I have had roughly 24 hours to gather my thoughts about the latest fund-raising stunt undertaken by the long-in-the-tooth Invisible Children (IC) organization. In that time, I have had an opportunity to think and ruminate over exactly what to say, what the right order of the words should be coming out of my soul to address yet another travesty in shepherd’s clothing befalling my country and my continent.  Usually I would fly off the handle and let passion fly, but I have grown a little since this and this and this. Addressing the complexity that is Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’s reign of terror in northern Uganda; what with the sheer volume of victims, the survivors, the horrific examples of humanity at its worst, and the lingering ghosts of family members behind the survivors’ eyes begs a momentary pause, if but to respect the gravity of it all. I do that. I pause. I reflect and I toil with the thought that something is not right in the world that IC is still grasping at relevancy all these years after their “night walkers” campaign.

There is no easy way of saying what I feel right now, except a deep hurt and gnawing urgency to bang my head against my desk as a prescriptive to make the dumb-assery stop.  Sure, Joseph Kony and his counterpart of yesteryear, Idi Amin, have largely been responsible for the single story of Uganda. I have a hard time shaking it from the lips of strangers I meet. That’s all they know or seem to want to listen to. They dismissively glaze over my breathless exultations of the great promise in our youth, our technology, our agriculture, and our women.

“Sooo, Idi Amin, huh? That was terrible. Is he still alive?”

It is a slap in the face to so many of us who want to rise from the ashes of our tumultuous past and the noose of benevolent, paternalistic, aid-driven development memes. We, Africans, are sandwiched between our historically factual imperfections and well-intentioned, road-to-hell-building-do-gooders. It is a suffocating state of existence. To be properly heard, we must ride the coattails of self-righteous idiocy train. Even then, we have to fight for our voices to be respected.

The latest IC fund-raising cum “awareness-raising” is an insult to my identity and my intellectual capacity to reasonably defend its existence as beneficial to any Ugandan. The video project is so devoid of nuance, utility and respect for agency that it is appallingly hard to contextualize. I won’t even try. Katrin Skaya said all that could have been said, “rarely seen something this stunningly, insidiously, clever crazy. Amazing case study.”

Indeed it is. But not for the reasons you would think. This IC campaign is a perfect example of how fund-sucking NGO’s survive. “Raising awareness” (as vapid an exercise as it is) on the level that IC does, costs money. Loads and loads of money. Someone has to pay for the executive staff, fancy offices, and well, that 30-minute grand-savior, self-crowning exercise in ego stroking—in HD—wasn’t free. In all this kerfuffle, I am afraid everyone is missing the true aim of IC’s brilliant marketing strategy. They are not selling justice, democracy, or restoration of anyone’s dignity. This is a self-aware machine that must continually find a reason to be relevant. They are, in actuality, selling themselves as the issue, as the subject, as the panacea for everything that ails me as the agency-devoid African. All I have to do is show up in my broken English, look pathetic and wanting. You, my dear social media savvy click-activist, will shed a tear, exhaust Facebook’s like button, mobilize your cadre of equally ill-uninformed netizens to throw money at the problem.

Cause, you know, that works so well in the first world.

I would love nothing more than to be telling you the small victories we experience working with the very scarred survivors of Kony’s atrocities. The Women of Kireka are the most resilient group of individuals that I know. Spend a day with them and you will wonder how they manage to so calmly describe to you watching their entire families burned alive, their husbands and children hacked to death, in front of them. They do it so calmly, methodically, with such articulate prose that it leaves your soul victimized for it’s privilege. Yet they don’t pause from rolling a perfectly crafted paper bead for a beautiful necklace. They don’t waste their time lamenting the lack of justice for the fallen or the abducted. Why? Because it doesn’t bring back the dead, it doesn’t dissolve the horrific images of their huts burning, or ease the scars borne of running scared into the night.

Instead, they want work and respect and business to be able to make decisions that move their lives along. They want desperately to forget and rebuild anew; thankful for their lives. They want radios and cell phones and grasp at any semblance of normalcy. They cuddle and nurse their newborns like delicate, cherished gifts. What they don’t talk about is justice. They talk about how to forgive and move on.

But I can’t tell you their story. Why? Someone else has taken over their part in this complex saga, simplified it, branded it, packaged it and is reselling it as an Action Kit. For as little as $30 and up to $500, you get your very own pimplicious t-shirt (that was made somewhere other than Uganda or Africa) and various assortments of SWEDOW you won’t care about in a month. But hey! At least you did something!

The academics have weighed in on this debate here, and here and will continue to do elsewhere in the coming days. The click-activists, denied context and nuance, have spewed their ignorance all over the comments section in self-righteous indignation for all the world to see. They have whipped out their wallets and bought their very own Super Hero activist action kits. They have bombarded their friend’s Facebook wall with ignominious updates.

“You must watch this! I already ordered my action kit!”

If we all start from the premise that Kony’s actions over the last 25 years in East and Central Africa are atrocious and he should be stopped, we would be cut of the same moral cloth. Evil is something that is easy to point out from afar. But if we conclude that any one individual/organization/group has the right to hijack the voice of so many in the name of good, then I have a common sense pill to sell you.

Let me be honest. Africa is not short of problems, epidemics and atrocities. But it is also true that it is not short of miracles, ingenuity, and a proclivity to surprise. We as Africans, especially the Diaspora, are waking to the idea that our agency has been hijacked for far too long by well-meaning Western do-gooders with a guilty conscious, sold on the idea that Africa’s ills are their responsibility. This particular affliction is called “white man’s burden” in some circles. Please don’t buy into this. Africa’s problems are our own. I asserted as much almost 5 years ago when I started Project Diaspora.

And so to you we send this solemn pledge. No longer are we satisfied with the status quo. No longer will we look to the West and the East for a saviour to come. We here claim our political struggles as our own; our short comings as our own; our unrest as our own; our dissidence as our own; our broken infrastructure as our own; our diseases as our own; our uneducated as our own; our corruption as our own; our unfed children as our own.

We have to be given due courtesy to at least try to develop capacities adequate enough to address our issues. We will never develop that capacity to do so if IC and others think selling Action Kits delivers utopia. It didn’t change our way of life when IC started, and it certainly isn’t going to change our reality when the clock expires on December 31st.

I am coherent enough to realize when someone is trying to genuinely do good. At the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves. IC and this video assumes all the above. Before anyone says ‘why haven’t you done anything to stop Kony?’, may I point out that it took the world’s most sophisticated army over a decade and billions of dollars to catch Osama bin Laden. Kony has been on the run for 25+ years. On a continent 3 times the size of America. Catching & stopping him is not a priority of immediate concern. You know what is? Finding a bed net so that millions of kids don’t die every day from malaria. How many of you know that more Ugandans died in road accidents last year (2838) than have died in the past 3 years from LRA attacks in whole of central Africa(2400)? We’ve picked our battles and we chose to simply try to live. And the world should be helping us live on our own terms, by respecting our agency to choose which battles to put capacity towards.

I’ve never heard of Germans running NGOs in [the United States of] America to try and fix the economy or Swedish NGOs in America trying to fix the declining standard of living. Africa is our problem, we hereby respectfully request you let us handle our own matters. We will make mistakes here and there, sure. That is expected. But the trade-off of writing our own destiny far outweighs the self-assigned guilt the world assigned to us. If you really want to help, keep the guilt and charity in your backyard. Bring instead, respect, and the humility to let us determine our destiny.


  1. Well written, I feel the strength and passion in your words for your country and people. Everyone has a right to determine their destiny, and I do respect that. God speed.

    Helen. Canada.

    • Helen, racism works both ways, and your politcally correct comments lead me to believe that you're treating TMS RUGE with the 'white man's burden' contempt that he/she is not looking for.

      • What are you on about? She just said that she liked his article, agreed with him, and implicitly wished him success. Ooh, feel the patronising racism. Perhaps she should have just written, "<not racist> Good article </not racist>"?

      • Wow, how did you bring in racism, shame on you, the article that TMS Ruge did is about Uganda and their rights, their destiny, Maybe you should re-read the article and really get the message TMS Ruge is speaking off.

  2. This perferctly encapsulates my total frustration with this entire Bono-esque saga.
    Thank you for putting the feelings of the contemporary African so eloquently. Couldn't have been a better response.

  3. This is indeed a great post. The efforts of groups like IC though probably (only probably) well intentioned, do not have any real effect on the actual problems at hand. They only serve to make “heroes” and “saints” out of a few people who end up becoming the cause.

    Our problems and foul-ups are indeed our own and only when we own them will we effectively be able to address them with the necessary focus and knowledge that they require. “Covering the night” wont do that.

    • i commented before great article , i havent read all comments but some i have , i will be doing a radio show this saturday and sunday and if you would like to come on air contact me my skype is slimswayze and iam easy to find google me if you have to and dont have skype but to come on air you will need it anyways 🙂

  4. Juliane Okot Bitek

    Take heart, TMS Ruge. We hear you. We've been silent screaming along with you for years now and writing and talking and writing and traveling far and wide to do the same thing. When IC called on people to abduct themselves in 2009 I cried from the frustration and wrote this: http://www.blackstarnews.com/?c=135&a=5605 But watching the local news tonight, on the same channel that has covered Guluwalks and come out to interview us now claims that no one knew Konee (sic) 24 hours ago and now everyone does. What a waste of potential energy. What a waste. But we keep talking, keep writing, traveling doing what we need to do with our own limbs and in our own voices.

  5. I fully believe that the countries affected by the LRA need to address the problem fully. What I don't think anyone can disagree with is that humans need to care for other humans. The Invisible Children organization and your organization, is trying to do the same and raise awareness and funds to help those in need. Regardless of where you live, we need to care for one another.

      • IC wants to bring american military intervention to Africa. Why bring more violence? Who does that help? You should research your actions.

      • Did you, like an imbecile, mindlessly start parroting to all your friends that the US needs to help "get Kony" (whatever that means)? Or maybe you donated to a charity whose co-founder explicitly states with regards to said charity that ( http://youtu.be/PBrcDDpUlJs @4:48) "We view ourselves as a business", before even bothering to research what your money would be going to?
        If not, you have nothing to feel like an imbecile about.

        "Lisa", however, thinks that because she never paid attention to what "countries affected by the LRA" have said & done BEFORE, that it means they haven't already addressed this problem in the way they've chosen to address it. THAT'S WHAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT. Outsiders with no connection to Uganda or its neighbors disregarding the voices of those who are actually there and have to live with it.

    • Yep, I get what this article is trying to say but it's comments like @Lisa's and that of Don Cheadle: http://don-cheadle.com/don-cheadles-thoughts-on-k… still make me mostly believe in IC efforts. No they don't have all the answers, but they are trying. The article only focuses on the fact that IC asks for money and has offices and kits, extra…but what about the part where they helped build schools, water wells, and also HELP start small economies by using people's natural talent in the towns that they went to? Meaning they helped people help themselves…No where in this article did he/she address that. I've read other articles like these, and as someone who has gone and walked through several slums and in fact one of the biggest slums in the world in Kenya, and all i could do was pray that things would one day get better b/c I don't have the money to build a school, or send medical supplies, etc., I think that what IC is doing is a hell of a lot more than I can do and is showing people that TOGETHER, we can make a difference. No one condemned the West for going in the fight to get Hitler out, as a matter of fact, the rest of the world only shook their heads as the U.S. stood idly by until it was clear that they HAD to get involved. No one condemns social workers from going and picking up their checks every two weeks or requesting a raise or a promotion when they feel they have worked hard, because in the end, they are still trying to do good in their world even if they do get paid for it. A lot of money prob does go paying those who work at IC and I get the hesitation and eyebrow lifts to that since their are other NGOs whose donations go more towards the actual cause, but to say that IC is completely irrelevant and selfish and people buying into the "hype" are being irrational and acting out of guilt, come on. I don't feel guilty, i feel moved. My trip to Kenya only inspired me to want to do more not only over there, but here in this country and in my own country of origin and I'm striving everyday to get to the point where I can do more than just send $20 here & there or volunteer once every couple of months.

  6. Great Article!
    I agree with your sentiments and work with a South African based, pan-African organisation called Leading Women of Africa (LWA). LWA promotes the progressive, Africa-led and action focused response to Africa that you have outlined.
    We aim to further the economic empower of women in Africa, and believe that the (unique) challenges that each country in Africa faces also presents opportunitiy. By conceptulising and implementing relevant solutions, Africans can empower thenselves, economically and socially.

    I would also like to add that working with our global communities is a postive thing to do and if we, as Africans, can conceptulise, implement, manage and monitor our solutions, there is no reason why a non-african individual or entitiy may not join as a partner/investor etc. to work towards the overall goal of a sustainable Africa and in turn, a better world.

  7. Yes, damn those fools for their empathy and for their human desire to want to help a situation they've just learned about.

    IC seems incredibly self-involved; that is obvious from their ridiculous video. But to condemn the average folks who genuinely would like to help out seems remarkably self-defeating.

    Unless, of course, your goal is for the non-African world to just ignore everything and just stay absorbed with our ipads and American Idol and whatnot. Usually we in the west get criticized for being unaware of world situations. Oh well.

    If my neighbor's house burned down I could just pull up a chair and watch and hope he "gets his act together" on his own. Or I could ask if there was anything I could do to help. Nah, that'd be patronizing.

    • Juliane Okot Bitek

      No one (at least no one that I know) criticizes the immense power of galvanizing all youth and the potential that carries. IC knows that and it's the reason they probably target young people. But that power is misdirected and wasted if, in their own words, they ask that we "don't study history, make history." How is it that the people who have immense knowledge at their fingertips can be so gullible and actually believe that plastering the streets with posters (after sending away $30.00) will convince the American government to keep 100 soldiers in Uganda? The American government, along with most governments in the world (LRA has been discussed at the UN many, many times) know what's going on there. The Canadian, Sudanese and the Danish governments helped to sponsor the peacetalks between the governments of Uganda and the LRA. I went to Juba Sudan when the peace talks had broken down and we needed the two sides back together. And they returned to the table. And the LRA has not been back to fight in Uganda since then. So how does littering stop a warlord? How dumb does IC think people are? Or are they? Let's see how it plays out.

    • where are they asking if there is anything they can do to help? They are telling you what needs to be done. We tried colonialism, it was horrible and it's legacy is the problems faced by Africa today, of which warlords like Joseph Kony are simply one of many, why venture down that path again?

