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In relation to campaigns that focus on African countries it’s always really important to remember the historical context surrounding western (and white) influence in the continent. Historically the international white community has always felt a patronising and paternalistic need to “help” Africans. This goes back to before the colonial period but was highly reinforced and solidified by it. Many Europeans considered colonisation as a “civilising mission” and believed Africa was a “dark continent” that needed to be brought into the modern world. There was a perception that Europeans knew best what Africans needed and that Africans themselves were incapable of creating the kind of economic and political changes that Europeans perceived to be necessary for African “development”.
This problem did not go away with decolonisation.
The rhetoric that surrounds Africa today is full of the same sorts of ideas that were common place in Europe in the early 20th century, just repackaged a little differently. Many western leaders, politicians and charities still talk about “modernising” Africa, about providing the change that Africa “needs” but is “unable” to generate on its own. Africans are still portrayed as hapless victims who require assistance from the west.
Africa is still portrayed as a continent that needs “saving”.
No one is disputing that the acts of violence and gross human rights abuses that were perpetrated by Joseph Kony were disgusting and that he needs to be brought to justice for them.
However it is important to recognise that Invisible Children advocates military action and intervention in Uganda. There is a history of western led “liberal interventions” across the world and arguably the whole colonisation project was just that to many people. Liberal interventionism is extremely paternalistic, it comes from a western perception that the native population is unable to bring about the change that is necessary in their own region and that they need “help” to realise a goal. Liberal interventionism almost always leads to western governments attempting to “steer” nations along the path that they believe to be best. Liberal interventionism is nearly always a Bad Idea.
Invisible Children also appear to have very strong links to the Ugandan government, who have in many ways ignored the abuses by Kony and others and been complicit in the suffering that this video and campaign claims to be opposed to.
I’ve seen a lot of posts about this issue today- no one has argued that what happened to so many children in Uganda was anything less than abhorrent and unacceptable. This post is simply an attempt to explain why I find the campaign (and the rhetoric I have seen from those who support it) to be problematic.
Wale featuring Meek Mill, Pill, & Rick Ross - By Any MeansWale, Meek Mill, Pill & Rick Ross
Wale, Meek Mill, Pill & Rick Ross - By Any Means