievement, but you can see that brought us little support - from Iraqis themselves, from our own countrymen, from the world community. Did we do good in Iraq? That question may not be able to be answered yet. Of course I believe that Kony should pay for his crimes; they are ghastly. But I am unsure if we are the ones to make him do it. I have a feeling that if we remove him from power, the LRA will continue, or at the very least, ethnic conflict will not cease. Just as Iraq is not now a sparkling example of democratic government: it is now open to insurgents of all kind, waiting for a new dictator. I would hope that the use of child soldiers would cease with Kony's capture, but this practice is not limited to Uganda - it wasn't started there and it won't end there. Child soldiers are used in Chad, the DRC, Somalia, Haiti, the Phillippines, they were used in Chechnya, Libya, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka.

Although I want to be swept away with fervor and belief that finding and charging Joseph Kony is a good move, a move for justice, one we can actually say "there we did good," I am caught. I wonder if we should intervene - I wonder if it will do more harm than good, due to forces we cannot now perceive.

Mirror of Justice, pray for us.

Speculum Justitia by Klauber, 1750


  1. I was wondering about the same sorts of things too, when I watched part of it this morning. There's always so much uproar for the US to do things and then when we do there's a huge backlash with everyone (including the people who say we should be doing things) shouting that we shouldn't be "the world's policeman." It sometimes seems that any action is going to be seen as the wrong on, particularly since the situations and the ways out, are often so messy.

    I did see this a few minutes before I read your post:

    It says that the US has 100 advisors there, trying to help their military find Kony, and has made no mention of withdrawing them. I'll admit that the more I read the more dubious I am of the group.

    I hope that he is caught. I just wonder at them leaving out so many of the current facts, and making it seems as if the worst of the violence against children is going on right now. The story is bad enough as it is. I just wish they were a tiny bit more upfront about it!

  2. A really great book to read about the Rwandan genocide is "Left to Tell," as well as "Led by Faith." The author, Immaculee, is an amazing woman who made it through and grew so much stronger in her faith. Highly highly recommended!

  3. I agree Lianna - I loved both of those books, and they were among the books I read about the genocide. Incredibly moving, that's for sure!

    I have some of the same thoughts, Cammie. I don't give much credence to people who say we're "assuaging white guilt" - so we should feel bad if we try to help people of a different skin color, and bad if we don't? I can't find any logic in those arguments. But I will say that oftentimes America sends a small group of soldiers to "help" and nothing happens...for years. Nothing happens because the hunt is actually being led by the country in trouble, whose military command is riddled with corruption and back-dealing.

    So we could go in there and take over, then face horrific critiques (even though that's probably the only way something will happen this year), or we can waste our time there, trying to urge Ugandans to do something that they may or may not actually want to do (upper level government may be enjoying peace as a way to get support, but may incite war as a way to get people to rely on them more).

    I understand why many Africans want us to stay out, but I also feel the urgency of the filmmakers. Why can't we do something? Unfortunately, I think the answer is that because in situations like these, there may be nothing we can actually do to help.


Comments make me feel like I'm not just talking to myself or the government (because I know the government secretly reads my blog). Help me feel less crazy - comment away!