  8. I live in Canada and obviously my life is a lot simpler, safer and relatively void of conflict. Please understand that Canadians don’t mean to degrade or belittle your struggles however we want to help. That’s who we are. And yes it may not always be perfect and the delivery maybe could be better but our hearts are 100 % in the right place. We are not inflicting the pain, we simply want the bleeding to stop. So if your opinions are those of everyone then we’re wasting our energy caring. Wow. That seems wrong on so many levels to me. So is it best to sit back and continue to allow children to suffer at the hand of corrupt tyrants who are not brought to justice by their governments? What will be done if the world ignores it? Children keep suffering and dying or living wishing they were dead? That’s not a solution either. I’m saddened by your stance but that’s only because I want peace for these victims.

    • Good response, and being a Buddhist, altruist, and pacifist I mostly agree also feeling the urge to help, however;
      Canadian problems are Canadian problems as well. What about the issues we are facing in government & politics right now? Such as the Robocalls scandal, and the C-30 a.k.a. Lawful Access Bill. Should we just forget about them and have every Canadian focus on Kony now? No, because that is an African problem, and they do not want or expect our help, just as we do not want or expect their help in our problems.

    • Iam canadian also and i think you make a great point! i will be doing a radio show on this topic this saturday 8-9pm and because its such a deep topic probally a sunday show for 3-4 hours feel free to contact me if you want to slim swayze im easy to find 🙂

    • @James. I agree that Canada has it's problems but I think it is a little unfair to compare Robocall scandals with mass murder. I can't do anything personally about certain political issues in Canada other than vote and support political groups that I agree with but I can give some of my hard-earned money to help countries for various things whether it be rebuilding, health care, education, and so on. I only hope that this social media event will at least inspire people (and I mean anyone, not just "white people"), to stand for what they believe in and aid others in whatever way they can……..whether it be donating to a particular cause, creating awareness about world issues, or travelling to countries to assist in rebuilding/health care/etc. Perhaps, targeting young people, like the IC has, will help to build a generation that will stand and fight for a better future rather than sit back and watch things just happen.

  9. This was absolutely amazing to read. It gave me such insight, and I’m going to refer this to as many people as I can…especially when they ask me why I’m so against this IC Kony 2012 movement. Thank you for writing this!!!

  10. Siobhan Warrington

    Thanks for taking the time to share your considered thoughts on IC and Kony2012, I have read and I have learnt.

  11. Thank you so much for writing this. I would like nothing more than to post links to this EVERYWHERE. If at all possible, please include a large size picture in this article so that it can be used on the new graphic-based social networking sites like Pinterest.

  12. I get you point, but what about people that were not informed much and wanted to help? People who donated out of good will, not because they feel a "white burden" but were generous and good willing, but somewhat misled by the video? In what world do we live, if we have to quadruple-check everything to the last full stop, if we feel the desire to help? Yes, it is our own fault, that in this well-developed age of information, we did not spend 5 minutes googling more, or being generally interested in issues like these.

    I can't shake off the bad feeling of being misled, I do not support some of IC's points, which I read about after donating. If I could pull my money back and show support to another organization by any means, I would. But I'd still like to believe in the good in people and hope that those money will not sink in somebody's fat pocket, but will rather help out in any possible way. IC should find a way to use the acquired funds after this campaign more efficiently and not into making another movie. At least this is what I hope for. I've always thought that building self-sufficiency is the most important thing, not just throwing money at people. But I, as an individual, can't currently provide anything more than support and donation of money, so I look for organizations that can. The video managed to strike a string in me, even though, as I have learned afterwards, heavy use of framing was conducted. Finding out that selective influence has been used on me in such a way makes me feel awful. I never wanted to offend anyone by donating to IC. Well, obviously I should have read more, before doing this, and this fact will stay with me from now on.

    But I feel offended, when somebody calls out people like me as "sheep" or "burdened by Africa", when all that got us backing this was good will. I don't just "reach for my wallet" when I see something related to Africa, because I feel burdened. I try to help out on a regular basis, to both local and foreign organizations.

    • Good on you Jay for doing what you thought was right but more than that, for admitting that you've learned a lesson. The IC has exploited the good will and naivety of people without properly attempting to address the real complexity or even true facts surrounding the subject. If more people realise they must first properly educate themselves about a subject instead of blindly following (and i'm sorry, that's what you've done) what is spoon fed to you, then maybe that is one good thing that will come from this IC campaign.

    • When I saw that video, it was clear as day to me that I was not their target audience. Scenes which were most likely meant to evoke a response of empathy from the target viewer actually struck me as twisted. I didn't need to be told that this was emotional manipulation covered with a veneer of slick video editing, I WATCHED it and saw the messages they unconsciously sent without meaning to.

      The beginning of it glorifies the main character (Jason Russell, heroic white man with a cute young son and An African Friend) and his righteous indignation over these atrocities he's just discovered. His response to Jacob's story is to naively compare it to what he thinks would happen in the US and to immediately assume that just because HE doesn't know, that no one knows and that nothing is being done, and that for some reason the US must intervene. Seriously?

      I had enough of it in the first 5 minutes (they haven't even introduced Kony yet at this point, which shows you Jason Russell is, in fact, the main character). I did watch all of it out of respect for the high schoolers who linked me to it, and guided them in their new interest as best I could. I didn't call the high schoolers out like this. But anyone older than that who still fell for such a terrible gimmick SHOULD feel embarrassed that all their "good will" is worth is blindly donating to some guys they literally did not know about half an hour ago, no thinking involved.

      Why would you even try to make this about how YOU feel?
      That right there is the meaning of "White Man's Burden". It only seems to afflict you.

    • I was saved before I donated, although their tactics made me uncomfortable I thought it was exciting that an NGO trying to do good could get so many people passionate about doing something that mattered. I had a quick look around first out of habit, although I was pretty gung ho and pretty damned sure I was gonna jump onto KONY2012 like nothing else.

      So that was the first bucket of cold water in the faces of we, the First World Facebook community.
      The second wave of realisation that hit you, and me, is the one that I hope can really turn all this into a positive thing.
      We're all feeling this fire of "what can we DO for the WORLD" right now. We're realising that it's a fire shared by millions. That's good.
      But many of us are feeling indignation at the manipulation, at the self-righteousness, at the sheer naiivete to do with Invisible Children and we do not want to be tricked again.

      This COULD be amazing because now we want to actually THINK about what we can DO.
      If it wasn't for KONY2012, I wouldn't have found this blog and many others – all of which are inspiring me to think very carefully while filling me with a certainty that there is SOMETHING I can do. I only hope that I am not the only one who feels this way.

  13. I'm not sure why so many North American White people hear "Care in the right way" and take it as "How dare you care!". True love for one's neighbor involves digging in and joining in, and the first part of that is listening, and trusting one's neighbor at his or her word. Emotion-based compassion can be a start, but it is not the way. Would you raise your children or love your spouse based solely on emotion? Hopefully not; hopefully you also listen and reason, so that your efforts of love may be most fruitful.

    There was a great quote I've seen recently about trying to "save" versus taking a personal stake and joining in with someone in their own liberation; I wish I could find it. Anyway, love must extend beyond emotion, and involve all of who one is. If IC moved you, be glad for the simple opportunity to feel compassion for others. But to love one's neighbor is to truly seek their betterment (is there a better definition of "helping"?), and that simply cannot properly done without first listening and making oneself humble.

  14. Thank you for this post! As a Ghanaian I felt highly affronted by how people just jumped on the latest "save Africa" bandwagon, can't imagine how you must feel. The danger of a single story reverberates throughout this entire IC spectacle, about time they were reined in. Scary to think how many other so-called campaigns are gonna pop up. Best wishes to you and keep up your good work!

  15. This is hands down the best piece I've read about #kony2012 and IC.

    Great site too, I'll be a regular visitor from now on.

  16. LittleGirlFromAccra

    This is a good piece. The point is not to discredit the contributions of Westerners who have helped the African continent. Just don't look at Africa as a far away place with poor, struggling people who need your help to survive. Empowerment is far more important than NGO hand outs. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

  17. First off, I very much like and respect this article – it’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for after watching their video. Um, speaking as a relatively naive well-meaning white western person… I can see fairly clearly that giving my money to people like IC isn’t particularly helpful. Is there any way you would recommend that we *can* help? Investing in start-up African businesses through things like Kiva loans, maybe? Wateraid? Just buying and sending tons of mosquito nets? Are there any NGOs/charities that are actually helpful and non-patronising? I do get the concept of white man’s burden, and I really don’t want to be patronising or anything (and am trying to poke my own backyard too), but on the other hand, surely if you have a pile of westerners wanting to be useful, you might as well use them productively?

    If I’m being privilidged and obtuse, I’d be grateful if you would be willing to show me (and others) why – or is it just a case of we should mind our own business entirely and let you get on with it?

    • I would say a good start is supporting political causes in your own country that promote behaviour that doesn't actively screw with other countries. Writing off debt, preventing land grabs and unethical "investment", all that sort of thing. There are lots of neo-colonialist policies that make it harder for African nations to help themselves, working on removing these obstacles would go a long way.

  18. What a well written and logical post. I watched the IC Stop Kony video and felt two things very strongly: 1) outrage at what this evil man has done to children and continues to do, and 2) emotionally manipulated by an egotistical and attention-seeking American.

    His desperate need to be seen as a 'hero' and saviour made me feel ill. Personally, he should have put the focus on the PEOPLE of Uganda, and not on himself and what his cute little son thinks of him. I was embarrassed for him. Where is his humbleness? Why not make that feature without featuring yourself? Why not be anonymous?

    I wish the people of Uganda only the best, but they don't need to be saved by Americans. You are obviously a strong people, and like you so brilliantly said: "If you really want to help, keep the guilt and charity in your backyard. Bring instead, respect, and the humility to let us determine our destiny."

  19. Is there a place where I can donate my money to get a mosquito net? It seems whenever I want to get involved it is better just to be apathetic. I do give a damn. I know that in my country (USA) we have a complex about helping, or consider other countries in need. However, I would like to help. I do not have the means to donate a lot but I would like to know that if I do donate money it would get to the correct organization. Please help.

    • There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves.

      Keep your money – they have it all under control

      • "If you really want to help, keep the guilt and charity in your backyard. Bring instead, respect, and the humility to let us determine our destiny."
        It is all in the attitude that you come with. He never said they have it all under control. Ask what is needed as Mary is doing and listen to the reply you get.

  20. This article explains my dissatisfaction with IC and I believe the government and the people of uganda need to closely unite and stop such misrepresentations. The named video renders all races states powerless save for the 20 social icons and 12 policy makers. None of those action kits were made in ‘victim country’ read Uganda and I believe its time we separated sympathiusers from detoothers.

  21. " Africa’s problems are our own."

    Okay, good bye then!?

    I understand it always feels better to fight one's problem on one's own, but come on, you can't be serious here.

    I know lots of help is just wrong, i.e. sending food instead of building farms and roads, but tbh I cannot share the applause you got from this article from the previous commenters.

    It's hard to imagine me at your place/role, but I'd just point out what's wrong with IC and move on. In the end IC DOES provide your country with awareness/attention.

    Hardly any NGO is 100% "clean"; there's always something to critizise. Just get in touch with IC and tell them what's wrong with their campaign.

    If they don't wanna listen, just make it public that they don't wanna listen.

    And ofc there's more important issues than getting rid of Kony, but, If I were you, again, I'd be happy that somebody at least makes an effort to raise attention to the issue.

    Would I be here otherwise, commenting? NO.

    • you clearly just don't get it. you make the assumption that we need your almighty help. "IC DOES provide your country with awareness/attention". the author is in NO hurry to thank them for this. it's demeaning, its belittling, it need not take place. no one asked you for your help, opinion, or guilt. all of it pollutes our world.

  22. I have to say after reading all your posts…I don't have an answer for most of the comments. When someone wants to help, they are idiotic fools. We should instead invest in local businesses in Africa. Great. I have tried to buy fair trade gifts direct from artisans….but how do I know it wasn't just another one of these "fronts," which is basically what you call them? We're supposed to help you help yourselves – but not how. All this comes through as is, "keep your damn money, because we're too good to take it." You don't want shoes, because your hope is to never have paved roads from city to city? Really?

    You seem to miss one basic premise. IC, agree or no, taught millions this week who on earth Kony was. You didn't do that. Diaspora didn't do that. And now tens of thousands want to help. You didn't do that. Diaspora didn't do that. So, why don't you come up with a step by step of what we CAN do? And why not say you support the non-military attempt to at least TRY to find this horrible man?

    • What non-military attempt? IC is essentially supporting U.S. military intervention, which in the past has been known to provoke severe retaliation, strikes more deadly than would have occurred otherwise. I think this is a prime example of awareness that is more harmful than it is helpful. Millions blindly calling for a governmental policy of sustained military involvement without considering its ramifications? Thought provoking discussions aside, I'd almost rather there were no campaign.

  23. Read IC's response http://www.invisiblechildren.com.s3-website-us-ea… Really? You want NGOs to pack up and pull out of Africa? IRC's water projects, refugee protection agencies, public health NGOs are hijacking Africa's ability to solve its own problems? IC set out to raise GLOBAL awareness of Koby. All of the issues you raise are important but IC never claimed they were its mission critical. What the heck does road accidents have to do with this campaign?

    • you really care!!! Why is it okay to promote NGOs in Africa only? Diaspora brings up a point that maybe lost on you. IC's views are simplistic and seek to undermine work by Africans that is going on at different levels. Negative portrayal of Africa in the media serves to undermine its progress in many ways.

    • Sarah, I understand your hurt feelings and it's ego trying to defend the feeling that what you did was good and just. The intentions of the majority who gave were, and are, fantastic. This piece is a commentary on how poorly directed the effort is…much like the world's best proctologist trying to perform lasix eye surgery in the dark. This is his country and he has lived through things most of us will never know of, let alone suffer. Why begrudge him the right to set us straight in our misguided efforts?

  24. That is one of the most incredible, erudite and expressive pieces of writing I have ever seen. Point well made as to the IC marketing plan. Thank you, and good luck.

  25. If only as many Westerners were as informed about unregulated food speculation and the starvation and unrest the wild price fluctuations cause, not just in Africa but all across the developing world.

    No, that would take a few minutes of research and a questioning of free-market ideals. Better we throw money at the white hunters chasing the bad black man off in the jungle somewhere.

  26. This is quite irresponsible. Westerners should stay out of Africa? Why, because you're doing so well on your own? The rest of the world should sit idly by and watch atrocities, famine and disease run rampant? Grow up and admit you need help, and lots of it.

    • You heard the man: There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves.

      Keep your money and take care of the problems in your own backyard.

