Editor's note: OC Weekly's infamous Kenyan intern, Peter Ngugi, still doesn't have his own blog account, so once again, I'm posting this on his behalf. Take it away, Peter…
As former President George W. Bush once said, “Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me, you can't get fooled again.”
Unfortunately, these amazing and true words of wisdom, whatever the hell they mean, never reached The Voice Project, an organization capitalizing on Kony 2012 fame while trying to generate funds and following–see my previous blog post about the Voice Project's intellectual predecessor, the San Diego-based non-profit Invisible Children, which produced that film, as well as its co-founder Jason Russell's bizarre public meltdown.
Sorry, Voice Project, but now it's time for me to call BS on your film.
The goal of The Voice Project is to build a network of FM radio towers that will be used to transmit a Luo-language song known as “Dwog Paco,' or Come Home,' sung by a chorus of mothers whose kids were kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and who hope to convince them to surrender. The transmissions are supposed to cover the sparsely populated jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, where notorious LRA leader Joseph Kony is hiding.
Unfortunately, however, children abducted by the LRA have been in the bush for a long time. Their indoctrination cannot likely be broken or altered by a few simple verses of a song. The mental damage that has been done is too much to be snapped, even by a song sung by the parents of the abducted children. It's like John Lennon once said–or at least he said something to this effect–“It's great to say 'Give Peace a Chance,' but just saying it doesn't do anything.”
As many groups working on the ground have pointed out time and time again, the mental damage is massive and cannot be eradicated easily. For example, there have been cases of children who have escaped or been freed who, while relaxing outside their home, see their other sibling use a machete for farming, and suddenly snap and hack them to death before retreating to the same sitting spot, with no sign of remorse or pity.
In fact, The Voice Project could actually get some of the kids the group is trying to help killed. Thanks to the worldwide phenomenon of KONY 2012, the rebels are quite aware they're on the global radar screen, and as they're already being pursued by various armed forces, they aren't likely going to take kindly to would-be defectors.
Many other non-profits are doing a great job by integrating the abducted soldiers and trying to turn them into productive adults. But that good work can only start once the soldiers defect. Getting them to do so, while an honorable pursuit, isn't going to be accomplished via loud music or radio towers–no matter how many millions of dollars are raised from young Americans suddenly awakening from eons of globally-unconscious slumber.
To sum up, the issue of the LRA and its abducted children is complex and painful, and as a result many groups on the ground are pursuing difficult and time-consuming solutions, rather than making videos or specifically, in the case of the Voice Project, trying to sell you a $34 dollar scarf made by American Apparel here in California, and not from Ugandan cotton, although the group claims it will eventually figure out a way to bring local farmers in on the action.
No matter how honorable the thought behind building these radio towers, the money being raised for that would be much better spent actually investing in the Ugandan economy some other way, perhaps by cooperating with farmers or cotton-growers. They know how to make scarfs in Africa, too.