I am an American missionary who currently lives in Uganda and has lived here 14 years. This thing with Kony is really about money. In the 20+ years that Kony was killing thousands there was no intervention by an outside country. Yet it was happening. The minute there was oil found here, then the British sent people over to “assist”.
I have to say that the more circumstances or situations change, the more they remain the same in that the imperatives of foreign policy are often driven by oligarchical interests and political expediency that has little to do with the day-to-day lives of a country’s citizens.
For those in the drivers seat of public influence this reality often times means framing situations in such a fashion as to make it a “do it your way, my way proposition” to which they can then say we had to respond because public outcry demand that we do so.
Of course this has become an increasingly difficult task from say 1952 when the Eisenhower Administration, which according to many heralded “the brave new world of CIA-led coups and assassinations, overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran under the auspices of protecting America and Americans from the growing threat of global Communism. Can you imagine the U.S. trying to overthrow a democratic government, let alone do so openly, in today’s better informed and less trusting world?
In reality, and as indicated in my last Kony 2012 post, the real reason for the coup was the fact that Mossadegh was going to nationalize Iran’s oil fields and in the process increase the country’s interest in its own national resource from the paltry 17% it previously held. At the time, the lion’s share of the profits from Iranian crude went to the company we now know as British Petroleum.
While some will suggest that this was a fair arrangement given that it was the colonizing British who turned Iran’s vast natural resources into black gold, which by the way is a good discussion for another day, it is the individual whom the U.S. supported that raises the most troubling questions. I am talking about the Shah of Iran who was a despot leader whose vicious private police force SAVIK tortured and killed countless Iranians in the name of his maintaining a stranglehold of absolute power.
I contend, and I doubt that there would be many who would disagree, that the Shah’s years in power through U.S. intervention and support led directly to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and ultimately to the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Here is the thing, if the U.S. could overthrow a democratic government headed by a popular leader who championed freedom and human rights, and place into power a known thug under the banner of the people’s ruler, all for the sake of protecting Western oil interests then how easy would it be to vilify a Kony who as the missionary indicated had been operating unencumbered for 20 plus years and who I might add has not been in Uganda according to some reports for some time.
And this as they say is the rub . . .
One can reasonably argue that had oil not been discovered in Uganda it is likely that the closest we would have come to hearing of a Kony of any kind is the Hawaiian coffee.
While there is no doubt that what was and is still happening in Uganda is terrible, there are many other places in the world that warrant equal if not greater attention.
Take for example the global problem of human trafficking which is according to studies “second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world,” generating revenue that is estimated to be between $5 and $9 billion annually.
How about closer to home where it is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience some form of abuse, with the statistics for child abuse are no less shocking.
What this tells me is that from a mass audience perspective, it is far easier to grasp the concept of a single evil person and rally our time and energy around bringing someone to justice, even though the crimes while heinous are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg on the global stage.
Even more troubling is the fact that villains like the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega and the like are somehow made less of a threat and less odoriferous when they are on the right side of Western interests. Once they have served their purpose the image switch can be, as history shows, easily turned to reveal them as the deplorable creatures they are. However, no one remembers to ask why they were supported by Western interests int he first place!
This is where the problems with the Kony 2012 video come into play, simply because the sense of urgency it created is artificial in relation to the length of time the problem has existed, the extent of the problem in relation to other serious issues and the motivation behind it being championed.
In each of these key areas, it is sad to say that we and in particular our emotions are being played for less than honorable intentions.
In the next installment we will examine what would be a reasonable response to the Kony situation, that will take into account the level and timing of the action to be taken, and the framework in which the response should be both managed and measured in terms of effectiveness.