Sometime back a gory image of roasted bodies lying strewn across a field went viral across Face book and other social networking sites. The caption described it as the handiwork of Muslim fundamentalists in Nigeria who had planted land mines in that place. Expectedly, a flurry of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ was set forth by concerned netizens without giving any second thoughts about genuineness of the same. It all needed just a few clicks on Google to falsify all that had been depicted. The picture no doubt ghastly, was of a gas tanker explosion and not carried out by some Jihadist organization. Why did I mention this in this article? Well, go and watch Kony 2012 on YouTube or below on this page, and you might get the hint.
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Documented by a lesser known NGO by the name of Invisible Children this 30-minute clip aims to make Kony famous (infamous (?)) by highlighting his atrocities. What’s more, going beyond its humanitarian activities it calls upon the US to actively engage in on-field endeavors to nab Kony. Like the former incident this too has spread like a virus throughout the web with 32 million+ views in just a matter of a few days. I had already been spread by numerous Face book ‘shares’ of similar nature to have enough doubts in promptly believing it at the face value. Some further reading and I was convinced that I wasn’t wrong: Kony 2012 is another viral ‘cause’ in the Internet having little truths and many un-truths.
The whole story is about Joseph Kony, an ex-clergy boy turned rebel and his inhuman and grotesque tortures on the natives. His Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been fighting a futile guerilla war with the Ugandan government since decades. But that’s where the truths of the clip end and the fantasies begin. Since it was documented in 2012, it should at least have taken note of the present ground realities. That I presume is its biggest flaw; for the LRA has been inactive in Uganda for the past 6-7 years now, having fled to the neighboring countries with an ever-decreasing rank strength. This very fact makes the affair of making the clip futile. No doubt Joseph Kony is a madman who needs to be captured and prosecuted for his crimes against humanity. That apart, by focusing upon the once-affected areas it is actually making lives harder for those who had been affected.
The people of those places had finally begun to resume a semblance of a normal life by tilling the fields and continuing with their past businesses. The LRA and its atrocities were a thing of the past for them. All of a sudden, a viral video is making fresh all the scars that they had so painstakingly healed. I request all the viewers of that clip to find out about its reactions in Uganda. You might be surprised to find how much this ‘informative’ video is being resented in the country where it is supposed to make an impact.
Another disturbing message from the video is ‘to extensively lobby’ for the deployment US special forces to arrest Kony with the aid of the Ugandan army. The incredulity of this message hinges on two factors. Firstly, we have all seen how US intervention has wreaked havoc on two Middle Eastern countries with the ‘War on Terror’ nowhere nearing its end. The whole idea of another military exercise is being vehemently opposed by all in Uganda. Negotiation by peaceful means is the only way forward, they feel, for the LRA came into existence based on some specific demands and violence isn’t the solution for them.
Secondly, the NGO calls for aiding the Ugandan military against which numerous human rights violation cases have been reported. Many of us completely tend to ignore the fact that LRA itself was born as a result of the excesses of the Ugandan army which used to receive direct support from the former Libyan leader Gaddafi and so against such a backdrop, will it be really wise in helping a tainted army?
The nature and activity of the NGO also leaves many unanswered questions. Charity Navigator rates Invisible Children at 2/4 for failing to make public its expenses. Invisible Children has also been accused of dedicating too little of its funds on real humanitarian work and too much of it on promotional campaigns and advertising. Indeed, many people have complained that it exhorts them to buy promotional clothes and other stuffs resembling more like a corporate brand than an aid organization. An NGO will obviously need funds from people but there is a difference between voluntary aid and corporate salesmanship. And most importantly, it is fighting for a cause that has been dormant for the past several years. Ugandans have arguably a lot of other pressing problems like malaria, malnourishment, nodding disease, etc. at hand that needs far greater attention than the hunt for Kony.
Invisible Children should instead have highlighted the recovery made by the people after decades of devastating civil war. One tends to feel that maybe this video is a last-minute bid to sensationalize an issue for which the NGO was created and the same that has been dead for a long time now.
Putting aside all these discrepancies, even if we believe that Invisible Children really did have a noble intention behind making that documentary it is nevertheless guilty of spreading half-truths and concocted ground realities. It is also equally guilty of advocating the use of military to propose the end to what really is a conflict of principles, never realizing at the same time that this will spell even more humanitarian woes for impoverished Uganda. It should have kept in mind that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” especially in the Internet age where there exists a whole batch of people waiting to ‘like’ and ‘share’ anything ‘noble’ without delving a bit into its authenticity.
|This is a Guest Post by Manish Parashar. He is a B.E. Mechanical Engineering student at the Manipal Institute of Technolgy, Manipal.