Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What #Kony2012 Should Have Asked For

Pierre Holtz, via Wikimedia Commons
by Kayleen Hartman

By now the story of #Kony2012 is growing old. The viral video on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has received almost 80 million hits, and is famous in some circles more for the backlash against it than for its advocacy ask: to stop the LRA’s deplorable use of child soldiers, tell the Obama administration to continue to provide the support it’s already providing to the Ugandan military’s mission against the LRA.

There’s been loads of commentary about the concerns with a video like this, whether or not or it’s useful, and its questionable accuracy. There is also the fact that there are other organizations in Uganda, founded by former child soldiers and for child soldiers, that might be a great place to put your money if you’re feeling moved. But we've missed the fact that not only is simple maintenance of the status quo a wasted use of the advocacy power of millions, there is another, much more necessary, powerful, and on-point demand that those affected by the video could ask of their president.

First, it’s important to note that the LRA is not the only military group to exploit child soldiers. Several world governments, including governments to whom the United States provides military aid, are known to recruit and make use of children in their militaries’ ranks. A few weeks ago, we put up a post detailing the Obama administration’s use of waivers under the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007, a bill then-Senator Obama had co-sponsored. The law withholds military assistance to countries whose governments use child soldiers – the basic, correct thing to do.

But for the second year in a row, the Obama administration has issued waivers under the law to allow the U.S. to continue providing military assistance to several countries whose governments make use of child soldiers. They did so without demonstrating that those countries were showing improvement or even good faith efforts to deal with their problem, and without disclosing any benchmarks or goals those governments would have to meet to secure aid in the future. As the prior post details, this is not only a breach of the intended purpose of the law, it’s also likely a violation of U.S. treaty obligations and international law.

This issue affects the LRA problem and the Kony 2012 campaign directly. One of the countries who received a waiver, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is also one of the places Kony is suspected to be operating these days. Not only is the DRC not using U.S. military assistance to join in the hunt for Kony and the LRA, it is actually frustrating those attempts, refusing entry to the U.S.-backed Ugandan troops in pursuit of Kony. And yet, the U.S. government provides military assistance to the DRC, a country whose own military uses child soldiers, and which is actively obstructing the search for and capture of Kony and the LRA.

When making this point, it's important to note that the Ugandan army's U.S.-backed pursuit of Kony isn't necessarily the best solution either. The Ugandan Army has its own record of serious human rights problems, and the merits of a military intervention for humanitarian purposes is a larger discussion outside of the scope of this post.

These problems with the implementation of the Child Soldier Prevention Act are something concerned citizens could petition their government to address that goes beyond “don’t stop what you’re already doing.” We can tell them not to make laws about child soldiers one year and then issue waivers to go on funding the use of child soldiers the next. However much Invisible Children might be subject to valid criticism, they have mounted an incredibly widely reaching advocacy campaign on a deeply important human rights issue. They now have an opportunity to make it effective, to use the millions of supporters they have – the casual, non-experts who feel deeply about the use of children in war – to make a real ask, one that gets right to the heart of the issue. I hope they will at least consider doing it.


  1. Kony is dead or abroad. I've been to Gulu . I spoke to the people and there's been no war for 6 years.
    Questions for Invisible Children:
    1. Why doesn't Invisible Children fight for the freedom of child soldiers in the UDPF?
    2. Did Invisible Children edit the original movie at the insistence of the Ugandan government and accept money from the Museveni government to change it to sanitize the atrocities committed by the government in the north?
    3. Why does Invisible Children pay the travel expenses of Ugandan politicians? Walter Ochora should not be accepting money from the organization.
    4. How can Invisible Children remain an American tax-exempt charity when it is so involved in politics and lobbying? That is illegal.
    5. What is Invisible Children's exit strategy for Uganda?
    6. How much money did Invisible Children receive in donations as a result of Nate Henn's death in the Kampala bombings? Was there a spike in donations? 7. Money from Nate Henn's much and how was the money disbursed?
    8. In light of WikiLeaks memo indicating that the U.S. is aware Uganda army has committed war crimes in its fight against LRA how does Invisible Children feel working on same side with a government that could be eventually brought on war crimes charges?
    9. Does Invisible Children feel any moral obligation to disassociate itself from Uganda government and denounce the alleged war crimes mentioned in the memo by the U.S. ambassador? 10. Since Invisible Children is exclusively concerned with, and a participating agent in pursuit of, the alleged war crimes & etc. of Joseph Kony and the LRA, how do they explain the persistence and perseverance of Kony in the face of what is arguably and penultimately the world's greatest manhunt at present (Osama bin Laden being the first)?
    11. Who are Kony's contacts (and power affiliations) in the USA?
    12. Have Invisible Children worked with USA military support in Northern Uganda?
    13. What are Invisible Children's links and/or relations and/or affiliations with AFRICOM?
    14. Which Ugandan politicians and how many has IC paid the travel expenses for?

  2. Kony 2012 - EXPOSED DEBUNKED - Invisible Children Inc. supports crimes against humanity and lies!

    Phony Kony 2012 Warning!

    Kony 2012 Screening Provokes Anger in Uganda at Invisible Children

  3. KONY 2012, Invisible Children's Pro-AFRICOM and Museveni Propaganda