From The Hearts of Darkness To KONY2012

-A +A

[Publisher's Commentary]
Children's KONY2012 reminds me of why I wrote "The Hearts of Darkness,
How White Writers Created the Racist Image of Africa," in 2002 after
surveying more than 100 years of African coverage in Western
I had hoped that my book would help diminish the infuriating scam whereby White people traveled to Africa
carrying all the prejudices about the continent that they grew up with
and then returned to their "civilized" world to offer solutions on how
to rescue the "savages" without any input from the same "natives."

much has changed since the the 19th Century when the Englishman Samuel
Baker traveled to "explore" what's now modern Uganda; today Jason
Russell and his Invisible Children colleagues make similar
In the old days, the books that shaped Western
perception of Africa and offered prescriptions for the continent's woes
had titles such as "Journal of the Discovery of The Source of the Nile,"
(John Hanning Speke), "The Heart of Africa," (Georg Schweinfurth), and
Baker's own "Albert N'Yanza: Great Basin of the Nile." 
In those
days, Baker found a wanting people --"backward" and warring, waiting
for the taming hands of enlightened European colonization. Jason Russell
found a country, also "backward" and yearning for outside military
intervention to suppress their war-like tendencies. 
Baker got
his wish when a colonial regime was imposed by British armed forces.
Invisible Children has succeeded in deploying U.S. armed forces in
Uganda, to support a despot who claimed he needed such assistance to
defeat an even more "backward" warlord. 
Baker spoke for Ugandans; two centuries later, another White man, Jason Russell, speaks for Ugandans, through KONY2012. 
had prided himself in being a "great" explorer; he dubbed himself
"Baker of The Nile" to lay claim that he was a great "explorer" of the great river,
which had flowed since the beginning of time. 
Baker believed it was the White man's God-given
responsibility to rescue Africa, and he made this very clear in Albert
N'Yanza" a bestseller, back in the day. 
"The negro has been,
and still is thoroughly misunderstood," Baker, who was later knighted
for his observations in Africa, wrote. "However severely we may condemn
the institution of slavery, the results of emancipation has proved that
the negro does not appreciate the blessings of freedom, nor does he show
the slightest feeling of gratitude to the hand that broke the rivets of
his fetters."

England's task, therefore, was to "wrest from
utter savagedom those mighty tracts of the earth's surface wasted from
the creation of the world--a darkness to be enlightened by English
Jason Russell has yet to write his own
explorer's journal. In the meantime, during an appearance at the Right
Wing Liberty University last November, referring to the challenges faced
by Ugandans, he declared: "We can have fun while ending genocide," and
"We're gonna have a blast doing it, hoo-hoo!" and "God calls us to be
joyful in the work that we're doing...."
Samuel Baker's tome
was meant to justify colonization of Africa and introduction of
commercial relations and trade with "civilized" Europe. 

savage must learn to want; he must learn to be ambitious and to covet
more than the mere animal necessities of food and drink," Baker
recommended in his book. "This can only be taught by a communication
with civilized beings: the sight of men well clothed will induce the
naked savage to covet clothing, and will be the first steps towards
This is cultural, racial, and religious arrogance at
its best. That was nearly 150 years ago; yet the same kind of maniacal
arrogance drives KONY2012---we came, we saw, we conquered and now we
offer solutions for the natives. 
There is also the same type of
unharnessed ego trip that drives people like Samuel Baker or Jason
Russell. Baker wanted to preserve an eternal legacy, so he "discovered" a
lake that had existed from the beginning of time. Jason Russell injects
himself, and his poor young son, as the narrator of KONY2012. 
Baker couldn't find the lake, Luta N'zige, whose existence he had heard
of he decided to ask Chief Commoro, a leader in the area that's now the northern part of
Uganda and South Sudan. Baker described Commoro as "one of the most clever and
common-sense savages that I have seen in these countries" and added, "It
was extraordinary to find such clearness of perception combined with
such obtuseness to anything ideal."

Baker wanted to find Luta
N'zige, through which the great River Nile flowed. Commoro, on the other
hand, must have been confused by the request made by this strange White
man in search of the lake. 
"Suppose you reach the great lake,
what will you do with it?" Commoro asked his visitor, according to
Baker's own account in Albert N'Yanza. "What will be the good of it? If
you find that the large river flows from it, what then?"

In his
book, Baker claimed he responded: "I could only assure him that in
England we had an intimate knowledge of the whole world, except the
interior of Africa, and that our object in exploring was to benefit the
hitherto unknown countries by instituting legitimate trade, and
introducing manufactures from England in exchange for ivory and other
This purported response of course makes no sense and
doesn't address Commoro's question; it's more likely that Baker wrote
those words to satisfy his own vanity and for his reader's consumption.
Of course he could not have told Commoro his true intentions; when he
returned to England he renamed Luta N'zige, Lake Albert in honor of
Queen Elizabeth's husband.  The lake still bears that name today.

it's unlikely that Jason Russell told the Ugandan children who posed for his camera that once he returned to the United States, he would use their
images and their stories of suffering to make a video, KONY2012, that
would advocate the invasion of Uganda, in search of Kony, while raising
millions of dollars for Invisible Children. 
in Uganda, survivors of the brutal war between Kony and Gen. Museveni
were so angered by KONY2012 that they pelted the screen with stones
during a screening in one of the war-affected zones.

