Why we shouldn’t hate Jason Russell

OK, maybe there are millions of people who already don’t hate Invisible Children‘s co-founder, Jason Russel; star of the viral movie, Kony 2012 (I was about to start explaining what the film was about but then I realised you don’t want me waisting any more of your time).

Anyway… the original film was seen by hundreds of millions of people world wide and succeeded in raising awareness of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, in Uganda between 1986 and 2006, by enormously oversimplifying a twenty year conflict in a developing nation.

NOTE: for the sake of simplicity, I am not going to talk about all the neighbouring countries that have also suffered but somehow not drawn as much awareness as Uganda.

So as I was saying – like many Ugandans, and other people who’ve actually been to Uganda, I was royally outraged by the type of awareness Jason’s film had created: 200 million people now thought Uganda was unsafe – a huge blow for tourism and investment…

But then I realised: Kony 2012 is a blessing in disguise. Before its release, the world’s population could be split into the following three categories:

  1. Those who know Uganda well and are angry at it being portrayed as unstable
  2. Those who have never heard of Uganda, let alone can find it on a map
  3. Those who’s knowledge of Uganda boils down to: “Uganda? That’s in Africa, isn’t it? It must be dangerous there…”

The fact is that all Jason Russel has done with his movie is put more of group 2 into group 3. Group 1 are not going to be convinced that Uganda is unstable, however all those people now in group 3 are hungry for the truth, and they are now very much aware of a little African nation called Uganda… “Awareness”.

A Blessing In Disguise?

So not only has Kony 2012 increased the number of people in group 3, who now know Uganda exists, it has also riled the inhabitants of group 1; those who know the truth – who wan’t Uganda to stand out for the right reasons.

Ugandans all over the internet are speaking up, shouting in a way, because they want to reclaim their country’s narrative (the goal of this new website, set up by a group of young Ugandan professionals, called Uganda Speaks).

More Ugandans than ever before are logging onto Facebook and Twitter to share their truth. Even our project, A Dam Relief (conceived initially to raise awareness of tourism opportunities in Jinja, Uganda) has gained more support and passion from Ugandans and expats who want to correct the country’s identity. And you can watch our teaser video here:

“The biggest problem Uganda has is identity”

But this is why we shouldn’t hate Invisible Children, Jason Russell or Kony 2012. “Awareness” was the name of the game and, regardless of intent, it has truly worked. To clarify my point, the fact that you are reading this sentence suggests that Kony 2012 has increased your interested in Uganda…

The Bottom Line

There is a point to all this: I believe, and an awful lot of people in Uganda agree, that the way to help a developing country is through development. For development to occur, you need an economy.

A Dam Relief is a FOR PROFIT organisation. Profit for us, profit for our investors, profit for their staff and profit for all the local business that their staff buy products and services from during day-to-day life. And this can only work if more people are willing to visit Uganda, enjoy themselves and, for the odd entrepreneur passing through, invest.

So… if you really want to see Uganda become great, and I truly believe it can, then all you have to do is spread the truth – Uganda’s truth – that she is a safe and stable nation; full of fun, adventure and the most incredibly hospitable people you will ever meet. Like every country, she has her problems; like every democracy, she has her share of disagreement and discussion – but so much progress has been made.

Please share our videos with as many people as you can. Tweet the above video at every famous person you follow. Reinforcing these positive messages will help.

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