In a post dated March 19, Vice-President for Business Operations at Invisible Children, Chris Sarette, says IC is not an anti-gay organization. Sarette has some credibility on this statement since he came out as gay in 2007. In the post, Sarette wrote:
Invisible Children has attracted supporters, employees and board members who otherwise might sit on opposite sides of the aisle. The Invisible Children community’s common conviction that people are people, and the actions that back it up, are one of the reasons that I finally came out as a gay man in 2007.
Invisible Children’s Kony2012 campaign brought international scrutiny recently when they helped make Uganda and Kony trends on Twitter. Just last week, Right Wing Watch wondered aloud about a possible link between Martin Ssempa, infamous anti-gay minister in Uganda, and the Invisible Children organization because of a video posted in 2005 by students at Grove City College (where I teach). As I understand it the visits were not coordinated and there was no connection between IC and Ssempa. However, the RWW piece speculated that such a link might be possible because of the visits.
Without specifically mentioned the false attribution of a connection, Sarette pays tribute to inclusive nature of the IC organization.
Personally, it’s difficult for me to see Invisible Children maligned as anti-gay because it’s simply untrue. This is the group of people that encouraged me to embrace my sexual identity and I have experienced the acceptance, not just tolerance, of everyone in the organization. And having just celebrated my fourth anniversary with my partner, I’m so happy that I did.
I have spoken with the current student leadership of Project Okello here and I am confident that there has never been coordination between Ssempa and IC. Furthermore, when the Project Okello leaders learned of Ssempa’s anti-gay advocacy, they ceased all contact with him.
I see that RWW has posted an update from IC which is a good start. I do hope that the RWW author will take steps to get that word out to the other bloggers who posted on the subject.
First some video from NTVUganda and then a statement from the government:
RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL DISCOURSE OF LRA ACTIVITY
***Friday 9th March2012***18:00 hour
RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL DISCOURSE OF LRA ACTIVITY
Uganda welcomes all campaigns which seek to raise awareness and highlight the plight of people affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). We are grateful forrenewed efforts which seek to contribute to the arrest of Joseph Kony and the elimination of the LRA from the Central African Region. The Government of Uganda however, would strongly urge that any awareness campaign fully takes into consideration the current realities of the situation.
The Lord’s Resistance Army has been a concern of this government since the late 80’s and have exacted a great toll on the Ugandan people and independent estimates approximate that 30,000 children were abducted and used as child soldiers over the course of the 25 year conflict.
Misinterpretations of media content may lead some people to believe that the LRA is currently active in Uganda. It must be clarified that at present the LRA is not active in any part of Uganda. Successfully expelled by the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces in mid-2006, the LRA has retreated to dense terrain within bordering countries in the Central African area. They are a diminished and weakened group with numbers not exceeding 300. The threat posed by the LRA in our neighboring countries is considerably reduced and we are hopeful that it will be altogether eliminated with the help of US logistical support.
The people of Uganda, especially those in the north of the country are on a path of rebuilding, reconciliation and reintegration and are now vibrant and prospering communities. To aid this prosperity the Government implementeda 10 Year Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP).
The Ugandan Government is encouraged by this outpouring of international support for its continuing campaign to eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to all countries and communities. We are hopeful that our neighboring countries can also become free of LRA activity and enjoy the peace and prosperity that northern Uganda has experienced in the last 6 years.
For God and My Country
UPDATE: This post brought a strong reaction from a couple of readers who believe I am overstating the threat of Kony to Northern Uganda. Indeed, this article at Foreign Policy makes the case that Kony is not in Uganda currently. I am researching this more and will correct anything I have gotten wrong. For now, in addition to Okwonga’s piece, please read Michael Wilkerson’s piece at Foreign Policy.
Apparently, the Invisible Children video is not playing well in Uganda.
If you tweet, you know that Uganda has been trending on Twitter this week. The reason for the interest in Uganda is an effort by The Invisible Children group to make Joseph Kony a household word. The idea being that if he becomes well known, people will push the powers that be to end his reign of terror. Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army has been terrorizing Central Africa for over 20 years, stealing children and making them slaves.
As the knee jerks, some have found fault with the simple effort of the Invisible Children folks to use social media. I don’t have a problem with it, because anything that puts some light on the subject could help. Doesn’t mean it will, but it could help.
One thing that I hope happens is that the world starts asking the leadership of Uganda about their response to the situation. For a response that seeks to expand the interest of observers to Ugandan leaders, I point you to this essay by Musa Okwonga I read yesterday in the UK Independent. Here is his conclusion:
I don’t think that Invisible Children are naïve. I don’t think that President Obama was ever blind to this matter either: his own father, a Kenyan, hails from the Luo, the same tribal group that has suffered so much at the hands of Kony. My hunch – and hope – is that they see this campaign as a way to encourage wider and deeper questions about wholly inadequate governance in this area of Africa.
And as far as President Museveni is concerned, my thoughts are these: if thousands of British children were being kidnapped from their towns each year and recruited into an army, you can bet that David Cameron would be facing some very, very serious questions in the Commons. You can bet that he would be grilled on why, years after the conflict began, there were still about a million of his citizens slowly dying in squalor in ill-equipped refugee camps. You can also bet that, after twenty-odd years of this happening on his watch, he wouldn’t still be running the country.