Could Kony 2012 incite a Ugandan Revolution?
Thanks to the viral Kony 2012 video, millions of people around the world believe that the U.S. sent in military advisors for humanitarian efforts rather than to secure access to some of the largest energy reserves on the planet. The non-profit group Invisible Children (IC), creators of the Kony 2012 video, attempts to take credit for U.S. military intervention by saying that “[a]fter eight years of work, the government finally heard us, and in October of 2011, 100 American advisors were sent to Central Africa to assist the Ugandan Army in arresting Kony and stopping the LRA.” Such a statement is meant to refute and appear to triumph over an earlier, pessimistic statement made in the video that “[t]here is no way the United States will ever get involved in a conflict where our national security or financial interests aren’t at stake.” The Kony 2012 video is a well-crafted piece of humanitarian propaganda aimed at affluent and educated 20-and-30-somethings who one blogger self-describes as being “hipster humanitarians” who are “extraordinarily cause driven” and “convicted to help fix the world.” What makes this piece of propaganda so deadly is that it disguises the true reason for U.S. attempts to gain a military toehold in the African Great Lakes Region
by convincing a demographic, which has historically been anti-war, that war equals peace when humanitarian issues are pressing. Adam Branch, a senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda summarizes the criticism of the IC’s modus operandi from those with a more nuanced knowledge of Uganda as “warmongering… [narcissistic]… [commercializing]” of creating a “reductive and one-sided story” and “[portraying]… Africans as helpless children in need of rescue by white Americans.” In two days we will see if IC legitimately addresses the concerns raised by Mr. Branch and others or if IC redoubles its efforts to advocate for U.S. military action as the only way to “fix” Uganda as the Kony 2012, part II video is due out on April 3rd. Though I am highly critical of the Kony 2012 video, it does not mean I am against the prosecution of war criminals. However, if the International Criminal Court (ICC) is to be considered the legitimate institution recognized by the peoples of the world for such prosecutions to take place, then it must begin to issue indictments impartially. While it is true the International Criminal Court (ICC) must start somewhere with its prosecutions, the recent conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo should be considered a cautionary tale for those who think arresting/killing Kony will solve the problems of Uganda. Lubanga’s arrest, followed by a long period of languishing in jail with no apparent movement of his court case, led the Hema people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to say the delay was “simply more colonial oppression” and that the real killers are those “in power in Kinshasa.” Now that Lubanga awaits sentencing, former UN Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, invokes the sentiment of the Hema people when he calls President Museveni “a typical candidate for the ICC given his role in co-opting child soldiers into his guerilla outfit that toppled the military government of the late Tito Okello Lutwa in 1986.” The problem is that some in the DRC, namely the Lendu, feel that justice has been served, while the Hema see the trial as more biased western interventionism. Since it is well-known that Uganda and Rwanda exploited the violence in the DRC, Otunnu’s allegations that Lubanga “was actually sponsor[ed] by Ugandan leaders,” and those leaders are not being indicted for the same crimes undermines the legitimacy of the ICC in the eyes of many Africans.” Therefore if Kony is captured and sent to the ICC, there will be calls for Museveni and other Ugandan leaders to be tried as well. Considering that Museveni is already seen as a puppet of western powers by many Ugandans, if the U.S. increases its presence in the region to capture Kony, they could be seen as propping up Museveni’s almost 30-year regime with the result being a possible civil war in Uganda. It is possible the U.S. military, via AFRICOM, will support Museveni because he is a pro-western leader who has recently given British-based Tullow Oil licenses to the most lucrative sections of the Lake Albert Rift basin containing almost 2.5 billion barrels of oil, but another outcome is more likely. Because Museveni committed the cardinal sin against the U.S. and allowed the Chinese to invest heavily in the region, the reality is that Museveni will be marketed as a dictator whose time has come and will probably be allowed to fall to a western-backed, internal revolution much like Gaddafi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt. The result would be the installation of a new government indebted to western powers and who will give away the rights to their country’s energy resources while forcing the Chinese to abandon their infrastructure investments. Kony will still be at-large and AFRICOM will have good reason to spread into the surrounding areas either to find Kony or protect western investments from terrorist attacks. The death toll of such a military intervention will be far beyond that of what can currently be attributed to Kony, yet the Americans who wish to end such slaughter of innocent people will support this effort because of a well-intentioned, but dangerously misguided viral video.