    • Yeah, because the Western world is really doing so well by themselves too? Been reading the news lately, or is that too much of a stretch for your clearly miniscule mind? The Western world isn't doing too great itself, Africa has a lot of problems but it has improved a lot over the years. The West is in a freefall financially and socially, and to be honest I'd much rather support a local campaign in my city to reduce homelessness, than a shady NGO who clearly are doing more harm than good. I'm not being cold-hearted, there are just a lot of good people in Africa that have more of a handle on their own situation than I ever will. It's common sense.

  27. This reeks of pride and arrogance. If people were abducting my siblings, and my government wasn't able to stop it, I would welcome any country who wanted to help end it. This is quickly becoming a GLOBAL community. It's no longer Africans and Americans. It's HUMANS. I consider those in Uganda and Congo and Bolivia and China and Japan to be my brothers and sisters. You may not think I have a right to offer my support, but I don't think you have a right to ask me not to.

    • Megan, Your response starts with the words "This reeks of pride and arrogance". A western Shock and Awe solution to a problem that the residents of the country see as very different from how it was portrayed by a western awareness group might fit the description of prideful and arrogant far better than this post.

      I don't know where you live but I will almost guarantee that if every person in your community diverted what they donated to Kony2012 to the issues your community faces there would still be issues with the quality of schooling, the number of decent paying jobs, and the number of people living on the street. I'm asking you to disarm for just a moment and think about it honestly. Are we ready or qualified to derail the process Ugandans are building when we have issues to address at home? Those issues don't give us the adrenaline rush and good-karma feeling of Kony 2012 but the author is telling us that's where Africans need to focus just as we do. Fix the problems in our yard even though it's slow, difficult and almost thankless. Realize decades of dysfunction only get band-aid solutions in 9 months. Treat this as a lifetime's work and make the humans struggling to find work in the Midwest just as valuable as the children of central Africa. It's fair for him to have this vision for a better world and I'm sorry it hurts your feelings for him to say it.

      I think he's right.

    • This pieces references the testimony of those who have lost family and their position on the utility of this activism. If this is their conclusion, what right do you have to contradict their experience of something you have not personally experienced?

  28. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about IC, but TMS, by being a self-aggrandizing d*ckhead, has missed an opportunity to channel some of that energy in a more productive direction. I think self-empowerment is a noble goal, but it's aspirational. How are you going to "own your failures" when many still result from the much more malign meddling of international actors?

    I think it's also funny that TMS' gaggle of "too cool for school" Westerners are guilty of the same knee-jerk bandwagon jumping as the IC crowd. How much do most of them know about this guy? Probably not much more than they know about IC.

  29. AMAZING ARTICLE!!! Yeah i got my action pack , but im not done NOT EVEN CLOSE! i will be doing a radio broadcast this saturday 8-9pm eastern and sunday night also 7-11pm eastern on this issue i would LOVE to have you come on air to talk about this issue! anyone who wants to add me on skype :slimswayze also the shows will be airing LIVE on http://www.slimswayze.com also for those who miss the live show i will archive it also at slimswayze.4shared.com i hope to hear from you ! 🙂

    • You should probably read the article more carefully then. If you have five-ten minutes, have a look over some of his other posts about similar things.
      I don't mean to be presumptuous, but you did have 29 minutes to give that lovely man and his adorable child, right? Give this dude ten. Hear them both out. The world's eyes really are opening heaps this week – no need to stop learning after the first half hour.

    • Come on Mr. Kurtz…. As Megan said above, we are brothers and sisters, all of us! Please don't start with the "white people" stuff. There are "white people" in my family that are blood related with our African brothers and sisters. People cannot help how and where they were raised. All we can do is promote love, peace and try to help one another the best we can. Not point fingers one way or another. Bitterness won't get us anywhere.

  30. Thank you so much for writing this article. I am a white person in America and while I do want to help, I was horrified by the video. What scares me most is how many people are defending it, saying, "Well, they're spreading the word!" Of course, if their focus is spreading the word, I would have expected them to include the names of pro-active (hopefully African based) organizations that can help. Instead they are only promoting their own organization, and that is upsetting to say the least.

    With that in mind, for those of us who would like to help productively, can you give us some a list of African not-for-profits that are making a difference and looking for monetary donations?

  31. Apartheid – check
    Aids- check
    Famine – check
    Drought – check
    War – check
    Malaria – check

    I get it – It sounds like you do not need or want any outside help. I can respect that – you can do it yourselves. Good luck on that – Please accept my apologies for having thought we could help or make a difference. I see now that you have everything under control. Good luck with that

    • Massive corruption of the political machinery – check
      Undeclared wars that can't be paid for – check
      Ongoing racial inequality – check
      Millions without healthcare – check
      Rick Santorum unbelievably having a broad base of support – check

      I get it – It sounds like the America called on to save Africa has a few problems and isn't yet ready to make the world a better place one foreign country at a time. Good luck on that – Please accept my apologies for the fact that someone suggested we fix our domestic issues before trying to cram our superiority down their throats.

      Find the moral high ground before you claim it.

  32. I agree with your position on the independence and sovereignty of Africans, and the do-more-harm-than-good tendency of Western aid orgs, and the simplistic and sensationalized version of reality put across in the IC video.

    But – I'm a little confused. If this video had come out in 2003, when not only the LRA but the Uganda Army was chopping off kids hands, raping girls and burning villages, would you still be saying "oh we can handle it ourselves, butt out"? Clearly, then, Uganda needed help that they did not get. Now, DRC, CAR and Sudan are in a similar place, and good people there are being brutalized by a single evil madman who /can/ be stopped.

    I look at it as neighbors helping neighbors – this type of atrocity and abuse is too extreme for good-hearted people to turn away from. When there is the equivalent thing happening anywhere else in the world, I would hope we Westerners and also Africans would do everything in their power to open each other's eyes and put an end to it. Your defensiveness about African autonomy is understandable, and yes the situation is complex and the history is beyond complex – but I think it's misplaced indignation. Maybe it's not about Africa, maybe it's actually about these guys who rape, mutilate and kill children. Are we not all the same in wanting our children to be happy and free? Do you not want peace? Are you not willing to help your neighbor to get it, if it is denied him? That is all the motivation we have.

  33. to equate the current recession in the US economy to the human rights violations happening in Uganda is to miss the entire point of why assistance is needed in Uganda. a better analogy would be the Holocaust, the allied nations could have sat back during the Holocaust and decided to let Germany and Poland fix the problem on their own (they did for a while actually, but that's a whole other conversation . . .), but I think we can all agree that the allies intervening to end the atrocities as soon as possible was a good thing.

    These aren't trivial problems, these are terrible human rights violations, murders, mutilations, rape, slavery, etc. i'm sure the people on the receiving end who are suffering every day don't chagrin people in other parts of the world 'patronizing' them by trying to stop the violence that surrounds them on a daily basis. to criticize the assistance because it is less than perfect and say it isn't needed is condescending and unhelpful.

  34. To the people upset by this piece, perhaps it’s because you had your own personal needs fulfilled in choosing to “help Africa”, and the author here denies that satisfaction to you.

    Ask yourself, why did you even choose to help in the first place? Answer: because it makes you feel good about yourself, or important, or special, or like a guardian angel protecting the less fortunate. These are human beings you’re dealing with, why not listen to someone’s perspective on what your help means to them? Why ignore that if you truly care about helping?

    By being upset you show your true motivations: not help of others, but help of yourself.

  35. What a SAD world we live in when someone has to degrade, insult, and try to humiliate another organization's good deeds and will to help and have compassion on others. Yes, shame on Invisible Children for spending TEN YEARS working on this ONE ISSUE…not spreading themselves around to "campaign" for other causes. They have devoted a decade of their life…a couple of kids from Southern California who could have chosen to be blind, ignorant, and careless about what is going on in the world and instead decided to NOT to do that, to be involved, to educate themselves, to try and make a difference…not for themsevles but for others. How can you be so careless with your words? How can you be so short-sighted to not see the good in this campaign? How can you be so destructive to someone else's work? It's such a shame. I get that you disagree with their approach or their "strategy" and you would like for them to present the information in a different way…but why not work with them, instead of against them.

    News flash: most people probably don't know you or your organization which doesn't mean you don't do good and valuable work. But millions of people know about Invisible Children and what they do…it's about reaching people and capturing their hearts and moving them to act. You used your platform to criticize and make an ass out of yourself.

    • Lots of people are making comments in various places just like yours saying we should celebrate the good work Invisible Children does- the way Invisible Children tells the story is not neutral, it is grossly simplistic and disturbing. It may do more harm than good to people who have already suffered too much. If people want to help they should check out local initiatives like the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative or the Totto Chan child trauma center in Juba, South Sudan to name a few

    • I see your accusation of short-sightedness and raise you an accusation of smug myopia.

      What good does it do to know the name of one bad guy doing bad things in Africa? Did we not know that there were bad dudes in Africa before? The conversation that is spurning from this video is amazing – it's great. The solutions the makers of this video advocate are POTENTIALLY ineffectual at best, actually destructive at worst.

      I agree that it's great people have been moved to act. I hope they move far away from Invisible Children, find sources of information like this one, and act with established organisations that actually know what they're doing.

      It's noble to spend ten years of your life on one issue. It's still possible to be noble and make big mistakes.

      • We can descend into name calling but that would miss an opportunity to engage with you. Agreed! The conversation is great. That doesn't mean my voice or opinion doesn't count. That's what makes dialogue great– differing perspectives. Thanks for engaging.

  36. I think any alternative to apathy is positive and I can't help but commend someone or thing that takes a stance. I don't know where my money will go; I don't know whether Gavin is really his son; but I do know that that 30 minutes was of as much if not much more value to my education and inquisitiveness as the programs on cable i spend hundreds of dollars on. after all, it led me to your post.
    Those who are most like minded and have the most in common so often have the most conflict. Instead of supporting one another's shared interests and commonalities, they often focus on their nuanced differences that no one else cares enough about to observe in the first place. I'm black, and I know we african americans do it. jewish and muslims seem way more similar than dissimilar to me… reading your post, I can't help but think you have more in common with IC than not, and you're just having a knee jerk negative reaction to some sensitivities (e.g. who helps africa, westerner or africans rather than good people or bad people) you've developed during your struggle. anyway- keep fighting the good fight. and choose your battles wisely.

  37. Only part of the post that I didn't like was this (snipped for length, the whole quote covers several paragraphs):

    "I would love nothing more than to be telling you the small victories we experience working with the very scarred survivors of Kony’s atrocities…But I can’t tell you their story. Why? Someone else has taken over their part in this complex saga, simplified it, branded it, packaged it and is reselling it as an Action Kit…"

    I get that you're reacting to this on short notice, but that's pretty silly. No, IC's video is absolutely not stopping you from doing anything. In fact, it gives you the opportunity to piggie-back off of their popularity and spread the more nuanced, better message.

    IC is pretty obviously wrong about quite a bit, but one beneficial side effect of their aerial bombardment campaign is that people are more aware that something is going on, allowing you and others to bring more education.

  38. I’m probably naive and certainly mean no disrespect to anyone, especially survivors of attacks by the LRA and honestly, I don’t normally get involved in anything, like many Americans.

    That said, my desire to spread the word about Kony stems from a couple of places, and maybe both are selfish. One is a place of feeling toward the US government and Army. In how many conflicts have we become involved because they affect this country financially… conflicts like the war in Iraq where my sister served? Our government feeds its people a line about saving that area from a monster, like the war was a humanitarian effort, but it was never about the people. My thinking, then, is that if my nation is so concerned about the rest of the world, why not support an effort to bring a war criminal to justice? My second selfish reason for wanting to be involved is that I have two beautiful children. I’m a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, so I’ve a heightened sense of fear, I suppose, where my children are concerned. Hearing of these children being abducted and the girls being made sex slaves hit a nerve in me. Is it wrong of me to care about those children just because they aren’t my own? It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe the survivors there are incapable. If I were more than one person trying with difficulty to provide for my own family, I would love to be more involved than I am in the world around me. But I am only one and one of limited means.

    I intend absolutely no disrespect in trying to do what little I can to try and effect some change.


  39. I’m probably naive and certainly mean no disrespect to anyone, especially survivors of attacks by the LRA and honestly, I don’t normally get involved in anything, like many Americans.

    That said, my desire to spread the word about Kony stems from a couple of places, and maybe both are selfish. One is a place of feeling toward the US government and Army. In how many conflicts have we become involved because they affect this country financially… conflicts like the war in Iraq where my sister served? Our government feeds its people a line about saving that area from a monster, like the war was a humanitarian effort, but it was never about the people. My thinking, then, is that if my nation is so concerned about the rest of the world, why not support an effort to bring a war criminal to justice? My second selfish reason for wanting to be involved is that I have two beautiful children. I’m a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, so I’ve a heightened sense of fear, I suppose, where my children are concerned. Hearing of these children being abducted and the girls being made sex slaves hit a nerve in me. Is it wrong of me to care about those children just because they aren’t my own? It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe the survivors there are incapable. If I were more than one person trying with difficulty to provide for my own family, I would love to be more involved than I am in the world around me. But I am only one and one of limited means.

    I intend absolutely no disrespect in trying to do what little I can to try and effect some change.


  40. People becoming upset about his views and his refusal to accept anymore charity, further proves his point, of trying to tell him that they know better than he does, when he's the one that's been there, those are HIS people. Now some of you are accusing him of not caring. or the JACKASS that had the nerve of saying that its all because he himself wasnt raped by Kony–really?
    So…what you are trying to say is that you, who most likely hasnt even been to Africa, who is a complete outsider to these issues knows better than the author of this article? You must be out of your mind.
    It's almost impossible to have IC-type people understand what it's like to come from an underdeveloped country, have you all ever considered that shoving aid down their throat isnt the answer? Being poor and facing struggle doesnt equal being void of dignity, self-respect, moral character, pride, etc. There's many ways of showing support for a cause, cheering them on in their struggle is one. Not everyone needs someone else to fight their battles for them, these are fully capable people, with tons of drive and determination and strength, and for years people keep taking their shine by portraying them as weak and helpless–when that is not the case at all; the fact that they are facing harsh circumstances should not automatically imply that they need or want your pity, but rather your respect, respect their struggles.
    And if you wanna be part of an organization, find one that is preferably constructed by Africans for Africans, made by the people that KNOW the issue and its complexity and it's full depth, not the one with the best video editors and hot-topic-campaign type merchandise.

    (ps. If you get nothing out of this and are still "down with the IC"…make your own posters at least, dont buy them from them, make your own tshirts, dont give them money, spend your money more wisely and in a more developed and honest organization–i trust you can find one!)


