More perspective on Kony2012

I know Glenna Gordon from her time in Uganda and she was one of the few American journalists who covered the later stages of the Kony war in northern Uganda. She was part of a group of journalists who travelled well with Ugandan and South Sudan officials between 2005-2009 as they went into the jungles to try and secure a peace deal with Kony. In fact she’s the one who took that photo of Invisible Children  founders holding guns among SPLA soldiers. She lived in Uganda for years and worked in West Africa too. She’s the kind of journalist and voice that I wish viewers of this video would hear more often. This was her take on the video when she spoke to the Washington Post.

 I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I found all of their previous efforts to be emotionally manipulative, and all the things I try as a journalist not to be. After the peace talks in 2008, they put out another video, and I saw the footage used in these videos blending archival footage with LRA and SPLA and videos of them goofing off. It was the most irresponsible act of image-making that I’d seen in a long time. They conflated the SPLA with the LRA. The SPLA is a government army, holding weapons given by the government, and yet they did not create any division between them and LRA. That’s terrible.

And for that Ms Gordon got a response from filmmaker defending Invisible Children with the worst of all narrative of three boys trying to save Africans instead of playing Angry Birds.

I also spoke to Victor Ochen who has lived in this war and now is a director of African Youth Initiative Network, which is working in northern Uganda to rehabilitate the community. The organization has different approaches that cover trauma and war related conditions that need surgery. These are the kind of good willed humble people that should be getting the much needed help to bring back generations in northern Uganda to their feet.

It’s good piece of video put together and they had good intentions. We agree on one thing we need to end the atrocities.  But Invisible Children are focusing more on an American solution to an African conflict that the holistic approach which should include regional governments and people who are very key to make this a success. The video also looks at LRA from a bush perspective but there’s a political perspective and in this campaign we are far from stopping more harm on the victims. Campaigning on killing one man and that’s the end is not enough. To me even a bullet isn’t good enough for Kony, killing him alone will not be enough. There are many people who are caught up in this war.  Every war has its own victims. We should be looking at ways to support victims not just in Uganda but all other countries affected. As far as I know Invisible Children in invisible on the ground and in communities.  They have good access to international media but they have no connection with the community they claim to represent.

Teddy Ruge is Ugandan and a lead social media strategist for the Connect4Climate campaign at the World Bank. He is co-founder of Project Diaspora, an online platform for mobilizing members of Africa Diaspora to engage in the continent’s development. In January he received a Champion of Change award from the White House for his community development work in East Africa. This is what he said on the Kony2012 video.

 It is a slap in the face to so many of us who want to rise from the ashes of our tumultuous past and the noose of benevolent, paternalistic, aid-driven development memes. We, Africans, are sandwiched between our historically factual imperfections and well-intentioned, road-to-hell-building-do-gooders. It is a suffocating state of existence. To be properly heard, we must ride the coattails of self-righteous idiocy train. Even then, we have to fight for our voices to be respected


Another Ugandan Citizen journalist Maureen Agena grew up in Northern Uganda, Lango sub region and studied at St. Mary’s College Aboke, a school from which Joseph Kony’s rebels abducted 139 girls in ordinary level. She blogs at Dignity in Poverty wrote: I am a visible child from Northern Uganda. Who are the “Invisible Children”?


 I hardly doubt that the people of Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions in Uganda, the most affected by this war have any idea that a video talking about their plight has gone viral on the internet. It’s 2012 and the people of Northern and eastern Uganda are in the post conflict era and re-settling. Why doesn’t the video at least give a brief  highlight of this current situation rather than threaten the entire globe with out-dated information? Does “Invisible Children” have an idea what impression of Uganda has been portrayed to a world that still believes Idi Amin is alive and still terrorising us? What will happen to our tourism sector?

A Uganda journalist writes for Insight on Conflict.

Is it about the dollars or a false belief that unless Americans know about it, no solution comes our way? Could it be that we are leaving the real change agents in oblivion as we search for solutions elsewhere? For example, the Juba Peace Talks 2006-2008, which restored stability and paved way for the end to abductions in northern Uganda, was not an American invention. It was local civil society and peace actors like the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiatives (ARLPI) who pushed for a negotiated solution. In fact the moment America got involved, we witnessed “Operation Lightening Thunder”- a military operation with disastrous effects as the LRA eluded air strikes, and scattered into DR Congo and the Central African Republic where they continue to commit atrocities in retaliation.


