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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Africa USA-made — CRISIS CHAOS CONFLICT PLUNDER clouded by mass media

NGO-Government Co-op
Virtual reality is not REALITY
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

“A whole generation of Acholi people were born and grew into adulthood in government-created camps for internally displaced people,” Juliane Okot Bitek wrote in 2009. She is an Acholi woman who lives in Vancouver, Canada, who also spoke this week with Vancouver’s feminist radio program “The F Word.” Juliane Okot Bitek is president of the Acholi Community of British Columbia Society and a University of British Columbia doctoral student interested in post-conflict narratives of formerly abducted women in northern Uganda. She said that for years the Ugandan people had been dying at an alarming rate. World Health Organization (WHO) figures showed in 2009 that a thousand Ugandans died every week — a catastrophe “in plain view of the rest of the world.”

The Acholi people numbering more than one million at the turn of the 21st century are an ethno linguistic group of northern Uganda and southernmost Sudan. They speak a Western Nilotic language of the Eastern Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan family and are culturally and historically related to the neighboring Lango. The Acholi are the descendants of a variety of Luo-speaking peoples who are believed to have migrated from adjacent areas of the southern Sudan into what is now the Acholi district of Uganda three or four centuries ago.

Under the Ugandan president Idi Amin (1971–79), the Acholi were severely persecuted, the men systematically executed for past association with the [British] colonial army and for their support of President Milton Obote (1962–71, 1980–85) [Britannica note].

The people in the northern part of Uganda have suffered at the hands of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and the Ugandan government has failed to protect them, Juliane Okot Bitek said. The international community has largely ignored their suffering. International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo appeared on film wondering, callously, who might have “‘interest in Ugandans, in the Acholis?’” Answering his wondering, he said, “They have no oil [except now oil has been discovered], nothing to win, so how much effort do we have out there? Not a lot.’”

The current generation, Juliane Okot Bitek continued, “has grown up without the strong Acholi culture that for generations held the people together with their traditional values — 30,000 children had been unaccounted for over the years. What kind of people can come through this unscathed? Ours will take many generations to heal from the legacy of Joseph Kony, the LRA and the Uganda government that failed to protect its own people — and the rest of the world that watched in silence.”

Making money on misery and make believe

No clever tactics, as those used by the Invisible Children organization — self abduction, fake homelessness or other antics — are going to change the conditions of life for the Acholi people. The tactics only manipulate and delude. “It hurts immensely,” she said, “to watch commercialism take over in a bid to garner the interests and involvement of young people in these campaigns. “The British Red Cross has joined in the fray by producing a game that allows players to become 16-year-old Joseph who ‘has one goal – to find out from the Red Cross if his mother is dead or alive.’

“Reducing the horrific experiences of hundreds of thousands of young Ugandans down to a game is unconscionable.

“To ask thousands of young people to pretend that they can ‘abduct themselves’ into creating a new reality for the children in northern Uganda is more than appalling – it is manipulative and undermines the horror of the last two decades of Ugandan suffering.… One wonders if such theatrics are reserved for African settings.

“Would anyone in the United States dare to create similar gimmicks to highlight the suffering of the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. city of New Orleans?”

Boys will be boys (?)

Founded in 2005 by three “‘normal’ guys” (Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole) in California who loved surfing, playing sports, goofing around, and making movies, Invisible Children “has raised plenty of money through their unusual tactics. Using technology preferred by the young, “they inspired thousands of young people to sleep on the streets as they did on a  2006 ‘Global Night Commute’ that reportedly attracted well over 80,000 people all over the United States” according to the group’s website press releases.

On a lark in Africa, the “boys” decided to spice up theirs and other young lives. They found the situation in Acholi intolerable and in need their brand of “help,” so they made a film. The half-hour film made by U.S. organization Invisible Children Inc is “Kony 2012” sold and marketed live (in virtual reality) and online in aid of the group’s bottom line and sporting a brand new movement, ‘Stop Kony’, purportedly to profile and push for the arrest of indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. [Not William Jefferson Clinton, George H. W. or George W. Bush,  Barack Obama or Madeleine Albright or Hillary Rodham Clinton.]

Reality check

Dr. Vincent Magombe, a Ugandan journalist and broadcaster based in the United Kingdom, writes that while there may be some good in what the boys are doing, there are many damaging omissions and “misrepresentations in the film” — and in “the filmmakers’ blanket support of U.S. military deployments in the region, which many Ugandans view with suspicion and distaste.”

Misrepresentations the Ugandan journalist points to are these:

The war in Northern Uganda ended over six years ago and not since then has Kony been active in Northern Uganda. People in the northern part of Uganda now suffer abject poverty, lack of medicine, illiteracy, incurable diseases (e.g., the nodding disease has killed hundreds of children and infected thousands) — problems directly resulting from current leaders’ corruption and poor governance.

The film fails to mention that Uganda government troops also killed, raped, and maimed civilians in the region (e.g., on several occasions government soldiers pretended to be Kony rebels and caused deaths for some crazy PR aims).

