In Which I Read a NYT Article About Luis Moreno-Ocampo

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The New York Times has a long (and excellent) article up today detailing the International Criminal Court’s failed effort to prosecute Kenya’s leaders for the 2007-2008 election violence. I didn’t want to read it, but then DID read it. Join me, as I recap that exciting journey:

9:00am: Did the world really need another photo of this dude staring into the middle distance and thinking about the victims?

9:01am: I am not reading this.

10:08am: No, seriously. I’m. Not. Reading. This.

2:15pm: FINE, Mark Kersten, I’ll read it.

2:18pm: This is a horrifying story. And if this man is only in his late 20s now, he must have been barely out of his teens when he was tortured and mutilated.

2:21pm: Has a complex ever been more white savior-y than “he also believed Kenyatta’s crimes emerged from a tradition of impunity in Africa, one that would continue unless he stepped in”.

2:23pm: Why would you do this to me, Mark?

2:24pm: Is anyone surprised to learn that LMO is the sort of person who would loudly watch a YouTube video in the middle of a bar, regardless of the other patrons’ desire to enjoy their cocktails in peace?

2:27pm: I never quite know what to make of statements like this: “In a moment of collective insanity, Kenyan society had turned on itself.” Feels like an accurate description of cataclysmic violence, but also elides the fact that perpetrators make rational, strategic decisions to participate.

2:31pm: O hai, Alex Whiting.

2:32pm: This sounds right: “One investigator I spoke with said Moreno-Ocampo seemed to see the I.C.C. not as a forensic body so much as a ‘naming and shaming’ organization, like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.”

2:34pm: I appreciate the #RealTalk about the absurdity of the Congo and Darfur investigations.

2:35pm: This Njenga stuff is pretty interesting, given that one of the recurrent complaints about international criminal prosecutions is that they fail to build cases against complex criminal organizations the way functional domestic systems do.

2:37pm: LOL at “Moreno-Ocampo, whose political guile was undercut by his political tone-deafness”.

2:40pm: The failure to take seriously and account for the potential risks and consequences for the witnesses here is just maddening. Here’s hoping everyone’s learned a valuable lesson…

2:42pm: So the unexpected takeaway here seems to be that we should all be assigning LMO much more personal blame for the ICC’s terrible relationship with African countries, rather than attributing it to the structural constraints on the Court’s jurisdiction and wretched PR. Huh.

WTF Friday, 3/21/2014

Today is full of mind-blowing news:

  • In Kenya, female MPs staged a walk-out in Parliament today as a bill passed allowing Kenyan men to marry additional wives without checking with their existing spouse first. Explained a (male) MP: “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa.”
  • And finally, Robert Kaplan has once again succeeded in trolling the entire internet, this time with a piece up at The Atlantic extolling the virtues of empire. Choice quote: “imperialism and enlightenment (albeit self-interested) have often been inextricable”. There’s also an approving shout-out to Rudyard Kipling’s pro-colonialist classic “The White Man’s Burden”. (Ultimately he gets to the point which is, apparently, that America needs to rediscover grand strategy, which: sure.) Obviously, Twitter is going insane over this.

WTF Friday, 12/20/2013

Strange news out of North Korea this week. The surprise execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek led many to wonder if the regime was gearing up for an act of international provocation. Yesterday they got their answer, and they got it in the most mid-1990s-est way possible: by fax.

Remember fax machines? We used to use them back in the days when we were still waiting to see whether Kelly would choose Brandon or Dylan. They looked like this:


Anyway, according to news reports, the South Korean National Security Council received a fax from Pyongyang, threatening to “strike mercilessly without notice”. Seoul responded, also by fax (apparently all their Doc Martens-wearing bike messengers were busy), to say that South Korea is prepared to “firmly retaliate” in the event of an attack. No word yet on whether floppy disks will figure in the counter-assault plans.


*Photo from the Wiki.

Kony 2012: It’s Baaaack!

Amanda and I will be participating in the Congo in Harlem panel “Kony 2012: Lessons for the Congo” this Friday. Come check it out if you’re in New York.

