This blog wishes all Ugandans around the world a happy independence day!
Angelo Izama, Ugandan journalist (and a good friend of yours truly) has a thoughtful op-ed piece in the Times. He makes the case that:
Campaigns like “Kony 2012” aspire to frame the debate about these criminals and inspire action to stop them. Instead, they simply conscript our outrage to advance a specific political agenda — in this case, increased military action.
African leaders, after all, are adept at pursuing their own agendas by using the resources that foreign players inject and the narratives that they prefer — whether the post-9/11 war on terror or the anti-Kony crusade. And these campaigns succeed by abducting our anger and holding it hostage. Often they replace the fanaticism of evil men with our own arrogance, and, worse, ignorance. Moreover, they blind us by focusing on the agents of evil and not their principals.
At the same time over at FP Nobert Mao, politician from northern Uganda and former presidential candidate, has the following to say:
It’s clear that the aim of the video [Kony 2012] was never intellectual stimulation. I don’t think the founders of Invisible Children are the foremost analysts of the complicated political, historical and security dynamics in our troubled part of Africa. They certainly wouldn’t earn high marks in African Studies. But I will go to my grave convinced that they have the most beautiful trait on earth — compassion.
Such sentiments matter, even today. There are those who say the war is over in Northern Uganda. I say the guns are silent but the war is not over. The sky is overcast with an explosive mix of dubious oil deals, land grabs, arms proliferation, neglected ex-combatants, and a volatile neighborhood full of regimes determined to fish in troubled waters. What we have is a tentative peace. Our region is pregnant with the seeds of conflict. The military action in the jungles of Congo may capture Kony, but we need to do more to plant the seeds of peace founded on democracy, equitable development, and justice. Like peace, war too has its mothers, fathers, midwives, babysitters, and patrons. Perhaps Kony 2012 will help sort out the actors. The video has certainly shaken the fence, making fence-sitting very uncomfortable, indeed.
The two may disagree on the usefulness of tactics such as those that made the now famous video, but they certainly agree on the need to acknowledge agency of local actors in all these problems that require outside intervention.
My two cents on this is that there is definitely room for Africans to shape the narrative and tactics of advocacy in Western capitals (or elsewhere). Emotionally charged mobilization tactics, like Kony 2012, are definitely a distraction from the real issues. But they also present an opportunity for African actors to leverage international attention and support against their own leaders who refuse to deal with problems that affect their daily lives. I am glad that in the case of Kony 2012 Ugandans have stepped in to provide perspective on the narrative and, hopefully, influence the eventual response by the relevant policymakers in DC.
As if you have not had enough… Click and watch this amazing rap parody of Invisible’s Kony2012 campaign.
With due apologies to the eminent economist and journalist.
Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 publicity push is generating some backlash. Here is quoting Under the Banyan:
Critics of the Invisible Children campaign say that while it is well-intentioned and while Kony deserves international condemnation, there are questions about the organisation’s methods, money and support for military action that need to be answered. Others are revulsed (sic) by the idea of foreigners thinking they can solve an entrenched and complex problem with goodwill alone.
I am still learning to block out all the misguided interventions by the members do-gooder industrial complex of our time. Sometimes I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the tenants of State Houses across the Continent to also ignore the prophets of this axis of distraction-from-the-real-problems.
Also, I only discovered Invisible Children after the latest brouhaha but it turns out that Blattman was already in their case three years ago.
H/T A View from the Cave.
Follow the goings on in the DRC (especially this election season) over at Alex Engwete’s blog.
Living under the shadow of Kony and his men in Eastern CAR.
On a related note, the Ugandan army’s dirty war in the Congo and CAR.
Shame on the ANC. But there is still hope for cleaner politics in South Africa. The ANC is an over-size coalition with a high chance of internal breakup in the not so distant future. It might even occur sooner, over the Zuma succession. And this time it might not be a rather benign COPE affair. You can read more on the controversial bill over at the Economist.
Trying God? Churches claim to have cured HIV positive congregants. This goes beyond faith, it is naked exploitation. And a call for government involvement.
And lastly, a very dictator Christmas (via Blattman)
Just in case you forgot, the Kivus are still on fire. Thousands of people remain displaced. Dozens routinely get killed and raped by both government and rebel forces, and sometimes even by UN peacekeepers. Things are crazy bad out there.
Meanwhile, Kabila and his cabal in Kinshasa remain as ineffectual as ever with no apparent strategy or plan, not just for the Kivus, but for the whole country.
The ICG has this nice report on the Congo. People may not agree on the priorities and approaches of resolving the conflict in the Kivu’s, but this report provides a good background for those who are new to the conflict.
Also check out this Report on the Congo from the Congressional Research Office.
IRIN news reports that arrests in Europe of political leaders of rebel movements in the Congo may not have much impact on the goings on on the ground. Even the FDLR is not immune to the commonplace principal-agent problems we are all aware of. The disconnect between the political leaders in Europe and generals on the ground is limiting the deterrence effects of the arrests.
I am not a huge fan of the ICC. But I am not one to throw out the baby with the bath water. The institution has potential to be a voice for the voiceless. Because of the ICC Kenyan politicians in the future will think twice before ordering jobless youth to murder innocent civilians. Because of the ICC rebel leaders cannot fly in and out of Brussels to raise money with abandon. These are not trivial achievements.
Accusations against the court’s Africa-bias may have some merit. Even more important are charges that the court does not appreciate the political consequences of justice or that the very idea of justice is political (see the Bashir case in Sudan). Others even point out the fact that going after the big fish ignores local offenses that also require redress. These are serious concerns that the ICC should address. But that said, overall I think that the ICC does more good than harm.
That Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants are still alive and well is testament to the ineptitude of the Ugandan and Congolese armies. The Ugandan rebel leader continues to roam the forests in the border regions of Chad, the DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan, killing villagers with abandon. The BBC reports that late last year the Lord’s Resistance Army massacred more than 300 people.
The LRA has morphed into a thuggish movement with loads of ideological deficit. They stand no chance of reaching Kampala and so roam in the forests of the great lakes region killing villagers and abducting children. This is yet another textbook case on the Continent of a rebellion that festers on for no other reason than because of state incapacity.
I just started reading this comic about the LRA in northern Uganda. Check it out if you have some spare time.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to run amok in the great lakes region, killing, maiming and abducting civilians at will. The governments of Uganda, The DRC, Central African Republic and Southern Sudan have proven unable to provide a solution to the LRA problem once and for all. A joint military operation by the governments of Uganda and the DRC early this year only served to fuel further attacks from the rebel movement – leading to 500 deaths, according to a UN report.
All this makes one wonder: How hard can it be to conclusively deal with the LRA? They need not be completely routed. The huge UN peacekeeping force in the DRC and the very active Ugandan military must be capable of reducing the human toll from the operations of LRA. And more importantly, isn’t it time that Uganda made up its mind on whether it wants to negotiate or pursue a military solution to the conflict with Kony and his murderous gang? Kampala’s indecision continues to cause hundreds of deaths in the wider great lakes region. Museveni should either agree to talk with Kony or take the fight to him (conclusively – and this can be done, with proper planning and commitment. The LRA is not al-Qaeda or al-Shabab). Fighting a war of attrition with a rebel movement whose MO is to maim and abduct young children is simply not an option.