  41. Completely offensive & discouraging to someone who lives in America but would like to extend a hand to help. Give up? Shake our heads & continue to live apathetically because you don't want our help? You say you don't need or want the help, but then what is the solution? Guess go back to ignoring it or at least give to a charity that is ASKING for it. Not you.

    • That is stupid, you are seriously going to give money to a charity just because they ask for it?? I think that is exactly what he wants you to do, it's foolish to just throw your money at anybody who says they want it, there is absolutely no way of telling where it is actually going! For all you know, the 'charity' you are supporting could in turn be supporting militias or violent armies who hurt innocent people, or be pocketed by greedy charity leaders who prey on the goodwill of people like you to make an easy profit. What he is saying is that if you want your money to be useful and do something good, then use it locally where you know exactly what it is doing, instead of releasing it to the mercy of the world which rarely uses it for the purpose in which you intended. There is no effective way of helping people in Africa unless you have seen the situation on the ground yourself, and I seriously doubt your commitment and willingness to help stretches that far. So don't complain.

  42. I want to feel sorry for all these people upset that TMS is suggesting that should butt out. He’s right, save your money. He’s wrong we haven’t always been able to solve our problems so its fair to assume we cant always. But your government and your organizations have NEVER solved our problems either so… TMS not being arrogant, it really is annoying being African and seeing all you go bananas over Kony 2012. We’re not stupid, we already knew Kony but we also know Pres Museveni, that there’s oil in the north, that Uganda is fighting for the US against Al Shabaab… the point is your action kits won’t help end anything. The Ugandan army also rapes, as did UN troops in the Congo. You wanna help stay away and tell your governments to do the same. As for awareness, it does harm, alot. Now just like they used Afghani women’s conditions to go in Afghanistan, the US military has already found its way to northern Uganda. Soon they will deploy more troops because your well intentioned awareness will raise hell with your representatives and they will go there and take the oil, maybe even kill Kony, arm the just as bad Ugandan army… and the raping and killing will continue now even more cause there will be oil interests. Serious leave this issue alone. Real change comes from within. Yes we havent solved malaria, but neither has the various UN health agencies and other multi-million dollar organizations. Leave it be. You will do harm. I share a border with Uganda and Im leaving it alone. I keep myself updated on their socio-economic issues but I leave them alone. Untill they make their own video asking for help.

  43. I hear and understand what you're saying… but without the Kony 2012 video, I would never have found your site or heard of the Women of Kireka. 🙂

  44. Please help me to understand, the purpose of this article was to info public that Africa doesn’t need assistance? I’m an African American and I may not agree with all the information IC is giving to the public but should we turn a blind eye? I have talked to several of my African friends and they agree that Kony has to be stopped, furthermore it shouldn’t end with him. Africans should be glad somebody (white man) raised awareness because nobody else has. I’m so tired of people acting like they are too good for a hand out. I hope the time and effort you put into this post, you were helping the kids in Uganda seek refuge 10 years ago when they were being abducted.

    • Here's the point. This mess grew out of many different problems… including foreign intervention. The quick-fix solutions we try to apply in the Western world don't really work, they simply change the current situation to one we are temporarily more comfortable with. The author is saying that the slow, progressive climb out of the mess that once was is happening now. Uganda is a better place than it was 6 years ago as a result of this process. he acknowledges that they will make mistakes but because they are making the mistakes on their own soil they can take ownership of solving the problems they create. I would suggest we take ownership of fixing our own Western problems and correcting the problems in our own communities and when that project is complete we can look for somewhere else to help out. Africa can't afford the destabilizing impact of changing the game from what they are carefully and slowly building. They are doing well, and making progress, and at the same time North America is doing a poorer and poorer job of taking care of larger numbers of people. Turning a blind eye is preferable to trying to remove a splinter from another's eye while blinded.

  45. The comments on this blog are disgusting and making me utterly ashamed. I had no idea Western entitlement ran so deep and putrid. The sheer level of offence at the suggestion that maybe, Africa doesn't need or want your impulse charity is shocking. Taking a couple of minutes to whip out your credit card details won't "change the course of human history" despite what a snazzy market video claims. Are your egos so desperately in need of a good stroking?

    It's amazing that, even as Western governments undermine the validity of social welfare programs and perpetuate myths of welfare ghettos that we are so insulted when someone puts together well-reasoned argument against simply throwing money and good intentions at a problem completely outside of the our ken. Double-think in action. Wake up to yourselves.

  46. The wary sentiment and scepticism against having a continued "US advisors" contingent present in Uganda or any developing nation is well founded. Latin America is still reeling from the atrocities that such advisors stirred up all in the name of stopping some Western-labelled "bad guy." America was in fact found guilty of undermining Nicaragua's sovereignty in the International Court of Justice and ordered to pay $12 billion in reparations. Of course American refused and vetoed any UN resolution made to force them to comply. So if you're truly interested in righting 25 year old injustices you really don't have to look further than your own backyard.

  47. Thank you for this post. It is time to take back our power. IC's simplistic view undermines all the work that Africans are doing and the progress being made. You never see other groups degraded in this fashion yet the media continues to negatively portray Africans.

    The other side of this is that Africa will continue to progress quietly, despite this negative portrayal. The Chinese know it and the elites in the West know it, too. It is the common man who is easily taken in by organizations such as IC.

  48. Charles Laliberte

    Thank you! In my poor words I have been trying to explain this to the Americans whom I know. You have said it eloquently. Thank you. I will be sharing your thoughts with others.

  49. This is so odd to me… You know what? I DIDN'T EVEN THINK about it being in Africa. I DIDN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT being black people. I DIDN'T EVEN THINK about it being someone else's problem. I DIDN'T EVEN THINK that Uganda is a screwed up country or anything of the sort. I simply thought about the fact that children are suffering and that if people can speak out and not turn a blind eye then history – what happened with Hitler for example – people turning a cheek, would not happen again. I think that's what most people who gave to this campaign would say. Somehow now it's a black/white savior/putting down your country issue? You missed the whole point. It's not THEM AND US. THEM AND US is what kept people turning a blind eye to Hitler. This guy needs to be stopped. Sure there are bigger problems in your country, but does this mean this should not be addressed? It's bizarre the lashing out. Yesterday no one knew who this creep was. Today everyone does. Ignorance is never good. Ignorance is what keeps people like Kony doing what they're doing. So yay for this campaign. It spread education and through education atrocities stop. All of this sounds like ego… don't help me, don't want your help, don't victimize us… no place for ego when kids are dying.

    • Sure it made people aware, but it should be a big red flag if this video was the only reason why people became aware of this issue. It has been going on for years, and trust and believe that the people that genuinely want to help and have dedicated their time and effort to making a difference, have known about this for years.
      And yes, there is a dividing like between them and us, and people don't see it, and that's the problem. It is THEIR problem, THEY should be the ones to propose a plan to help end it, and WE should listen and act accordingly, not take the reigns and act like they need us to take control of the situation and fix it for them. Sure it's team work, but they should be allowed to call the shots on what should be done, not the west or any other outsider.
      I wouldn't want anyone to burst into my home because I can't figure out a way to [insert any personal issue], help is appreciated but not people who impose. The same goes here.

      PS. I mean no personal attacks, but don't tell this man that he missed the whole point. It's nonsensical that someone with deep roots in Uganda would miss the point of a presentation about Uganda to presumably help Uganda. He got the point, hence the article we are discussing.

      You are all good-natured people that wanna see a positive change in the world and that is admirable, but you should consider that, although well-intentioned, IC is not the way to go. Lend an ear 🙂

  50. This is a wonderfully written article, as many have said before me. Thank you for putting our Western prejudices (however well-intentioned) into proper perspective.

  51. I had my doubts about the authenticity and the priority of the IC campaign but what it does show is the power of the social network tool and the willingness of people to help other people if they are shown how. It might not be perfect but surely its better than doing nothing. ( I think that's the point). Your article made some important points but the one that rang true for me was to do with priorities. If you need malaria nets use the same tool that is also at your disposal to put it on the international public agenda! I understand your feelings about self determination but shouldn't we be striving for fewer walls and borders between us? Shouldn't we be helping anyone who needs it? Whether they're African or Swedish? (BTW, I think this was a silly analogy) You seem far too willing to throw babies out with the bathwater.

  52. Thank you KONY2012. If not for you I would have continued believing Africa was the helpless mess you portray it to be rather than the beacon of hope this piece describes. I may never have looked for this, continued pitying Africans as a whole, and missed this beautiful bigger picture. Good on you TMS Ruge. Keep up the great work and the wonderful perspective that makes your vision possible.

  53. It seems that the hatred (intentional or not) towards the IC denoted in this article (and subsequent comments) is apparently due to this organisation being based in America where 'white man's burden' should be eradicated.

    I find it interesting (and baffling) that every post asking for a better means of distributing charity (i.e. an Africa-based NGO) has been met with silence.

    You ask us to help through a more worthwhile avenue but offer no conclusions. Is this entirely because you feel your problems are your own and shouldn't be meddled with by outsiders? And perhaps that you would prefer aid was permanently suspended (something that might not be opposed in the current economic climate), and awareness, fund-raising and action was undertaken entirely by African agencies? I wonder if those funds would be missed…

    I am not trying to take your issues away from you and I cannot say that I fully understand your situation. However, I ask again for the sake of those who already have, if we feel the need to help our fellow human, who are you to deny that? Perhaps for some it may be self-motivated, but the intention to help is still there.

    You may question the IC's motives, but please don't question the empathy and compassion of others.

  54. LPeating

    Sometimes doing nothing is better, if I coul direct you to this excellent article I read earlier…

    "Another common theme in the comments of my previous post was that of accusing those who challenge the Kony 2012 campaign of asking people to do nothing rather than participate in this campaign. That was often coupled with the apparent truism that “Doing something is always better than doing nothing”. Something with which I fundamentally disagree. As I have outlined above, if this campaign is successful then all these people “doing something rather than nothing” will have blood on their hands. They probably won’t notice however as this may well be a year or two down the line and they will have long moved onto other campaigns.
    This accusation of asking people to do nothing whilst these atrocities that aren’t happening any more continue to not happen is also patently untrue. I have repeatedly advised people to investigate the situation and to seek ways of offering help. I even suggested a couple of projects that need exposure and aid.
    No one has been saying “Do nothing”, what we are saying is “Don’t do this” which is completely different.
    I enthusiastically encourage people to go out, take action and improve our world. But to do that you need the right tools and the right information. You need to learn about the world and the way it works. You need to learn about social movements, where they have succeeded and where they have failed. You need to talk to people about how they see the world improving and listen to what it is that they, and you, want to achieve."

  55. Does the visibility of Kony lead to more international/ governmental action to find him and stop him? If so, isn’t any visibility is good? Whatever else may be gained from each individual activist – person or group…

  56. This piece is beautifully written and I agree with the part about the possibility that IC may be taking more of the money to pay themselves than to actually help stop Kony and that is why I don't give to big time charities that are working to "end cancer." I will not give my money to a cause unless I know where it is going; families, local agencies, hospitals, etc. However, comparing Kony's acts over the last 25 years and our sudden want to help stop him should not be compared to America's economy crisis or the decline in their standard of living because the issues are so drastically different; innocent people of Africa being killed for no good reason, and their lives at the hands of children is not nearly or equally the same.

    I also agree that, yes, some people may be spreading the word to lick the wounds of a guilty conscience, or jump on the band wagon because it may seem like the cool thing to do, but that is not to say that every privileged white person is joining in to spread the awareness for the same reason. This video, however expensive or inexpensive to make, moved me to tears; that innocent children are forced to kill their parents and others against their will. And while providing nets to prevent malarial contractions is important, the video touches upon the issue that the US and other international organizations won't contribute to the cause because it is of no immediate threat to them. Yes, it may have been a long time and billions of dollars spent to catch Bin Laden, but the persistence behind their search was the result of a direct attack on the US and one that could not be ignored the world over. Yes, Kony has been at it for 25 years, and that is a true travesty, but what's more is that the world did not know. This is the first time I have heard of Joseph Kony, and I am not alone in saying that I have known about child soldiers, but in my self absorbed ignorance did not know the extent or to the responsibility that such a travesty belongs to.

    "Instead, they want work and respect and business to be able to make decisions that move their lives along. They want desperately to forget and rebuild anew; thankful for their lives. They want radios and cell phones and grasp at any semblance of normalcy. They cuddle and nurse their newborns like delicate, cherished gifts. What they don’t talk about is justice. They talk about how to forgive and move on."

    While I agree that the integrity of the people should be respected, I ask, "What about those who are running for their lives?" This may be an uninformed exaggeration based on the little I know on the issue, but if there are children and families at risk of violent exploitation who are constantly on the move only to survive, than the privilege to make decisions based on how they live their lives may not be an option to them. But forgive us, as "white westerners," if in the smallest way we can, want to make a bigger impact to at least allow for some change to happen in order to truly allow people to make decisions on how to live one's life, and not base their lives solely on survival. And please remember, that while the video was created by White Westerners, the story came from an African youth wishing for a better life, and that while you call it the "western do – gooders" thing to do, this yearning to help is not exclusive to the western world but is World Wide.

    I do respect your views and where you stand, so please in return respect mine. I reiterate that I will not give money to the cause, but hope that with our technological advances and vast communication that by generating enough discussion and awareness on this issue, we can as a global community show that we care for our fellow human beings enough to cause a shift for movement from our governments locally and internationally.

  57. Perhaps some of these westerners who are oh so concerned and want to make a difference (and everybody knows westerners are so smart and perfect and always right *rolls eyes*) they should instead be looking at the ways the west continues to actively harm both the people and the sovereignty of the people they claim to be helping. I am a white westerner myself,;so in this I don't want to try to speak above anybody with an actual stake and I don't want to strip anybody of their true agency in determinng their life and if I do so please tell me, but I am honestly disgusted by how some of these 'caring' people act in a mindset like "WHATTT??!?! YOU DON'T WANT MY ENLIGHTENED AID?! I GUESS I'LL JUST THROW MONEY WITHOUT RESEARCH AT SOMETHING ELSE BECAUSE I'M THE BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD AND I HAVE TO SAVE SOMEBODY BUT NOT SOMEBODY WHO'S UNGRATEFUL" and how they act like it is important how they feel about being called naive for falling in line with a world view able to be described to a five year old in the span of ten seconds. But I digress from the point I was originally intending to make, in that for every dollar some bright faced westerner sends to save some poor baby, thousands or millions are flowing in from somebody else to "ensure resource security," and ironically the computers used to post the Kony videos require resources such as the ore Coltan, which is to a large degree mined illegally in Africa especially the DRC, (and I am a hypocrite here, as I am using a computer obviously; I am trying my hardest to limit or even eliminate my consumption, especially of products created in regions where resources and people are horrifically exploited) and most if not all the products consumed by westerners are the result of a dedicated system of exploitation with extreme levels of well-funded violence behind it. So I guess my question is, one, is it even possible to do anything about this, and two, would this avenue be an effective means of assistance from westerners without them acting paternally; ie acting as some sort of fifth column? I realize now my tone came off terrible, but I am very angered all the time and I feel from time to time trapped in the belly of the beast so to speak when I see the attitudes of people in my country and especially when I see the crimes my nation commits and whitewashes on a daily basis and then has the guts to condemn others for.