47 thoughts on “More perspective on Kony2012

  1. Hello Rosebell,

    As one of the many who watched the Kony2012 video and had an intense emotional reaction, I have been following the subsequent stories and analysis very closely. Thank you for posting your responses and for putting together these insights that can be shared with people all over the world.

    I am Canadian, and my own family is comprised of members born in Canada, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zambia and Switzerland. We are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic family which exists, in part, because of war and conflict across the ages and across the continents. I have always felt a deep need to participate in social justice efforts, both locally and globally. I have desired, not to act as a “white saviour”, but just the opposite – to participate as an ally. However, I can appreciate now that my interpretation of the video and my subsequent desire to share it and support “the cause” was influenced by my own blind spots, privilege and lack of fact.

    Yet, that video and the resulting ripples have caused me to open my eyes even further. It has brought me to blogs like yours. Why does it matter that a Canadian woman cares about reading a Ugandan woman’s thoughts?

    This global discussion of the video – of whose voices get heard and by whom, of empowerment and of “charity”, of the myriad of ways in which a person’s daily actions affect another’s across the world, of power and powerlessness, of privilege and guilt, of racism and misguided “good intentions”, of illusion and perspective and thought and hope and love – this is a discussion that I believe can illuminate a shared path forward to a better world.


  2. Dear Rosebell, thank you very much for your insightful words. I am Brazilian, but I have been living in the U.S. for a long time now. I heard of this video from my teenage son a couple of days ago. I watched it and something about it didn’t feel right, but I could not put my finger on it. The day after, I started doing some research about the whole thing. I stumbled upon many well written and thoughtful critiques of the video, including yours. I have been sharing them on my facebook page in an effort to counterbalance the hype of Kony 2012. It is incredible how easily people can fall for MTV type of faux activism without critically thinking about it. All the best to you and yours, Regina Camargo

  3. Dear Ms. Kagumire,

    I come to your site with a story of a blogger who meant well, was given the opportunity to learn and grow finding your wisdom. I took the Kony 2012 on face value. I take Mr. Russell on face value… yet I learned the vast difference in the power of genuine protocol vs emotionally manipulative propaganda. Perhaps well meant, too. I no longer know. Thanks to you I have a more genuine grassroots awareness. Bless you and thank you. I must thank the lady on FB who posted you, a Ms. Williams from the Wild Wild Left room on FB … I am sincerely grateful. Here is link to the ever updated post I made: RoundTree7 gee I hope that works. 🙂 Genuinely, Gwendolyn H. Barry

  4. Thank you so much for being suspicious of Americans who will lend support to military action via the click of a button on youtube. The disassociation between the realities of military action and the support of such action seems endemic here, in America.

    I pray for the best in Uganda, and globally.

  5. Dear Ms. Kagumire,

    Thank you very much fore giving more perspective on the LRA conflict.
    I respect and appreciate not only the arguments presented here but the very valid feeling of hurt pride that comes through at some points being that the Kony 2012 video is very superficial and makes it sound at points as if there is not much being done in Uganda about the conflict.

    Still we have to take in consideration that the Kony 2012 campaign is an initiative not taken by a journalist, but by a normal person and yes, it is full of dramatical scenes and miss judgments, “americanisms”, some amount of ignorance, miss information and even, naiveness, but we have to take in consideration that it brought the conflict to the spotlight all over the world.

    Now people that had no idea about it are aware of it. This discussion and many more are only happening because of it, so it is very clear that despite the bad it may do it is doing infinit times more good. More people are researching the true facts about the conflict and not only taking the video as the only source of information.


    Tiago Nunes

    1. I think that Tiago has made such a valid point! I can only join in to say that if this video was not published for all to see, a lot of us would still be in the dark about what’s really happening on that side of the planet.

