Viral crusaders

"Viral crusaders" Continued...

Issue: "Agony and ecstasy," April 7, 2012

In addition to rehashing old material, another reason Ugandans are complaining about Kony 2012 is that it suggests that if average people take action, Kony can be caught and brought to justice. Kampala communications specialist Jack Seruwo said Invisible Children should "stay focused on what you were initially doing best," and let the armies that have been fighting Kony (reportedly now including 100 U.S. military advisors ordered to Uganda by President Barack Obama last October) continue the hunt. "We might even suspect that you are soon going to ask us for more money," said Seruwo, "to do what else-raise an army of invisible children? The ones we know, Kony has already seen and they have seen him too. Their job was to survive him and become visible again. Best way you can help: Don't give them their bad memories. Help them keep their hope."

Ugandans say a problem with the viral video is its opening old wounds affected by the war. Grace Angee, raised in Kitgum District in the north, experienced LRA torture as a young teenager and herself was kidnapped by the rebel group three times. "Bullets, burning huts, death everywhere," she said of the attacks. Her father, a driver for the Ugandan army, was killed brutally by the LRA. She learned of his death later, but saw many others die and breaks down when she tries to describe them: "The feeling of seeing someone killed ... It's very traumatizing."

Angee would like to see Kony captured, and she prays for him every day, but her life in the north is very different now: "I can sleep without fear, I can even walk in the night without hearing any gunshots." She thinks good may come of the interest from Kony 2012, but said, "During the war, that was the time we needed help most."

Asked how her family in Kitgum would react if she showed them the video, Angee said, "Some would be so aggressive, some would still demand that Kony is destroyed because they still have the anger, the reaction, some would ask why the voice wasn't heard earlier ... support was needed much earlier when we were helpless."

Puzzled by its timing, many Ugandans believe the release of Kony 2012 has more to do with events in the United States than a war in Africa: "This grossly illogical timing and statements on [Invisible Children's] website-'Click here to buy your KONY 2012 products'-makes me believe that the timing has more to do with your commercial interests than humanitarian interests," wrote Ugandan blogger James Onen. "With the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the waning interest in Invisible Children, it seems to be perfect timing to start a crusade." From their vantage point, it looks to many Africans like a U.S. group has tried to commercialize a conflict in which thousands of people have died, and thousands more want to heal and move on.

-Eddie Ssemakula is a 2012 World Journalism Institute/Africa fellow and a writer living in Kampala


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