As we have seen before, social media campaigns can raise awareness and spring people into action. The viral video produced by the activist group Invisible Children about the atrocities committed by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army has been shared by celebrities including Russell Brand and Chelsea Handler, and has topped 100 million views, becoming the most viral video in history. But, some alarming facts about Invisible Children have come to light recently, including financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency. Meanwhile, the actions of Kony and the LRA have remained in the news, despite the back and forth about how Invisible Children is run. As Kony has shown light on the plights of child soldiers in Uganda, what needs to be done now is to continue to push for a holistic approach in development for states in Central Africa.
When all the fervor about the Kony2012 campaign goes away, what will happen in the region? Will the alarming HIV/AIDS rate suddenly go down when and if Kony is brought to justice? Uganda has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS on the globe. The elimination of the LRA will not make these problems go away. Previous high profile genocide cases in states like Sudan (Darfur, specifically) have disappeared from the media, and yet there are still problems in those countries. There are still massive human rights abuse and violence in Darfur. There are an estimated 2 million people who have been displaced due to political violence. The systematic targeting of the civilian populations from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masaalit ethnic groups have resulted in thousands of deaths. Enhanced media attention on an issue may raise awareness, but once people stop paying attention, the overall problems still remain.
This is where sustained development comes in. Non-governmental organizations like Oxfam and government programs such as FWD Africa are working to move countries like Uganda beyond the daily threat of warlords. Oxfam is currently working on a campaign to stop corporate abuses against Ugandan workers. FWD is working to stop famine, war and disease in Uganda and the entire region.
When support is there for a country, it thrives, but when support vanishes, countries can fall victim to unseemly influences. In the 1980s the United States supported the people of Afghanistan against the Soviets, but when the war ended, our support ended as well. The lack of support for the Afghans created a vacuum that the Taliban quickly filled. in 2011, President Barack Obama made the decision to send combat-equipped military advisers to Uganda to help capture Kony. If that mission is successful, we cannot cut and run like we have in other countries. Al-Qaeda is currently establishing operations in Africa. With sustained development, we can continue to keep countries like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mali secure. In turn, this will make our country more secure. Once Joseph Kony is no longer in the media, we cannot disengage.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons