KONY 2012 criticism continues as Ugandan women rise above the past
The reason is simple. The new generation of Acholi people from northern Uganda appear, like so many other others across the country, to be wanting to move on now with their lives after living on the receiving end with what seems like a lifetime of stories with struggle and violence. Much of the suffering brought about by the LRA started back in the mid-1980s and hit with the most ferocity in the mid-1990s.
“I was scared. There were many bullets fired. I dropped down for safety, but could see the tree leaves falling from the bullets… I didn’t shoot, but six rebel soldiers and man abducted children were killed. Over twenty children died. I was running for safety and had to jump over many of the bodies. The youngest was about twelve.”
- Former girl child soldier, Grace T., who was 16-years-old when she was interviewed at VOHU – Voices of Hope Uganda. She was interviewed in 2002.
By 2008 many IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) were moving back from camps where conditions had deteriorated and back into regions they once called home. Uganda is now in the process of rebuilding, especially with new technologies, like mobile phone banking. The Women of Uganda Network (also known as WOUGNET) is actively involved in career training for women. One job available on their website right now is asking the fill a job for a front-end software engineer, preferably a woman software engineer.
“This is not about us, it does not reflect our lives,” said a group of Ugandan viewers after watching the KONY 2012 video.
In spite of local sentiments, the United Nations has reported new recent roaming attacks by the LRA, without the personal presence of Kony himself. These attacks have occurred inside Uganda in the regions of Watsa, Niangara, Dungu, Bondo, Ango (in Orientale) and Faradje. It’s without a doubt that these reports have been troubling.
In 2005, an arrest warrant was issued for Joseph Kony by the ICC – the International Criminal Court coming from The Hague in Geneva, Switzerland. In the warrant, Kony has been charged with 12 counts of crimes against humanity. He has also been charged with 21 counts of war crimes on the basis of his individual responsibility for LRA actions. Specific crimes including rape, murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement and the forced enlistment of children are part of 3 specific comprehensive charges. To date criminal investigations at the ICC on Joseph Kony are ongoing.
Along with the warrant for Kony’s arrest, came similar warrants against his top leadership. Two of Kony’s top lieutenants have since died though. One, LRA Lieutenant Raska Lukwiya, was killed in 2006 during a battle with troops in northern Uganda, the other LRA Lieutenant, Vincent Otti, was executed in 2007 by Kony’s own forces. His murder has been thought to have occurred because of his open positions on peace in the region and also because Kony may have perceived his popularity among LRA forces as personal threat to his position.
“Anyone joining the Kony 2012 campaign should insist that efforts to arrest Joseph Kony must respect human rights,” said Amnesty International very recently in a formal statement. “It is also vital to make sure that any action ensures the protection of civilians in the surrounding areas… …efforts to arrest Joseph Kony should be led by the governments of the countries in the region where the LRA operates, not by the U.S. armed forces,” they added.
Perhaps the message now after the KONY 2012 video has been viewed over 77 million times is: the world may need to watch and follow the wishes of the people of Uganda in order to advance with them. This doesn’t mean that Joseph Kony should be let ‘off-the-hook,’ but facts and details seem to be important issues to those who have followed the tragedy along with the crimes of the Lord’s Resistance Army for a long time.
Even with international and local movements toward advancement in Uganda, the shadow in the pain of atrocity still lingers.
“It is different for boys and girls when they are coming back. The boys come back without children. But us, we all have children from our time with the rebels. They are our children, you cannot leave this child, she is yours. But if you want to make a new life, start a new life with a man, you will always suffer because of this child. And the child will suffer too, because of you, because of your past in the bush.
It is harder for girls. And it is hard. Because people will say things to you and that thing will live with you. It stays in your heart. And when you are suffering, when you are depressed, you will always think about those things. A boy just forgets but a girl is not made that way. And people do not let a girl forget. It is impossible for a girl to brush that thing off.”