  58. I respect your perspective….but to assume they do not have good intentions is and comes across as angry. WE DO need to raise awareness of the problem. They are doing just that. I had NEVER ever heard of the LRA until this week. Because of that I want to help. Many will end up helping you TMS RUGE. I want too… But we also need to get the word out so others can LEARN. It would have been nice to have you tell people how you think people should help…not just sound angry at a group raising awareness.

  59. I'd love to chat with whoever wrote that article, Jessica. As part of the Diaspora, I understand what he's saying but I don't think his peers will feel the same. Africa's problems run very deep. We (diaspora and africans) know that only Africans will save Africa. But most Africans I meet are thankful for foreign aid because their governments are incredibly inefficient and/or corrupted.

  60. We are just stopping by a deserted road to help you fix a flat and maybe offer you a lift to the nearest service station. Walking that long road alone is exhausting and having some company with you makes the journey less arduous.

  61. I fell into the emotional wave. I clicked watched and shared and from that moment started wondering. Thank you for giving me the answers to my niggling sense of discontent since clicking ‘share’. Sorry for being part of the problem. I hereby pledge to think, read and listen before sharing.

  62. This is how I would summarize what I read: "Thanks but no thanks, Invisible Children. Even though Uganda has 25+ years of demonstrable failure in catching the ICC's most wanted criminal, we prefer not to accept your help. We would rather allow Joseph Kony to roam free than accept your help, because it's the wrong kind of help, and we don't want your awareness, because it's the wrong kind of awareness, and you don't understand the subtleties and nuances of our problems."

  63. i am not white and i dont feel guilt nor do i see "africa" as a burden. i see this more so as human love, respect of existence, compassion and the union of our generation for something that matters. thats all.

  64. Great article. People in the developing world absolutely can help themselves. And they certainly don't need any foreign nation dictating their destiny. I don't support aid that creates dependency, we are all sick to death of 'bad aid projects'… but I also believe we can support aid initiatives that don't compromise this dignity. Aid projects that are driven by the principles of the 'Paris Declaration' and targeted towards the 'Millennium Development Goals'. Initiatives such as providing a loan to a women in a community who can use those funds to start up her own business, but is then required to pay the loan back. Micro-finance is having an incredible impact in empowering women in the developing world . Investments such as providing a community with 'information' to better hold their own governments to account is an important way we can assist in empower others to tackle corruption. South Korea is an example where hard workers of the country lifted themselves out of poverty largely through trade, but the aid investments in to education and infrastructure played an important role in allowing this country to go from an aid receiving country, to an aid giving country, in a single generation.

  65. i say misplaced pride&resentment.Get over it…irrespective of the means..a window of opportunity for the people of Uganda to address the WORLD is here and how do some want to use it? Arguing over why the world paid attn to a white man over them. Right now it doesnt matter. You are in the lime light. Seize this media opportunity. Discuss Famine.Malaria, corrupt govt etc…it doesnt even have to be about Kony anymore etc. Who cares how the attention came about? . You in your personal life may not need ngos&etc but there are many in worst social situations than U who do.As an advid volunteer I cant believe U will be so ungrateful tO disregard the services of the many commoners who dedicate their talent & skills to help people. Most of us are not rich & famous but commoners w/ a good heart. If not for that video I would not even have know about the malaria outbreak which as a healthcare worker, am now more interested in than finding kony. Focus on the good that came out of this & capitalize on that.

  66. I am inclined to be wary of things like this Kony 2012 video, but I am wary of some things in this article, too. If it will clarify my feelings, consider an analogy from history. If a group of Americans in 1940 organized a campaign to put political pressure on the U.S. government to arrest and capture Adolf Hitler, what would you think of a Polish Jew who stood up to complain that it was paternalistic, and the Polish Jews should be left to their own devices to depose Hitler; to help them would insult their dignity? Of course, it's an imperfect analogy; I'm sure comparisons like this are the exact thing you're frustrated about. Today's Ugandans obviously have much more political recourse than interred Jews did in the Holocaust. But the situation isn't dissimilar: there is a war criminal guilty of grievous crimes against humanity at large in central Africa, and nobody has stopped him yet. Uganda has 25 years of demonstrable failure in capturing Joseph Kony, and in that time period, he has ordered the abduction of some 30,000 children. Now, an American group has mustered the money, technology, personnel, and political capital to pressure the international community to go after him. Of course, it's clicktivism, and it's gimmicky, but when a heinous war criminal has been at large for a quarter century, what's the harm in trying a new trick?

    I wondered how my perspective might be different if I were an African. But I have to think (and I could be wrong) that if I were a child whose friends and neighbors had been abducted into servitude and prostitution, and some Americans (or Swedes, or English, or Japanese) came to help stop the guy responsible, their supposed paternalism and guilt-induced do-goodery would probably be the last thing on my mind. I would probably just be happy that somebody, anybody, regardless of their motives and their full understanding (or lack thereof) of my cultural context, had stopped the bad guy that was killing my friends. Do you think that the people liberated by the Allies from Dachau and Auschwitz would have the audacity to decry the "dumb-assery," and "idiocy" (your words) of their benefactors? As I read the article, I wanted to ask, "Would you prefer that people who may collectively have the will and political force to stop a mass-murdering war criminal sit idly by because you disagree with their methods, ideology, or marketing?" The "Kony 2012" video is not a call to invade or occupy Uganda. It is a call to pressure the U.S. government to help catch one man, which Uganda, on its own, has thus far been unable to do. Should Invisible Children succeed in this mission, will any Ugandan (except Kony himself) be worse off for it? How many Ugandans will be better off for it?

    You seem to take issue with the idea that Invisible Children is somehow presenting a one-sided account of African history, "hijack(ing) the voice of so many." But that's not what's happening. The story told in the "Kony 2012" video is only a small piece of a much larger puzzle. It doesn't claim to be any more; only a fool would believe it to be so. "Kony 2012" isn't hijacking the voices of Ugandans any more than "Inside Job" (a documentary about American criminals) hijacks my voice as an American. Invisible Children wasn't established to teach African history, politics, or sociology. It was established to mobilize people and gather money to address a very specific issue in another country. And they've done a lot. They've probably done more than 95% of those leveling criticisms have done. It seems to me that you are the one hijacking others' voices by claiming to speak for an entire country in your refusal of this, in addition to putting a great many words in the mouth of the IC organization.

    So, I take this "Kony 2012" thing with a grain of salt. Yeah, it's easy, and trendy, and marketable (and real change is none of these), but I am going to reserve my judgments on it until we see if it actually works. To my mind, the real issue is the possibility of the establishment of a precedent in which citizens can pressure their governments to take military action in another country. This could be incredibly dangerous and de-stabilizing if it gets too near a slippery slope.

  67. Is Africa really in a position to refuse the help of anyone who would give it? Is any country really? There's a lack of humanity in that response. I'm afraid I find something distasteful about this article. You sound like a bitter rival.

  68. Thank you very much for sharing! I too will visit your site more often in the future and will now send this to the university students that were very divided on how to think about the recent high tech film and the many other broader issues you have raised in your article.

  69. Roy Rogers McFreely

    Most of the Kony2012 critics who have posted here, are just as self righteous as the "western do gooders".

    The IC video, its response, and the barrage of said "do gooders" annoy me greatly, but this article annoyed me even more, even though I actually agree with 90% of it. So I guess it's underlying tone of the article that I don't like, rather than the article itself.

    "Bring instead, respect, and the humility to let us determine our destiny."
    I completely agree.
    The problem is your country and most of the African continent is a complete failure.
    You fail as a society and you fail as a nation in the modern world.
    That does not mean you are useless, or the Ugandan people are useless…the world has changed and you, as a nation, have failed to adapt.
    You have fallen too far behind, dug a hole so deep that you will never get out.
    The western world wants to "Save Africa" out of pity not sympathy, only no one will admit it.
    It's like watching a cat drown. Sure you could stand there and watch it sink, or you could throw it a line.

    For the most part, I agree with you. What happens in your country is your business.
    I personally don't care. I might be a bastard, but at least I'll admit it.

    Just keep in mind that whilst the Western World is not perfect, it is strong for a reason.
    There is no shame in accepting help when you need it.

    • It is strong because it rose on the back of our efforts. 1) Colonialism 2) Slavery 3) Resources. Please update your history books and connect the dots. We fail to rise because Western guilt keeps us here. $700 billion in aid, I mean pity, over 50 years hasn't helped. Please keep it. There is a shame in accepting your money. We only ask that you let us actually ask for it.

      • Roy Rogers McFreely

        The west was strong before colonisation and slavery, hence their ability to do so.
        Just about every nation in the world has been raped by tyrants at some point, including the west, but they learn from it.

        You fail to rise because of YOU. Not anyone else.
        If you want to move forward, you need to stop blaming others and accept responsibility for your own people and your own actions. Western guilt isn't keeping you there, you are keeping you there.

  70. OK WOW! African here, in the interest of transparency. I am shocked by the arrogance of westerners on this here blog!

    You really, really really want to help Africa? Here is a thought, after 50 years of throwing money at Africa and other 3rd world nations, has it helped. Fundamentally? I will wait.

    The answer BTW is NO. Dambisa Moyo (great African lady) wrote a book about it and Sachs and Bono got mad just like you good people did.

    So, here is an actual African, who lives in Africa, telling you, that money does not solve anything and you get mad? I worked for an NGO for a while and let me tell you what easy money did. It made people who were once self-sufficient and innovative in times of hunger and famine, sit around and wait for hand-outs. In some parts of Africa, there has always been drought and famine, it part of nature but what's happened now is that people now would rather wait for cheap corn from USAID rather than find long-term solutions.

    My biggest complaint about aid is this, it takes away African governments responsibility and responsiveness to take care of their own people. For those Americans reading this, when Katrina happened who did you blame for the slow response? Your government. All we are trying to say, is that by taking away people's right to engage and ask their governments why they let such horrible things happen, you solve nothing.

    How do you help? Its called empowerment. I would like to see more civil rights groups in Africa, teaching citizens on empowerment and how to engage their governments effectively. Empower them to fight their own battles. Let them solve their own problems.

    The problems in Africa always comes down to governance and the World Bank and IMF (read up on that, if you want to). And that my dear western brothers and sisters is something throwing money at will never solve.

  71. Well, this is the most coherent and well-argued criticism from an African commentator that I have read in the last 24 hours. I'm glad I found it, because it has softened the anger that I have felt to other African intellectuals who, I have felt, been overly cynical of the Kony2012 initiative.
    I am a British man who has travelled extensively in Africa, and has been aware of the Kony/LRA issue for years. I cannot help but be moved by the stories of quiet, dignified and unbelievably strong people (especially women) who have been subjected to the most horrific human experiences reported in this or any other era.

    I get the point: Africans have to help Africa. I agree and support this sentiment. However, I think that by hammering this point out with such obvious frustration, you are overlooking some important points:

    – It is quite common for countries to help other countries. Developed nations regularly consult and aid each other in public policy and social initiatives (for example in Europe). Also in humanitarian crises – when Japan (the number 2 most developed nation) suffered a huge earthquake, countries across the planet offered financial aid and other resources for those dispossessed. It's called compassion – and doesn't deserve to be denigrated. Why shouldn't Africa also be the recipient of such compassion?
    – I am not a spokesperson for Invisible Children, but even they state that they recognise that their influence is useless without the involvement of local players who are already active and whose efforts they would be duplicating. See this here: http://bit.ly/xBaa8v where they talk about the "Savior Complex". I think your assessment of them as working only to justify their continued existence is overstated.
    – If absolutely nothing whatsoever is achieved by the Kony2012 campaign OTHER than that 50 million or so Westerners now know about a situation that they were previously ignorant of, then I say that is a GOOD thing. Would you rather Americans remained totally ignorant of the rest of the world's problems? Normally they are criticised for their ignorance. Even if they do nothing other than click on a button or spend $30 on some posters, they have a tiny little bit of knowledge about suffering in the broader world, which WILL help incrementally to broaden their worldview beyond their Facebook, Starbucks, and reality TV. Perhaps you have to be a Westerner to realise how important this tiny little step can be. Especially when it spreads across millions or even hundreds of millions of people.

    I get the feeling that you have allowed yourself to become jaded by repeated exposure to
    a) ignorant Westerners who have an reductive view of Africa (caused, incidentally, through LACK of information)
    b) previous, clumsy aid-driven efforts to support Africa, perhaps simply by throwing money at an issue and walking away with the feeling of a job well done.

    It would be a terrible shame if you allowed this personal reaction to shut you off from the compassionate efforts of others, especially if through reasoned communication that those efforts could combine with yours and others to achieve positive results. You have clearly done good work in the area – but the human ego is fickle and capricious and can be a real and tragic barrier to progress.

    • It is WHAT they are being informed about that I care about. It is a skewed single story we hear about our continent. IC could have done an incredible job telling the world about the other side of Uganda. The resilient, innovative people. Instead they chose to cement an old, expired wound into American knowledge. Here's the truth, Joseph Kony hasn't been in Uganda for over 6 years!!!!!!! Uganda is a very very very different place than it is today. Where is that story?

      • But raising awareness about Uganda as a whole is not IC's mission statement. They are focused on stopping the LRA, and I don't care what country Kony is currently in- he should be stopped regardless. I completely empathize with how annoying it is that most Americans view Africa as 1. one giant country, 2. a mysterious place plagued with war and disease, and 3. the place where people go to see elephants- and believe me I correct it when I hear it. It infuriates me. But the fact is that the LRA is not an old wound. They still exist and are still terrorizing people, and that issue deserves just as much attention as any other. It's unfortunate that the US media doesn't stop to cover positive stories about Uganda, and I agree that the media here fails to present a rounded view of your country, or any other African country for that matter. Uganda's triumphs, as well as other pressing health and social matters, deserve attention as well. But that's not IC's fault, because their objective is to get rid of the LRA and they are singularly focused on that issue. And I reiterate, getting people to learn about the LRA is not a bad thing.

