Category Archives: news-digest

News Digest – Debating Kony 2012

Special Edition

If you have at least a secondary home on the interwebs, you will probably have come across the video “Kony 2012” (if you haven’t seen it and you have 30 minutes to spare, you might want to take a look).

The video, produced by Invisible Children, seeks not just to raise awareness to Joseph Kony and the atrocities committed by  him and his Lord’s Resistance Army, but to actively engage viewers in ‘bringing Kony to justice’ – preferably through military intervention of some form.

Again, if you have followed the video at least a little bit, you will have seen the plethora of criticism and debate it has provoked. The EMMIR students have been no exception. Ever since one student posted the video on our internal facebook group, a great number of us have argued over what to make of it and why we found it so problematic.
This news digest is, in a sense, an aggregate of the various articles shared among the EMMIR students over the past month. They are by no means a complete picture of the debate so far and, since it is still going strong, presents no clear outcome. But if you want to make up your own mind, here are some voices you might find interesting.

Kony and the LRA

First off, what’s the whole fuss about?
Head to the Atlantic for a very brief overview of “The Bizarre and Horrifying Story of the Lord’s Resistance Army” and “Joseph Kony’s Long Walk To, and From, Hell”. From Wired, a quick overview of the viral campaign itself: “Viral Video Hopes to Spur Arrest of War Criminal”. Also, from the Smithsonian Magazine back in 2005, A dispatch from the world’s “largest neglected humanitarian emergency”.

Or, head to the South African Institute for Security Studies for an “Anatomy of the Lord’s Resistance Army” (PDF). Also you might want to check out “The Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan: A History and Overview” (PDF) and from the journal ‘Defense & Security Analysis’, a (US-)military perspective on “Why Uganda Has Failed to Defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army” (PDF).

The Video & the Campaign

Moving on to the, as it were, pièce de résistance. From the Foreign Policy Blog, “The Road to Hell is Paved with Viral Videos” is probably as good a place as any to start with the criticism.

But this do-good spirit is suffused with an almost boastful naiveté and, more culpably, an American middle-class provincialism that illustrates beautifully the continuing relevance of the old adage about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

In the Daily Maverick, “Lord Help Us, Because this Campaign Won’t Help Anyone”. Alex de Waal, Director of the World Peace Foundation, contributes by asking: “Don’t Elevate Joseph Kony”.
Beyond that, one of the first critical voices can be found at the Blog “Visible Children”, by an anonymous student from Nova Scotia.
Also, Ethan Zuckerman is “Unpacking Kony 2012”, Michael Wilkerson tells us that “Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)” and Marc DuBois (of Doctors without Borders) on Kony 2012 being the “New Kids on the Block”.

What about African voices?

Turns out, coming from the New York Times, “In Uganda, Few Can See Kony Video”. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t any responses. Two researchers at the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Kampala, responded to the video on Al-Jazeera: Adam Branch calls it “Dangerous ignorance: The hysteria of Kony 2012” and Mahmood Mamdani writes on “Kony: What Jason did not tell the Invisible Children”.
BoingBoing has a great collection of “African voices respond to hyper-popular Kony 2012 viral campaign” and so does AfriPOP! with “22 African Reactions to the Kony 2012 Campaign”.

The Big Picture

A number of writers, bloggers and journalists have taken the campaign as a starting point for some broader reflections on ‘Helping Out Africa’.

(From The Shiznit’s If 2012’s Oscar-nominated movie posters told the truth”)

John Edwin Mason, a teacher of African History at the University of Virgina, writes “A Brief History of African Stereotypes, Part 1: Broken, Helpless Africa” and “A Brief History of African Stereotypes, Part 1a: The White Man’s Burden and Kony 2012”.
Teju Cole, one of the African voices in the BoingBoing post above, expands on his series of tweets on the “The White Savior Industrial Complex”. From his tweets:

5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.

David Kenner, again at the FP, charts a comparison many commentators have made: “Joseph Kony vs. Bashar al-Assad”.

The Interwebs.

The Kony 2012 campaing, in true interwebs fashion, has spawned quite a few, shall we say, creative responses.
Here we have: “The Definitive ‘Kony 2012′ Drinking Game”, a fairly lengthy meme, a, as BoingBoing aptly calls it, “chorus of idiots” on Facebook and a little bit of RapNews.
In short, a “Viral Mess”.
Fairly timely, there is a related movie, starring Gerald Butler, coming out: “Machine Gun Preacher” (Trailer here) tells the story of “Pennsylvania-based evangelical preacher named Sam Childers—a biker and former drug dealer who has found his calling in this quest for a killer”, on whom Vanity Fair has a lengthy profile titled “Get Kony”.

