As Invisible Children’s Kony2012/stopKony campaign goes viral, Sisters of Resistance share links that criticize the paternalistic, racist, “white savior” nature of the “not for profit” organization (as well as a trailer for a documentary about US interference in Africa.)
In advocating further US military intervention in Uganda, with no reference to the political economic context, or underlying systemic causes of the conflict, let alone the fact corporations prolong and profit from it, Kony2012 furthers a racist, imperialist Western agenda which cannot be understood without reference to Africom.
African people are presented as “invisible” and incapable, while the Hollywood narrative of the “white American good guy saving the world and getting the bad guy” is perpetuated at a time when US global dominance is crumbling.
If the founders of Invisible Children were serious, they would take down the arms companies, corporations and governments that fund, profit from, cause and prolong the conflict (read more about cobalt, corporations and Central Africa here).
We got trouble.
Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.
Thoughts on Kony 2012 and White Saviours vs. Allies
by Alex Snider
I could go on about the problems with the video: the lack of Ugandan culture; the weird inclusion of the narrator’s very young son and how the video placed him at the centre of the narrative as the ideal future; the fact that it took nearly 9 minutes for Joseph Kony and the LRA to even be mentioned; the pro-military stance; and the basis that no one else could possibly have heard or cared about the LRA before Invisible Children ever before. The video is the very definition of the White Man’s Burden.
Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions
Invisible Children has had some success already: late last year, President Barack Obama committed 100 US troops to provide “advice and assistance” to the Ugandan army in removing Joseph Kony from the battlefield. The President’s move came in part due to the NGO’s tremendous advocacy efforts. Everyone agrees that this a hugely important issue, but Invisible Children’s methods have come in for searing criticism; most scathingly, they have been attacked as “neo-liberal, do-good Whiteness”. Elsewhere, Foreign Affairs has provided some important context on this matter, in relation to Uganda’s strategic importance to the USA. I would also recommend the Twitter feed of Laura Seay, who was moved to comment this morning that “[Solomme Lemma] is tweeting links to great community-based organizations working in Northern Uganda. Give there if you really want to help. I understand the anger and resentment at Invisible Children’s approach, which with its paternalism has unpleasant echoes of colonialism. I will admit to being perturbed by its apparent top-down prescriptiveness, when so much diligent work is already being done at Northern Uganda’s grassroots.
@DynamicAfrica, @InnovateAfrica and @TexasinAfrica have been tweeting criticism and analysis as well as promoting the important work already being done by grassroots Ugandan organisations. For further information on the context of US imperialism in Africa please see:
Sisters of Resistance will be adding to this list as more anti-imperialist analysis of Kony2012 becomes available.