Having grown up in Northern Uganda, Lango sub region to be more specific and studied at St. Mary’s College Aboke, a school from which Joseph Kony’s rebels abducted 139 girls in ordinary level, the name Kony is not new to me.
For the 4 years that I spent in that school (1999-2002), together with other students, I remember praying the Rosary at the School Grotto on daily basis and in the process, reading out the names of the 30 girl who had remained in captivity after Sr. Rachelle an Italian Nun together with a Ugandan teacher John Bosco rescued only 109 of them.
An annual date (10th Oct) was set aside and dedicated to prayers for all the captives. All we did on that day, was pray for the girls to be realized from captivity. For all those four years, I had never heard of an organisation called “Invisible children”A (Was founded later) But all I heard, were the stories from some of the girls and children who had escaped from captivity. In 2002 alone, I could count the number of days I spent at school as we kept on going back home because of the threats and rumours from the villagers around (Abongodero and otwal areas) that the rebels wanted to abduct more girls.
#Stopkony: A joke or a wakeup call?
I had traveled to western Uganda for field work on issues of Maternal health when I first read a tweet using my mobile phones from @Natabaalo a journalist friend here in Uganda on Tuesday 06/03/2012 with the hash tag (#stopkony). For a moment, I treated it as a joke until I read many more talking about ‘Uganda’ and ‘Kony’ as topics trending worldwide on twitter. Being a social media enthusiast, I rushed to facebook to cross check and find out if a similar discussion was going on. I was shocked to find a video shared on my wall by an old girl of St. Mary’s College Aboke (Bernadette Manisula Nagita) who works as a communications person with Invisible Children here in Uganda. This was the message that accompanied the video that has now gone Viral.
“” I watched the video and sent her my feeback “So what exactly am I supposed to do with this video? Share? Not me dear.” For the first 5 minutes I had no idea what the video was about until I later on saw the old images of LRA and attentively listened.
As the discussion grew on twitter, I realised that the internet has indeed become part of everyday life and has played an increasing role in the delivery of news about issues that concern citizen. Today, a new form of internet journalism –Citizen Journalism has taken root and many ordinary citizens have learnt how to argument, report and fact-check videos like #Kony2012.
Just like @RosebellK another Journalist in Peace & Conflict here in Uganda, I have problems with this video because it not only tarnishes Ugandan’s image but also undermines the effort that different Governments and peace lovers like ArchBishop Baptist Odama of Gulu put in, to have peace talks that could bring this war to an end. It totally portrays the hopelessness of Ugandans to help themselves out of this situation and the intervention of some Americans who “care” so much about the plight of the children in Northern Uganda. I tend to think that it is a one man show video. "Invisible children might be advocating for a good Cause but used a very wrong Approach" like @jssozi put it.
I hardly doubt that the people of Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions in Uganda, the most affected by this war have any idea that a video talking about their plight has gone viral on the internet. It’s 2012 and the people of Northern and eastern Uganda are in the post conflict era and re-settling. Why doesn’t the video at least give a brief highlight of this current situation rather than threaten the entire globe with out-dated information? Does “Invisible Children” have an idea what impression of Uganda has been portrayed to a world that still believes Idi Amin is alive and still terrorising us? What will happen to our tourism sector? Below are some of the interesting reactions;
- James Akena: (Reuters PhotoJournalist in Uganda from Gulu) reacting to BBC Qn:
“What will happen if Joseph Kony is not killed or captured by December 31st? My government and its military commanders gave many deadlines for capturing or killing this madman several times and they failed. Equally these young Americans trying out to become famous out of sufering of my people will surely fail as well!!! James Akena.”
- Marcus Wagenaar(From Netherlands but working in Uganda)
"To all who have watched the video KONY 2012 that has made the rounds of the internet: Uganda is a very safe place (I live there) and was voted top 1 tourist destination for 2012 by Lonely Planet. The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) was defeated in 2006 and the Nothern region of Uganda has been stable and safe ever since. (I've been there twice in the last 12 months). And the most important thing: JOSEPH KONY IS NOT IN UGANDA, I repeat, he is NOT in Uganda. Please don't let internet propaganda shape your opinion about a far away country you know nothing about.”
- James Wire(Ugandan)
Invisible Children either has to make another video that depicts the real truth and the real issues or apologize to the people of Uganda and the VISIBLE CHILDREN affected by war for such a misrepresentation. For now, our focus is on the nodding head disease.