And, for good measure, the video hits Goodwin’s Law at around the 22 minute mark.

A little further.

What happens now? Well, as the Guardian reports in “Joseph Kony: African Union brigade to hunt down LRA leader”, the African Union is sending troops (5000) to stop Kony.

The brigade will be led by Uganda and include troops from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, the countries that have been ravaged by LRA raids.

US assistance is expected and you can head to the Atlantic to find out more about “Why Is Obama Sending Troops Against the Lord’s Resistance Army?”.
Meanwhile, the Kony 2012 campaign finds itself in some trouble of its own. USA Today reports that “Kony 2012′ director Jason Russell has ‘reactive psychosis”, AlterNet gives some interesting thoughts on “Invisible Children “Kony 2012″ Leader Suggests It’s About Jesus and Evangelizing” and IOL News has more on “Anti-Kony campaign in turmoil”.

The response

Naturally, Invisible Children has responded to the mounting criticism on its website. My favourite, if I might be allowed a personal note, is their comment on the Ugandan Army’s Human Rights Record, quoted here in full:

We do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army (UPDF). None of the money donated through Invisible Children ever goes to the government of Uganda or any other government. Yet the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments.

Also, Norbert Mao, one of the politicians appearing in the video, writes in a guest post on the FP Blog: “Guest Post: I’ve met Joseph Kony and Kony 2012 isn’t that bad”.
Kony 2012 has also released a video, in which one of the founders Ben Keesey, responds to the critique; from the Washington Post, “Invisible Children has released new video in response to ‘Kony 2012’ criticism”.

Child Soldiers

Despite all the criticism, the plight of child soldiers is real, cruel and not only limited to the LRA. In fact, as the BBC reported as early as 2005, “Hundreds of former child soldiers abducted by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army are returning to the battlefield to fight for the Ugandan army”.

You can listen to three former child soldiers in the LRA in the movie “Grace, Milly, Lucy …” by Raymonde Provencher and see pictures from the FP series “Babes in Warland”.

For more global information, see the “Child Soldiers – Global Report”.

N.B.: This digest is obviously far (far!) from complete and most of the posts and articles linked to here, will have compilations of their own. This list is intended as a starting point, nothing more. If you feel like anything essential is missing from it, please comment or send an email. Thank you.


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An asylum seeking… country? Kiribati searching for possible solutions to a global warming threat.

‘The low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati is considering purchasing land in Fiji to help secure a future threatened by rising sea levels,’ – BBC News.

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Migration News Digest

Week of February 27, 2012

Mainland Chinese Flock to Hong Kong to Give Birth
In the New York Times, a look a pregnant mothers traveling to Hong Kong in order to secure better medical care, schooling and visa-free travel for their children.

Hong Kong residents, though, are outraged that local pregnant women are being shut out of maternity wards because mainlanders have snapped up the beds. Despite official quotas on maternity care for nonresidents, nearly 4 in 10 births in Hong Kong last year were to mainland parents. Residents are demanding a crackdown, and a hard look at the residency rights law.

Europe at Bay
Jeremy Harding, author of “The Univited: Refugees at the Rich Man’s Gate” and “MotherCountry”, on migrants and the battle for borders in the London Review of Books.

There were those who saw the point of diversity, and even equal rights, but who objected to equality-in-diversity, a fatal combination in their view, with its suggestion that the case for homegrown, European values must now be heard on its relative merits, as one idiom among others.

Matzo Ball Memories
In the Financial Times, Historian Simon Schama remembers growing up as Jewish boy in 1950s London.

I was happy to be a Brylcreem boy, a jiving Jew of the Green, from my gleaming winkle-pickers to the white knitted ties and the snap-brim trilby, worn with an attitude on the way to shul. Mind you, I didn’t want to be in the company of the frum, either, the ultra-orthodox with their deep swaying and knee-bobbing, the corkscrew sidelocks and fringed tzitzit worn on the outside; the pallor peeping from beneath the homburgs.

Griswold on Immigration and the Welfare State
At the Library of Economics and Liberty, a summary of Dan Griswold’s (of the Cato Institute) article “Immigration and the Welfare State”, in Cato Journal. Find the entire article, from Cato’s immigration symposium, here.

