. Why #StopKony is vile: a response to comments | Ceasefire Magazine

Why #StopKony is vile: a response to comments Comment

David Leon's article on the repulsiveness of the 'StopKony' campaign has sparked a wide-ranging online debate. In this short piece, he addresses the claim of his critics that he has not provided a useful alternative to the Kony campaign.

Blogs, Politics - Posted on Friday, March 9, 2012 20:49 - 10 Comments



It has been pointed out by several readers that I have not offered an alternative to Invisible Children Inc. While this does not take anything out of the criticisms I have levelled against their campaign, it was, however, a tremendous missed opportunity. I thank you for pointing it out, and it intend to rectify it here.

Meet the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). It has been singled out by charity evaluators GiveWell and Giving What We Can as one of the most cost-effective charities in the world. It targets Neglected Tropical Diseases — debilitating conditions which afflict over a billion people worldwide exclusively in the poorest countries in the world, which is why they have received so little funding and attention. They are also fantastically easy to cure, which is it what makes the charity so effective. Furthermore, the Poverty Action Lab at MIT has singled out deworming as the most effective way to improve education in the poorest parts of the world, because of the miraculous effect it has on school attendance. SCI is heavily involved in Uganda, and giving money to them would probably do more good to the victims of Joseph Kony’s depredations than any other cause.

But if giving your money to highly cost-effective charities isn’t your thing, there are many opportunities for activism. Instead of lobbying for the US government to eliminate a warlord stuck in the hinterland of the Central African Republic with a couple of hundred troops at most, tell them to target the war criminals with actual armies behind them. Lobby for the US government, for example, to withdraw its support for dictators such as Paul Biya of Cameroon (28 years in power), Idriss Déby of Chad (singled out by Forbes as the world’s most corrupt regime), Paul Kagame of Rwanda (widely accused of war crimes in the Second Congo War, in which he, with Museveni, invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo – also accused of “serious violations of humanitarian law” by Human Rights Watch), or, indeed, our good friend Yoweri Museveni, of Uganda. Why not lobby the US government to support the Ugandan opposition movement, instead of arming their dictator?

Or indeed, lobby the US government to sign and ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court. And once you’re done with that, join the nascent “TONY 2012” movement; all you need to do is share it on Facebook.

David Leon

David Leon is studying International Relations at the University of Oxford.


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Mar 9, 2012 23:20

Agreed! Excellent response.

Mar 9, 2012 23:49

Well said.

Mar 10, 2012 0:55

What I don’t understand is why people are having a go at the campaign. So you are basically saying that instead of supporting KONY 2012, you should support something else. Why can’t you support both? How many other campaigns have managed to lobby the US President to supply 100 troops to find this guy?

It strikes me that rather than being impressed by the use of social media and a sustained campaign to reach a given goal, people are being quick to poo-poo the whole thing. Other campaigns have a lot to learn whether or not you agree with the point at hand.

Mar 10, 2012 15:28

The original article was excellent, this is very weak in comparison. You have failed to address issues of international accountability which are sought, and continued to side step. I agree with your points but it failed to manifest the had critique from the first and offer something on this idea-myth of international justice… Albeit between the lines, which isn’t good enough.

Mar 10, 2012 18:32

I think this is a very good response to the critical comments on the previous page. I doubt it will change how Kony 2012 supporters think, however. The problem is that the kinds of people that are drawn to causes like Kony 2012 are the kind of people that want quick easy answers to black/white problems in a simple world. Your article and response point out the complexity of the situation in Africa (and other tropical countries) and a list of the many horrific diseases and dictators that are of greater urgency than Kony. Arguments that involve lists and complex non-military solutions are not the arguments that work on Kony 2012 supporters, unfortunately…

David Levi
Mar 10, 2012 21:32

Dear David, I sympathize with what you have to say and agree that the Kony 2012 campaign is a bizarre and unseemly media stunt unlikely to do anything to mitigate the suffering of oppressed people in Uganda and the surrounding region. I also hear the points that Sam and others made in response to your initial post about your unnecessary vitriol against the naive kids who started this campaign. My reason for posting, though, is to address your assertion that one of the real criminals in the region is Paul Kagame. For all I know, he may well be. But I did view him as a hero for his vital role in ending the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and driving the genocidaires across the border into Congo. From what I understand, Kagame’s Rwanda has given amnesty to all but the highest level perpetrators of the genocide, provided that exiles undergo an educational program before re-entering Rwandan society. Meanwhile, the Rwandan campaigns across the border in Congo were, again, from what I understand, aimed to disrupt the formation of a cohesive reformation of the Hutu Power movement that might otherwise reinvade. And the refugee communities ruled by the genocidaires certainly did continue to carry out grave crimes, within their camps and on surrounding communities. Finally, my understanding is that Kagame and his troops supported Kabila’s popular struggle against Mobutu in Congo. While Kablia and his followers were not saints, I do think they were the right side given the world-historic criminality of the Mobutu regime. At the very least, I think we must grant that Kagame showed tremendous courage and skill when he led the RPF invasion of Hutu Power controlled Rwanda in the midst of the 1994 genocide, and grant that in doing so he saved many thousands of innocent lives. This does not give him a blank check, and I hope that he, like all other leaders, can be held accountable. The history of conflict in the region is, I’m afraid, long and complex, and I don’t think Kagame can fairly be judged a villain within that context. On the contrary, his heroism far surpasses that of the great mass of humanity, I dare say including you and me.

Mar 10, 2012 21:41

I would’ve loved to see Ceasefire provide some space for people from the continent of Africa respond to the piece, and not the usual academic rhetoric. Luckily this is the internet, and here is a collection of some such people!


Mar 11, 2012 17:38

I’ve got to agree with Rudy and Alec here. Good original article, weak response. You should have addressed the concerns about yours being an academic opinion removed from the situation by bringing in corroborating voices from Africans involved in the situation, and the suggestions for charities should have been ones recommended from people within the situation – not your own personal favourite charities. This is not an appropriate response imo, it detracts from the original article.

Mar 13, 2012 17:00

Hi, I just wanted to highlight a point in your argument: we can think whatever we want about the KONY 2012 campaign but it has a least raised people’s awareness on their capacity to make things change (at least a bit). You were criticizing the fact that they dedicated only a little part of the money they got from their supporters to actual actions in Uganda and to help its population; but I would say that this is the ‘first step’ of their campaign in the sense that, as everything, you need to get first knowned to be efficient. This money went to the 65-million-views video and lots of communication and marketing stuff (like world-renowed big companies do), and we can hope that the next step will be those people who have watched the video implicating themselves a little more in world affairs, and (hopefully) donating more to NGOs listed in Givewell and Givingwhatwecan. I do not think there is only bad stuff about this initiative and, in my view, we have to look on the bright side and see how we can get the best of this worldwide buzz.

Mar 16, 2012 11:15

You mean we don’t get a response to the responses of the response?

Surely this would suit Ceasefire perfectly, with it’s academic theory-led rhetorics…

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