The story of Uganda (or, this will not turn into a kony blog, i promise)

It seems that weekly a new cause comes across your preferred social media channel. Save this! Stop that! How do you hang your purse?

In each case you have to make a choice, is this something I want to commit time and resources to? There is awesome power in the connecting ability of the web, and this is one of them. You do have to fight against the feeling that all we have to do to make the world a better place is like something on Facebook. In some cases that’s great and that’s enough, but I hope we all have something that we go much deeper with, care about much more, and impact much more.

Kony 2012 is about a part of the world I care about, and its an important cause, so naturally I am attracted to it, and has caused me to post more stuff on facebook then i probably ever have before, but not really for the reasons you might expect. There has been a fair amount of controversy over the campaign for lots of reasons. Fair enough, the controversy is good. Do your research and make up your mind.

But, i am sure about one thing. There are a lot of people who have never really thought much about Uganda and Africa who are thinking about it now. This is good. We need to know what is going on in the world around us. I fear though that a lot of people are stopping at the end of the 30 minutes, and making some assumptions about the African continent and Uganda in particular that are half truths…or just plain wrong.

I saw this on facebook:

Im not sure exactly what the person who posted this was thinking in her mind when she siad it, so, I am not in any way saying she specifically is taking a narrow view. But, This gets to the heart of my concern. Suddenly there are a lot of people who have a very narrow view of Uganda. This one from an article on Huff Post Teen makes me sad:

However, the largest problem with the concept of military intervention is that it does not really solve the problem. Sure, taking down Joseph Kony would be beneficial, but it would only go so far. Within Uganda, the problem goes deeper than one man and his policy. The Kony regime is a complex organization that is integrated into the country’s politics. By removing Kony and his regime, we would leave Uganda leaderless and in chaos. Uganda’s problems extend beyond a military regime; in fact, the entire country is in disarray. Economic underdevelopment is the main blockage of progress in Uganda. Simply removing Kony from power in Uganda may have short-term implications, however, in the long run, it is a foolishly placed effort. (emphasis mine)

So, I’m going to say first off that Uganda is not in disarray. The country has its problems, but disarray is a bit strong. And it is unequivocally and absolutely false that removing Kony is going to leave Uganda leaderless. Uganda has a president: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Think what you will about him, but he is the leader of Uganda, not Kony, who is not even in Uganda. This paragraph seems to be born out of some assumptions about Uganda which arguably the Kony 2012 video helps perpetuate, and that this article continues to perpetuate. I think it is awesome that a 16 year old is writing articles that get published and linked to on facebook. I think its awesome that he is thinking about issues of economic development and long term good, and how to best serve people. He is thinking about really important stuff, like aid vs development, the wisdom of military intervention, and the United States role in all of that. But it makes me sad that he seems to have bought into this narrative of Africa as a place defined by chaos and disarray. There is chaos in parts of Africa, and disarray, and really bad things happening, and people like Kony running around causing a lot of hurt. But that is not all there is. Uganda is not just kony, and its not just victims of kony. We sell ourselves and them (and really, God’s creative and redemptive power) short if we only focus on kony.

I am going to level one brief criticism against Invisible Children, and then ill move onto what i really want this post to be about (thats all just introduction!).  Invisible Children has said:

Our films are made for high school children. We make films that speak the language of kids. We say, “You may live thousands of miles away from these problems in Uganda, but those kids are just like you, and you can do something to help them by getting your government and your self involved.” Our films weren’t made to be scrutinized by the Guardian. They were made to get young people involved in some of the world’s worst crimes. We can’t solve every crime, and we don’t intend to. But we can help fight the worst crimes.

I think they are selling their audience a little short. We should expect and equip high school students to think critically and deeply. Chase, who wrote the article above is. I feel like IC does their target audience a disservice by not inviting them into a deeper conversation about Africa. They have a captive audience and the skills to do it. Their website and community could be an amazing place for teens and adults to have their assumptions about Africa challenged.

Now…watch this video. I have posted it before…you really should watch it. Its shorter then the Kony video, so no excuses!:

Here is my challenge: Watch Kony 2012. Let your heart be brokem, do your research and respond to it the way you feel you should. Learn about Kony and understand the issues around the LRA as best you feel you need to. International Crisis Group has a report called “The Lord’s Resistance Army: End Game?” which is an interesting read. Download it here (pdf).

But here is the bigger challenge. Don’t let Kony 2012 be the only story about Uganda. Those 30 minutes must be your starting place, not your ending place. Dig a bit deeper past the assumptions and learn about the good and the bad in Africa. Africa does not have to be your life long passion, but make sure you at least go a little past kony 2012. I would love it if every time somebody posted about kony on facebook they also posted something else they learned about Uganda, positive or negative.

Here are a few things to start with:

People in Uganda make really cool creative stuff.

There are lots of cell phones

and beautiful places

There are people working really hard to make their country better.

There is good food

and churches

and gracious hosts.

There are villages that need water

And Ugandans working to provide it.

There are giraffes.

Giraffes seems like a good one to end on.

I asked Isaac, who lives in Uganda, to tell me a few things he would want people to know that are good about his home. Here is what he said:

First of all uganda is country crossed by a coast line, uganda has so many beautiful sceneries to watch, mountains, hills, valleys, the green environment, the waters with alot of falls, the tourist attractions, the hospitality of the people, different cultures, how people dress in each and every culture, lots of different languages spoken by different, different types of food that is eaten, alot of farming is done, the source of river nile in jinja.

For the knowledge that am getting now in college in swaziland, i just look forward to uplift the people in uganda to have a spirit of togetherness, and being like minded, serving God, and also working hand in hand with kibo group just like i have been doing, so that we help other people in the villages to grow up.

Isaac’s Uganda is not defined by Kony…we should not let our understanding of Uganda be defined by him ether.



2 Replies to “The story of Uganda (or, this will not turn into a kony blog, i promise)”

  1. Great ideas. Thanks West. I can recommend a good number of my friends to look at this as they are mixed up on their reactions towards the Kony2012 video.


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