The typical foreign-born adult resident of the United States today is more likely to participate in the work force than the typical native-born American. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2011), the labor-force participation rate of the foreign-born in 2010 was 67.9 percent, compared to the native-born rate of 64.1 percent.
At the Oxford University Press Blog, Anatoly Liberman takes a look at the etymology of the word ‘dude’. It might have been brought to the New World by immigrants.
 Thus, in the eyes of an etymologist the fact of dude being slang is not a stigma. Fuddy-duddy and dodder are as interesting as hodden “the coarse woolen cloth of farmhands’ dress” or the humble hodmandod “snail.” And yet dude might have been a mere “sound gesture,” as German scholars called such expressive formations.

Italy violated human rights by returning migrants to Libya, court rules
Perhaps the biggest news of today’s digest. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy violated the human rights of 24 Somali and Eritrean migrants, when it returned them to Lybia in 2009.

Lawyers for the migrants argued that such interception violated their rights to seek political asylum and also exposed them to the risk of torture or degrading treatment in detention camps in Libya, or to expulsion back to home countries where they risked further persecution.

You can find a fact sheet on collective expulsion by the ECHR here and read the official press release about the ruling here.
Also, find a comment on Antoine Buyse’s (From Utrecht Univerity) blog. You can also look at the UNHCR response.

Do you have a suggestion for an article? Please comment or email.

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Rising Brazil tackles immigration question

Recently crowned the world’s sixth-largest economy, Brazil has become an immigration magnet, both to low-skilled workers –some of whom enter illegally — and high-skilled workers looking for opportunities in the country’s thriving sectors.


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Migration News Digest

Week of February 8, 2012

Can Rubio Control the Candidates?
From the New Yorker, a piece on Florida Senator Marc Rubio and inflammatory language on immigration used by GOP candidates.

When the survey probed beneath the surface, more than half of Hispanic voters said that they would be less likely to support a Republican candidate who pledged to veto the Dream Act, which would give college students who came to America illegally as children a path to citizenship.

What’s Left Out of Black History Month Celebrations
In The Nation, an article on Black History Month, celebrated in the US in February, and how it is in danger of loosing sight of the present.

And the progress made in the last four decades has been limited by the fact that over the same period of time major economic changes have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few and out of reach of most black people.

Europe’s narrative bias
As part of Eurozine’s focal point “concord and conflict”, Erik Hammar reflects on the troubles with European cultural policy (or the lack thereof).

For years, cultural issues were left at the bottom of the EU pile. András Bozóki, the Hungarian academic and former Minister of Culture, has shown that culture has entered the agenda whenever the EU has been worried about its legitimacy and about the waning of popular confidence.

Greece to Build Border Fence to Deter Illegal Immigrants
In the NY Times, a short AP piece on Greece’s plans to erect a fence along its border with Turkey.
In the Wall Street Journal, a response from the EU, calling the fence ‘pointless’.
At the same time, a situation update from FRONTEX on the Joint Operation “Poseidon Land” at the Turkish-Greek land border.

Denmark: Integrating Immigrants into a Homogeneous Welfare State
From the Migration Information Source, a country profile on Denmark.

At the same time, the benchmark of successful integration has always been one of successful individual inclusion and acculturation to the mores of Danish life, since the Danish political system — unlike the systems of other Nordic countries — does not base itself on the recognition of minorities and only in exceptional cases makes juridical or political allowance for minority rights and cultural claims based on minority status. In this sense, Denmark is similar to France: egalitarian, secular, and assimilationist.

India to take up child custody dispute with Norway
Staying in the Nordic countries, a BBC news article on the case of two children placed in foster care because of ‘cultural differences’:

The children were taken under protective care by Barnevarne (Norwegian Child Welfare Services), which claimed there was an emotional disconnect with the parents.
Anurup Bhattacharya, a geo-scientist, who came to work and live in Stavanger in Norway in 2007, said: “We have been honest and perfect parents. There could be upbringing issues because of cultural differences.”

See also, an op-ed piece in The Hindu titled: Leave the kids alone, Norway.

Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have stringent state welfare policies for their nationals which empower them to place children in foster homes to live with strangers. The Norwegian Child Protection Services, however, ought not to have exercised such rights over Indian children whose religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic milieu was different and distinct.

If you have any suggestions for articles, please comment below or email.


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Migration News Digest

Holiday – Catch-up

Quite a lot to catch up on:

Australian PM flees Aboriginal protest
To kick things off, a small post from the FP blog, about a rather heated appearance by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Check out the link to the original article in the Sydney Morning Herald as well.

About 50 police, including members of the riot squad brandishing batons and carrying plastic shields, had clashed with angry protesters who were chanting ”shame”, ”racist” and ”always was, will be, Aboriginal land” and banging on the glass walls of the restaurant.

