Joseph Kony is a Ugandan warlord who leads the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who are believed to have abducted and recruited over 50,000 child soldiers, displaced over two million people and killed countless thousands since 1987.
Obviously, it is a good thing that global awareness is being raised of crimes committed by a mass murderer. Young people are using social media to convey their feelings about the issue and spread the message on.
The real issue lies with the organisation behind this campaign – Invisible Children (IC) – which has faced much criticism, mainly because it only spends about 37.14% of its income in Uganda itself and much of this money goes to the corrupt Ugandan establishment to fund the Ugandan People’s Defence Force who commit similar atrocities to the LRA. Much of this criticism has hit IC’s fundamentalist evangelical Christian co-founder, Jason Russell, who reportedly takes a $90,000 salary.
What is the message of the KONY2012 campaign and why did victims of the LRA throw stones at the projector when they were shown it? The underlying message is demanding and propagating the idea of Western military intervention in Uganda, even though it is widely accepted that the LRA now operate out of north-east DR Congo, not Uganda, and most estimates estimate that there are only 250 LRA soldiers left.
The aim of the KONY2012 campaign is to promote Western military intervention into Uganda. The campaign supported Obama’s decision last October to send 100 US military advisors into the country. The attention the campaign has received has allowed the placement of 5,000 soldiers in the area indefinitely until Kony is caught by the African Union, which is bankrolled by the US.
The KONY2012 campaign logo has the Republican and Democratic parties’ symbols in it, which clearly shows that it does not see any issues with US foreign policy. The campaign was made viral “tapping” twelve influential policy makers and 20 celebrities who have popular Twitter accounts, including former US President George W. Bush, his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Senator John Kerry.
Western imperialism has huge interests in Uganda. In February, 2.5 billion barrels of oil discovered in Ugandan lakes were sold off by the corrupt Museveni government to Irish multinational Tullow Oil, who in 2010 had an operating profit of $234,600,000. This deal was made despite a parliamentary resolution against signing new oil contracts until a bill regulating the oil industry was finalised. This contract was followed up with the “suppression of illegal fishing methods” in the lakes, which has resulted in over 90% unemployment in the traditional fishing industry. Thousands feel as though they are about to be “chased out” of their ancestral homes to allow drilling to take place. Any Western intervention into Uganda will be aimed at defending and extending these interests, not defending ordinary Ugandans.
The suffering of the people of Uganda – as across the neo-colonial world – will not be solved by Western charities, no matter how well meaning, and it certainly won’t be solved by imperialist intervention. We should give all practical assistance possible to the struggles of the African masses, but the greatest solidarity we can show them is to build a socialist movement here to challenge Western imperialist and corporate dominance of the continent.