Kony 2012: a cover up – March 2012

The makers of the Kony 2012 film pose with Ugandan troops, who have been accused of the same crimes that Kony is charged with
Photo: The makers of the Kony 2012 film pose with members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

On 5 March 2012 the charity Invisible Children launched a social media campaign around a film, Kony 2012, about Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operating in East Africa. Invisible Children has received financial backing from right-wing Christian organizations including the Discovery Institute, Caster foundation and the National Christian Foundation. Invisible Children has been in operation since 2004, but received a boost after the US government deployed 100 military advisors – special forces - to Uganda in October 2011.

Within 2 weeks of its release, the film had been viewed more than 83 million times on Youtube, promoted by major US television networks. Kony 2012 is an attempt to galvanise a mass movement in support of US military intervention. Its claims to act in solidarity with the people of Uganda are outright lies.

Kony 2012 calls for sustained and escalating US military intervention in Uganda, ostensibly to hunt for Kony. The film’s main narrative presents the director explaining to his five year old son who the ‘bad man’ is and why he must be stopped. The film conveniently skips much of Uganda's recent history as a proxy for imperialist regional interventions, and calls for military assistance for the government of Ugandan President for Life Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since the 1986 US-backed coup.

Under Museveni Ugandan government forces have:

Museveni remains an ally of US imperialism, but the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have shown the imperialists that they can no longer rely on allied states to keep their people in check.

In April 2011 thousands of Ugandans took part in a ‘walk to work’ campaign against rising food and fuel prices. They were beaten and tear gassed by government security forces, resulting in 11 deaths and 700 arrests, causing widespread anger and further protests. For the imperialists to have their own ‘boots on the ground’ may be an important insurance policy.

China and AFRICOM

AFRICOM was established in 2008 as a separate Unified Combatant Command of the US Armed Forces, reflecting the growing importance of Africa to the US. AFRICOM’s first engagement was Libya, where it coordinated the combat operations of 11 American warships and dozens of aircraft. By the end of the first day of operations it had fired 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and bombed 45 ground targets.

The growing involvement of China in Africa challenges US interests. China's investment in Africa has grown from $490 million 2003 to $14.7 billion in 2011. From 1 July this year, 95% of Uganda's goods will be allowed to enter China duty and tariff free. The Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) has already signed an agreement with London-based Tullow Oil for exploration of oil reserves which could produce 200,000 barrels a day.

Northern Uganda, adjacent southern Sudan and eastern Congo are rich in oil, gold, diamonds and coltan. US Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller declared at an AFRICOM conference in 2008 that AFRICOM’s purpose was to ensure ‘the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market’.

It is well-known that Kony is no longer in Uganda and this could provide a pretext for wider intervention. On 14 March Congolese General Jean Claude Kifwa, in charge of fighting the LRA in the DRC, announced at a press conference that Kony is no longer in the DRC, responding to Ugandan accusations that DRC forces were obstructing their hunt for Kony.

The people of northern Uganda and the wider region are in no need of a US or European saviour. When a local charity organised an open air screening of the film in Uganda (just 2% of Uganda’s population have internet access), thousands turned out, including many of Kony’s former victims that the film claims to speak for. They showed their anger at the film by throwing stones and chasing the organizers away.

If the filmmakers were genuine in their pursuit of a warlord then they needn't have left the shores of the US. Since being elected President Obama has approved the largest ever military budget in US history, commissioned daily drone attacks in Somalia and Pakistan and is committed to ensuring that the US remains the hegemonic power. All children must appear ‘invisible’ from the height of the jets that indiscriminately killed thousands of Libyans or the distance of a control room in Nevada, directing drone attacks, to the people in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen.

Patrick Ulysses