As an African (well half African) and also as someone who believes in telling stories about the diaspora I have to say something about all of this.
I have been to Uganda. I went there in the 1990’s as part of a documentary team the BBC sent back to report on the money raised by Comic Relief and how it was been spent. I met a man called Will Day who worked for Care International and traveled to a town called Gulu. Every morning we would drive with the army to the border and then be escorted into southern Sudan and meet people who lived a refugee camp. I would talk to them about their lives and then these would be filed into a report and sent back to London.
To say it was a humbling experience is putting it mildly. It moved me greatly. The Hope that I saw, in those conditions was truly inspiring. So while having been to Uganda and lived in Zimbabwe, I could never claim to be an expert nor an authority on the NGO/Aid matter.
But the first thing I need to say there is no good guy or bad guy in my narrative.
The folks at Visible Children are not bad people. In fact the opposite. What they have done is remarkable. To bring to the fore an awareness of Africa is something I support. Now of course if I want to be critical I can be. Have they over simplified a complex situation? Sure. Maybe even slanted it their way? Sure. But is that not what Fox news does? What about the White Man’s burden? What about the idea it further enforces the idea of Africans as unable to help themselves? Or the fact that in essence Kony’s real venomous days are well behind him and he’s a fading evil? What about Obama? By sending military advisors into Uganda is he validating Museveni? And is the timing, in an election year, coming rom the man that rid the World of Osama Bin Laden, accident or design?
So do you see my point? I could go on and on and on with my questions and accusations. But this is a waste of time and detracts from the true essence of what I believe we should really be doing and that is having an internal debate with our conscience.
It’s a film and as I realize films are so subjective. A great film can change the way we think. A great film asks a question about our humanity. A great film moves you. A great film asks questions about self. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying the Kony film is a great film but frankly for me, it did tick one of the above criteria.
There are lots of debates online about what the video is and is not, should or should be. But people are missing the point. I think instead of getting lost in the cloud of chatter around the film, they should be trying to personalize the experience. By doing that they should be asking one thing: what does the video say about me? What questions about me bubble up?
To illustrate what I mean I will use Obama as an example. When Obama was elected, sure the bigger narrative was about a democrat getting elected but to me as a black man I personalized his victory (as most black people did.) There was no frontier anymore. No glass ceiling. Something changed in me when he got elected. It said to me that all bets were off.
I can not tell you how liberated I felt. And how that is made me who I am today.
So watching the video what did it say about me?
It made me realize that unless Africans start to work at solving our problems we are sunk. Why didn’t the Kony 2012 idea originate from the mind of an African and as the wonderful blogger Malaka put it, ‘The people at fault for not bringing Kony to justice are Africans.’ I know there are some wonderful people on the ground all across Africa but what about the diaspora in the West? What are we really doing?
I spoke to my great friend and mentor Onye Kachi Wambu of the Charity Score4Africa in London (http://www.score4africa.org/?p=home). He’s a man whose temperance and wisdom I greatly respect. He said something to me. ‘As Africans we shouldn’t be waiting for NGO’s to save us.’ He told me that NGO’s spend almost 200 million pounds in Africa. A lot sure, but check this out, Ghanaians (just Ghanaians that is) send almost 1.2 billion pounds back to Africa to relatives! See where I’m going with this? Onye-Kachi made some wonderful points to me. One was that you only had peace when there was a balance of power.
I remember reading an article in Time on the Nature of Evil. And it talked about a mother in Washington who smokes crack cocaine and then while she’s high goes and murders her kids. Who do you blame? The mother? The farmer in Columbia who grew the drugs? The dealer? The point the article was making was that Evil isn’t singular anymore, it’s a collective. In Africa dictators exist on a food chain of support. But what the video did was show that conversely so does good operate in the same way.
Ultimately what I took away from the Kony 2012 video was this. The Invisible Children people are trying to make a better World. And I can not fault them on that. For me the real question was what am I doing about trying to make the World better?