Another Charity’s Response to the Invisible Children Campaign, #Kony12

The saga continues. Today, the charity, ‘War Child’ which I wrote about yesterday has issued a full statement on their response to the invisible children campaign. I think the scope of the debate and news bulletins of the whole thing highlights everyone’s concern for the issues in Africa and the way in which we go about dealing with them. It’s also worth considering that Invisible Children have issued a response to the various critiques as well.

With regards to War Child, of which I am a great fan, I think it is worth looking at them and listening to what they say as a smaller charity that has been doing a lot of work in Africa over the years as well as the big ones.

 

Firstly, there is also an official statement on the website of War Child explaining their position with regard to the Kony Campaign:

 

At the start of this week, few of us would have thought that Joseph Kony would be the most famous man on the internet.

Invisible Children’s ‘Kony 2012’ campaign has been a phenomenon. 25 million people have watched a 30 minute film about the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army – a rebel group that has left a trail of terror across central Africa for nearly a quarter of a century.

Response to Kony 2012 campaign

There’s much that other charities can and should learn about the way that Invisible Children have engaged and mobilised millions of young people to their cause. Since our own videos are lucky to get 1,000 YouTube views in a year, it would be churlish of us to criticise anyone else for theirs. The film and the organisation behind it have been placed under the microscope, and the scrutiny and debate of the issues is to be welcomed.

We differ in opinion to Invisible Children when it comes to some of the content of the film, and of the campaign’s aims:

  • Whilst Joseph Kony is a good figurehead for a publicity campaign, capturing him is not a magic bullet that will solve the region’s problems. The root causes of the conflict lie in poverty and inequality. The solutions are complex and must come from Ugandan people themselves.
  • We don’t support Invisible Children’s solution of putting American ‘advisors’ (troops) on the ground in Uganda. Partly because the LRA aren’t in Uganda anymore, but also because it’s not a solution advocated for by people living there. It’s only right that people should scrutinise American or British motives in sending a military presence to an area that has just discovered reserves of oil, and to a country bordering Somalia.
  • We urge the Ugandan (and Congolese and Central African Republic) armies to observe and uphold human rights laws and conventions. In many of the areas where we work in these countries, local people are just as scared of the army as they are of the rebels. There have been many allegations of violence and rape committed against women and children by government armies in the region.
  • The film is in some ways, five years too late. Kony and the LRA were driven out of Uganda and now move between Central African Republic (CAR), D.R. Congo and southern Sudan. They number only a few hundred fighters.
  • The number of children being kidnapped and used as child soldiers is now relatively small. Much needs to be done to help the thousands of former child soldiers to reintegrate back into their communities. That’s a feature of our work in Acholi.
  • That’s not to downplay the terror still caused by the LRA. They’re still attacking towns and villages in CAR where we work. The 300 of them have still caused hundreds of thousands of people in CAR and Congo to be displaced from their homes in fear.
  • Although the film supports the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in bringing Kony to justice, many would argue that the authority of the ICC would be greatly strengthened if the USA were to become members of it. That would seem to be an obvious campaigning or advocacy objective that the Kony 2012 campaign did not ask of its (primarily American) audience.

The fact that you’re reading this now and that you’ve heard of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army is because of Invisible Children’s film. They are to be commended for that. The issues and solutions are a lot more complex than can be captured in a film – even in a 30 minute one.

We’d urge you to look around our site to see how we’re providing direct, practical support to girls like Juliet and Agnes. If you’re passionate about supporting Kony’s victims and helping young Ugandans to rebuild their country then please considerdonating to our vital work.

 

Secondly, there is a press release, which you may download freely from their website, or read below:

‘Kony 2012’ – War Child Statement

‘Kony 2012’ has, overnight, become one of the most prominent charity social media campaigns. But this is by no means the whole story. This is just the very start of a long journey towards mitigation, redress and recovery for some of the most brutalised children in the world

 