  72. This article has actually just confused me on the whole issue. The irony of someone using the internet to publish an outspoken negative opinion on the 'click activists' on social media however was not lost on me.

  73. “if we conclude that any one individual/organization/group has the right to hijack the voice of so many in the name of good, then I have a common sense pill to sell you.”
    “Africa is our problem, we hereby respectfully request you let us handle our own matters.”

  74. Absolute Rubbish!!!! words of someone who works within the NGO/Not for profit organization that have lacked the capacity to sustain meaning change for years.

    So Being African gives you the right to determine who should be helped and where aid money should go, you live a comfortable life in the west and take it upon yourself to speak for those who's lips have been cut off? because you are a Ugandan living in the west?

    Get off your high horse, get of your backside and go and find an inventive way to sort out your own concerns about the women you work with.

    Stopping hating, simply pissed because you did not come up with it first.
    No one is trying to fix your dirt poor country, the IC has never said they aim to do so.

    Let those that want to help in their own way do so.

    • Thanks Joe! That's some mighty fresh frothing at the mouth you got there. Truth is, I work and live in both places. I have equal footing in both societies. And I do more than just Women of Kireka. Have a look at our Projects page. Or maybe http://villagesinaction.com. Thanks for putting me in my place. Such powerful advice.

  75. Has your child been stolen by Kony or anyone like him? If mine had, I'd appreciate your humility and respect. But I'd welcome any and all help from anyone of any nationality, race, color or religion to stop him. I'd also leverage that help to see if I could also get mosquito nets and anything else my children would need to live a decent life. I would push any organization to help create self-sufficiency, not simple charity. But I would NOT push everyone away so that I could try to do it all myself.

  76. Amazing post. A post that would not have been written and read by many if the Kony 2012 thing hadn't happened. This is all an opportunity for more education and discussion.

  77. I am a little confused. I do understand and somewhat agree with PD trying to be free of handouts and international aid, but why so much anger towards an american group? The first line on the Women of Kireka site about Project Diaspora says that PD is a USA non-profit.
    Also, you say 'we' a lot. Is this really just your opinion, PD's opinion, or Africa's opinion as a whole?

    • PD is registered as a C-corp not-for-profit. We don't have official 501c(3) non-profit status for a reason. It is designed that way. We are not a charity. Yes to the rest of the questions. Thanks LJMW

  78. "There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves."
    So Ugandans don't want help catching Kony?
    I, respectfully, disagree with your position. I think awareness is a worthwhile endeavor. What's the other option? Do nothing? If American's care about an issue, but can't actually be in Uganda to help, what then is your prescription, for how they can help?
    I wrote a blog entry in defense of the IC campaign: http://www.logicaloversight.com/2012/03/in-defens

  79. I work with a Detroit based non-profit organization and we face similar issues within the Black community of the United States. We face the story that Detroit is helpless and we need business owners, a creative class, and emergency management (educated White People) to save our troubled and violent community. I know dozens of activists interested in making connections with the African Diaspora. We are excited to exchange and communicate. " Let me be honest. Africa is not short of problems, epidemics and atrocities. But it is also true that it is not short of miracles, ingenuity, and a proclivity to surprise. We as Africans, especially the Diaspora, are waking to the idea that our agency has been hijacked for far too long by well-meaning Western do-gooders with a guilty conscious, sold on the idea that Africa’s ills are their responsibility. " I FEEL THAT!!!! We are your cousins across the Atlantic and we stand with you for Self-Determination! http://www.emeac.org

  80. With utmost respect for the viewpoint expressed by the above author I am submitting this comment for consideration: Yes, the video and the organization that produced it are the worst kind of shallow feel-good BS so often peddled in North America and Europe. Yes, the global south and the peoples residing there must be respected as autonomous and as such not treated as a "case for intervention" by paternalistic outsiders who cannot help but impose their own worldview as they stand in judgment. That being said, when it comes to the rights of children there is no room for the abuses so casually referred to as "mistakes" by the above author. Children are not the property, province, or "problem" of any one politically defined sovereign unit or social group but rather belong to something greater than any adult could ever hope to grasp. They are the living embodiments of innocence and hope for what might be possible, and as such their right to thrive in safety must be protected (and yes, even defended) with more commitment and vigour than we devote to any other precious resource in the world.

  81. This is very well-written, and an excellent point, but as a recent graduate in Development Studies I can't help but feel some bitterness from your words. I could have majored in anything, but I chose to study Sub Saharan Africa and development because I saw firsthand in 2008 the lack of access to resources and diseases that ailed the country I visited (Tanzania). Since I could have just as easily been born into a different situation, I felt that it was only right that I do what I could to educate myself about development (which, by the way, has come a long way from the "white man's burden"). I can tell you that Invisible Children does not pay lofty salaries because I have applied for several jobs there. Believe me when I tell you that those working at INGOs are taking a serious pay cut so that more money can be given to programs in the countries of focus. In fact, any grant-based NGO can only designate a certain amount of money to salary for a program, or their program will not get funded. Is the INGO model efficient? No. Is it evolving? YES, and rapidly. Take Acumen Fund, for example, which takes a for-profit approach (which allows for investment) and lends to startups that will benefit countries that need both jobs and the product that is being produced. Invisible Children may be an awareness group, but they also have partnerships in Uganda and give money directly to those organizations. Could they forge more partnerships? Of course. Maybe you should try reaching out to them. I guess what I'm getting at is, while the NGO model may not be perfect (and trust me, the lack of efficiency is my biggest problem with this sector), I still think that raising awareness about atrocities that the public may not know about is generally a good thing. It gets them to call their senators and congressman, and that can lead to action. Several US senators were quoted as saying that, had even a small percentage of their constituents called about the injustices going on in Rwanda during the genocide, they would have done something. There is nothing wrong with the sharing of information. And yes, the video is flawed, but people are finally listening! And while I am aware of the dangers of oversimplifying a conflict (my thesis focused on South Sudan), I also know that people naturally oversimplify concepts in order to retain information. It's how people learn, and for the record I would have never learned about the complexities of Sudan/South Sudan has I not first been exposed to Save Darfur, which appealed to my emotions. Appealing to someone's emotions entices them to know more, and I think that is a good thing. To think that anyone in the contemporary development field has the opinion that people, specifically those on the continent of Africa, "can't help themselves" is absolutely ridiculous. I was taught to empower and provide resources in the most effective way possible, and it's really too bad that you don't want my help. I guess I'll go work in the private sector, work a normal 40 hour week and actually make a living.

  82. Thank you. It made me think of this quote
    ” To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”   

  83. Pingback: Kony 2012
  84. Thank you for writing this great piece. I am so over people talking about IC's Stop Kony campaign. Having volunteered as a teacher in Tanzania earlier this year, I realised how much the western world have misconstrued Africa and magnified their problems instead of applauding the efforts made by many Africans towards progress. Why is it that our television screens are bombarded with images of poverty and dirt in Africa instead of the growth there?

    The way to help a country is not by pumping in money or catching a "bad guy" or occupying another country (such as what the US had done in Afghanistan and Iraq).
    Labelling one's heroic efforts as "Operation Freedom" or in IC's case "Stop Kony" does not help the people in need. Instead, it just serves as a tool to "glorify" the heroic actions of an individual, organisation or country (such as IC and the US).

    It's time people learn to see beyond the media hype. My advice to anyone would be to travel to the beautiful continent of Africa, learn and talk to the people, and then educate those in the western world that they need to stop this insane propaganda.

  85. Would you have posted this comment without the prompting that the Kony project has activated? I sense what you described as 'self righteous indignation' lurking underneath these words as well. Perhaps if you approached and worked together with the group who made us ALL aware of the problem then what this awareness has prompted might begin to unite everyone on the same pathway to dealing with this nightmare. Stop fighting and start uniting. As another NGO what are your vested interests in posting this?

    • They didn't ask anybody for our help or participation in the project. Search this site for other projects I have worked on. I do, then I talk. Appreciate your comment though Adrian.TMS RugeLead Social Media Strategist – C4CWorld Bank

  86. While you have my respect for your stance, I am reminded of the 20.000 women, children and men brutally butchered by the militias of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in the 1980s – because they belonged to a tribe of his political opponent. No one came to their help, no one stepped in. Africa just looked away. Do you think those 20.000 too would share your view, that no help is better than help?

    And while respecting your views as yours, I think of the 66.000 children and women abducted by Kony and his men – mutilated, raped, horribly assaulted and even killed. Do they too, you think, share your views on this and are quite happy with your line of thought, that "mistakes here and there" are quite o.k.? Would they consider being raped, mutilated or killed as a simple 'mistake', do you think?

    Again – when it comes to you, I fully respect your view that you do not want outside help. I will respect that. But with what right do you speak for those poor souls that are raped or butchered to death (this very minute) – because Africa does not get its act together to stop such atrocities?

    That you say, Africa needs to fix its own problems, is great. I wholheartedly agree. But as long as innocent children and women in the world – be it in Africa or elsewhere – get tortured, raped and killed – every human being has an obligation to do something about it and try to prevent it from happening. We should both agree on this and together find strategies to save the lives these poor souls deserve to have. Everything else would be cynical and a lack of empathy that defines the human being.

    • Thank you for your input and thought-provoking question. The answers though, are harder to arrive at. Hind sight is always full of answers and lessons we never learn from. It is sadly, human nature not to learn from our failures.TMS RugeLead Social Media Strategist – C4CWorld Bank

      • Wouldn't it be about high time then that we do learn from our failures? Arn't e.g. the 20.000 in Zimbabwe or the 66.000 in Uganda/Congo enough failure of us to start learning? I miss this in your post. It actually continues the mistakes we all made so far in not helping, not looking when we should have – Africa and the world together.

        In many Western countries looking away when someone is in need of help is considered a crime, I am not sure if you are aware of that. It is called 'non-assistance to a person in danger' and can get you in some countries even up to 5 years in jail. – Helping people not getting killed is not an anti-African stance or a colonial attitude but a basic duty in a civilized world. If you can help but you don't by looking away you are in fact committing a crime and can be charged by prosecution in court.

        It is necessary to know this to understand, that in many western countries the moral obligation people feel to help others that are in danger of getting raped, mutilated or killed is also an expression of the legal obligation they have and understand as a duty within a community. It would help Africa and those in peril there a lot if this ethical and legal stance would not be rejected as bad but understood as a basic human duty to save people in danger.

        Chose this for overcoming the failures of the past and many children, women and men in Africa could be saved from a horrible fate. And if someone comes to your help in this, don't reject him/her and feel slighted. Many things can only be achieved together. If this would be understood it would be the best step for Africa to indeed make it on it's own. And that no doubt is the way it should be.

  87. I feel sad reading this post. I understand your frustration with the video- it was arrogant and simplified, although I believe well-intentioned, but does that mean that no one besides the Africans can help the Africans? Are we allowed no empathy as fellow human? No sense of indignation at injustice, unless it occurs only in our bakyard?

    • Heather, I feel your frustration in this comment. However, this post wasn't meat to exclude anyone from engaging with the continent. It is the how that I am talking about. Read the last paragraph .. Let us drive, don't dictate the course for us. It's been 250 years of telling the continent what to do and how to do it.This my only wish, when is it going to be ok for us to be equal partners?

      • It will be ok for Africa to be equal partner if the enormous atrocities will come to an end. 800.000 killed in Rwanda, the ongoing Sudan conflict, the Kony problem with 26 years in which Africa did not manage to stop him etc. etc.. Genocide and mass-murder like this does not happen in Europe or America (south and north) anymore, not in Australia and luckily not anymore (!) in Asia. Africa as a continent is terribly falling behind with still supporting or ignoring dictators or warlords even when they kill off the people without any hesitation and remorse. Corruption and power greed are rampant in many African countries, preventing so far Africa from becoming an 'equal partner'. You yourself lamented that in your post. Read your own words there and the answer should have been clear to your question by your own remarks. Any attempt should be made to stop corruption, illegal trading syndicates, drug and diamond wars, war lords, power hungry politicians neglecting the wishes of the people, hineous crimes against civilians etc. so that Africa will indeed become an 'equal partner' in the world. It is the most beautiful, stunning, diverse continent in the world. But it so far cannot be proud of itself with such a poor track record on human and civil rights. Only if that is altered will work out what you ask for. You have my support anytime. Drive on your own. Absolutely fine. But for hell sake, start driving!

        • That doesn’t make it the only story about the continent. Please do yourself a favor and connect the dots. We are still climbing out of the mess created by the stench of slavery and colonialism. Even your beloved United States & Europe went through periods of bloody massacres. In the last 100 years. Remember WW2? That was a European massacring millions. And you were supposed to be a sophisticated, modern democratic society. If I can’t paint your societies with that single story, why do you want that to be the only thing the world knows about us. We’ll climb out of this. But we need to be allowed to exercise our own agency. Help us do that, don’t do things for us. Thanks for the comment though. It is good for conversation.

          • I absolutely agree. That is not the only story about the continent. But you asked why Africa could not yet be equal partner. And it is for this story I told. You asked, I answered. There are other stories of Africa to tell, I love to tell much more. The southern half of the continent has developed amazingly in the last twenty years, climbing out of a lot of scrap it was in. Not everywhere things are going fine, but overall there is much hope in the south and success stories and even political stabilities others would want to have. That too should be told about Africa, because it can and should give us confidence Africa can make it on the long run and on their own (something unfortunately China would like to see differently. Talking about meddling, much success in addressing that). The situation in central and northeast Africa is looking much darker for many reasons and this is where the biggest conflicts are still unsolved, not giving rise to hope, that Africa will be able to solve that without help from outside. In some conflicts the African nations unite to try and resolve the problems, in others unfortunately they don’t act sufficiently. But you of course must decide what or if help you want. Only remember – there are others that want help. You say, you don’t. Who’s right, who is to be listened too? And as long as you – in a well settled position as I see – are not the target of rape, mutilation and killing, it is of course easier to say, help is not needed. Again I ask – do the victims of those crimes share your view?

            The argument that you’re still climbing out of the mess created by slavery and colonialism is more a psychological one in my eyes than a real one. Joseph Kony is not a product of slavery or colonialism, neither was Idi Amin. Ruthless dictators (as the west calls them – in Africa it is often only called ‘leaders’) have been around in Africa even long before any colonies were founded. They have become legends of their own and so has their brutality. Yes, slavery and colonialism were heinous crimes Africa is still having to recover from. But please don’t make every brutal killer in Africa automatically a product of those two western inflicted crimes. We had terrible dictators in the West as well even without slavery or colonialism. Some faults are entirely our own and can only be addressed as such. That goes for your dictators just as much as for ours.