The film fails to show LRA/ Kony menace in regional countries or a similar type combined military operation (Americans and Uganda government, December 2008: a  CIA-led military operation involved a special American-established and armed force, the Ugandan Special Forces commanded by Yoweri Museveni’s son, Muhozi Kainerugaba) that ended two years of inactivity by Kony’s LRA, wrecked hopes for regional peace. Most of the consequent attacks in DRC, Southern Sudan, and now Central African Republic are more to do with a much-weakened LRA trying to escape the wrath of the Ugandan army (now the Americans) and survive another day.

CRISIS CHAOS CONFLICT PLUNDER clouded by mass media has consequences. Vincent Magombe continued.

Politically, financially and militarily strengthened by the Americans— Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni, heading a corrupt regime whose ministers steal millions that could be used to solve the living nightmare of children in the northern part of Uganda, is emboldened in violating the freedoms and human rights of the whole country.

Many Ugandans — especially those campaigning for democracy and political stability — see the military operation against 300 LRA ex-combatants as a diversionary strategy to divert attention from the ongoing national struggle for change.

Since the new representation of the troubles only points at one culprit, Joseph Kony and his ‘barbaric gang’, Museveni and his regime — who have committed enormous crimes in the northern part Uganda — are being offered an exit route from accountability.

Without democracy and reconciliation in Uganda — as was true of South Africa’s minority White South African regime who had committed more egregious crimes than LRA and Kony and were effectively absolved of the crimes against Black Africans — there will be no peace.  We may start to see many more Kony-type rebel groups mushrooming to fight the Kampala regime.

Though many outsiders think and have the view that Ugandan people are naive and incapable of seeing the wider implications of the deployment of American troops in East and Central Africa, the opposite is true.

Many Ugandans know the U.S. military has encouraged Museveni and his regime to continue militaristic tendencies in the region.

Ugandans know the Ugandan regime and its military are powerful allies of the United States in Somalia and indeed in the Great Lakes region and that now the U.S. seeks to establish its so-called AFRICOM (African Command) Headquarters in Uganda and continue building a powerful military alliance involving U.S. soldiers and the militaries of the East and Central African nations (Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, DRC, and Central African Republic).
This is not aimed merely to capture Kony but to safeguard and secure the strategic interests of a now declining American Super Power. …

The strategic vision of the American political and military thinkers is to shift and try to consolidate U.S. influence in West Africa and now East and Central Africa where it is much easier to deal with existing regimes and where local people have no real capacity to force the Americans away, as is true of the Middle East.  

Major oil discoveries have been made in Uganda and Southern Sudan and the region is bustling with inexhaustible reserves of other mineral resources. 

The world we live in is complex; in reality, not reducible to clever tactics, clouded causes and sentimental simplicity. Vincent Magombe concludes.

Research will reveal that Invisible Children was among the two or three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who vigorously lobbied in the United States for U.S. military deployment in Uganda and Central Africa. (The other NGOs included Resolve! and The Enough Project).  

Though IC’s awareness raising about one ‘evil man’, Joseph Kony, may be appreciated, Magombe says, Invisible Children must be “held responsible for intended or unintended consequences that may in the long run bring much more damage to Uganda than Joseph Kony and his LRA ever would.”

Sources and notes

“Commercializing Children's Suffering Is Macabre,” By Juliane Okot Bitek, April 24, 2009,
http://thetyee.ca/Views/2005/11/11/UgandanPowerlessness/ http://www.friendsforpeaceinafrica.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=132&Itemid=77
For Invisible Children information on the upcoming ‘abduction’:

Juliane Okot Bitek is an Acholi woman living in Vancouver, Canada. She writes as she lives, thinking about a place to call home much of the time.

See also blackstarnews.com

“Grounding focus in the midst of the Kony 2012 social media storm” (By The F Word, Length: 22:32 minutes March 13, 2012)— “The Kony 2012 film is officially the fastest spreading viral video of all time. On March 5, 2012, the video release launched a campaign by Invisible Children Inc. to promote the charity’s ‘Stop Kony’ movement to make indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony internationally known in order to arrest him in 2012. The campaign has been wildly popular with youth on social media.

“Since the launch, the campaign has come under much due criticism such as simplifying a complex issue, ignoring the voices of Northern Ugandans (including many female leaders), and promotion of a consumer-based and ultimately ineffective brand of charity, among many other issues.”

Ellie Gordon-Moershel spoke with Acholi Juliane Okot Bitek who has been close to the conflict in Northern Uganda since 1986. Juliane Okot Bitek is “president of the Acholi Community of British Columbia Society and a Ph.D. student at UBC interested in the post-conflict narratives of formerly abducted women in northern Uganda. She is passionate about the ways we can present and represent our own stories in the media, in our communities and in the general society.” More information about The F Word at www.feminisms.org

“Joseph Kony viral video campaign clouded in controversy” (Allison Cross, March 7-8, 2012), http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/07/kony-2012-video-controversy/

“The Truth About KONY2012” (By Dr. Vincent Magombe), March 13, 2012, http://www.blackstarnews.com/?c=135&a=5605
Dr. Magombe is a Ugandan journalist based in the UK


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