As in the
19th century, Western opinion towards Africa is often shaped by what a
White man concludes is best for Africans, even when African voices are
never heard. Western opinion shapers, including newspapers such
as The New York Times, amplified Samuel Baker's message and embraced
his colonization crusade.

So in 1890, after Italy invaded and
occupied Ethiopia, which was then also known as Abyssinia, The New York
celebrated the conquest in an article dated February 2, 1890,
under the headline "The Italians In Africa." A sub-headline referred to
the "Results of Crispi's Brilliant Policy," a reference to Italian prime
minister Francesco Crispi.

The Italians had "achieved triumph
upon triumph in Africa," and and all the "tribes" had capitulated and
the Italians were welcomed "by the natives as liberators," according to
The New York Times. Of course, conveniently, not a single "native" was quoted in The Times' account to confirm that, indeed, they rejoiced after their defeat.

Even by
the standards of 19th Century imperial arrogance, The New York Times
realized it had to rationalize the conquest. "We could not thus speak,
however if the programme of Italy in Africa was one of pure conquest,
because exploits exclusively military are in too great opposition to the
sentiments of progress, of peace, of work, of companionship, that
should form the pivot of modern life," The Times article continued, "But
instead, we may rejoice in and applaud this conquest of civilization
and Christianity over barbarians and savages, over unbelief, over habits
of ferocity, over brutal ignorance of every human law, religious,
social and civil."

"The water roads of Africa and the large
commercial arteries in the hands of Italy signify that they are also in
the hands of the civilized world, which can now introduce without fear
the benefits of commerce, of exchange, of relations of any and every
sort, and in short time produce the best benefits from the immense
natural wealth existing there," the article concluded.

Ethiopians were not persuaded by Crispi's and The New York Times' vision
for their country. Led by Emperor Menelik II and his wife Empress Taitu, the
"savages" struck with ferocity  in March, 1896. The Ethiopians destroyed an Italian army of over 10,000; they killed 4,133 men and captured more than 2,000. 

that occasion, The New York Times didn't celebrate Ethiopia's "great"
victory; rather, the headline of the report on March 4, 1896, mourned
"Italy's Terrible Defeat." 
"The present campaign against the
Abyssinians threatens to become one of the most disastrous in which the
Italian arms have ever taken part," The New York Times reported, "and
what the final outcome will be it would not be hard to predict."
Now bring us back to the 21st Century.
Instead of the "Journals" of "explorers" such as Samuel Baker, and
newspaper articles such as The Times' celebrating the conquest of
Ethiopia, we have Invisible Children's KONY2012.  
Today, it's Jason Russell, and not Ugandan church leaders such as Archbishop John
Baptist Odama and Bishop MacLeord Baker Ochola --both oppose more
war and U.S. militarization-- who has the ears of the U.S.

In the same way in which Baker was celebrated
back in the day, upon his return from Uganda and after making KONY2012,
Jason Russell was able to pontificate about the video on Lawrence
O'Donnell's show on MSNBC and make an appearance on "Good Morning
America" without any Ugandan voices to challenge his prescriptions.

media outlets then took it upon themselves to amplify KONY2012's
message; they were not uncomfortable or found it unusual for
a White man from San Diego to address matters of war and death on
behalf of Ugandans. 
KONY2012 has carried Invisible Children's message to 100
million viewers. Only the "civilized" world --in this case, the United
States and its military-- can rescue Uganda and Central Africa from a
barbarous conflict. KONY2012 also conveniently omitted in its narrative:
the fact that Kony and the LRA are no longer in the region; the fact
that U.S. ally Gen. Museveni of Uganda has also committed war crimes in
Congo and in Uganda; the fact that much of the U.S. militarization seems
designed to counter China's commercial interests in the region; and, the fact that the U.S. also wants to bolster the weak government of South Sudan,
against encroachment from the Islamic regime in Khartoum.

So today,
the U.S. has partnered with a modern Ugandan "chief" Gen. Yoweri
Museveni, who is more accommodating than the 19th century's Chief
Commoro. In an article published in The Atlantic Monthly Magazine, in
September 1994, Gen. Museveni said: “I have never blamed the whites for
colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves.
If you are stupid, you should be taken a slave.” 
In the 19th Century, it
was easier for Samuel Baker to have the final say when it came to what
was best for Uganda. Judging by some of the negative reactions to
KONY2012 by scores of Ugandans, and other Africans who oppose U.S.
militarization in the region or its support for Gen. Museveni, Jason
Russell is having a tougher sale.

Today Ugandans
have risen up, much like citizens in north African countries, to agitate for the removal of dictator Gen. Museveni, especially after he stole last year's
elections. Ugandans launched a campaign called "Walk To Work" which the
U.S.-backed regime brutally crushed.  KONY2012 has failed to divert Ugandans' focus on their mission.

This time around, African
voices will be heard. Overwhelmingly, Ugandans are in favor of global
pressure being applied on both Joseph Kony and Gen. Museveni to force
the two combatants to come to a negotiating table and bring an end to
their 26 years of warfare, bloodshed and destruction.

Ideally, both men should be prosecuted for the crimes they committed and commissioned.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."
Black Star News publisher
Allimadi is also the author of "The Hearts of Darkness, How White
Writers Created the Racist Image of Africa." A new edition of the book is due later this year.

Also Check Out...

NBA Launches Foundation to support
Somali Military Court Acquits
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Norton Demands Answers after
Libya: Missing Migrants sent to
Democrats Introduce Legislation to