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Life Reflections

Let’s seize the power of ICT and tell our own story

By March 30, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

Interesting how a simple story so easily captures the imagination of everybody in the world. Why has “Kony2012” so easily elicited such excitement, even if it is about an old story?

Joseph Kony and his group of a “syncretic mix of mysticism, Acholi nationalism and Christian fundamentalism” have been with us since late 1986. First, the group sowed mayhem in the northern part of Uganda, cutting limbs, killing, raping, abducting girls and boys and turning them into sex-slaves and child-soldiers.

But no one talked except Uganda that shouted itself hoarse and was only joined by a few international media outlets like BBC, VOA and Deutsche Welle that made half-hearted noises.

Then Kony and his group were dislodged by Uganda and they went ‘sans frontières’ (even if in reduced numbers), sowing the same mayhem across borders in the neighbouring countries of Sudan and D.R. Congo, but not forgetting to occasionally re-export it back into Uganda. They went on, visiting their terror as far as Central Africa and Chad, and now gathering innocent victims into their ranks, away from their point of departure, Uganda.

Sure, by then the International Criminal Court (ICC) and USA had caught on and had pronounced them a terrorist group but with time those indictments gathered dust and the noises on said radios slowly died down….

However, the efforts of one man must be recognised. Sam Childers is a former gang biker who made a u-turn in the late 1990s to embrace the Holy Bible and who then dedicated his life to saving children abducted by Kony’s “syncrestic mix”. Childers and wife Lynn founded the Angels of East Africa and their Children’s Village today houses and educates over 300 orphans in Southern Sudan, where they’ve pitched tent.

Working with South Sudanese fighters, Childers helped rescue more than 1000 children and has detailed these experiences in his book, ‘Another Man’s War’. That book was followed by a film based on it called ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ but, interestingly, both book and film seem to have evoked little sympathy and to have failed to excite the feelings of the world….

Everybody knew the Kony problem was there but it did not stop them from going on with their lives. Invisible Children made an effort to raise alarm on this problem to US authorities with hardly any luck.

Then Invisible Children and co-founder Jason Russell sneaked a “Kony2012” film on Vimeo and YouTube and the world, young and old, was riveted, close to thirty years on!

What does “Kony2012 have that these other efforts didn’t have? Why should it go viral in a matter of days, attracting more than 100 million viewers, when all the other voices seem to have fallen on deaf ears, relatively?

Is it its simplicity, its shortcomings not withstanding? Or is it that it has an aspect of it that more easily appeals to a viewership in a hurry?

I don’t know about your opinion but, personally, I think the film owes its spellbinding attraction to its simplicity, its briefness and its hero-villain aspect. It would seem that everybody wants a story that they don’t labour over trying to understand; a story that ends quickly and gives them either a hero to idolise or a villain to demonise.

In a world that’s in a rush to make a conclusion, and to worship or loathe, in the developed world more than in the developing, efficacy in the telling of a story is relegated to the back seat. Here in Rwanda, we know this probably better than most.

When the country was gripped in a gruelling, macabre genocide that was sponsored by its variety of a “syncrestic mix” of crazed demons, pictures of children being pounded in mortars or being smashed on walls until they became pulp were being beamed in sitting rooms around the world. The world gave them a bored, cursory glance, pronounced them familiar inter-tribal cannibalistic rituals of the Dark Continent and switched channels.

There was better to see. The sitting-room screens bore a more gripping, shorter story of a hero triumphing over a system that had separated two peoples who were now going to live together.

That hero, the larger-than-life Nelson Mandela, who triumphed over Apartheid, would live to reconcile an erstwhile aggressor people with their tormented countrymen/women, in spite of his own torture at the hands of the former, but it was not for the world the time for imagination of the future or consideration of the past.
There was a hero here and the short story of coming out of prison sufficed.

And if that was not enough for the savoury tastes of the world, there was the story of a hero-villain to watch: the trial for murder of O. J. Simpson in USA. Simpson, a retired American college and professional football player, broadcaster and actor would in the end be acquitted of the murder of ex-wife Nicole B. Simpson and a friend, R. Goldman, but today he is at the Lovelock Correctional Center for numerous other felonies. But that’s neither here nor there, the story had served its purpose .

Oh, yes, the horror of Rwanda. The world recalled having seen it in passing and now, a decade hence, the screens showed there had been a “hero”, after all. A Paul “The Destroyer/disperser” of Bagina (‘Bagina’ being Kinyarwanda for ‘compatriots’ perhaps!) who must have used “his influence and connections …to shelter…” So, the hero-worship. Hah, how it galls! No modicum of effort to understand.

Why is it so hard for the world to tax its brain a wee bit and shed its gullibility?

Our young ICT geeks, nababwira iki? Vimeo and YouTube are there for the picking. Give the story as it should be told – don’t say you are lacking in examples!


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