Why Occupy Wall Street Should Oppose Kony2012

On a few traffic poles near where I live I keep seeing Kony2012 posters. My dad, a teacher in public schools, tells me that Invisible Children is sending posters to schools to promote the Kony2012 effort, saying people should watch their film. With the power of the Occupy Movement, it is paramount that a peaceful solution be promoted to bring the Kurtz-like war criminal, Joseph Kony, to justice.

Occupy Wall Street has been a force against war as part of its message. There is an Antiwar Working Group on the New York General Assembly’s website that “uses nonviolent direct action and education to end wars and oppression.” On the same website there is a Global Justice Working Group that “seek[s] to raise public awareness about the impact of U.S. military, economic and strategic policy, domestically and internationally.” There were protests against tax money going to war last week and there will be protests by the Occupy Movement against a possible war in Iran. So why can’t Occupy join in and expose Kony2012 and push a real solution to the problems of Joseph Kony in Africa?

There are a number of reasons that Occupy should push a peaceful solution to the horrendous crimes that Joseph Kony has committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and other countries. These reasons include, but are not limited to:

1.    The people of Uganda don’t support military action in the area according to Al-Jaazera because for some of them, this whole effort is the “White Man’s Burden” imposed on Africa which is based in the  history of white “conquerors” oppressing Africa through imperialism (they were so mad at the video that they threw rocks at the viewing screen).

2.    The reason for American intervention with Special Forces in Uganda in 2011 is likely because of huge oil deposits and according to the conspiracy-leaning Mathaba, military involvement in the region “may lead to the establishment of a US military base…in the country and the possible use of depleted Uranium.”

3.    Invisible Children, the group which started the Kony2012 effort, is not an aid organization.  It is an “advocacy and awareness organization,” according to an article on Watching America, which means that no direct aid is helping the victims of Joseph Kony.

4.    The operations of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which Joseph Kony leads are part of a resource war according to The Guardian because “Uganda discovered world class oil fields along its border with DRC” in 2006 and the LRA’s fight “with President Yoweri Museveni was about “money and oil”.”  In addition, the main support of the LRA is likely supported by the President of Sudan, “Omar el-Bashir [who is] indicted for war crimes by the ICC [International Criminal Court].”

5.    There is already an “international manhunt by a joint force of Ugandan, Congolese, Sudanese…Central African troops [and]…US combat troops deployed there since October” which includes 4000 Ugandan elite troops “former child soldiers [and] ex-LRA abductees to hunt him” down according to the blog of Ugandan journalist Angelo Opi-aiya Izama.

6.    J.A. Myerson wrote in March 2012 that there are four other people who are “helping ruin Uganda” other than “the LRA [which is] a Christian fundamentalist militia” which has a horrendous “record of rape, abduction, torture and slaughter show…for more than 20 years” including David Bahati, Member of Parliament who introduced the Kill the Gays bill in Uganda, retired General William Ward whohelped to plan and fund a miserable failure of an attempt to catch Kony that wound up killing 900 civilians in nearby northeastern Congo,” General Carter F. Ham who deployed U.S. troops in Uganda under “the aegis of the Global Struggle against Violent Extremism” while supporting President Museveni’s fight against al-Shabab in Somalia by sending  45 million in equipment and small drones, and Pope Benedict XVI who insisted that aid to insure correct use of condoms (to stop AIDS)was conditional” leading to scores of deaths.

7.    The continuation of a U.S. Special Forces mission to track down Joseph Kony would likely be done with the support of AFRICOM which, in the words of Michael T. Klare in the movie Blood and Oil, was “the first new regional command created since the Central Command was created in 1980…and in my view [its creation] is directly related the growing importance of African oil in the United States.”

8.    According to B.E. Wilson, Invisible Children is funded by donors which are “antagonistic to LGBT rights” including the Discovery Institute (pushes creationism in schools), the Caster Family Foundation (“one of the biggest financial backers of the push for California’s anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8”), the Family Research Council (“pegged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group””),  the Fellowship Foundation (“whose leader Doug Coe has been captured on video celebrating the dedication inspired by Hitler, Lenin, and Mao”),  the ministry of California evangelist Ed Silvoso (who helped craft the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda) all of which received funding from the “hard, antigay, creationist Christian right [group] the National Christian Foundation” which is funded by billionaire “Foster Friess…[who] funds nonprofits that “enable followers of Christ to give wisely to advance His Kingdom,”” is funded by the Christian Community Foundation, Inc. which is the “world’s largest Christian fundamentalist grant-making organizations…deemed Invisible Children to be a worthy investment that would help advance particular visions for establishing God’s kingdom on Earth” and the Circle Family Foundation whose founder “helped birth the dominionist “Seven Mountains” mandate, which instructs believers to take control of significant sectors of society and culture including: media, arts and entertainment, government, business and finance, the family, religion, and education.”