  • The issue of ‘child-soldiers’ is not isolated to Africa[1] and is by no means unique to boys. Across the world there are currently an estimated 250,000 children associated with armed forces (including governments) and armed groups, of which 40% are girls. These are not just children wielding AK47’s – they are used as cooks, spies, decoys and exploited as ‘wives’ of rebel commanders.
  • The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is the most notorious of these rebel groups. War Child has been working in LRA-affected communities for nearly a decade – including a new programme started in 2011 in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country known as ‘The black hole of Africa’ appropriately nicknamed due to the shocking scarcity of attention or resourcing it receives from the media and donors alike. CAR is a country situated at the heart of one of the most volatile regions in the world, surrounded by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and Chad where the impacts of LRA activities prevail in relative silence. Just last week a whole village was forced to flee after the LRA looted and abducted 5 civilians in an area where War Child supports a school.[2]
  • Kony has been terrorising communities for the past 24 years, committing unforgivable atrocities across Central Africa. We welcome the spotlight that the Kony 2012 video has brought. However, we sincerely hope that this attention will be used to the best effect and to spark a debate around the broader issues involved and actions that are in the best interests of affected children and their wider communities.
  • There are many active civil society groups in the Central African region which should be supported in finding solutions to the multi-faceted problems that still exist – children and their communities are at the heart of any sustainable solution.
  • The warrant for Kony’s arrest was put out by the ICC nearly 7 years ago and he must not continue with the impunity he has been afforded so far. There are increasing calls for bringing war criminals to justice since the founding of the ICC in 2002, but it must be stressed that criminal prosecution is the very first step in achieving real justice for these children.
  • Kony has spearheaded the LRA but many fractions and groups exist that are equipped to continue without his leadership and that are disconnected from the LRA altogether.  Next week, for example, the case of Thomas Lubanga,[3] the first person to be tried at the ICC for the use and conscription of child soldiers, will come to its conclusion 7 years after his arrest. These processes are long and arduous – and though they will hopefully contribute towards reducing the human rights violations enacted against children in the future, it is by no means the full equation in ensuring redress, recovery and reintegration of those children and communities that have been affected.
  • After being involved in armies or rebel groups, children can become stigmatised and marginalised from their own families and communities. Girls who have had babies or been raped are particularly vulnerable to this. Whole families and communities need to be involved in the recovery and long-term protection of these children and youth, as do national governments in providing quality services for physical, emotional, economic and social recovery.

Key messages:

  • The capture and prosecution of Kony is the means and not the end towards a solution or the recovery and reintegration for war affected children.
  • Ownership needs to be with the civilian population, with support from the International Community and not vice versa.
  •  Children themselves are key agents of change – they are resilient and should be supported harness their potential for recovery
  • The root causes acting as barriers to children’s protection need to be addressed – infrastructure and services need to be in place to best support these children and communities

What War Child does

Programming/Projects

Uganda:

We have been working in Acholi Region, Pader and Agago Districts since 2006, where 95% of the population was displaced by the conflict.

 

–       working with excluded youths, many of whom were abducted by the LRA, or affected in some other way (displacement, loss of parents etc) to get them back into education that they missed out on, or offer vocational training so that they may find employment and rebuild their lives.

–       We work with the only school in northern Uganda for girl mothers, many of whom have children as a result of the conflict, to give them a chance to complete their education whilst caring for their children.

CAR:

We are setting up new projects to work with communities who were displaced by the LRA, in Zemio and Rafai and South-East.

–       Getting children back into school

–       Offering literacy and vocational training to formerly abducted youth (with particular focus on girls who are forced into sex work after returning as they are stigmatised by their communities)

 

DRC:

We do not currently work in LRA affected areas, but we work in areas affected by other rebel groups that grossly violate children’s rights.

 

Case Study: ‘Juliet’s Story

Juliet wants to be a lawyer and fight for children’s rights. Age 12 she was abducted from her home in Northern Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army. After six years of sexual violence as a ‘wife’ of a rebel commander, and a traumatic still-born birth with medical complications, Juliet managed to escape. With learning tailored to former girl child-soldiers and child-mothers supported by War Child, Juliet is now head girl of her school and is pursuing her ambitions to help girls like herself get back into school.

 

Advocacy

‘From Neglect to Protect ‘- Advocating for long-term change

From 2012 onwards our specific advocacy focus is the (re)integration and rehabilitation of the most marginalised children and young people in some of the worst conflict affected and fragile states. If services fail, the impact is likely to be intergenerational.

War Child Holland and UK will be advocating at all levels for the fulfilment of state and donor responsibilities to promote child rights and create an enabling environment care-givers to and children themselves to protect them. This year much of our focus will be on key donors to improve the accessibility, availability, quality and longevity of reintegration programmes in order to prevent negative cycles of violence passing from one generation to the next.

“We hope that the campaign to make Joseph Kony infamous will act as a deterrent to the continued grave violations perpetrated against children around the world, but If this campaign does culminate in his arrest, that is the critical stage at which remedial support from the International Community in support of locals will really be needed”

 



[1] For example, the UN office or the Special Representetive for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC) found last year that there were an estimated 8,000 children in Afghanistan under arms. Many children are being coerced or encouraged into acting as suicide bombers from ages as young as 9 years old.

[2] War Child supports a school in Agoumar and staff belonging to JUPADEC, the local NGO which runs the school, were forced to leave along with those of a number of other agencies. In the week prior to the attack, War Child’s Programme Coordinator visited the area but had since returned to Bangui.]

[3] Lubanga was allegedly the president of the Union of Congolese Patriots from 2000, and from 2002 was alleged to have served as commander-in-chief of its former military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo.

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • melochejohn

    The continued slander and attempt to find fault in Invisible Children in my opinion is pure ignorance. Who are are to judge their methods and attempt to validate how reaching them can or can not be succesful. Here is my full commentary on the haters :  http://culturerev.com/2012/03/invisible-children-vs-the-haters/