So it seems that everyone is weighing in on this KONY issue. Half the people out there are stomping their feet and raising their fists saying ‘this is an outrage, something needs to be done’. The other half are cynical, and are crying foul on Invisible Children’s practices and telling us not to donate.
Whatever the case, there are always two sides to every story, so it is good to do some independent research and make up your own mind. I’m not going to side with either of the arguments being presented here. Rather, I’m going to attempt to shed a different light on the situation.
Firstly, I’d like to over-simplify the cause of the problems in Africa. This is mostly for people who are just waking up to the crisis on the continent and know it is wrong, but don’t necessarily know how it got to this point. The essential core of it is that white settlers from a variety of different countries (England, France, Belgium, Germany etc) came into Africa and established their own nations. They set up their own borders, and completely ignored tradition tribal boundaries thousands of years old. They then told traditionally warring tribes that they were now a nation and had to learn to get along.
When I heard that my football team was merging, I was pissed. Now imagine it on the grand scale of a tribe? Now imagine again that someone from an opposing tribe was placed in the role of President/Prime Minister/Voodoo King and greatly favoured his own people? You’d be pissed, and rightly so. On top of all this you have a continent that doesn’t have the agricultural resources to support the population and doesn’t have the money to import food. So we throw the need for survival into that mix.
This is an over-simplification. But it will give people with little understanding a basic knowledge of some of the issues. Now onto KONY 2012. What this campaign is doing to raise awareness is fantastic. People in their millions are watching that video and talking about it, and talking about Africa. This, in itself, is a fantastic thing. We want people to talk and we want people to want to do something about it.
There has been a huge amount of criticism towards the campaign that only 32% of funds raised go towards actually helping people, with the rest of it going towards staffing, film production etc. This isn’t too bad to be fair, their model is all about raising awareness and that is exactly what they are doing. But what are they making us aware of?
Joseph Kony is a bad guy. But there are plenty of other bad guys in Africa who are currently in the position of head-of-state. Look at Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, or Omar Al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. Both of them are responsible for heinous crimes. Look at half the warlords in Somalia. Look at Teodoro Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea, an oil rich country with one of the highest incomes per capita in the world. But thanks to Mbasogo 20% of children die before the age of five and the remaining 80% don’t have access to education or healthcare. Meanwhile his son has properties in Malibu, a Gulfstream Jet and BILLIONS of dollars. Look at Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, who DID NOTHING to stop Kony in the first place.
This just scratches the surface. Africa is riddled with these tyrants, yet now all of a sudden we’ve seen an emotive video and want to go after Joseph Kony? What about these other guys who are currently in power? Surely stopping atrocities as they happen is better than going after someone who is a dwindling power and is hidden somewhere in the Central African Republic.
I support any money going to aid Africa, but that money can go somewhere better than trying to catch Joseph Kony. Somalia is in the middle of one of the worst famines in history. The Second Congo War has been the most devastating since World War II, with over 5.4 million people having lost their lives mostly to treatable conditions such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. These are the issues that we should be spending our money on, not on posters or bracelets. Yeah, you bought a bracelet, congratulations you’re a humanitarian.
How many of these people saw Hotel Rwanda and cried? How many people said never let it happen again? And how many of those people stood by and did nothing when it happened again in Darfur? We cannot become a generation that jumps on the back of these fads because we see an emotive video. We need to look at the broader issues. We need to find those who need our help the most and we need to commit to change. We need to be the generation that puts our foot down and says no more, not because we saw a video. But because we believe in what we are doing. And we need to follow through with it.
If everyone that donated $30 to Invisible Children also donated $30 Medecins Sans Frontieres we would save THOUSANDS of lives. MSF is a charity that spends 80% of your donation on directly helping the people that need it most. It puts doctors on the ground where they provide life or death treatment and give medication to those in need.
By supporting KONY 2012 we are asking African men and women to go in and try and kill Joseph Kony or bring him to justice. This man is protected by an army of child soldiers who have been brainwashed. Do you think they are going to lay down their guns when the army comes in to get him?
No. People are going to die. Not me or you, but the children we are trying to protect. It is easy for us to say ‘do something about this’ here behind our laptops, when the biggest threat of violence we have is getting mugged going through a dodgy neighbourhood. But if it was your brother or sister holding the gun and trekking through the Congo, would you want them to be there?
Africa is complicated. But it is not futureless. We need to use this momentum to commit to making a change THAT DOESN’T END IN 2012. Let’s fund African farming RND, let’s give money for food programs to save starving children, let’s educate and if we’re going to intervene let’s do it when the atrocities are in their prime, not years after the fact.
I’m sick and tired of people seeing horrible things in the world and doing nothing. But I’m more sick of people seeing a video and saying ‘this is wrong it should never happen it again’ and then letting it happen in a country RIGHT NEXT DOOR. Think laterally, be proactive with your giving and commit to changing the world, not arresting one bad guy. There are millions out there.
I’d ask that everyone who reads this make a one off donation to Medecins Sans Frontieres or start up a monthly debit donation, you can do this for as little as $10 a month (that’s $2.50 a week which is less than your morning coffee) and you will SAVE LIVES. I know I haven’t spent millions on a video, but it doesn’t make the cause less worthy.
Written by Paul Marshall.