Meanwhile, the new Kony 2012 video, “Move,” dropped yesterday, and it’s… well, not really even interesting enough for me to finish this sentence. See for yourself:

There’s a neat screenshot of Amanda and my first Atlantic piece at 15:23, but otherwise it’s mostly just crying. (See Katie J.M. Baker’s Jezebel post for the full run-down, plus coverage of Jason Russell’s Oprah interview.)

At minute 28:53, they finally get down to business and announce a march – or an invasion, it’s hard to tell – on the White House next month. Apparently, I’m not the only one who had difficulty establishing what, exactly, the plan is. The Guardian reported it as follows:


11:18am update: I’m still not clear on what the new campaign is, but apparently it involves a Global Dance Night. For reals.

(H/T: @AfricasaCountry for the screenshot)

This Week in Advocacy Videos We’re Kind of Wigged out by

A tipster just sent us this link to the Enough Project’s latest SPLA propaganda video George-Clooney-in-Sudan video (embedded below). For those unable to watch, highlights include:

  • Graphic images of two maimed children, including a young boy whose hands had been blown off “less than an hour ago”
  • The line “for the first time since the Stone Age, people are living in caves”
  • The reduction of the conflict to “blacks who have been on this land since creation” vs. “invading Arabs who want to take their land.”
  • Hagiographic descriptions of the SPLA – er, sorry, we mean “brave Nuba rebels fighting for freedom.”

We don’t have the energy to go through this yet again, so if you’re wondering why we’re horrified by this, please refer to this excellent Dart Center tip sheet on working with victims and survivors.

The Definitive ‘Kony 2012’ Drinking Game

Yesterday a momentous new work of filmmaking was released to the public. We’re speaking, of course, of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012.

The internets are busily debating the merits of the video and accompanying advocacy campaign, but one important question remains unanswered: What should I drink while I watch it?

Tragically, we watched the thing stone-cold-sober, but to spare you a similar fate, we’ve assembled the following drinking game.

To play, you will need: eight (8) pickleback shots; one (1) Brandy Alexander; one (1) bowl Feuerzangenbowle; one (1) six-pack of Tusker Lager; one (1) jar green Play-Doh; one (1) bottle of Zima; one dozen (12) chocolate chip cookies; one (1) My Little PonyTM cocktail made of equal parts Malibu rum and Sunkist orange soda (generally used for statutorily raping 14 year olds); three (3) bottles of wine, one (1) brick wall.

  • Footage that makes you concerned that you are watching the wrong video because all you see is a bunch of white people doing hipster shit like undergoing vimeo’d Caesareans and making home movies of their children that involve actual special effects – slam a shot of pickleback, brace yourself for what comes next.
  • Nonspecific use of “Africa” or “African” instead of precise location or actual nationality – pound a Tusker.
  • Interviews with vulnerable Ugandan children about past trauma that make you think “Good lord, no IRB would ever allow any of this” – snootily sip a Brandy Alexander, try to have an opinion about homonationalism while you do so.
  • Recognition that Ugandans, other Africans have agency, do not need white college students to save them through the innovative use of bracelets – eat one gooey, delicious chocolate chip cookie (Psych! You never get to eat a cookie!)
  • Appearance of Adolf Hitler – down some Feuerzangenbowle, consider growing a moustache.
  • Statement that all that’s needed to solve the problem of the LRA is for enough Americans to “know” and “care” about Kony – slam head against brick wall, consider just giving up entirely.
  • Assumption that girls are only good for sex slave-ing, play no other role in the violence – drink a My Little PonyTM, feel kind of icky about it.
  • Exasperated Prendergast hair flip – drink one Zima, consider washing your own headsuit.
  • Assertion that “no one” cared about Joseph Kony for decades until white college students took up the cause – drink half a bottle of wine, wonder why all those Ugandans he was attacking and kidnapping during that period were unaware of him.
  • Statement that Africans are “invisible” if they aren’t a cause célèbre among middle-class white people – finish bottle of wine, cry.
  • Scene in which preschooler quickly understands entire Invisible Children policy platform, which is presented as a good thing – eat enough Play-Doh to make you feel kind of queasy.
  • Three-point action platform consisting of (1) signing a “pledge,” (2) sending money for an “action kit” that contains some bracelets, stickers and posters, and (3) sending more money so that IC will have that money – imagine what the results could have been if these genuinely brilliant marketers turned their attentions to a cause that is actually within the U.S. government’s direct control, like the Dream Act, cry so hard that you can do a shot of your own tears.


