Western pundits and journalists sure are selective in choosing what does or does not count as newsworthy across the continent of Africa. Of course, Uganda is always a sure bet. Just look at all that international press “Kill the Gays” drums up every time it comes back before Parliament.
Misinformed poverty porn: It’s an entire genre in the world of “consciousness-raising” NGOs, as any foreign correspondent, researcher or professional do-gooder can attest. I saw Invisible Children’s first such contribution to the genre years ago, an hour-long film also dubbed “Invisible Children,” purporting to explain the Northern Ugandan conflict and the child solider problem to viewers. Then, as now, the NGO had stirred up a firestorm of passion to stop the injustice. That film, like the new “Kony 2012,” obscured the geopolitical context of the conflict in favor of a simplistic “good vs. evil” narrative about saving the children.
It is curious that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni cited the protection of children when asked about the newly revived Anti-Homosexuality Bill in his country’s parliament. After all, this is a president who has done very little to protect children in the wake of severe austerity measures imposed by international lenders and structural adjustment over many years. Child starvation remains a serious problem in the country, where, as recently as 2010, allafrica.com reported that only 45% of Ugandans have food security. And the non-profit NETwork Against Malaria says 30% of Ugandan children under the age of five die each year from malaria.
Ugandan children hiding at night from LRA kidnappers, public domain.
This week, President Barack Obama authorized 100 Special Forces operatives to enter Uganda in an advisory capacity aimed at wiping out Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The militia originated in 1988 in Northern Uganda as a pentecostal Christian-influenced sect aimed at undermining the legitimacy of President Yoweri Museveni. Not long into his tenure as leader of the movement, Kony and his followers gained notoriety as one of the most brutal militias in the world. They have a long history of kidnapping and drugging children for use as child soldiers – and are also known for raping and torturing civilians, often cutting off the lips and noses of prisoners. When driven from northern Uganda between 2005 and 2007, the organization regrouped in the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and what is now South Sudan.
Notwithstanding Rush Limbaugh’s comically wrong-headed remark this week about Obama “targeting Christians,” it is not at all helpful to understand this as a conflict between Christians and Muslims. Museveni himself is a fundamentalist Christian and member of the international dominionist group, the Family.