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Uganda: More than Kony 2012360°ANALYSIS

Mara Foundation in Uganda offers its perspective on the Kony 2012 campaign, demonstrating how it has “piggy-backed” the viral fame of Invisible Children’s video, and details a personal reaction of an employee.

Despite its achievements, Invisible Children’s viral video “Kony 2012” has created a negative impression about Uganda, which may damage the country’s reputation for years to come.  The video can be credited with surpassing all expectations in raising awareness about the activities of warmonger Joseph Kony, but it simultaneously created an impression in the minds of many that Uganda today is unsafe and unstable, whereas the reality is very different.

To counter the negative impression , and to show a very different Uganda to that depicted in “Kony 2012”, our Foundation has simultaneously launched a three minute video “Uganda 2012 - More than Kony 2012” that depicts Uganda comprehensively, displaying its natural endowment and the vast opportunities that exist in tourism, business and lifestyle. The aim is not to downplay the goal of capturing Kony, but to present a more balanced representation of Uganda that many Ugandans feel they rightly deserve.

Lonely Planet named Uganda as the top destination to visit in 2012 and this is a testimony to the country's rising popularity as a world-class tourist destination. Our aim is to encourage those hundred million people who watched “Kony 2012” to watch “Uganda 2012 - more than Kony 2012” as well to see a very different story of the country and viewing it instead as the beautiful, serene and entrepreneurial country that it is.

Launching the Presidential Initiative on Sustainable Tourism in London earlier this year, Uganda's President Museveni emphasised the importance of attracting visitors to Uganda as preliminary to other growth opportunities for the nation. "While tourism is about travel, Uganda's 5-year National Development Plan (NDP) recognizes the tourism sector as one of the primary growth drivers of the economy that create market for local products. Tourism is in essence the opening of a window of opportunities into Uganda," he said. It is important that “Kony 2012” doesn’t prove detrimental to these efforts to expand the tourism sector and to attract investment into Uganda, and we hope that initiatives such as “Uganda 2012 – more than Kony 2012” will work to prevent this.

No-one can question that capturing Kony is an important aim and one that deserves due attention. As the personal response of one of our own members of staff indicates, the people of Northern Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo deserve to have him caught and brought to justice. But was the viral Kony 2012 the best way to achieve this goal? Considering the collateral damage it has done to Uganda’s reputation, it may have actually hurt the economic development prospects of the country and even the African continent, which is not helping to the millions of African people who are still striving towards prosperity every day.

Apiyo Oweka-Laboke, Mara Foundation’s Programme Co-ordinator, comes from Northern Uganda and offers a personal perspective on the Kony 2012 campaign.

It has been more than twenty years and in those twenty years the rest of Uganda knew about the war and yet the people of Northern Uganda felt alone in this. It is a complex issue: many believe that people profited from the war, and there are many stories about soldiers who were sent to protect citizens from Kony who turned around, abused women and murdered innocent people. Twenty long years and everyone with an opinion remained silent.

Now everybody has an opinion since the release of Kony 2012. These are opinions that I do not care much for because they do not heal the wounds of those who have been affected by the war. These are the opinions of bloggers, tweeters and journalists, most of whom have never even visited the war torn Northern Uganda. The critical opinions are of people so far removed from the tragedy, who, in my view, have no right to be offended by Invisible Children and their mode of operation.

I was born in a Mission hospital in Anaka, one of the areas most affected by the war. My family home was burnt down and everything we had in our home town destroyed by rebels. I grew up in Kampala, only hearing occasional stories of a relative murdered or abducted, and for 15 years I could not visit my relatives in the village.

Do I support the Invisible Children cause of capturing Kony? Absolutely, because we need closure and it’s not enough to say Kony has been driven away to Central Africa. He needs to be arrested and brought to justice for all the crimes that he has committed. The critics of Kony 2012”should save their criticisms for Hollywood blockbusters like Machine Gun Preacher. Now there is a movie to be offended by!

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.