10 March 2012
In yesterday's post I reported PBS Newshour coverage of an online video called Kony 2012, which condemns the militarization of children by Joseph Kony in Uganda, an act any caring person would find abhorrent. Since then I've come across information which broadens the picture. One video questions the motives and the financial practices of Kony 2012's creators, Invisible Children, and claims that Kony's activities have been blown out of proportion.
An article titled "Kony 2012 ~ Viral Video for the Misinformed?" makes similar points, adding that "Invisible Children's viral smash follows Barack Obama's decision to deploy 100 troops to Uganda last October with the aim of 'removing' Joseph Kony from the picture." Wikipedia cites President Obama as stating at the time in a letter to Congress that "Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense." It should be noted that a similar effort in 2008 disrupted Kony's operations, but failed to capture him.
Complicating our understanding of the political, military, and economic situation in Uganda was the May 2011 news that a vast oil reserve had been discovered beneath Lake Albert, on the border between Uganda and the Congo. Speculation followed that the deployment of U.S. troops to Uganda five months later was connected with the oil discovery. This might be a credible accusation, given that both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were triggered in large part by American interests in oil and natural gas. On the other hand, we are no longer under the George W. Bush administration, with its close ties to the oil industry.
As nearly as I can tell, the Kuny debate is being conducted by well-intentioned people who may not have access to all the facts. I give more credence to evidence when it comes from an impartial and professional source like the PBS Newshour (or even Wikipedia), than when it comes from a student blogger or YouTube videographer, each with his/her own agenda. That agenda may indeed be valid. It's just too soon to leap to conclusions about the military-oil connection, based on what is known at the moment.
The humanitarian issue, however, is not in dispute. In 2005, Joseph Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands. His whereabouts are unknown.