There's a Light in the Get Kony Campaign
- Jay Naidoo
- 04 Apr 2012 07:04 (South Africa)
I have read and discussed many analyses of the Kony 2012 phenomenon. I have watched the movie. I have sought out and met the team behind Invisible Children, which is running the campaign. As with anything in life, I could have chosen to pick all the negatives in the narrative. And there are negatives, as were when we set out on our journey to free ourselves from apartheid.
I chose not to.
I am an African. My soul pulses with the spirit of our beautiful and troubled continent. Like my brothers and sisters across our lands, I endure the painful lashes of our tyrants and warlords. But now that I know deep that below the human greed of a few that drives our wars and conflicts is the inextinguishable force of the generosity, human dignity and strength of our people.
Yes, it pains me that Kony and the predatory elites feed off the flesh and blood of our innocent children, mothers and fathers. And it angers me that the world and its powerful and privileged elites allow it to happen over and over again.
Why do we allow this to happen? Is it that we just do not care? What if this was my teenage son or daughter snatched from my arms, raped and forced to kill innocent children or elders because of the fear of death? What choice would my son or daughter have but hold that heavy AK-47, close their eyes and pull the trigger that kills a human being in an explosion of flesh and bone? What will happen to their humanity?
So when I look at the commentary I am perplexed. Kony has committed his atrocities over the last 20 years. He has slaughtered thousands and robbed so many of our kids of their childhood innocence. We have stood by and watched. What has allowed the powerful in Africa and the world to ignore the unspeakable horrors of Kony? Are we really expecting his victims in the villages of Uganda to mobilise a global campaign?
The question we must pose is why Kony survives when we have such sophisticated technology and recourses available? The Great Lakes region is a rough neighbourhood, dominated by “big men”. War often is a necessity for the most corrupt economic interests to thrive. They need a Kony to do their dirty work.
It feeds a global economy with low-cost raw materials, and the sponsors who supply them with arms are determined to extract the wealth at huge human cost. The critical question is what are the rules and systems of power that allow the Konys to thrive in our world today.
So I have a different take on the Kony phenomenon. There was a naivety that underpinned the goal of the campaign, which is well and good for me. I was as naïve to believe in 1976 in the midst of our massive student uprisings that freedom was around the corner. It was our Tahrir Square. We were confident and defiant. We were smashed and it took us 18 years of painstaking organising to build the power to install Nelson Mandela as our first democratically elected president.
Can an American non-governmental organisation ever capture Kony? Frankly, no. But Invisible Children did succeed in building a campaign, like we did in South Africa, over many years. That got American youngsters and now others around the world to take a stand. Their passion, their determination, their smart use of technology and the social media tools of the 21st century have built a tsunami that exploded across the world. That is a remarkable achievement.
So why am I positive about the Kony campaign? Because it demonstrates the depth and power of civic engagement. If we could move from being subjects to active citizens we are capable of shifting the citadels of political and economic power in the world. The cornerstone of the Kony campaign is our deep sense of a shared humanity. We do care if innocent children are forced to become child soldiers or sex slaves.
It is possible that criminal leaders who loot our countries and serve their own interests are held to account in the citizen jury of the world. We are capable of building a countervailing power that places the interests of the innocent, the marginalised and the forgotten on the global radar screen.
Coming on the back of the Arab Spring and the “Occupy Movements” and the growing outrage against corruption worldwide, people are once again expressing their anger at the deliberate negligence of the global elite that dominates our public multilateral, global and national institutions. Our leaders cannot insulate themselves from the glare of us as the citizens of the world.
As we said in our struggle against apartheid sekunjalo ke nako: now is the time. Citizens are beginning to take a stand against the new apartheid that divides the world into the global rich and the global poor. There is a new confidence rising in the world. The wrath of the majority is growing in the world.
It was that tsunami of public opinion and action in support of our mass struggles in South Africa that created the political stalemate. It allowed extraordinary leaders on both sides of the conflict to choose negotiations as the political alternative to a scorched earth policy. That’s how the political miracle of a democratic South Africa was born.
So where does that leave us today with regards to Kony? The African Union has agreed to assemble a 5,000-man force to ensure that Kony is captured and put on trial. The world will be plastered with images of Kony. He will be famous, but for all the wrong reasons. This is our modern-day Nuremberg Trial. And, as the world convicts Kony our collective consciousness will be shifted by what we participate or even watch on our TV screens.
We will demonstrate that we do care, that we do have a sense of our shared humanity, that it does matter in our global village that the suffering of our fellow human beings is our collective challenge, that we are interconnected by the umbilical cord of our shared humanity and belief that every life has human value.
To me a victory against Kony is more than a capture of a single warlord. It is about a global discussion on what the rules and systems are in a world that allows Kony and so many others to dominate our world and subject our people to such human suffering. It is about those who allow our children to die of preventable causes, even though we have the science and the resources to solve it. It is about the senseless exploitation of our world resources by greedy corporates and their political allies who do not care whether our children and future generations inherit a devastated wasteland or not.
So as I travel the world and spend my time in the villages with poor women, experience the human suffering caused by our senseless addiction to consumption, I am happy that there are groups like Invisible Children who strike a flame in our conscience and make us sit up from the comforts of our armchairs and make us think, and act.
There are still many Konys in our midst. They don’t just live in the jungles of Africa. In fact, the more obscene ones inhabit the glass towers of our capitals sipping champagne, eating caviar and commenting on the savagery of us natives in the developing world. Their actions as a connected, powerful global elite condemn more than half of humanity to the unspeakable horrors of poverty, social inequality and violent conflict.
They must know that their time is also coming. DM
Jay Naidoo was an anti-apartheid activist and founding general secretary of the most militant labour movement at the centre of the struggle for freedom. He went on to become the minister of reconstruction and development and then telecommunications under president Nelson Mandela. Today he is the chairman of GAIN, a global foundation fighting malnutrition and hunger in the world.
- The global food system is broken; here's how to fix it
- Africa's tomorrow depends on empowering its people today
- Ebola: Fear, Paralysis, Solidarity, Justice
- The UN General Assembly week, New York: A cacophony of noise and hope
- Hiking the roof of Africa; my journey to the depths of myself
- Visualising the end of inequality – a new path to negotiation
- After the platinum strike: We dare not fail now
- Letter to the next generation
- Formal vs. informal economy: Bridging the gap
- Connecting the dots: Building workers’ unity and workers’ power
- Democracy in distress: Are our elections bought and our votes sold?
- May Day 2014: Cosatu's tough choice of the politics of workers unity or politics of political parties
- COSATU: In the eye of the storm
- Twenty years of SA democracy: A new fight must begin
- Kibera: Hope and human dignity rising in the slums of Africa
- The rise and fall of Cosatu: From vanguard to sacrificial lamb
- A leader I would vote for: Botswana's former president Festus Mogae
- A leader I would vote for: President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde
- Op-Ed: A giant stumbling through the minefield of political division – my appeal to the Cosatu workers
- A leader I would vote for: Joaquim Alberto Chissano
- A leader I would vote for: President Mujica of Uruguay
- That Lula Moment: A question of leadership and integrity
- Following the money: Work with citizens to make our money work for all
- Checkmate: The rise of radicalism
- Lords of the Niger Delta: The Shell legacy of profit before people
- Protests, police and cowardice – our State of the Nation
- New stones for my Madiba rosary
- The final journey and the legacy that will always live in our hearts
- After the tears, the hard work of building the world that Mandela believed in
- Mandela's gone. But he will be with us, forever.
- Bekkersdal: The turning point in SA municipal politics – time for a line in the ground
- Africa Rising? Whose Africa?
- The scramble for the Arctic and the dangers of Russia’s race for oil
- Africa's future is clear: Youth, Technology & Broadband
- Child mortality is our human rights failure of the 21st century
- Technology can wipe out the cancer of corruption
- My open letter to South Africa
- Amputating the soul of our children
- The vision of the Invisible Children
- A humble billionaire, asking tough questions
- Cry, the beloved country; cry, the beloved federation
- Humanity at a crossroads: Fighting for climate justice
- Wanted: Ancient wisdoms to heal our planet
- The taste of power: its sanctity and its perversion
- When the town I loved burned down, or, when Heaven was visited by Hell
- As our Constitution lives, so does Mandela
- Bangladesh: Losing some battles, but winning the war
- Rana Square – the Ground Zero of workers’ rights
- Small-scale farming: simple, successful, sustainable
- A global debate needs local voices
- When will Africa be led by the needs of its people?
- The faultlines in our society: Why are we so angry?
- Nigeria: Africa's best hopes and worst fears
- Our ancient African heritage holds the key to our future
- To build a better world for all, we need a new narrative, new energy, new commitment
- A culture of service and tolerance: Lessons from Chris Hani
- Open data platforms: a tool to revolutionise governance
- Aluta continua: Why the fight for quality healthcare can’t be over
- ‘I raped her because she belongs to me’
- Would Hani and Slovo today be accused of Neo-liberalism and Counter-revolution?
- An open letter to my fellow South Africans: I am ready. Are you?
- A trip to Limpopo: The Forgotten Land
- 'I have a right to a toilet - it's human dignity'
- Matric pass rate: On the road to Nobody
- The challenges of today are South Africa's opportunities of tomorrow
- India: The ongoing tyranny of the caste system
- To my generation: Listen. Listen very carefully.
- The Lula moment and this country of ours, South Africa
- African youth: Fulfilling the potential
- Africa’s 'leadership crisis' - we have more agency than we think
- Think climate change isn't your problem? It will be when you can't eat
- The wuthering heights of disenchantment
- An open letter to Cosatu
- Democracy for all: Marikana signals our second chance
- Can't you hear the thunder?
- A new age, a new role for foundations: redefine development
- Video series - great women of SA: Emma Mashinini (I)
- Mother love: Time to add decency and respect to women's hard-won rights
- GAINing ground: The beauty of one good idea
- Education: a morass of mediocrity
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part V
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part IV
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part III
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part II
- Celebrating Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us
- Mandela day: time for the next generation to take control
- The school of sexual predation
- Rio+20: We're not colonies anymore
- Prayers to the rain gods
- Our foreign policy gets more foreign as time goes by
- Not a moment to Spear: Why, in a time of crisis, that painting is irrelevant
- Ma Emma: The true spear of the nation
- Araku - the truth, the inspiration
- An infinite vision - The story of the Aravind eye hospital
- Get up, stand up South Africa!
- Our future lies in the mothers of nature
- There's a Light in the Get Kony Campaign
- Empowerment lies in women in Indian villages talking to those in African villages
- Dear President Zuma
- Adequate food is essential component of social justice
- Durban to Rio could be our Road to Damascus
- The Grinch who stole hope
- The Grinch who stole hope
- iMaverick, Monday 28 November
- Africa at the crossroads: Let's talk Brazil
- The secrecy bill: Welcome back, Magnus Malan & Adriaan Vlok
- The powder kegs of unmet expectations in our midst
- iMaverick, Wednesday 19 October
- Finding one's humanity where little else remains
- Food security: A matter of war and peace