            No doubt you’re right with WW II which, as we know, followed close on WW I. Nothing I can say can diminish the atrocities of that time. But if you look to Europe, it has found in an astonishingly short period of time of just 70 years a peaceful stability and is free of war. (Of course one can only hope it will stay that way.) That is no reason to be arrogant or condescending but perhaps reason enough to say: start driving? The drive is what is often lacking in African nations whose people for too long have grown used to being subjected to terror by those that control them. A lot of education is needed to create awareness of basic human rights that belong to everyone, every person in Africa, every individual. Does Africa have the means financially and skill wise to provide this education on it’s own? If not, accept help – without letting the helper decide on your syllabus.

            And last: You say you need to be allowed to exercise your own agency. “Help us do that…” you say. Then tell us, how we can help you, because we will. But don’t say: by looking away. It just doesn’t work for people used to be obliged to notice if human beings are in danger. Tell us how we can help, so we can understand if we can and how best to go about it. It’s not a lack of sympathy for Africa you have to worry about. Not disregarding the ongoing problems, no one can possibly deny the grandeur of Africa. Who knows, perhaps we are even envious of you having this wonderful continent. Only that many of us would like to see it with less blood spilled senselessly onto the African ground. Isn’t that a wish we should share?

  88. Why is it so hard for us (Africa) to embrace global support so that we can hand one of our worst brothers over to the International Criminal Court for crime against humanity and multitudes of war crimes. The organisation in question must clean up its problems with transparency etc, but I watched the video and did not for a second think they were begging for my money/donation. What I took away was that citizens are shining light on a concededly terrible member of the global society and a judicial system awaits to prosecute him once he is caught. What am I missing here? Poor international community: damned if you do something, damned if you don't.

  89. But what if the Kony 2012 effort works? What if the intention to get the "like button" clickers to notice actually helps to stop this horrific situation with Kony? A comparatively short time will tell (2012). In the mean time, wait and watch. If it works, then it may just prove to be a blueprint for using social networks to apply focus on other issues, other serious problems, that need to be addressed. For now, try to hold off on an attack of what the stated purpose of the effort is. Let it work. Why not?? Obviously nothing else has.

  90. I am a white African, and I agree that foreign aid does not solve Africa’s problems. For one they don’t understand the culture and intricacies of the country and the long history and rivalries. It also creates a culture of dependancy rather than self support. But this campaign, if nothing else will make the fortunate children of the west appreciate what they have been given and they may as a result choose to lead their lives a little more sensitively. I do hope he is stopped, BUT there are many more to replace him, and this story repeats itself throughout Africa. Africa is Africa, and she will always be Africa…. It is not the west and one campaign will not solve its problems…. The culture of Africa will always be African.

  91. watching the IC video had affected my thoughts so much that i hardly could eat or think in the urge of helping out.
    but now after this very clear n honest piece of writing i am planin to start a movement where in i shall develop an opportunity to start a business in Uganda. atleast to be on the side of the africans to make their own destiny.

    I really agree to what has been written.

    "Freedom to Work is a constituional right."

  92. I think that anyone who works in the area of community projects/support in Africa has to ask themselves the question.. "am I doing the right thing?" this question should be asked. There is no easy answer. On one hand the argument is that "we" are making communities dependent on us, rather than letting the communities sort out their own difficulties, and on the other hand, how can we sit back and just watch whilst a fellow human suffers… should we provide cheap food (not free) for a starving man, or let him suffer so that he may learn for next year? I wonder why it irks me when I am accused of 'interfering" and why it upsets me to read comments like… " There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves."
    Maybe "we" should all turn our backs and let the suffering continue … so that this "help themselves" thing will kick in. The reality is this: If you can walk by as another human suffers, go right ahead, but I will not. Its not a African issue, its not a Western philosophy, there is no deep rooted devious plan. Its simply one human helping another.
    So, if you want to take advantage of others suffering for personal gain, then you are the worst type of human being on this planet…. end rant.

    • We should all start with asking "how" can we help of the people we want to help. The survivors of Kony rejected this film when it was shown to them. They didn't read this blog post, they saw the film for themselves and rejected it.

      Thanks for the rant.

  93. Couple days behind here on account of internet reliability. Not a pressing issue in West Africa.

    Your points are valid. That said, as with the Kony2012 campaign, it’s easy to take an extreme, reactionary stance and back it up with nothing on the internet. Hence why social media is so useless beyond instant gratification. Buy everything, bleed for nothing.

    International aid and development is largely a corrupt joke, with a few notable exceptions. As I head to work on a beat up old motorbike issued to me by my NGO employer, watching brand new white SUVs with aid and development markings do their best to impress upon everyone how important they are, I can’t help but think you haven’t experienced what an NGO can be like.

    With a shoestring budget, managed and strategized by national staff with a focus on empowerment through education, we work with Africans on their terms. We provide an opportunity for girls to attend school they would otherwise never be able to afford. There is a rigorous assessment process conducted every year to monitor and eliminate any and all waste. We, the foreign staff, work in specialist capacities essential to the success of the NGO’s programs and those we serve that the national staff simply don’t have the training, background or resources to fulfill (at no fault of their own). Sometimes, these realities too, cannot be escaped.

    Without any foreign specialists or fundraising, the many girls benefitting from their own efforts in education would not have the opportunity to define their own future. Their success or failure in life is up to them. We do not hand out ‘aid’ and limit ‘development’ to physical infrastructure and schools where absolutely necessary.

    I’d also like to point out that we have no political or religious affiliation of any kind and remain neutral. Believing, simply, that a rising tide raises all boats and the education of girls and empowerment of women is a cornerstone to Africa’s future and quality of life. It’s a long, long, long view approach that makes the most efficient use of resources that I’ve ever seen in non-profit or for-profit environments. The minimum contract period for foreign staff is nine months (compare that with weeks elsewhere). This often becomes years.

    Your points are respectable, but I must agree with some of the criticism here that it is disturbingly presumptuous of you to purport to represent the wishes and thoughts of all Africans in all situations. Do the people lined up outside MSF hospitals in conflict regions where no other public healthcare exists really want them to go home? Is immediate care to alleviate suffering and death that would otherwise go unabated something you really feel comfortable refusing on behalf of your fellow Africans? Is MSF’s mandate to provide emergency care and support the take over of their missions by a national healthcare apparatus as soon as it is possible, and likely to be successful, purely a guilt-ridden crusade of ‘the white man’s burden’? Or is it, in fact, a respect for the value of human life no matter where it is being tortured, dismembered, diseased, shot, burned and left for dead?

    You refer to ‘your people’… I can’t help but wonder from what lofty diaspora tower, so removed from the realities on the ground, you speak from with so much arrogance. It’s almost colonial.

    Kony2012 is the most evil, for-profit, trust-draining effort that the ‘do-gooders’ of the world have ever had devalue the work that we do (with the possible exception of Western spy agencies and militaries using fake humanitarian identities and vehicles as a cover, it gets us killed). It is maddening, has driven some I know to tears and will have a terrible fallout as far as fundraising. I would suggest you limit your commentary to International Children Inc. and the specific disservice they are doing to us all, Africans and those of us you say are paving the road to hell, before you yourself put forth views as factually inaccurate as theirs.

    Give your head a shake.

    • “You refer to ‘your people’… I can’t help but wonder from what lofty diaspora tower, so removed from the realities on the ground, you speak from with so much arrogance. It’s almost colonial.”

      Hi there, may I point you to:
      http://villagesinaction.com | http://womenofkireka.com | http://umpgl.com

      I am very much on the ground. I am what you call a Diaspora/Reaspora. In some circles, I am what’s called a transnational. I am as connected to reality on the ground as I am to the general disconnect of Westerners to those realities. Thanks for your comment though.

  94. The one thing Africans and blacks worldwide might learn from Nelson Mandela, was why he forgave his oppressors. it WAS psychological, It IS psychological, It will ALWAYS be psychological. White man burden= psychological, racism= psychological. Its all in your head. Mind games. They KNEW this. If it's in you head, then they got the power. I learn't from the very best out there, Mandela.

  95. Pingback: Kony 1986 « What?
  96. Anyone who has ever stood unarmed staring into the barrel of a gun (and I have) knows the true meaning of having no “agency.” This is not about one group taking over another’s agency, it’s about simply human compassion. One person speaking on behalf of a continent of more than 1 billion is another, slightly more subtle, example of stealing the agency of others. I’ve been drawn into this Stop Kony thing by its sheer media success–I’ve read their financials, I’ve read various perspectives, and much of the criticism strikes me as sour grapes from those who have not been as successful. If tweets and a few bucks spent on kits further a cause to help tortured, abducted kids who – let’s be frank – have no ability to “rise from the ashes” of their past because their past is an irretrievable paradise lost and their present is the ashes – then that’s a good thing, for both the helpers and the helpees. Yeah, that’s how positive action works. I also believe this campaign is trying to make a statement that the youth of this world can relate to: What need to be done to the Lord’s Resistance Army is ANYTHING but complex; they need to be STOPPED. So, if all they do is tweet and buy a T-shirt, they have done more than spewing fluff on facebook and buying a latte. Some will undoubtedly be motivated to do more. Just because Kony2012 caught my attention and I knew nothing of your Project Diaspora doesn’t mean I don’t support what you do. It means Kony2012 got to me first.

  97. No. Africa is not YOURS just because you happened to be born there. The entire world is everyone’s responsibility. You make a couple of valid points, but your tone is at least as arrogant and short-sighted as that used by some of the people you criticize.

    • If it is everyone’s responsibility, then why did the world do such a crock of a job on managing Africa. First slavery, then colonialism, then economic imperialism, then the bad-tastic failure that is development aid to the tune of $700 billion over 50 years.

      Yes, please sir. May we have another 50 years of the same sir?

    • Not to mention how absurd your statement is. I don’t think, “NO, America is not YOURS just because you happen to be born there…” would go over very well with the pompously patriotic Americans.

    • But. Finally. And calmly, I will say this. If you were in our shoes you would understand that sometimes we have to pick up the bull horn and scream our guts out in order to be heard. If you were only aware of some of the things that are done in the name of saving us you would also pull your hair out. Just this week there was another initiative started to collect and send USED PANTIES to Africa. That’s right, USED. I do appreciate you calling out my tone though. I should take more than 24 hours to calm down before I publish.

      • I thought you guys didn’t have shoes? Or was that just another white man’s assessment of your continents’ problems that he saw a way to help and you lambast as “dumbassery”. Seems like you love to ride the wave of press by criticizing others’ work as if you’re an authority. Love the hypocrisy though, it’s always good to have balance to an opinion. By the way, I’ll be making my way to Ethiopia to teach, in case you’re already planning an attack on me by dissolving my credibility. Also, if the country/continent is yours and you don’t need help then why is it in shambles? Can’t you pick up the pieces yourself? Why is it so terribly offensive that others help, that others care? When I was homeless I didn’t lash out at those who helped me from my squalor. I didn’t accuse them of being dumbasses for the people around me talking about me, I ended up getting a roof over me, I ended up getting a job. Seems like the labels you keep applying to others fall back to you as your flexibility is displaying while your Nike-clad shoes are inserted into the mouth pouring out unwarranted racism.

  98. The problem with this whole affair is that we are conceptualizing African culture, African problems, African successes, as if they are self-contained or autonomous instead of realizing that these things have been and continue to be shaped by Western interventions. Africa is not a bubble in which conflict has developed without help from outside influence. And yet the West is under the impression that they are dynamic, progressive, and free while any non-Western societies are backward, barbaric, and incapable of taking care of themselves. Have we forgotten that we promoted slavery and colonization? These not-so-free-and-equal, Western actions are still having negative effects on people around the world. Not only are we completely ignoring the fact that Western culture is responsible for a lot of the unquiet in Africa, we are now putting on our halos and reaching out our hands to those suffering from the repercussions of our actions. The problem with IC is not that it is attempting to help others in need. The problem is that it is going about it in the wrong way. Many times the violent acts are perpetuated because they have become symbols of resistance to Western dominance, so by coming in and imposing our conceptualization of justice and freedom, we are only furthering the animosity towards the West and enabling the violent acts. By trying to speak for the people of Africa, we are robbing them of their voice. By victimizing them and portraying them as people who need saving, we are allowing others to treat them as victims. Instead we should be viewing them as agents of change, capable of helping themselves and capable of knowing what is best for them. By moving Africans from victims to agents of change in our own minds we are allow them to tell us what THEY need help with, what THEY want, what THEY don’t want. That is how we can help.

  99. For better or worse, the IC campaign has started a conversation about how stories are told, and from what perspective. Chimamada Adichie speaks eloquently about this in her TED Talk, “The danger of a single story.” I believe others have also mentioned her talk in the context. What I’m wondering is whether or not you’ve heard of efforts to respond to IC’s campaign with one that shares an alternative point of view. For example, over the last few days I’ve seen posts from folks that compile the views of several African bloggers, activists, journalists, etc. as well as tweets highlighting local organizations that are doing amazing work on the ground. Since the world is watching and the dialogue has started, this may be a unique opportunity to enrich the exchange. Whether or not this is the best use of people’s limited resources is a different question (especially if previous efforts have met with little attention), but sometimes when the door is opened (whether or not one opened it), it makes sense to walk through.

  100. This is a great article. A lot of hard truth that Americans need to know. But as you tear Americans down for their misguided compassion, ignorance, and self-righteousness, you should consider that just as your people want to maintain their dignity while being empowered, perhaps we might want to maintain some as well while being corrected?

  101. For those of you opposing to what was written here – Just consider this – would you be as enthusiastic to donate and act on for the fight against Malaria in Africa? Do you think a similar video clip against Malaria would have been as viral as this one?

    Kony should be brought to justice because it’s important to show the world and other such criminals that the world has changed and they should reconsider their actions, but let’s try and act more on helping others to handle their problems then just hunt the bad guys.

  102. Colonialists have rarely admitted their real goals. Every colony has been “cilvilized” for the betterment of its subjects, or “liberated” from tyranny. Sugar slaves were branded as “assistant planters”, and nations are loaned money to “develop their economies”, not to plunder their resources.

    Since so much real, intentional harm has been done under the guise of helping the less fortunate, how can we possibly trust the intentions of foreign development agencies? Even if those swarms of internet activists all have the best intentions, what is to stop their collective goodwill from being subverted into another pro-business military occupation?

    What I worry about isn’t the uselessness or wastefulness of this film, or the masturbatory “liking” of a movement on facebook – it’s the effectiveness of this film as propaganda. Specifically to justify military intervention in Africa. Once this video circulates widely enough it will likely get picked up by the mainstream media, then used to build popular support for a military interention of some sort. Just “temporary” of course. “Peacekeeping” only.

