Dr . Payam Akhavan, is a former UN Prosecutor at The Hague, he advised the Ugandan Government on the LRA case before the ICC as part of a broader strategy of isolating and defeating Kony in 2003-2005. He is now a professor of international law at McGill University n Montreal. I have known Payam for a few years. Here is what he told me about KONY2012
“The video is ten years too late. Watching it, one imagines that nobody was ever involved in this struggle before they started filming. Back in 2003, we devised a brilliant strategy with highly competent Ugandan officials on how to eliminate the LRA by depriving them of rear-bases in southern Sudan. Within two years, the war in Uganda was over and Joseph Kony’s force of several thousand was reduced to a few hundred fugitives in the Congo.
The failure to capture him thus far has nothing to do with lack of funds. It is a complex intelligence operation against a cunning and ruthless adversary who knows how to survive in the jungle. The millions in funds gathered so far are needed for rehabilitation of former child soldiers and their communities, not to pay overhead for NGOs in America. The video may be useful for public education since the world is woefully ignorant about Africa. But its content is at best uninformed and at worst deceptive. Exploiting other people’s suffering for self-promotion is unethical.
Had the Ugandan communities directly affected been consulted, the video would have had a very different focus, and the millions of dollars in funds too would have reached those that need it most.”
Over the last few days I have received thousands of emails in response to the video I put out in response to KONY2012. Most of the emails were from grateful people who had learnt something from my video. I am unable to read all the responses and reply you all at this time but your efforts are very much appreciated.
Most responses indicated they want to support the Ugandan child and be sure that the help goes to the right cause.
More than 3000 children in northern Uganda are currently battling a mysterious disease that has come to be known as nodding disease. Please read more from Wikipedia about Nodding Disease. There are so far 170 reported deaths.
In brief, nodding disease is a mentally and physically disabling disease that only affects children between the ages of 5 and 15. Victims get seizures on the smell of food or when they get cold. Read more from previous blog
With the healthcare system in northern Uganda wrecked by war and in a country where the right to healthcare is not guaranteed, most children suffering from this disease have been going through unbearable suffering. Parents are forced to painfully tie their children to trees.
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.
For the last many hours i have followed a campaign by Invisible Children NGO called KONY2012 that has gone viral getting more than 20 million hits on Youtube. I am a story teller and i know the danger of a single story . It is something many people can easily ignore especially if we are outsiders to the story.
This is the video i recorded late in the night. It’s longer than i would have wanted but i just wanted to put my views out there on a conflict I have covered as a journalist and a people I have worked among as a communications officer at Isis-WICCE. I don’t in any way think I represent views of Uganda like some comments i have seen. This is me talking about the danger of portraying people with one single story and using old footage to cause hysteria when it could have been possible to get to DRC and other affected countries get a fresh perspective and also include other actors.