Two Sudans’ oil dispute deepens as South shuts down wells
From the Guardian,  an article on the rising tensions between the two countries over oil.

The landlocked South on Sunday started to halt oil production after accusing Sudan of stealing $815m worth of its oil. South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July 2011 to form the world’s newest country but the neighbours did not agree on oil transit fees.

You can read more on current developments at the BBC News website.

Gulag for gaijin
The Economist reports on Japan’s immigration control, recounting the ordeal of Canadian journalist Christopher Johnson who was called aside for examination upon returning to Tokyo on December 23, 2011:

For about four hours, I sat in limbo, unable to properly communicate with the outside world. Starving and tired, I couldn’t think clearly. Various people in various uniforms aggressively shoved various documents in my face for me to sign. I simply said “wait” to everything and zoned out into a world of denial that this nightmare wasn’t happening.

Romney, Gingrich clash over immigration in Florida debate
From the Washington Times, a report on the Republican primary debate in Florida last week, in which immigration emerged as a new ‘hot topic’:

Fresh out of the gate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney demanded Mr. Gingrich apologize for running a television ad here that described him as “anti-immigrant.” He also assailed him for suggesting that his claims about “self-deportation” and stronger immigration enforcement means that he doesn’t care about “grandmothers.”

If you’re interested in the topic, you can have a look at the coverage at the Huffington Post, or the New Yorker.
Only slightly related,  GOP hopefuls on hot seat for knowing other languages:

In South Carolina, meantime, a pair of Newt Gingrich attack ads against Romney focus on his ability to — mon Dieu! — speak French.

Two takes from Oxford

Firstly, from the COMPAS Blog, comes “A snapshot of urban dynamics”, a report on a research project on urban change in south-east London:

In a sense ‘real’, close-knit Bermondsey started unravelling in 1965 when the metropolitan borough of Bermondsey became part of the London Borough of Southwark. As a result, outsiders gained access to housing in Bermondsey, and over time it became increasingly difficult for Bermondsey-born residents to find housing in the neighbourhood. And to this day, access to affordable local housing remains a cause of local concern and frustration.

Second, from the Migration Observatory, a critical look at three, seemingly contradictory reports on migrant workers: Migrant workers: Taking our jobs or not?

While this creates a headache for news headline writers, and lots of space for politically motivated misuse of research results, the latest contributions to the research on the labour market effects of immigration in the UK strongly suggest that there can be no “absolute” answers to this question. Anybody who argues that it is “obvious” or “clear” that immigration does or does not create unemployment in the UK needs to think again.

And lastly, the Guardian’s Jane Martinson asks, Why so few takers of the refugee experience at Davos?

Richard Branson has done it. So has Jimmy Wales. But this year none of the big names attending the gathering of the power elite at Davos have made the 10-minute walk up the hill to pretend to be a refugee.

We’re hoping to get back to a weekly update cycle soon. In the meantime, if you have a suggestion for an article, please drop us a line.


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Migration News Digest

Week of December 19, 2011
N.B. This will be the last digest this year. See you in 2012!

Europeans migrate south as continent drifts deeper into crisis
From the Guardian, a look at how Greeks, Irish and Portuguese leave their homelands to escape the Eurozone’s recent woes.

The Guardian has spoken to dozens of Europeans who have left, or are planning to leave. Their stories highlight surprising new migration routes – from Lisbon to Luanda, Dublin to Perth, Barcelona to Buenos Aires – as well as more traditional migration patterns.

The Early History of Sudan’s Third Civil War
Eric Reeves, in Dissent Magazine, on the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

In the border regions of Sudan, we are witnessing a ghastly reprise of the conduct that has defined Khartoum’s brutal military control of its restless peripheries for decades—and a reprise of the shameless, mostly unchallenged mendacity with which this regime speaks to the international community.

Postcolonialism and Science Fiction: An Introduction
Jessica Langer, in io9, publishes an excerpt from the introduction of her new book “Postcolonialism and Science Fiction”.

Other times, perhaps more often, there are institutional barriers to the publication of science fiction by postcolonial writers and/or writers of colour. Sherryl Vint (2004) has questioned the relative lack of Black writers in science fiction, blaming this lack partially on a perceived lack of readership.

Thousands of Ethiopian Migrants Stranded in Northern Yemen
Lisa Schlein, in Voice of America, reports on the IOM’s concern for Ethiopian Migrants in Yemen. You can read the corresponding IOM press release here.

Every year, tens of thousands of desperate Ethiopians make the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. They head toward Saudi Arabia in hopes of finding jobs in the Middle East.

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