Kony vs Phony

The Kony2012 film has received a vast amount of criticism in regards to misrepresenting the Ugandan context. Foreign Affairs magazine has gone as far to say Invisible Children have: “manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders.”

The most noteworthy point of criticism is the films misleading impression of the location of Kony and the quantity of remaining LRA forces. Joseph Kony has not been in Uganda since 2006 and the LRA now has no more than a few hundred followers. Kony now resonates in the Central African Republic, however this fact receives only a passing mention in the video.

Keating’s blog lays down the reality. The LRA was forced out of Uganda by the Ugandan military in 2006 and since then has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The LRA does not have 30, 000 child soldiers as implied in the Kony2012 film. Instead, this figure refers to the total number of children abducted by the LRA over a period of 30 years. In fact, Northern Uganda has experienced remarkable salvage in the last 6 years of peace since the LRA left. Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting stresses: “[The Kony2012 film] paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible.”

History and Politics lecturer Susan Engel agrees with Keating’s criticisms stating: “the campaign itself lacked some depth and insight.” However Engel adds: “you can’t describe the whole complexity of the situation in a documentary, and this is a promotion of activism and not meant to be a documentary… so understandably there is some degree of simplification going on.”

The controvercy has raised questions about the plausibility of Ugandan army intervention, which the video advocates. Engle agrees stating: “I think some of [the films suggestions] about there solutions was leaning a bit too far towards oversimplification”. Fred Opolot, a spokesman for the Ugandan government told the Telegraph: “it is totally misleading to suggest that the war is still in Uganda.”

Prime Minister of Uganda, Amama Mbabazi, responded to Invisible Children’s film by posting a video on YouTube (below) where he aimed to correct the false impression that Uganda is still at war. Mbabazi acknowledged the positive intentions of the film: “It is particularly welcome to see so many young people uniting across barriers of nation, race, religion and culture to take a stand for justice. I salute you and I thank you” he said in the film, inviting everyone to the country, assuring that people would find it “a very different place to that portrayed by Invisible Children.”

Engel concludes by shedding positive light on Invisible Children’s campaign stating: “if it does encourage people to go and do more research themselves and find out further information, which strangely in a way the controversial nature of the campaign did prompt people to look at the issue critically, to do more research, then that’s not a bad thing either.”

 Keating, Joshua, 2012, “Guest post: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)”Foreign Policy. March 7, accessed 25.0.2012

 Schomerus, Mareike, Allen, and Vlassenroot, 2011, “Obama Takes on the LRA: Why Washington Sent Troops to Central Africa”Foreign Affairs, November 15, Accessed 25.9.2012

Pflanz, Mike, March 8, 2012,. “Joseph Kony 2012: growing outrage in Uganda over film”The Telegraph, March 8, accessed 25.9.2012


One thought on “Kony vs Phony

  1. […] The simple narrative of the film has no doubt caught the attention of millions around the globe. However, Schomerus states in his article “Kony2012: How not to change the world,” that the film has:  “manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers … [while] rarely referring to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan People’s Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians … or the complicated regional politics fuelling the conflict.” (more on this here) […]

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