  6. From the word go, I realized there was something wrong with the video. The hype was just too much to take. I immediately started doing my research on the LRA and to my dismay, this Ugandan crisis is in its post conflict period, meaning tensions have calmed down and reports have it that Kony is no longer in Uganda. Sadly, the web has been caught up in a frenzy of looking for a rebel leader, with twitter, facebook and youtube filled with reposts of Kony 2012 videos. I am grateful you have taken a quick response to this video and have shared other journalists’ perspectives with us via your blog. Now we are digging further to the motivation of this Invisible Children organization. I sincerely got pissed off when the narrator in the Kony 2012 video stated emphatically that Kony has no sponsors or allies. How could they be that sure? We should now be hypothesizing about the true intentions of this organization. Thanks Rosebell, I am in the process of giving your blog more prominence!

    1. I just don’t understand why If Kony is no longer in Uganda, he is no longer an issue.
      He moved to other countries, but his crimes are still the same. I am not defending that US is the solution, but the fact that he is no longer in Uganda should not calm the situation.

      1. Having dealt with a shady organization before that often silenced the voices of people they claim to represent. I was immediately sceptical of the Kony 2012 video and questioned people who linked it. A friend on facebook linked your response video and it really nailed the concerns I had with the situation. Thank you for putting yourself out there to bring this to people’s attention overseas.


  8. I am a northern Ugandan from Gulu, the area worst affected by the Kony/Museveni war but beg to differ from Rosebell’s opinion. And I think I speak for the vast majority of northern Ugandans who are very grateful to Invisible Children for bringing their plight to the world spotlight. The typical reaction is that with the spotlight on Kony’s capture perhaps justice will be done after all, and both Kony first and President Museveni and his brutal army will face justice for crimes against humanity and human rights violations during the long conflict. Unfortunately, we can only hope for justice and intervention from “saviour figures” outside the country because of the utter neglect, discrimination and suppression against northern Uganda from Museveni’s government. Efforts on peace talks and other initiatives from within have been repeatedly frustrated and struck down (1994 peace talks is a glaring example).
    For those who complain that the war is long over in northern Uganda I ask, is it OK for Kony to continue killing and abducting children in Congo, S Sudan and Central African Republic? Is is OK for northern Ugandans to be plagued with the worry that Kony could one day return? Wouldn’t capturing and putting Kony on trial bring at least half-closure for the victims, even if other perpetrators still go free? Cessation of active fighting does not necessarily mean life has returned to the people suffering from long drawn psychological trauma starting to rebuild their lives from scratch without much help.
    Those like Rosebell who are criticising the KONY 2012 campaign would rather see the Kony problem hidden under the carpet or are too embarrassed by the 20-year unwillingness and/or failure of the Ugandan government to bring an end to their suffering under Kony. Tell me, how could a rag-tag foot army of a few thousand composed mostly forced recruits elude a powerful government army of over 50,000 with sophisticated weapons?
    One of the tools the Ugandan government apologists are using is playing the “colonialist” or “neo-colonialist” or “western saviour” card to sidetrack viewers from the real issue which is the documented UNWILLINGNESS and FAILURE by the Ugandan government to contain Kony all these 25 years! Should we continue advocating for the same remedies again after it has failed again and again? Reminds me of the famous Einstein quote, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
    I think it is very disingenuous of Rosebell Kagumire, a journalist I previously respected to be misleading the world in this manner. I hope enough people see through it.

  9. Hi Rose.I work for a humanitarian organisation in Central Africa Republic.your responce is very accurate and I truly identify with your comments.The situation in Central Africa republic is very complex.there are almost 10 different rebel groups who continue to commit various astrocities againist the civilian population here.The Kony group needs to be destroyed ,however we need to be careful not to lift it to celebrity status thus complicating the fight againist the group.The situation is too complex to be understood using such a simplistic video.By the also took me more than 15 minutes to understand what the video was all about.

  10. Soon, it not tomorrow, the movie will have been viewed 100 000 000 times on Youtube and Vimeo. That’s quite an accomplishment. Two weeks ago “no one” talked about Kony and LRA, today “everyone”. Talk about a catalyst. Suddenly this page and others increase their traffic with several thousand 1000%. It seems to me that IC really has accomplished what they set out to do, put Kony, LRA and the conflicts in Uganda, DRC and South Sudan on the agenda. I applaud them.

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