- Former girl child soldier who was interviewed by CAP – Children/Youth as Peacebuilders in Uganda in 2003
As current situation in Uganda is coming under more international and government scrutiny the “United Nations and government officials from central Africa will meet in Uganda next week to finalize a comprehensive regional strategy on combating the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group that gained notoriety for its atrocities in Uganda, but which has in recent years extended its violence to neighboring countries,” said the UN News Service recently on March 13, 2012.
“The UN and the African Union, both of which are involved in the effort to arrest the LRA suspects, also have an essential role to play in supporting efforts to arrest the LRA leaders, in protecting affected communities and monitoring and reporting on the status of human rights protection,” added Amnesty.
After the cross border Juba Talks attempted to find peace in the region, but stopped in 2006, along with a series of cease-fires between Ugandan forces and LRA operatives, a level of country stabilization started to begin for Uganda, but the governments of surrounding regions, including Sudan, DR-Congo and the CAR (Central African Republic), then began finding themselves with their own version of roaming armies of men, many who have been connected at some time on some level to the Lord’s Resistance Army.
“The video fails to address the politics of the region which I believe is an important factor of why Kony has remained at large for so long,” outlined Hobbs.
“This also makes me question why it is that everyone in the western world seems to think that they can solve all of Africa’s problems in a western way,” added Bernardi.
“Here is the bottom line. KONY 2012 is wildly successful because it exploits the uninformed masses in the West especially millions of well intentioned young people eager to do good for Africa. What the film does not do in this case, however, is explain how the situation has changed on the ground in northern Uganda,” says journalist Oliya.
“I hardly doubt that the people of Northern, Eastern and West Nile regions in Uganda, the most affected by this war have any idea that a video talking about their plight has gone viral on the internet,” said Ugandan journalist Maureen Agena, who grew up in northern Uganda in the Lango sub region. “It’s 2012 and the people of northern and eastern Uganda are in the post conflict era and re-settling. Why doesn’t the video at least give a brief highlight of this current situation rather than threaten the entire globe with out-dated information?” Agena explained. “Does ‘Invisible Children’ have an idea what impression of Uganda has been portrayed to a world that still believes Idi Amin is alive and still terrorising us? What will happen to our tourism sector?”
With a push to move forward Journalist Maureen Agena was also a college student who was attending St. Mary’s College in Aboke, Uganda in 1989 when Joseph Kony’s rebel soldiers abducted 139 college girls.
See other stories on girl soldiers UGANDA by WNN – Women News Network:
- “Girl Soldiers – The cost of survival in Northern Uganda“
- “Former girl child soldiers face hardships with reintegration in Uganda“
This February 2011 pop music video from Uganda, “Equal by Right – Women of Uganda,” shows a very different picture of Uganda than KONY 2012 depicts. This song became popular on its release through Uganda Radio Network as a song dedicated specifically to the “strong women of Uganda.” While women are still suffering in the region from poverty and domestic violence, the first Ugandan woman has recently become a judge at the ICC – International Criminal Court. Women are now experiencing a strong push in the country in a rise to give women more power and equality. This 4:44 min song has been produced by Abex Media and performed through a collaboration between celebrity Ugandan women pop music artists: Keko, Dtecia Mayanja, Annet Nandujja, Joanita Kawalya and Jacky Kateme, among others.
For more information on this topic:
- “Rosebell’s Blog” – a current Ugandan multimedia journalist publication by Rosebell Kagumire;
- “Youth and Sustainable Livelihoods – Linking Vocational Training Programs to Market Opportunities in Northern Uganda,” Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, December 2008;
- “Republic of Uganda – Security Council Resolution 1325: Civil Society Monitoring Report 2011,” a project of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, February 2012.
Lys Anzia is a human rights journalist and editor who’s work has appeared in CURRENT TV, The Guardian News, Thomson Reuters Foundation (Trustlaw), World Bank Publications, Morocco World News, ReliefWeb and Cairo based Bikya Masr, as well as many others. She is also the founder/editor-at-large for WNN – Women News Network.
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