Column - ‘Kony 2012’ over-simplifies a complex issue
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 23:03
In what has become the latest drive for awareness among Western media, and therefore among well-intentioned college students, the "Kony 2012" campaign exploded onto the scene last week with a viral video.
With media attention, though, comes media scrutiny and various legitimate criticisms have been levied at the group responsible for the media campaign.
As you have no doubt seen on your Facebook news feed or Twitter account over the past week, Joseph Kony is a warlord in Uganda who has kidnapped children to be part of his anti-government guerilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The widely circulated video, documenting Kony using child soldiers and committing war crimes, is, of course, heart-renching, but there is much left unsaid.
For Americans who are unfamiliar with the issue, the video seemingly portrays the situation as a current and ongoing issue at its absolute height, with all of the world ignoring it.
In fact, the world has not been ignoring Kony’s actions. In 2005, the United Nations International Criminal Court indicted Kony and four others in the LRA of murder, rape, and forcibly enlisting children.
The next year, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda by government forces into remote areas of surrounding countries.
Now isolated and numbering at only around 300-400 soldiers according to the Institute for National Strategic Studies, the LRA is far from having 30,000 brainwashed child soldiers.
This number taken from the Kony 2012 video is actually the number of total children abducted over almost 30 years, and not a current figure as it is presented to be.
So why all of this attention over an issue on its way to being resolved?
Unfortunately, there may be several ulterior motives at play here. First, President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 "army advisers" to Uganda back in October of 2011 to track down Kony.
While military advisers sound relatively benign, these are still combat-ready trained and equipped military personnel who are sent to a foreign country to train and aid a foreign military.
Uganda’s military – which is a force that has more experience in jungle combat than American troops – needing training from a foreign force seems out of place.
This sending of foreign advisers a third of the size of the entire group you are trying to apprehend suddenly makes more sense within the context of history.
Not only is sending of military advisers almost always a precursor for further military involvement, as was the case in the Vietnam War, but the organization behind the video is pushing for such an intervention.
Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell defines their mission as much in the video, "We know what to do. Here it is, ready? In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. In order to find him, they need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle. That’s where the American advisers come in."
So, not only is a supposedly humanitarian organization pushing for yet another foreign military intervention – in a cause that is already being solved – but our government is beginning to follow through with it.
As is often the case with our government becoming involved in military interventions abroad, the issue always boils down to one thing – oil.
Ever since development began in the oil-rich sands next to Lake Albert in 2006, Western oil companies – and the governments they often represent unofficially – turned their attention to Uganda.
And with production finally coming from oil wells developed just this past summer, the United States is making a power play to secure oil in Africa once again.
In a repetition of the way the U.S.-supported military intervention in Libya nullified Chinese oil contracts with the Gadhafi government, and brought in Western oil company contracts with the new transitional government, the United States is superseding China’s Africa expansion.
The tension between the United States and China is increasing already with the past Libya proxy war, the continually simmering trade war over U.S. debt and Chinese currency policy and the addition of a U.S. Marine base in Australia last fall, the United States does need to add to it.
Whether there is any tangible connection between Invisible Children’s viral ad campaign and the United States’ desire for a proxy war for resources in Africa with China remains to be seen. Some things are certain.
Kony and the LRA are on the run, their numbers and power are drastically reduced, and Africa is, thankfully, solving a problem on its own without Western intervention and its neo-colonialist overtones.
Despite the best intentions from others, let’s keep it that way.