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What Jason didn’t tell Gavin and his Army of Invisible Children

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IDP children eating porridge during break time at Feed the Children feeding centre in Tetugu IDP camp in Gulu.

IDP children eating porridge during break time at Feed the Children feeding centre in Tetugu IDP camp in Gulu. The centre provided supplementary feeding for children and playing centre for early childhood development of displaced children.  

By Mahmood Mamdani

Posted  Tuesday, March 13   2012 at  00:00

In Summary

Mahmood Mamdani, a professor and director of Makerere Institute of Social Research and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York City, gives an insight into the downside of the Kony 2012 video.

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Call to make Kony world famous
Now Invisible Children has joined the ranks of those calling for the US to press for a military solution – presumably supported by a mostly children’s army of over 65 million viewers of its video, Kony 2012! What is the LRA that it should merit the attention of an audience ranging from Hollywood celebrities to “humanitarian interventionists” to Africom to children of America?

The LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundreds at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed, and poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped as children and then turned into tormentors. It is a story not very different from that of abused children who in time turn into abusive adults. In short, the LRA is no military power.

Addressing the problem called the LRA does not call for a military operation. And yet, the LRA is given as the reason why there must be a constant military mobilisation, at first in northern Uganda, and now in the entire region, why the military budget must have priority and, now, why the US must sent soldiers and weaponry, including drones, to the region. Rather than the reason for accelerated military mobilisation in the region, the LRA is the excuse for it.

The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims – the civilian population of the area – trust neither the LRA nor government forces.

Sandwiched between the two, civilians need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilisation and offered the hope of a political process.

Alas, this message has no room in the Invisible Children video that ends with a call to arms. Thus one must ask: Will this mobilisation of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarise the region further? If so, this well-intentioned but unsuspecting army of children will be responsible for magnifying the very crisis to which they claim to be the solution.

The 70 million plus who have watched the Invisible Children video need to realise that the LRA – both the leaders and the children pressed into their service – are not an alien force but sons and daughters of the soil. The solution is not to eliminate them physically, but to find ways of integrating them into (Ugandan) society.

Those in the Ugandan and the US governments – and now apparently the owners of Invisible Children – must bear responsibility for regionalizing the problem as the LRA and, in its toe, the Ugandan army and US advisers crisscross the region, from Uganda to DRC to CAR. Yet, at its core the LRA remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political solution.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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