A Clarion Call to the West: Let’s Save Uganda!

Simba Runyowa

Hey, you guys!

Let’s all drop what we are doing and pay close attention to the newly installed authority on central African politics — Invisible Children of San Diego, CA — as they deliver a moving account of the senseless savagery that has pervaded every pore of Uganda thanks to that wretched devil called Joseph Kony. Uganda is a treacherous cesspool of violence and savagery, and it is up to us caring benevolent Westerners to press “like” buttons and change our profile pictures in order to finally put an end to this mess. By cleverly purchasing exorbitantly priced action kits and bracelets, we will easily achieve what those incompetent Africans with no sense of agency have failed to do in 25 years.

Armed with YouTube and Vimeo, nothing can stop us as we systematically dismantle the Lord’s Resistance Army and not only capture that savage Kony but haul him before the International Criminal Court and bring him to book. It will only take us 200 days, guys — and remember, it is only through our astounding intelligence, altruism and largesse that this can ever be done, so don’t ever forget that.

For simplicity, let’s just boil down the narrative to an elementary cat-and-mouse fable. Kony is the bad guy, and we are the inevitable heroes who will parachute in to rescue yet another African country from itself. Let’s not concern ourselves with complexities or details, because our messaging must provoke sensation. The story we are peddling is, of course, incomplete and reductive, flattening the intricacies of a decades-long war into a few minutes of conversational talk fit for a 5 year old. Let’s therefore ignore the fundamental contradictions in our thrust, such as the fact that we unequivocally support the Yoweri Museveni regime’s militia, which has exploited child labor, stifled political opponents and committed grave atrocities against internally displaced people in southern Uganda.

As some of you might already know, the LRA was driven out of Uganda in 2006 and now operates in the locus around the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, where that brute is probably festering as we speak. We know that this was due in large part to careful and strenuous efforts on the part of the Ugandan military, but hush — just hush. Our campaign is predicated on the sensationalist premise that Uganda is submerged in a perennial conflict, and this doesn’t help us in stirring up our typhoon of hysteria. Please don’t bring it up, guys.

We understand that such relative stability could easily render us irrelevant, so we had to make this video to retain our space in the commercialised and ever competitive arena of the foreign aid paradigm. In the face of ever growing suspicion about the legitimacy of our role in the kaleidoscope of post-conflict reconstruction, and even more vociferous criticism over the allocation of our donations — we spend only 31 percent of what people give us on direct services in Uganda, while the rest of the $8,676,614 goes straight into inundating our staff in San Diego with fat salaries and gallivanting — we had to make this video for pragmatic reasons.

We realize that the military interventions we are pressing for have been tried before and backfired, with damaging consequences. After all, the U.S. Africa Command has deployed several missions to kill Kony in the past, which have only served to provoke Kony into retaliating by killing off more children. If the military option is pursued, it will result in the deaths of the children who surround Kony acting in the capacity of his bodyguards. But don’t raise these points, you guys; we have a viral video to spread.

We have no business soliciting the viewpoints of Ugandans or letting them speak in our 30-minute clip. Instead, our fearless leader will have a heart-to-heart with his 5-year-old son and try to pump out the parochial narrative of Africa as a homogeneous expanse of land trapped in the cycle of poverty, violence and perpetual suffering as clearly as possible. The filmmaker and his ilk will now and forevermore serve as the permanent messiahs of Uganda, the Congo, South Sudan and CAR and will be supplanted only by his son as soon as he grows up to be just like his daddy.

We did include one Ugandan boy’s story in the video — but that was so we could exploit his emotional suffering and tragic ordeal to extract an emotional response from viewers. We did this easily by using a style of interrogation aimed at putting our words into his mouth. We don’t care that this whole project reeks of the disingenuous scent of imperial paternalism that was rampant in colonial times — you know, the idea of Africans so lacking in agency and being so hopeless as to be completely unable to lead the effort to ameliorate their own problems. We will handily ignore this troublesome technicality as we press forward in pursuing our commercial interests and sucking donations out of impressionable Westerners.

In addition, we will continue to sidestep and diminish the valuable contributions that Ugandans and other participants in the region have made to redress the war. Forget about Betty Bigombe, you guys — you know, the now Ugandan Member of Parliament who worked tirelessly since 2005 to engage Kony and the LRA in dialogue on two occasions. Forget about the agreement that was promulgated through this intervention and the functional role it had in setting the stage for the Juba talks. Remain completely oblivious to grassroots organizations that have been investing in post-conflict resolution, rehabilitation, mental health and infrastructural development.

Above all, this exercise is just but one of our humble contributions to the elaborate propaganda machine bent on perpetuating singular narratives about Africa. We aim to take particular problems, perceptions and realities completely out of context and blow them up into sweeping and generic summaries about whole regions, if not the entire continent of Africa. We exist only to create an atmosphere of the exotic around Africa: Remember that they are senseless, warmongering villagers, poor and diseased, and they will forever be trapped in their mud huts. Thankfully, they have me, Invisible Children, and you to feed, clothe, shelter, exploit, parent, neocolonize, commodify and speak on their behalf.

Many of you may have heard of this pesky Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie video titled “The Danger of A Single Story” or Binyavanga Wainana’s “How to Write about Africa.” Please just ignore both of these people! Let’s all continue to insist on viewing the African condition as the one-dimensional figment of our Western imaginations that it is. Let’s all do our part in damaging the brand of Africa by continuing to be the overbearing mouthpieces of people from whose lives and contextual realities we are completely removed, but about which we somehow miraculously know more than the people themselves. Keep on doing what you are doing to save the Africans from themselves. Hakuna Matata.

–The Paternalism Association of the West