9.    Also according to B.E. Wilson, Invisible Children highlights crimes of Kony, yet it is “indifferent to crimes…committed by…the government of Uganda – whose president shot his way into power using child soldiers, before Joseph Kony began using child soldiers…[who] in the late 1990s…helped spark a conflict in DRC Congo that…had killed up to 5.4 million civilians.”

10. ColorLines.com notes that the Kony2012 campaign is portraying “Africans as victims whose only hope lay in the actions — and wallets — of white saviors,” while “encourage[ing] supporters to “hit the streets” and spread the word about Joseph Kony’s evil and engage lawmakers who have the power to influence U.S. foreign policy” but the video of the Kony2012 campaign is “missing the perspectives of Africans as anything but victims” which some even call propaganda and simplification while the video “support[s]… U.S. military intervention—and [tries to] stir…[up] U.S. public outrage to spur military action” and “plays on entrenched racial stereotypes.”

11. Black Star News has an editorial on Kony2012 in which they reveal that “Invisible Children, makers of KONY2012, provided an intelligence tip to Uganda’s security apparatus leading to arrests of several suspected regime opponents, according to U.S. embassy cables posted by WikiLeaks.”

12. A black newspaper, San Francisco Bay View, argues that “the LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundred at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed and poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped as children and then turned into tormentors…In short, the LRA is no military power” which means military force is not warranted.

13. The blog, blackcyrylic.com, notes that “the campaign…appeal[s] to the ego and the heart of the international community and gives the impression that lobbying for US military presence in Uganda (despite Kony having fled) will dismantle the LRA…[and] the video itself does not mention Museveni [the President of Uganda]… [there is a] clear correlation between the discovery of oil in Uganda and Obama sending troops in October 2011…What the campaign has done…is provide a smoke screen for a strategy that leverages political influence…for economic gain (oil revenues) by heightening US presence in Africa.”

14. Worker’s Liberty also has a harsh criticism of Invisible Children, saying “they have been lobbying for direct American military intervention in Uganda” while, compared to other African charities, they “put…a relatively small amount of the net cash-flow from its publicity activities into helping people on the ground” and “the campaign educated people about the horrors of Joseph Kony, but nudged them into unwittingly taking sides with [Uganda’s President]… and it also nudged them into taking sides in a wider, regional sectarian conflict rooted in the legacy of colonialism” while assuming that “change can only come from above…and ignores the possibilities of social change and justice driven by movements…of the people in the area.”

Now, how can Occupy Wall Street use this information to promote a peaceful solution to Joseph Kony’s crimes? Well, for one, Kony has already been indicted by the International Criminal Court, so doing what can be done to bring him to trial would be one alternative. Kambale Musavuli, the spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo told Paul Jay of the Real News Network that the U.S. government is “not using the diplomatic means that they have, that the people of the region say, we need diplomatic solution…Africans did not call for U.S. military intervention to deal with Kony…they have called for negotiation…we…ask…the American people, the American youth, to hold their government accountable to its democratic principles, which is of supporting democracy in Africa…[the U.S. government is]…providing the support to this military. The[re are]…already [forces] in Central Africa chasing Kony. And as they’re chasing Kony, they are doing the same exact thing they did in Congo—looting resources and oppressing the people of the region.”

Another alternative would be to tell people that using force leads to more suffering for civilians because you are killing civilians to save them and that military victory rarely leads to democracy or peace. Also calling for an end to the weapons trade instead of air strikes, looking for a political process to address the root causes fueling violence, looking for long term sustainability rather than looking for a quick solution and looking at how Western policies in these regions have perpetuated violence instead of just pointing fingers at these regimes would be helpful. Mathaba, the conspiracy-based website, argues for diplomacy with Kony because it “would create a very wonderful world for humanity.”

In international law, peaceful solution is required before any military action. Article I of the Hague Convention For The Pacific Settlement Of International Disputes, signed by the United States in 1907 and Article I of the Convention For The Pacific Settlement Of International Disputes signed by the United States in 1899 both note that “the Contracting Powers [the signatories to the convention] agree to use their best efforts to ensure the pacific settlement of international differences.” Both conventions also provide for international arbitration to solve international problems. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1928 declared that the signatories to the treaty “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy” and that “the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.” The United Nations Charter continues this trend. Article 2 section 4 declares that: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” and Article 51 prohibits all war except a war of self-defense (a country is militarily attacked).

Occupy Wall Street could use the backing of international law, the Constitution, the advice of Mathaba along with others and the fourteen reasons provided in this article to push for a peaceful solution to the problems of Joseph Kony in Africa. If the Occupy Movement pushes this initiative, it would not only be what’s right but it could convince others to reconsider their support of war in far-flung regions of the world.

Burkely Hermann is an activist who wants to change the world for the better by imagining alternatives to the status quo of neoliberal global capitalism. In order to illuminate these alternatives and outline the status quo, he runs numerous online blogs, writes numerous articles, and uses his tech savvy skills to fight for social justice. Read other articles by Burkely.