Ugandans watching Kony 2012 in Lira town. Photo image:STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
The Kony 2012 film has stirred up a huge amount of controversy and discussion. One of its most interesting side effects is the way that it has provided us Ugandans with an opportunity to recapture our own narrative.
In Uganda, there is a continuing drive to rewrite the historical narrative of the country. There is a need to challenge the official narrative that has been in place since the current regime came into power in 1986. This version of our past mostly views the government solely as a savior, hardly mentioning the gross violations of human rights for which it bears responsibility. People are beginning to ask questions regarding the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict, and the survivors are beginning to tell their stories of what really happened.
The image above shows an LRA victim in Lira responding to the screening. Photo credit: Al Jazeera
Since 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?
Last 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.
The Kony2012 advocacy campaign by Invisible Children has gone viral. It’s successfully changed the scope of humanitarian marketing. It’s also a film rife with half-truths.
Kony2012 falsely insinuates that Uganda is still at war. That night commuters are still in Uganda. That Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army are the only sources of atrocity in the region. That white people, especially Americans, are going to solve the problem.
12 year old Nancy Lamwaka a victim of the 'nodding disease'. Photo credit: Reuters/Edward Echwalu
While the rest of the world jumps onto the Kony2012 bandwagon — wrongly assuming that the main problem in Uganda is the Lord’s Resistance Army — Ugandans are worrying about the much more urgent problem plaguing their country: nodding disease.
The cause of the disease is unknown. It affects thousands of children in Northern Uganda, causing symptoms similar to epilepsy, but with more severe mental and physical retardation. (The photo above shows 12-year-old Nancy Lamwaka, a victim of the disease.) Yet the Ugandan government has been notably slow to deal with the problem.