Kony buzz perplexes observers from Africa

Not just a black-and-white picture: VO photo director Parisa Azadi spent time photographing people in parts of Uganda, depicting a mix of hope, recovery and scars from the brutal past.  

#StopKony and #MakeKonyFamous have been trending worldwide on Twitter. Just one week ago, many would have brushed it off, thinking that "Kony" was just another prepubescent starlet trying to be Justin Bieber. But now, thanks to a wildly successful viral campaign, millions now know about the 51-year-old former guerrilla leader from Uganda.

American filmmaker Joseph Russell 's documentary, KONY 2012,  exposes the Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony, the brutal leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).


The 30-minute documentary, part of a campaign by the California-based nonprofit group Invisible Children, urges the U.S. government to stop Kony and his rebel group from kidnapping children, forcing young boys into the army, using girls as sex slaves, and to capture Kony in 2012.

But some African news outlets have been left bewildered by the rise of this "Catch Kony" cause. The man had, after all, terrorized Ugandans since the late 1980s. So why all this uproar, and why now?

Joseph Kony, the wanted war criminal and subject of KONY 2012

"What's with this global buzz?" asked Jeune Afriquea magazine widely read by African expats. "It's hard to understand why Invisible Children managed to pull off this media coup on a topic that has never really impassioned the masses -- the pillages of the LRA since 1986." 

News of the Kony video seems to be absent from the government-owned Ugandan newspaper New Vision and Uganda Broadcasting Station. In neighbouring Kenya, the attitude toward the film was mixed in publications such as The Kenyan Post. Peter Ngugi, a Kenyan intern at the OC Weekly launched a scathing criticism of the film's over-simplification of Ugandan politics that led to Kony's rise. Ngugi especially disapproved of the campaign's reliance on a "parade" of first-world celebrities to raise awareness about a developing nation's politics.  

"That's right--worry not, invisible children of Africa--Justin Bieber hears your plea for help and has the tweets to prove it," he wrote. "KONY 2012 only succeeds in presenting the story in the most ignorant and meaningless possible way, reducing it to nothing but a string of vapid celebrity soundbites." 

Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire gave a powerful but very restrained, respectful response on YouTube.

"The war was more than just one man killing children," she said. "The war was much more complex than just one man called Joseph Kony."

Kagumire pointed out (as many have) that the worst of the war is over, that Kony has since fled the country and that people in Uganda were now looking toward the future, rather than digging up the past.

"The situation in the video (KONY 2012) was five, six years ago. The situation has tremendously improved in Uganda. People sleep at home, and people are back home. It's about post-conflict recovery right now." 

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