This link contains a youtube in which Jason Russell, cofounder of Invisible Children, speaks of the group’s video as a ‘Trojan Horse to get into the schools’. Russell doesn’t go into it here, but he mentions that some kind of an unsatisfactory experience on an evangelistic mission in Uganda led him to wanting to do something and get people involved in the situation there. ‘We are able to be the Trojan Horse in a sense, going into a secular realm and saying, guess what life is about— orphans, and it’s about the widow. It’s about the oppressed. That’s God’s heart. And to sit in a public high school and tell them about that has been life-changing. Because they get so excited. And it’s not driven by guilt, it’s driven be an adventure and the adventure is God’s.’
I don’t have a huge problem with that— as far as it goes; if someone goes to Africa on an evangelistic mission and then comes to realize that it’s not about making converts to their religion but about serving the widow, the orphan, and the fatherless— that can’t be all bad. I went there pretty clear about that already, but certainly my work in Uganda confirmed my sense that religion without justice is worthless. And hence the African Education Fund (click the link at the right).
But I am both dismayed and not surprised to find confirmation of something I suspected from the very beginning about Invisible Children— that the group has deep ties, apparently, to some very nasty people: ‘…intimately linked to The Family, the secretive and powerful American fundamentalist group widely considered responsible for Uganda’s draconian “Kill the Gays” bill’, and also notoriously involved in the Bush Whitehouse. Here’s an NPR piece on The Family.
My feeling is that Russell and his group want to do good, and as far as that goes, it’s hard not to support them— but they do seem at least naive about being played. For me, too many pieces fit together too well in ways I don’t like at all: war slowly ramping up in South Sudan, another oil-rich area, oil in Uganda, all kinds of minerals in eastern Congo and southwestern Ethiopia, the Kony campaign, the US’s announcement of $50 billion in fighter jets for its vicious client, Uganda’s president-for-life Y.K. Museveni. The Invisible Children group has been very effective in garnering enormous worldwide sympathy for a country whose internal politics and geopolitical position are completely obscure(d).
The Guardian reported that ‘The African Union has announced that it will form a 5,000-strong brigade to hunt down Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), believed to be hiding in the jungles of central Africa.’ And the numbers get bigger and bigger: Kony ‘is believed to have recruited between 60,000 and 100,000 child soldiers and displaced around 2 million people.’ Actually, Kony didn’t displace. It was Museveni who forced 2 million Acholi, who had opposed his takeover of Uganda, into wretched camps and destitution which Kony could raid freely.
I see forces getting into position. Kony is a evil, insane psychopath who shold be brought to justice, although his original goal of asserting the rights of the Acholi people does have some support. He’s not the guy to bring it about, of course, but for 25 years he’s been useful, and that’s why he’s been kept around. He’s also expendable, of course, and his stale date may actually have arrived, though I’ll be a little surprised if the new brigade actually captures him. They’re more likely to capture a good deal of military aid from the West. So he has been, and remains, very useful. Invisible Children, with its brash idealism and well-critiqued paternalism has also been useful in getting people behind the buildup.
By the way, the new anti-Kony brigade ‘will be based in South Sudan’.