President Herbst Addresses “KONY 2012” Video

Maddy Tennis

Over spring break our Face-book and Twitter feeds were bom-barded with updates like “Cover the Night,” “Stop at Nothing” and “KONY 2012.” It was the result of a video made by Invis-ible Children, a non-profit orga-nization whose aim is to capture Joseph Kony, the “world’s worst criminal.” The video went viral all over the web, with over seven mil-lion views. Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a notorious rebel group started in 1986 in Uganda. He is accused of abducting an estimated 66,000 children, and was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005 for crimes against humanity. Although the video has been a huge success in spreading awareness on Kony’s crimes, it has its faults.

“I wanted to find out the truth regarding the video and the KONY 2012 campaign. I thought there was no one bet-ter to answer my questions than President Herbst, who is an ex-pert on Sub-Saharan Africa,” first-year Kathryn Black said.

So on Tuesday, April 16, Presi-dent Herbst gave a lecture address-ing the major concerns of the vid-eo in Love Auditorium. The video started off the lecture, and once it was finished Herbst explained its main issues. He started off by describing earlier rebel groups be-fore the Cold War and those that emerged afterwards. Originally, rebel groups were more organized and able to provide resources in-cluding food, shelter and cloth-ing, to their soldiers. In countries such as Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) and South Africa, the government’s armies, which the rebels were fighting against, were strong and able to provide suf-ficient counter-insurgency, caus-ing the rebels to raise their game. However, after the Cold War, the economy deteriorated and places like Uganda, the Congo and Si-erra Leone had no armies to de-fend themselves. As a result, weak leaders like Charles Taylor and Jo-seph Kony emerged. According to Herbst, the groups that mobilized behind these leaders looked more like a confederacy of armed ban-dits than rebel groups. These weak leaders are able to survive by enlist-ing child soldiers and committing mass atrocities against civilians.

Although Herbst acknowl-edged that Joseph Kony has com-mitted horrible crimes with no obvious agenda, he criticized the video because of the way it de-picted Africa, which reflected the perspective of the filmmakers and of other people in America.

“Africa’s history is determined by Africa, and they should deter-mine how this conflict is solved,” he said. “Is it necessary for Ameri-cans to make Kony famous in order to make a change? This video has taken a complicated issue and made the actions of the American youth more important than those people in Uganda.”

On top of this, the video ig-nores a lot of critical facts. One is that Kony is not even currently in Uganda, which the video mentions only in passing. His soldiers have traveled to other countries includ-ing the Congo, and deploying a large number of American forces to help capture him will simply not happen. The 100 troops that Obama deployed in 2010 are not aimed at finding Kony, but rather at training the Ugandan army be-cause it is only through these local armies that Kony will be captured.

Herbst’s final message was that although the Invisible Children campaign does not do more harm than good, it was a lost opportu-nity. It is good to raise awareness about these kinds of issues, but 30 minutes is a long time, and the vid-eo could have flushed out the more complicated issues.

“People were ready to learn about the situation and Africa’s per-spective, but they did not get that,” Herbst said.

Contact Maddy Tennis at [email protected].