Conrad Mandsager

Another Way to Help Uganda (Besides Sharing a Video on Facebook)

March 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm , by

By now you’ve probably seen the Kony 2012 video that blew up this month. It reached more than 100 million views within a week, making it the fastest-spreading viral video ever (faster even than Lady Gaga’s video for “Bad Romance”). When I watched the video, I could see why it touched so many people: Who could be against a call-to-action to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of a rebel group famous for abducting children and turning them into soldiers and sex slaves?

But there have also been a lot of questions about the accuracy of the video and goals of Invisible Children, the organization that produced it. And earlier this week, the film’s creator was brought to a mental hospital after running around the streets of San Diego naked. Reports are blaming a psychotic break caused by all the scrutiny.

In other words, it’s turned into quite a circus. So when Health Director Julie Bain heard that an old friend, Conrad Mandsager, head of ChildVoice International, was going to be in town for a meeting at the United Nations, we invited him to stop by. While he was here, he talked to us about what’s going on in Uganda now, what ChildVoice is doing to help the most vulnerable victims recover, and how you (yes, another call-to-action!) can help.

LHJ: Why do you think Kony 2012 is causing such a stir?

CM: Raising awareness is great, and Invisible Children has certainly succeeded at that. But to really understand this conflict, you’ve got to go back in Uganda’s history more than 50 years. It’s very complicated. So it’s my sense that even if we took out Kony, which seems to be what Invisible Children wants, the problems would still be there.

Part of it is also that people in Africa are incensed that a group of Westerners would come in and oversimplify this. I just read an article by a teacher in Uganda who said, “I’ve got former child soldiers in my class and they wonder, Why is America making a hero out of Kony?” And that’s what Invisible Children’s approach is: Let’s make him a celebrity so everyone in the world knows who he is. But if you’ve been traumatized by this guy, you don’t respond well to that. Read more