By Laura Los: Diamonds and their best friends  – On the documentary ‘Invisible Children’ by Jason Russell

By Laura Los: Diamonds and their best friends – On the documentary ‘Invisible Children’ by Jason Russell

donderdag 8 maart 2012 06:36

Thursday morning, praise the dawning. At a ridiculously late/early hour I came across this video on the internet, called Invisible Children, directed by Jason Russell. Not a very relevant remark, but this post wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t shake off the feeling that this video would cause a second horror movie trauma, similar to my experience with The Sixth Sense. Brrrrrr(uce Willis). But I did get over myself and turned this on. I have to say it was shocking and very unpleasant yet important to watch. What I saw was a pamphlet against the infamous head of the Ugandan guerilla group, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, describing the various crimes against human rights he committed on a very large scale. The LRA consists mainly of child soldiers, who are more often than not abducted at a very young age and forced to slaughter, or in case of the girls, to serve as a sex slave. In 2005 Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but up until now he has always evaded capture. The documentary contains moving testimonies of Ugandan children, interviews with celebrities and so on. It all comes down to this: the goal is to get him behind prison bars, as soon as possible, and getting to that point by making him famous. George Clooney, Rihanna and Jay-Z have already subscribed this cause and Obama has decided to send troops to Uganda, not out of self-defense, but to do the right thing…

The numerous star spangled banners almost tricked me into thinking this pamphlet was nothing but a good old, self-worshipping, American Western flick. It’s a good thing I didn’t see John Wayne there. But to be quite honest, it actually pissed me off. By all means, Joseph Kony needs to be brought to justice, locked away and become someone’s prison bitch, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a whole lot more to this issue. Let’s talk about the real invisible story, not to be seen in this video.

The main problem I encounter when seeing this documentary, is a small, yet crucial passage where the director states that Kony stands alone in his actions. If that were true, we could just smoke him out of his hole and make him walk barefoot to The Hague, and Uganda would be free. If only. What Russell doesn’t show, and I’m not sure if it’s out of self-protection, carelessness or plain ignoring, is that there’s a whole wire of international bad behavior that reinforces the instability in Uganda. Let’s start with the true leader, Yoweri Museveni, America’s presidential pet. This man established a pretty good reputation for himself at the start of his tenure, by doing a great effort to prevent HIV contagion for example. But then he started plundering the Democratic Republic of Congo and oppressing his own people by censorship and plain violence. Remember May 2011, when he brutally suppressed the protest against the increased food prices? In Museveni’s fight against the reign of terror of his predecessor Obote, he was the first to incorporate child soldiers in his army on a large scale. Then only a few years later, in 1987 the LRA was founded and another war began, that of the government against the rebellions. In this battle, Museveni indulged in the same enormous sin as his opponent Kony, by recruiting LRA child soldiers he had taken hostage in his own army. All this happened under the eyes of the US and Europe. Because of the gigantic proportions of (stolen) oil extractions from DRC and North Uganda, countries such as the US, Canada, Israel, The Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Russia continued their first name basis with Museveni, trading diamonds, coltan and timber for in exchange for weapons. What happened along the way, Museveni? Some would say you used to be cool.

And all this time, nearly thirty years now, Kony persevered in this inhumane war, causing the death and mutilation of thousands of Acholi children.

If Jason Russell claims that Kony is supported by no one, then I would have to disagree. If not directly, then indirectly he certainly is. There is a strong link between the instability of countries such as Uganda and Sudan and the foreign policy and economics of the countries I mentioned above. Unfortunately, the toxic capitalist system legitimates this way of globalization, where African countries can be sucked dry of their base materials, and at the same time, can be overwhelmed by cheap knock off products causing the local farmers to head towards bankruptcy. It’s a two way street where only one wins. You do the math: if Uganda stays unstable as it is now, thanks to the ravages of Kony, the West (+ Israel) can keep on vulturing, which is not very nice. I even have actual names! Someone did her research. Maybe the names of Israel diamond dealers Philippe Surowicz and Dan Gertler, and American Christian minister Pat Robertson don’t ring a bell, or huge companies as Lazare Kaplan, De Beers, and Emaxon? You can find actual dates of their transactions and much more despicable corporate mathematics on the web. But I can tell you now that they have a lot of money and the people they profited from, not so much. Let’s try to make them famous and lock them up in a cell next to Kony, so they can spend the rest of their lives playing Stratego.

Granted, the director of this pamphlet meant well, very well. But he failed in bringing a nuanced analysis of this problem that digs so much deeper than just the crimes of one bad guy. Once they bring down Kony, some other deranged lunatic will rise and do the exact same thing. It’s the system that needs to change. The brave story would have forced the US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Russia and Israel to look in the mirror and acknowledge their part in this whole bloodbath. But dear mister Russell, thanks for taking on this challenge and pointing the eyes of the world in the right direction. 

Laura Los

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