[Note: This photo of team not-so-invisible-children posing with the SPLA originally appeared on our blog in 2009, and was taken by photographer Glenna Gordon on the Sudan-Congo border in April 2008. If you’re using it in your posts about Kony 2012, you should be crediting her.]

Only 8 Shopping Days Left Until International Justice Day!

Just a friendly reminder that International Justice Day is fast approaching. If you haven’t yet purchased a gift for that special ICC prosecutor in your life, well, time to get cracking.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. A Bashir-catching net.
  2. A sparkly headband for keeping the hair off his face while gazing pensively into the middle distance at Scheveningen beach. (It’s hard to think deep thoughts about international justice in all that wind without proper headgear. Trust me, I’ve tried.)
  3. A cocktail set for preparing rapetinis, official drink of “giving a voice to rape victims.”
  4. This t-shirt:

Happy shopping!

*Hattip to everyone in my department who sent me the link to that shirt. Thanks guys!

Leggings to the Rescue!

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Amanda and I suggested that the key to raising the profile of your pet human rights issue is to convince the public that it is caused by overconsumption of a consumer good? We offered up “leggings, noise-canceling headphones, handlebar mustaches, and ironic burlesque” as lifestyle items as-yet-unassociated with the violation of anyone’s right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of whatever.

Sadly for those of you who may still have been weighing the benefits of blaming maternal mortality in Burkina Faso on handlebar mustaches vs. capri-length leggings, you’ve just lost an option. (Perhaps consider a female reproductive health tie in with Apple’s unfortunately-menstrual-sounding iPad, instead?) Leggings have just commenced a daring bid to get themselves off of the “potentially rights-violative hipster luxury goods” list and onto the “buying this crap makes you a better person” list (along with t-shirts, thong underwear, jewelry, and pet-food bowls).

With the help of Lindsay Lohan, the leggings pictured on the right are going to save the children of Haiti. If your response to this is “gah, but… why?” then I invite you to consider the final sentence of the product description:

“This stretch Silver Poly Spandex legging looks amazing under a mini dress or alone as a sexy pant!”

Our girl Lindsay has spent the last several years of her life fighting a losing battle to convince the world that leggings are pants. A zillion paparazzi shots of herself with woefully inadequate leg/ass coverings didn’t do the trick, but maybe, just maybe, strategically leveraging the tragic plight of Haiti’s child earthquake victims will. Clever move, Lohan.

P.S. Legging aren’t pants. They just aren’t.

P.P.S. Hattip to alert reader Monique Whitaker.

Gambian President Kind of a Meanie-Face

Well, we can add human rights workers to the long list of people Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has threatened to kill and/or destroy. (Included already are journalists and homosexuals and some refugees I met one time.)

Speaking before his departure for the U.N. General Assembly meeting last week, he bid a tender farewell to his nation, reminding them to empty the dishwasher and also not to foment civil unrest because: “I will kill anyone who wants to destabilize this country.”

And just in case that wasn’t clear, he added: “If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it.”

Man, dude was a lot more humorous when he was yammering on about his magical healing powers. (Bet you didn’t know there’s a cure for AIDS after all; patients just need to go off their anti-retrovirals and drink a nice cup of dictator-soup.) Anyway, in memory of that kookier, less overtly murderous Jammeh, here’s an awesome old cartoon from afrol News (that’s Jammeh there on the left):

Oh Noes

Thanks to Rob Crilly, I am no longer living in blissful ignorance of the existence of the Save Darfur thong (pictured below).

It was a happy life, one untroubled by questions like: “Really? This is how we signal our support for the victims of mass atrocities? By pasting their forlorn children’s faces on our crotches?” But that’s all over now. My only comfort is that now you’re all suffering along with me.