(NOTE: Orginal post from Weber Shandwick Seattle’s Deanna Petersen first appeared on Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact blog)
Joseph Kony is a monster – that fundamental truth is plain and simple. But that is where the simplicity stops. To gauge the African perspective of the KONY2012 film, I called Uganda and spoke to communication experts across the country. They shared perspectives that are emerging from Kampala, Gulu and points far beyond. While people in Northern Uganda hurled rocks at the screen during a recent screening, here is how my colleagues articulated their frustrations with the film:
• It is an oversimplification of a complex issue. The terror waged in Northern Uganda saw atrocities on all sides. There were clear examples where the government failed to protect its people and according to many were at least complicit in the slaughter of its people. The roots of this problem are deep and according to one expert, “will not be solved by a tweet from Rihanna or Bono.”
• It obscures what’s really needed. Before Joseph Kony there was another warlord in Northern Uganda. According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, “The LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundreds at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed and poorly trained.” A military solution will stop one villain, but leave a hole for the next monster if we don’t address the health, education and development needs of the people.
• It doesn’t reflect the realities of the people. Kony hasn’t been in Northern Uganda for six years. In that time the people have been rebuilding. While Invisible Children has assisted in that effort, its film ignores the fact that today in Northern Uganda people are planting crops, touring game reserves and exhaling after years of fear. This film carelessly threatens a burgeoning tourism industry and economy beginning to find its feet in Uganda.
• It smacks of a tired narrative. The white man (albeit accompanied by his adorable child) saving Africans. It’s been done before and while a broader global consciousness is important, we need to find a new way to tell this story that isn’t so, well…patronizing.
My African colleagues share important lessons for all those who will take a page from the KONY2012 playbook:
• Create collaboratively. The video is powerful, but imagine how much more powerful it would have been if the rocks had been thrown during a test screening.
• A simple rallying cry is important; just make sure it’s the right one. Action is urgent and necessary, but let’s ensure we find the right goal.
(Photo via ENOUGH Project)