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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Kony campaign dwindles

Tony Garvey supported “Kony 2012” from the beginning.

“I wanted to be a part of something bigger than I was,” he said. “So my first thought was, ‘How do I get involved and what do I do to help?’”

Garvey, a public management freshman, joined other students who had been inspired by a video produced by the transnational organization Invisible Children. The documentary, “Kony 2012,” hit the Internet on March 5 and quickly became the most viewed video on YouTube that day, getting around 80 million hits in 24 hours.

“Kony 2012” claims that over a period of 26 years, Joseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army, abducted 30,000 children, turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves. The video calls upon its audience to make Kony and his crimes known worldwide by petitioning policymakers and raising awareness. These efforts would culminate on Friday in an event called “Cover the Night,” where activists intend to make Kony infamous through posters and flyers.

Garvey became a host of the “Cover the Night- UA @ Tucson” Facebook page and started working with a small group of students to coordinate the event. More than 3,600 Facebook users joined the initiative.

“This is something students can actually make a difference in,” Garvey said. “It’s kind of a bandwagon thing, but it’s for a good cause and it’s something worth fighting for.”

The hype, however, was short lived. UA students and “Kony 2012” activists everywhere encountered widespread criticism and faltering public interest.

The UA group crumbled after the Associate Dean of Students Kathy Adams Riester warned that the event could result in Code of Conduct and Campus Use violations.

“The UA students who were organizing the Kony event have not completed any of the paperwork that is usually completed to reserve space on campus,” Adams Riester wrote in an email. “I asked them to contact me so we could discuss … what I saw to be some potential UA policy and Code of Conduct violations so they could decide how they wanted to proceed.”

None of the students contacted her, she said. Instead, the event, according to a post on the Facebook page by one of the hosts, was canceled.

The university’s warning wasn’t the only force against the event. Garvey said he expected only 20 percent of the Facebook guest list to attend. Criticism of the documentary and Invisible Children may have played a role in discouraging the rest.

Danger of simplicity

After the release of “Kony 2012,” journalists and scholars denounced the film for its oversimplification of the conflict in Uganda.

“(The video) treats the audience in a childlike fashion, like you really don’t need to know anything except Kony’s a bad guy who needs to be punished,” said David Gibbs, a history professor. “The war didn’t just come out of nowhere as the film suggests.”

The Lord’s Resistance Army grew out of a rebellion that started in the late 1980s, when the Acholi people of Northern Uganda sought to overthrow the Ugandan government, Gibbs said.

The LRA began in Uganda, but it has also terrorized southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The video suggests the LRA still operates in Uganda, although it scattered into the surrounding regions in 2006. Since then, the LRA’s numbers have dwindled to a few hundred.

While the LRA has abducted tens of thousands of children since the beginning of the conflict and destroyed the lives of many innocents, the video fails to mention the tactics employed by the LRA are the same tactics formerly used by the Ugandan military, according to Bayo Ijagbemi, a professor of African American studies.

“It’s not just one guy and his army abducting children and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves,” Ijagbemi said. “It goes beyond that.”

Activism, colonialism

Many of Africa’s struggles are fueled by tensions left over from the late 1800s, when Europeans colonized the continent, Ijagbemi said. As Western leaders drew arbitrary borders throughout Africa, they divided certain cultures and “lumped” others together, producing rivalry among different ethnicities.

It is because of Africa’s history with colonialism, Ijagbemi said, that foreign activists need to proceed with caution. Some Africans perceive campaigns like “Kony 2012” as yet another attempt by Westerners to subvert their sovereignty.

“If we can regard Africa as a crime scene, and if we do a crime scene investigation on the continent, we are going to find the fingerprints, evidence that has been left behind by those who created those current problems,” he said. “The same people who are now saying they are going to intervene in Africa to stop the carnage are the same people who created the problem to begin with.”

“Kony 2012,” Ijagbemi said, may perpetuate this problem.

Intervention problems

Some critics say the video advocates foreign intervention. Intervention may quell the violence, but in many cases it only exacerbates it, according to William Dixon, a professor in the School of Government and Public Policy.

Foreign intervention is best when the disputing sides reach a truce, Dixon said.

“Then foreign intervention becomes a sort of guarantor to keep the provisions of any cease fire or truce in effect,” he said.

Peace talks with the LRA, however, have failed.

An alternative to intervention is providing aid to the people on the ground, Ijagbemi said. This may include food, water, healthcare and shelter.

“Can we just sit down and fold our hands while carnage, genocide is going on just across the street and say, ‘No, it doesn’t affect us’?” Ijagbemi said. “It affects all of us as members of the human race.”

The power of passion

In response to these and other criticisms, Invisible Children released a second film, “Kony 2012: Beyond Famous,” two weeks ago.
Although it has enjoyed only one-tenth the YouTube hits of its predecessor, the message wasn’t lost. Many supporters of “Kony 2012,” like Spencer Nicholls, a communications senior, still intend to “Cover the Night” on Friday.

Nicholls said he has been doing community service throughout the week in the name of “Kony 2012.” He’s also asked policymakers to take legislative action to stop Kony and the LRA, he said.

“(Cover the Night) isn’t just about going and plastering the city,” he said. “It’s about telling people about this issue, but also working in your community to have peace there as well.”

Garvey and two of the students who had organized the “Cover the Night- UA @ Tucson” event said they plan to participate in the demonstration on their own.

“Here’s our chance to make a difference in the United States,” he said. “To stand up for something we believe in.”

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