Sunday, January 17, 2021

Africa must reject Western military tourism

While Jason Russell’s “Kony 2012” movie about Ugandan sociopathic rebel Joseph Kony has been lauded by some viewers as a brilliant and provocative work of brave digital political activism, it dangerously exhibits an enduring belief by Westerners that it is their appointed missionary work to put Africa right, politically and economically. A belief that Africanist scholars, policy makers and journalists must not only challenge but also reject with costs.

There is no iota of doubt that Joseph Kony is a washed out sociopath who belongs to hell or somewhere near there. Together with his Lord’s Resistance Army {LRA} he has kidnapped thousands of children, turned little girls into sex slaves, forced toddling boys to commit massacres and has thrown Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda into political chaos for more than two decades.
That he must be captured, killed or at least brought to book is not an option but a must. However, for it to take Jason Russell, his three year old son Gavin and some American college students on Facebook to force a global resolve to “stop Kony” raises many worrying concerns about the inability of African governments and multilateral institutions in shape of SADC and AU to provide durable solutions for African challenges without necessitating the intervention of America and her NATO affiliates.

Even more worrying is that President Barack Obama’s shock October 2011 deployment of a hundred Marines to Uganda on a mission to advise President Yoweri Museveni and his army on how to “stop Kony” came very hot on the heels of revelations that Uganda has discovered rich oil deposits on her river Nile valleys. Since the Kony menace has been going on for some decades now, the coincidence of America’s military intervention in Uganda with the good news about oil should take away sleep from our eyes.

As it is, after the gruesome murder of Gaddaffy by rebels backed by NATO allies with their superior gunships and snipers, ordinary Libyans are learning it the hard way that the free water, free healthcare, free education, interest free loans and state provided accommodation with free electricity are all going to be a thing of the past that was buried together with the Colonel.
Not that the Colonel was an angel, he was a venal tyrant whose refusal to leave office when his people asked him to only helped to squander the glorious legacy that he created by his benevolent developmental and welfarist projects that made Libyans some of the happiest people under the sun. It was the burden of Libyans assisted by SADC and AU to force Gaddaffy, if possible militarily to respect the will of his people. Western military intervention dressed in humanitarian colours, from Iraq to Libya, has come and gone with cruel consequences which include the greedy siphoning of Libyan oil to France that is taking place while very slowly Africa learns that the removal of Gaddaffy was not such a victory for Libyans and Africans but for enduring vampirist western imperialism.

As a viewer, I am recovering very slowly from Russell’s very careless treatment of a serious human and African issue in his movie—-Joseph Kony’s obscene terrorism and genocidal violence against civilians in Uganda. In what is supposed to be a movie or a documentary that seeks to shed light on a grave topic, Russell spends precious minutes interviewing his son Gavin who is still learning how to speak.

Possibly his intention is to use his son’s innocence and voice to get the world to feel for the children of Uganda, if so it is an artistic technique that went wrong. To subject sober audiences to baby-speak leans towards insult, especially where time wasted on baby blubber could have been fruitfully used by a serious documentarist and journalist to answer pertinent questions like who supplies Joseph Kony with new guns and ammunition? And where does he get the money and other necessary supplies to perpetuate his evil agenda and what are the interests of his backers?
One does not need to be a fundi in audience behaviour to understand that the Facebook campaign that Russell claims is meant to make Joseph Kony “famous” and lead to his capture might actually work the opposite way to give a cause where it does not exist by honouring a sociopath with publicity that he has been looking for all along. Many who detest America and her imperial ways might begin to see a hero in Kony because of a careless Facebook political “experiment” which Russell admits to.

It is also fragile thinking that the arrest or killing of Joseph Kony will be a solution to the problem of violence against children in Africa as Russell and his Invisible Children seem to believe. Kony is just a pimple that symptomises the deep malady of a culture of genocidal violence that African leaders in the opposition and ruling governments have allowed to take deep root in the African political landscape. Africans, led by SADC and AU must generate muscular ways of dealing with political violence and tyranny in Africa, and not depend on Facebook experiments by western journalists to court Western intervention in African political affairs.

While Joseph Kony operates from the dark tropical rain forests of the Great Lakes Region, Robert Mugabe, who sits in SADC and AU, operates from a state house and uses millions of dollars generated from the sale of alluvial diamonds in Marange to fund his militant group Chipanagano that kidnaps his opponents and rapes the women among them. As Mugabe does this, the schools, hospitals and social service delivery institutions in Zimbabwe are going down to the proverbial dogs. Before NATO and America get any ideas about the diamonds in Zimbabwe and give Mugabe the Gaddaffy treatment citing humanitarian concerns, it is Zimbabweans that must muscle SADC and AU to live up to their promise of making Africa a hospitable place for all who live in it by refusing to shelter even those Joseph Konys that wear fancy clothes, speak good English and are called Excellencies.
The Joseph Konys and Robert Mugabes of Africa continue to victor against the people and to be used by the West as an excuse to push their imperial agendas in Africa because African leaders have turned noble institutions like SADC and AU into clubs of tyrants whose job is not to protect the people but to house despots and keep them in power in spite of the wishes of their people. Violent dictators of the genocidal category like Omar Al Bashir of Sudan and Charles Taylor of Liberia continue to walk the earth because of the protection they enjoy from other African leaders in spite of the thousands of Africans they have sent to the graves.

Western journalists like Russell and film makers like Marc Forster who produced The Machine Gun Preacher, another movie about Joseph Kony, can afford the luxury of their comfortable studios in America to fantasise that the white man is still the saviour whose mission is to save Africans from themselves. What we now know is that western military intervention in Africa, however disguised in thick humanitarian pretensions remains an excuse to pursue Western imperial agendas in Africa and perpetuate the greedy “scramble for Africa’s resources.”

The heroic men and women of Africa, and their children who have endured tyranny, suffered genocide and have lost many of their folk to countless massacres must force their leadership, including SADC and AU to respect human rights and value human life. It is the people of Africa who will rid Africa of sociopathic and genocidal elements like Joseph Kony in whatever sophistications they come. Facebook combatants and military tourists from the West are the proverbial Greeks who are bearing gifts, while their true intentions are to continue to bleed Africa of her resources.

*Mpofu is a Johannesburg based Media, Journalism and Public Relations consultant

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper