The success of the Kony movement could result in more violence in Africa
// Jonty Davies

With the bombastic momentum of a runaway freight train, the movement known as Stop Kony 2012 has taken over social networking sites all over the Internet. The Stop Kony campaign is an organized initiative to raise awareness of and put an end to alleged atrocities committed in Uganda by one Joseph Kony – acknowledged leader of a militant guerilla faction known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Kony has been said to employ tactics of warfare so heinous that the Western world's eyes have been stunned by its realities. The horrors are very real and fully deserve our attention, but the Stop Kony 2012 movement is at its core a call to arms, and this is not necessarily for the best – as it may be a call that leads to further violence in Africa.

Stop Kony 2012 was a documentary film created by the organization Invisible Children and directed by Jason Russell. It’s been hugely effective at building unique appeal. Rather than guilting the viewer into financial participation like most charity commercials, the film invites you to join a grassroots initiative of celebritizing Kony. This is to be done by purchasing pass-it-on bracelets and an action kit stacked with stylized posters of the man. Participants are instructed to blanket cities around the world with these posters in a single night of action on Apr. 20.

Since Kony 2012's meteoric success, it has been met with backlash. Any rational person can see that horrors of such a magnitude need to be dealt with, but many sceptics have looked past the sheen of the emotional pitch and on to the negative realities that may come as a result. Some have gone as far as outright deride the movement as a dangerous thing promoting the wrong kind of global behaviour. Concern is directed toward the actions that are to constitute the “removal” of Kony. Because the film was produced in the United States, and the majority of people getting involved will also be American citizens, the issue has become something for America to deal with. There is major uncertainty about the whereabouts and current activity of Joseph Kony and the American government's speculated action will involve sending soldiers on a typically American crusade of interventionism that will threaten Ugandan sovereignty.

As Adam Branch, a senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda wrote, “It is an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are ‘useful idiots’, being used by those in the US government who seek to militarize Africa, to send more and more weapons and military aid, and to bolster the power of states who are US allies.”

He argues that the United States would intend to pursue militarism anyway, and with millions of young North Americans demanding it, they are put in an easier position to do so. Branch goes on to suggest that the very considerable problems facing the Ugandan people have little to do with Kony. The Acholi people are being forced from their land by foreign speculators, many of whom are in collaboration with the Ugandan government.

The problems are not about Joseph Kony. There are many other warlords around Africa committing just as many horrific crimes – the problems are systemic. Africa is a conflicted place that houses massive deposits of oil. Central Africa is also estimated to have up to 80 per cent of the world's coltan reserves. The primary mineral extracted from coltan is tantalum – a substance found in almost every electronic device, most universally, the cellphone in your pocket. The ethics surrounding the mining of these minerals are suspect and known to involve high levels of violence.

Public support will allow for interventionist action, and as humanists like Branch who operate in the region acknowledge, this will do more harm than good. The military presence will allow for strong-arm style domination in the region, offering the land and its resources to the occupier. If these warring factions are content with raping children for the sake of maintaining their limited regional power, they're highly unlikely to accept sanctioning measures lightly. They already make a habit of clashing with government troops as it is, and violence will escalate, rather than be extinguished.

By being rallied into action around Kony 2012, we are misguidedly believing that we’re doing all we can to stop the violence, yet are inadvertently encouraging it. These warlords operate on a take-what-you-will basis and have shown no past hesitation to violently defend or pursue what they believe to be theirs.

//Jonty Davies, web editor
//Graphics by Tiare Jung

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