the Kony 2012 video went viral, the
commentary hasn't stopped. We have criticized the film, praised it, even satirized
it. Invisible Children has the whole world talking. But one key question has gone
unanswered: What do people in northern Uganda think about the video?
evening, there was a screening of the video in Lira, one of the areas most
affected by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) during the days of the war. It was
a chance to hear from Ugandans who actually went through the LRA conflict, to
hear what they think about the video and how their stories are being told to
the world. So this film screening was important precisely because it gave the
people who have actually borne the brunt of the conflict a chance to weigh in.
Their voices needed to be heard.
Ochen of the African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET) decided to screen the
movie in Lira, and Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb was there to
cover the story. (The image above shows an LRA victim in Lira responding to the screening). Local people expressed anger at a movie that, as they saw
it, distorted the facts. One of those affected by the war, a landmine victim, said
that wearing T-shirts with Kony's picture (as Invisible Children exhorts it
supporters to do) amounts to celebrating the suffering of those who endured the
crimes of the LRA.
the film was over, Ochen issued a statement
suspending further showings of Kony 2012.
The statement cited the reactions of the 35,000 people who attended the
screening in Lira. It was also broadcast live on five FM stations in the North,
thus reaching another two million people in the LRA-affected areas. According
to Ochen, the film produced so much anger, outrage, and pain that AYINET decided
not to show it in other local communities, as had been planned.
have remarked upon the fact that there have been very few local voices making themselves
heard. Most of the Ugandans who have criticized the movie so far are based in
the diaspora. On the day the West was hysterical about the movie, life in
Uganda was going on as usual. That some smart-ass American kids had made a
movie that got all the teens to take a break from their iPods and iPhones and
embark on a campaign to stop Kony was the farthest thing from Ugandans' minds.
Uganda there has been widespread distrust of the motives of Invisible Children.
The same distrust has been echoed in some of the western media. Timothy
Kalyegira, a renowned Ugandan columnist writing in the Daily Monitor, argues
that we have absorbed and internalized what the western media have taught us,
and that this is why we keep confronting these one-sided portrayals.
have wondered why Africa does not respond with international media outlets of
its own. The Arab world has Al Jazeera to counter the old western stereotypes. The
stories about Africa will remain the same until we get our own global TV and
radio stations to counteract the familiar narrative.
startling manner in which the documentary was filled with half-truths shows a
deliberate intention to continue trading in stereotypes. The argument that
Americans have the attention span of a five-year old (as implied by Kony 2012,
which shows the founder of Invisible Children explaining the LRA to his young
son) says a lot about what has happened to the United States and its level of
old African proverb puts it well: Until lions get their own storytellers,
stories about hunting will always praise the hunter. So if we are upset about
this stereotypical depiction, we should feel challenged to create global media
outlets of our own that will tell more balanced stories about the continent.