Villages Connected Blog


“Kony 2012” diverts attention from Africa’s real enemy by de Villiers van Zyl

As the Executive Director for Villages Connected, I am indignant about the Kony 2012 campaign.  I see it as a flawed approach to put the focus on Kony ahead and above of everything else.  I say this because our organization works at the grassroots in a community called Fort Portal, Uganda and what I have experienced there leads me to different conclusions.

So, if the Kony 2012 campaign is a success, and somehow Kony is captured or killed, will it then be mission accomplished for the millions that participated in the campaign? Will they celebrate? After all, the evildoer is gone and now everyone can live happily ever after.

Wrong!

The hunt for Kony diverts the attention from the real problem in Africa: inequality.

The root cause is that poor villagers are vulnerable economically and man and nature can so easily exploit their weaknesses. Many of these villagers cannot even afford mosquito nets to protect themselves from malaria – which has killed many more people than Kony has. But this fact is one that we somehow accept more easily.

The real enemy is the world turning a blind eye to the importance of investing in Africa as a way to turn inequality on its head.  Supporting businesses that build strong economies give the power to the people to protect themselves socially and economically from “Konys” and malaria-mosquitoes.

We want to see a different outcome, but we too often fail to bear witness to the potential of opportunities in Africa.

Ugandan kids, full of life, in school and ready to show us the potential of Africa.

Too many times, Western organizations go to Africa to find problems.  People start organizations to address these problems, then sensationalize them to spread the word to millions of people to raise funds. What is the result:  a million negative messages about Africa being war-torn, emaciated, helpless etc.

Elsewhere in the world opportunities attract investors. The worlds economic system is driven by investors – if these investors don’t have confidence that a business exists in a stable environment and can flourish, guess what, they won’t invest. Media and aid organizations feed us endless messages about the problems of Africa – not a picture to attract investors for sure. However, this is not the reality for most of Africa – and definitely not in Uganda where Kony and his cronies actually left years ago.

Opportunities are there and waiting for investors.

While we don’t see the messages, there are countless everyday people seizing opportunities, starting businesses, developing new techniques, giving rise to new products.  We may not hear about people working hard to show they have products to sell, but they are many!

This message just isn’t communicated because everyday people don’t have millions of dollars to launch marketing campaigns.

Instead, these everyday people seem to get food packages, donations to band-aid the real issues, and – now – millions of dollars spent on a marketing initiative to make a warlord famous.  Kony has killed 60 000 kids.  Economic equality is killing millions and will continue to do so unless we stand up and create a real victory over inequality.

We need to invest in the countless viable African businesses – big and small – so that everyday Africans can grow their local economies. They will then be able to protect themselves socially and economically and become less vulnerable to the Konys of the world.

With a successful Kony 2012 campaign, we may neutralize this “Kony”, but ten years from now there may be another “Kony”.

It really saddens me that millions of dollars will make a criminal famous, when millions of people in Uganda and a billion people in Africa can radically change their long-term economic well-being – and by default the negative perceptions of Africa – with a fraction of that money.

In our work at Villages Connected, we invest in businesses, share stories of the everyday opportunities.  Our work creates an environment that could lead to a prosperous future for at least 200 000 people in Fort Portal alone.  We make Fort Portal a little more famous in our own way.  Yet it’s the people, the businesses, the opportunities for investment that have center stage in making the real difference.

Imagine the possibilities if our approach was replicated elsewhere? .

No war, no negativity, no handouts, no band-aids, no space for the Konys of the world.   An end to the inequality.

What I know from my experience is this: investing in communities and bearing witness to the potential – this is the solution.

Villages Connected International is a registered non-profit that combines the tools of media, marketing and micro-finance to unlock the potential of global and local values-based partnerships. Check us out on www.villagesconnected.org

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5 Comments so far
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The producers of Kony 2012 threw a stone into the water it caused some ripples and now more stones are being thrown .. The unintended consequences of this flawed attempt may be far wider and more positive than the original objectives.

Comment by naivelysage

I think there was lack of enough knowledge on the problems of Northern Uganda and the country as whole.The approach used in traumatizing and insult to people of Uganda because the diverts people’s attention on productive activities that can develop them

Comment by Guma Wilson Fortal Portal Uganda

Regardless of the current relevance, skewed focus and arguably misdirected naivety of “Kony 2012”, if the discussion about the film does in fact serve to give more attention and focus to the work of grassroots African organizations like http://www.villagesconnected.org then maybe more positive stories can be told.

For over 25 years the story of Kony and the LRA has simmered on the radar of anyone who has had an interest in current affairs in East Africa and it is already several years since they moved away from terrorizing the people of northern Uganda! Given that reality, that Kony 2012 emerges now is extremely suspect in its timing and motivation. If this story interests you then “War Dance” is another documentary film that gives a heartbreaking and poignant, yet uplifting perspective on the Acholi community’s resistance to Joseph Kony and the LRA.

Comment by Stephen Kent

This is like, reverse propaganda right? Uganda apparently doesn’t want the world sniffing at their doorstep even with the LRA in its woods? Why?

Comment by Mark Elliott

I entirely share your view on the Kony Campaign and right from when I read and watched the video. I just saw the western perspective and misrepresentation of the real issues and problems that affect us. As a Ugandan, I liked your comparison of Kony and Malaria or even HIV. I just wonder what impact it will have if we had such a global campaign centred on hunger, reduction of poverty or inequality? What would it mean to show the world what potentials do exist in the remote villages of Uganda? What will many those Global Citizens out there be able to do just to make a difference? But since we have no grip of IT and the media, it all goes begging. The Kony campaign just makes him and his perpetrators more popular.Truly, Uganda’s problem is much more than Kony and its time to be firm, face them and provide people with the right frame of mind and solutions to rise to the challenges.

Comment by Isaac M




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