    Then everyone could point to the example of how the “Stop Kony” movement put so much pressure on the government that they were forced to do something about the situation. This would prove the effectiveness of the internet as the ultimate tool for freeing mankind from tyranny. Nevermind that the conflict with the “pro-Kony” forces might kill more people than Kony himself, nor that the new government might be an even more brutal and efficient one that’s merely investor-friendly. If this thing works, I’m sure we can count on the CIA…er..spontaneous popular sentiment…to spawn many more such movements in the future.

  103. This is so brilliantly written, I can’t stop reading it! Way to go sir! What happened to the *share buttons* though? I need to share this

  104. If I hadn’t seen Kony 2012, then I would not have read this article. So all in all, I am more informed now than I was two weeks ago.

  105. Thanks for writing this – you have pretty much articulated my incoherent frothing at this same story; the slickness, the lack of substance the ease of action and the obviousness of the cause and solution ………..

    all coupled with an abundance of naive goodwill waiting to be harnessed.

  106. In one paragraph, you criticize the attempt to intervene in African affairs by Americans, while in the very preceding paragraph, you ask for money for supplies. Oh… That’s not hypocritical, at all?

    People like you are delusional. You lack the ability to reason. If you want help, then you get help on the terms you are given. SORRY, but you don’t get to choose how or in which manner you receive assistance. To think so is hypocritical, naive, egotistic, and anti-intellectual.

    If you sincerely think your affairs should be left alone, then that applies to every aspect. Want to be left alone? Fund your own damn tents. Complaining about receiving help in a way you don’t want is downright childish. Grow the hell up.

    • Mike, you revert to the very historically racist stance the author was critiquing, the enslaving white savior in explaining your critique. Really, do Africans not deserve opportunities to exercise their own agency? How is it anti-intellectual to circumscribe the terms in which one is given assistance CONSIDERING the historical relationship Europe and the US (read as colonizers/ funders of civil wars) have had with Africa and the rest of the colonized world? It seems like you would benefit from reading a bit more on the issues at hand.

      i.e. anything on project diaspora
      Discourse on Colonialism by Aimee Cesaire

      Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi Wa Thiongo

      TMS Ruge, kudos to you and your amazing patience.

  107. I can see from both sides of the issue. It is good for people to outcry when wrong is done and do what they can to make it right. But trying to find this man isn’t going to help Africans. He has done his harm, and he can do no more. Africa needs to rise from the ashes of its past and learn to stand on its own two feet. Yes, we must feed starving children, yes we must educate, yes we must supply the people with the fundamental necessities to survive. But there is a saying, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for the rest of his life.” More than donations of food and such, the African people need a way to provide for themselves, to build themselves up. Everyone needs help and a leg up sometimes. But to help and never teach is to cripple.

    • Yes! education not revenge. Very well put. Unfortunately, many Americans are too violent and uneducated to understand this. Our DOD is the center of our Universe. Might makes right. We worship our own power and deperately want to use it to ” Save the World” This is the intoxicating fantasy for young people. Most Veterans are sick of War, but that is not who KONY 2012’s target demographic is.

  108. There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves.

    I dont know what experience you have with this organization, or whether you watched the whole video. I also cant, and wont, interpret the video for you.

    I will however, tell you that Invisible Children does what they do because the Acholi people of Northern Uganda have asked them to do so. You see in the video an Acholi man ask Jason to tell everyone he knows about Joseph Kony, because that is the only way that he will be stopped.

    You’re correct when you say that the Acholi culture wants to forgive. However, that isn’t the issue. Jason, Bobby, and Laren made a promise to Jacob, Jolly, and thousands of others when they said that they would stop the LRA. This is potentially the only chance that we will ever have to catch him. His army is still relatively contained, and his whereabouts, although not pinpoint-able, could be determined with proper resources. And this global voice that IC has created can get those resources to Central-East Africa.

    I’m surprised that you see Kony2012 in such a light. Of course the conflict is oversimplified. The video would need hours to explain the uprising of Alice Auma, the creation of the LRA, the dictatorship of Museveni, not to mention the deep rooted cultural divide between the Acholi and Bugandan tribes that many consider to be the origin of this issue.

    I’ve been to the Offices at IC. They’re not beautiful. Until a couple years ago, it was just one big warehouse. They’re cramped and noisy and full of dance and determination and boxes upon boxes of merch, both native to Uganda and otherwise. Yes, they’re trying to stay relevant. Because they’re trying to fulfill a promise. Not out of white man remorse, but out of a simple verbal contract. And really, do you want your child living in a world where Joseph Kony can survive?

  109. i understand what you are saying, and i do respect you, but please know that i do not wish to help because i feel guilty or i wish to encroach “charity” upon you, but rather because i have empathy and i would hope that if i were in this situation, someone somewhere would help me. also i do not chose to help because you are african, but because you are human. i aim the same compassion at the issues on my own continent and on all of the others as well. and while malaria (and nodding disease and poverty and many other problems) are, obviously, important and noble issues to address, there is something to be said about the violence of this – about man’s inhumanity to man and particularly to children that makes it so arresting and so seemingly senseless and preventable. regardless, when all’s said and done, we both want the same thing: peace and safety. i wish you that.

    • Katie, thanks so much for the comment. It is a complicated issue. Trying to assert our own independence to deal with our own issues some times leaves feelings of hurt in the air towards those who want to help us. But please understand that simply wanting to help isn't the solution to our problems. Untold complexities and interference by the world at large has left Africa without recourse but to be at the mercy of the West. From slavery, to colonialism, to economic imperialism, the global development aid complex have make it hard for us to assert authority on our own sovereignty.So when we speak out, it is not that we are refusing the help, it is that we would like to be treated, as you say, as fellow humans – equals. Not simply to be looked down upon all the time. Trade with us, partner with us, promote us as able and capable. All of those small things add up to instilling a sense of ownership in our own futures.Like any teenager asserting their independence, it is never a pretty process. Feelings get hurt and missteps are taken. But with proper guidance, we all arise from childhood and into normal functioning adults. Why can't we be afforded the same?I appreciate you engaging in the debate though.

  110. This is a well written piece. I appreciated it. I’d like to respect everyone’s agency; critiques have been raised, for good reason. A lot of the criticism has been the homogenizing representation of ‘African’ voice. A few years ago, on the ‘Women of Kireka’ blog was this post: http://nuwechi.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/lra-still… The author of this post from 2008 seems to be pressing for military capture of of Joseph Kony.

    i have been trying to hear as many voices as possible; the one thing that is certain – they are diverse. I have found voices of Ugandans who are, and have been, supporters of bringing the issue of the current actions of the LRA to a greater sense of urgency in the International community. Many voices of Acholi people have recognized (in prior years and currently) the LRA, while not active in Uganda, are still active in bordering countries. It seems those identifying strongest with ‘Uganda’ (from a more nationalistic lens) have a tendency to be more outraged by this video that those Ugandans identifying strongly with those individuals the LRA is currently abusing in DRC and Central African Republic and Sudan. Betty Bigombe has been reported to have said her major issue with the film was that it was a decade “too late'” for the Acholi. I’m struck by that. While true, it’s not too late for the Congolese, is it? I’m also struck by the fact that apparently all of the films over the last decade about this (from what the IC say) all 8 or so of them, received very little attention. So maybe it was too late but not for lack of trying? What do we say about the fact that Jacob, now 21, supports the film? Does his voice not count?

    I’d really like to support what “Ugandan” voices are calling for – unfortunately, just like in every other country in the world, just as there is both strength, resilience, as well as need and suffering – there is diversity in opinion and voice. The real danger of the “West” in this case is not particularly the video (in my opinion) – it’s been the Western tendency to make everything such a false dichotomy. Peace vs. Justice / Development vs. Aid / Narrative vs. Pedagogy. The reality is, no matter what you believe there will be people who will agree and disagree. Truth is an elusive concept, and has been for most of the postmodern era. Apart from the discursive critique of the film – I’d really like to know – do you feel individuals are simply wrong to want increased military support to assist in capturing Kony, and bringing his case to the ICC? The AU seems to agree he needs to be captured. Betty Bigombe has been reported as saying Kony believes he will ‘die like Hitler.’

    Does this change the fact the Amnesty Act of 2000 could still continue to apply on the ground with the members who were abused/coerced into participating if that is what the majority of local Acholi in Northern Uganda are wishing? Can peace and justice not occur on a parallel track? Can dialogue start to become broader, and less restrictive?

    The ‘slick’ video could have been ‘better’ used to tell a different story – but is that the crux of the concern? If so, then perhaps there is a lot to learn about what people engage with as we struggle to drink our information like it was coming from a firehouse an inch from our face. The IC organization didn’t create the marketing rules it employed. They played by them. But I would agree with you, what that says about individual’s ability to attend to things that aren’t packaged in single serving shiny packages is telling, and deeply concerning. The responsibility for that rests with us, individuals – the people; not handing over abdication of responsibility to the IC filmmakers and taking seats as passive recipients of our new. I have seen videos on the lRA issue with nuance and complexity, and their hit counts rarely reach half a thousand. I’d really like to know how any presentation of this particular ‘issue’ could ever happen in 30 minutes or less without simplifying it, and committed errors of omission. I’d truly like a video on the Women of Kireka, made by the Women of Kireka that millions of people take the time watch. These narratives need to be storied if perceptions are to shift; interestingly, the film’s success – regardless of it’s failures – have cultivated a context… If people want to speak, the ear has been turned. Perhaps there can be some positive synthesis from this debate.

  111. This was very well written. While I agree with you on many of your points, do realize that there are many of us in the world who wish to do good because we know it is right and we genuinely wish to help others, not because we carry “white man’s guilt.”

    • But thank you very much for posting this article! I find many of your ideas and articles very interesting and insightful.

    • Hi Brianna, I think I've said plenty of times that there is nothing wrong with doing "good"… but what usually happens is that people use that as a license to do whatever they want in the name of "doing good"… Doing good, the right way, requires selfless dedication to learning about he problem you are passionate about – inclusive of nuance – and then proceeding cautiously. Band-aid solutions are most often geared towards feeling like you did something; you donated $20 without asking questions, you shared a video about an issue you still din't fully appreciate; you saved up your money to buy a plane ticket to go volunteer abroad… All good intentions, but in the end you end up just feeling good and not knowing that your efforts didn't shift the course of the situation.

      Doing good the right way is hard, but it is the most effective way to help. And if you can't do it right, help those that are doing it right to be more effective in their work. The problem with that, again, is we don't spend enough time understanding what doing good means.

      Thanks for your comment

      • Beth Davies-Stofka

        I’m a college professor who has been teaching human trafficking to undergraduates for several years now. I also teach Uganda as a case study in conflict resolution with graduate students. In another, younger life I was an anti-apartheid activist who wrote a graduate thesis on Christian NGOs in Namibia (basically a criticism of the racism of Western Christian NGOs) — also had the absolute privilege of visiting Namibia in its first year of independence.

        I was intensely disappointed in Kony2012 and now Kony2012 Part II. I’ve been aware of IC but ignorant of the details of the organization. I never gave them money, thank goodness. The Kony2012 videos certainly raised awareness in me — awareness of how angry IC is capable of making me. Your post here really caught fire with my graduate students, and I thank you for that. I’ve been looking for ways to talk to my undergraduates, some of whom are having trouble understanding why I’m so critical of IC and Kony2012. I just keep circling back to the same two points: “War is not the answer,” and “Save your money.” Listen to Africans, I tell them. Do you want strangers moving into your house and telling you how to run your family and your life?

        Anyway, that was a big introduction to a very specific question I have for you: what do you know about the Global Orphan Project? My interest is that of an academic. The CEO gave me a long, long interview about its projects in Uganda, and I was overall quite impressed with the language of sustainability, and his insistence that they are committed to remaining completely invisible in Uganda, only wishing to partner with Ugandans who are already reaching out to orphans and trying to create homes and families for them. But I haven’t had time to test his ideals against actual results on the ground, or to inquire amongst Ugandans. If you have time and insight to share, I’d be most grateful. If not, no worries. Thank you for your voice. It’s an antidote to much that ails us as Americans.

        • Hi Beth, thanks for your comment. I don't know the GOP very well but I'd be happy to look into the org and get back to you. I will be on the ground in May and can ask my trusted sources but from what you are telling me, they trying to strike a fine balance of helping and empowering. Would love to know more myself. Thanks for triggering a different mind set in your students and being a voice of reason.

          • Beth Davies-Stofka

            I’m so sorry I didn’t answer before now. I know this seems incredible, but I’ve actually been toying with the idea of going over there myself, and meeting with you for a few hours. I still haven’t ruled it out! I have too much passion, I think. Anyway, if you would do this for me, I will owe you one. I mean that most sincerely. Two Major League Baseball players, both pitchers for the San Francisco Giants, have collaborated to build an orphanage in Gulu. I believe 56 orphans just moved in last week, and I think there is room for 100. I was talking to one of them last week, and I told him that you had volunteered to talk to people on the ground and get an evaluation of their work. He wants you to visit his orphanage! He is sincerely interested in feedback, and would be especially open to critical feedback. If you think you could fit this in in May, I’ll get the details for you.

  112. Very well written. I enjoyed every aspect of yours of which you shared here.

    I’m a student in Denmark, and i would say, THIS is what i would call “prose-art”. The way you utter your opinion, is the way it should be done, the “awareness-ing” should not be done by the IC, but by “you” (africans), if “you” were in dire need of the first world’s help, i believe the cry-out would come from the exact same (read: you).

    I am certainly going to keep up with your articles, since it seems like one of the bearable blogs covering this “issue”.

    And last but not least i am saying, in regards to the article: I agree!

      • Well, if you’re talking about the KONY2012 (the first one) – It raised alot of questions and discussions, where most people were affected because of the “ethos and pathos appeal” in the KONY2012-viral video, but many saw through this “cloaking”, and eventually ended up saying, exactly what you write here, that, if this is such a huge problem, Ugandain politicians would ask for help, as you’re saying. People want to “respect your agency” rather than interfering and indirectly negatively criticize the Ugandians, as you put it, “mark” them as helpless human beings.

        But then again, here in Denmark, talking bad about something, which seems (from the outside) to be, a good cause is tabu. This is where “we” need people like YOU, to open our eyes, eventually resulting in disclosure of these NGOs, as you state, render the Ungandians helpless and unable to act on their own.

        I hope I interpret your message correctly.

        Best regards

        Alex J.

  113. Very touching article! We need to keep proper perspective and work on what is needed. It’s so easy to get distracted by modern society, and this is just another example.

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