Wednesday 7 March 2012

Suffer the little children

I'm not the most prolific tweeter, but I do look in on it regularly and sometimes I even open links. Yesterday I saw a few people had tweeted a link to a movie called Kony2012 and decided to watch it. It's been retweeted by many celebrities advocating that we should support the apparent campaign to make Kony a household name in order to …

well I'm not sure what happens exactly when we put up posters about a known murderer and a man who recruits child soldiers to kill people and to protect him.

The movie has been produced on behalf of an organisation called Invisible Children which appears to advocate military intervention to assist the capture of this man, but I am not clear what they then do to assist the children who he has used as soldiers.

If you've been sent the Kony 2012 film and asked to pass it on - have a think about this:

1. Do you really support sending in armies to deal with vulnerable children who are being drugged and abused into being soldiers in order to capture their leader ?

2. Is making a 30 minute movie to post on the internet the best use of resources to help vulnerable children ?

3. If it's as easy as making Kony a household name why didn't that work for Pinochet or Gadaffi, or Saddam or Mugabe ?

4. If the movie is really about child soldiers why do we see so much of the filmmaker's blonde son and so little of Jacob who is supposed to be inspiration for it ?

If you really want to help children I can name a few really honest to goodness charities that have proven to save the lives of children all over the world.

I've worked in Sierra Leone with children who have been child soldiers and seen the horrific machete wounds inflicted on one young man who survived seeing his own parents brutally murdered by child soldiers. In refugee camps I met children who had been soldiers and their first words were confessional in telling me what they had done. I cannot see how making this man famous does anything to help the children whose lives have been ruined or what the point of wearing a red wristband is.

If the filmmaker wanted to get his and his son's face on a youtube clip that went viral then well done mate you've done that. Jacob, the young Ugandan who appears a few times in the very slick movie, is the one with a story worth telling and yet we hear very little about him or what this movie will do to help young Ugandans like him.

I've worked for a few NGOs (non Government Organisations) in my time working with children whose lives have been devastated by war and conflict. At no point have I worked for any charity that advocated sending in military intervention to help children. I was livid when Bob Geldof claimed that in order to do good sometimes you have to work with bad people (to paraphrase his justification for some of the Band Aid funds going to corrupt regimes). It is possible to work with people who are altruistic - yes even in Africa before you ask. I know - I've met them.

Watch the movie - make up your own mind, but I do ask that you also read these please:

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