WASHINGTON — Samantha Power will praise online human rights activism such as last year’s “Stop Kony” campaign in her first speech as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday.
Power is scheduled to speak to the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit, an event in Los Angeles sponsored by Invisible Children, the rights group whose campaign to stop Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony went viral last year and whose co-founder was hospitalized after a notorious public breakdown.
“Invisible Children doesn’t just lobby policymakers to go after the LRA, it designs fliers that tell LRA fighters how they might defect, and it distributes them – more than 400,000 so far – into LRA-affected areas in DRC and the Central African Republic,” Power will say, according to prepared remarks. “It has also built six locally-run FM radio stations in areas of high LRA activity. These stations now reach an audience covering more than 29,000 square miles.”
And if you’ve ever doubted your activism matters, just think that the Kony video you made go viral, was sent by high school kids in Massachusetts to their Senator who joined with his colleagues to write a law that President Obama signed to create a rewards program to bring Kony and his thugs to justice. And a few months ago that Senator from Massachusetts, now Secretary of State John Kerry, announced that thanks to that law – thanks to you – the State Department was offering the first cash rewards to bring LRA killers to justice.
This new kind of activism is visible so many places, on so many of today’s most critical issues. An army of citizen activists police the conduct of the recent Kenyan elections, using the tools of the web to monitor hate speech and document fraud in an effort to prevent a repeat of significant violence. In a region – the Arab world – that barely knew democracy as recently as three years ago, we see tens of millions of people moving governments, and, at times, removing them, driven by that universal desire to have their voices heard. At a time of economic uncertainty, we see tens of thousands taking to the streets in Russia and beyond, because they are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to corruption or to accept the growing inequalities in their own societies.
In the speech, Power, whose first career was as a journalist covering human rights atrocities in Bosnia, will acknowledge the limitations of the Stop Kony model.
“But this new generation understands that the video is not what matters; the number of twitter followers is not what matters,” Power will say. “These are just means to an end; indeed Invisible Children the organization is a means to an end. What matters is the real world scoreboard.”
Power’s speech will also feature a tribute to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban and who has become a global icon of women’s rights in the developing world. Power will describe Yousafzai’s name as a “name that will be forever synonymous with dignity and bravery,” according to the remarks.
Excerpt from UNDER THE SKIN by Nick Hahn
The hall was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. She began to speak.
“Your Highnesses, members of the Nobel Committee, and distinguished guests, I am deeply honored to accept this prize and do so with gratitude-not for myself, but for the thirty-five million people of the Republic of Uganda. To be selected by the Nobel Committee one year after the iconic Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia is truly historic; I don’t belong in the company of such women. You have celebrated me as a peacemaker, a title I accept with profound humility.
“Uganda is emerging from the dark shadows of oppression and corruption that have crippled her economy and muted her citizens for decades. The committee has seen fit to distinguish her, and in so doing, casts a ray of hope on a world beset by prejudice and ignorance. Uganda and all of Africa welcomes this spotlight; we welcome the eyes and ears of the world upon us as we take our place with you, our brothers and our sisters living together as one race-the human race.
“This is a new age, an age of instant communication and transparency. This should be an age when the races, faiths, and cultures of the world coexist without bias or prejudice. This should be a world without borders defining us, a world of intellectual and spiritual enlightenment. This should be a world where women stand equally with men, where human rights are stronger than property rights, where passive resistance is stronger than armed resistance, and where moral authority is stronger than civil authority. A world where all people know that under the skin their hearts beat the same.”
The audience embraced her words with stunned silence. They wouldn’t let her go. This woman was not preaching or delivering a lecture; she spoke from the heart with eloquence and conviction. Her voice was soft and conversational, as if she were sitting in your living room, not this cavernous hall. She used no notes and looked directly at the audience, sweeping her eyes from left to right and front to back at a practiced pace, her delivery mesmerizing. Her stage presence was commanding; she was a leader, and it showed. This distinguished audience recognized a sovereign when they saw one, and they interrupted her over and over again with applause.
“Many are to be thanked for my presence here this evening. However, none more so than the three who have traveled to Oslo to share this moment with me and the people of Uganda.
“First, from New York, my dearest and closest friend Margaret “Maggie” Kincaid, who supports me with love and respect, not judgment. Second, from Gulu, Uganda, my teacher and mentor Evelyn Simonton. And last, but not least, the man who motivates me every day, who stands by my side through good times and bad, the man I love, from Kitgum, Northern Uganda, my life partner and protector Jude Wambuzi.
“I would be remiss in not mentioning Jolly Bukenya, my election campaign manager, who sadly could not be here with us. I would not be standing here before you today if it hadn’t been for Jolly’s uncompromising vision for a better Uganda and her unending support.
I was seated in the middle of the room between Evelyn and Jude. My thoughts swung between pride and admiration for what this young woman had achieved. No one in this hall, except us, her closet friends and allies, knew what she had gone through to stand on that stage. How I wished Jolly could have been there to see her.
Nabulungi “Nabby” Kibugu had been my friend since childhood; we’d grown up as pen pals. The photos she had sent me showed a gangly black teenager with knotted hair and dusty bare feet kicking a deflated soccer ball near the river and chasing her pet crane. Nothing she’d done as a teenager would portend this moment in Oslo. She had been a miracle waiting to happen, and fortunately for the people of Uganda and all of Africa, miracles do happen. It made me wonder how many other miracles in Africa and the third world were waiting to happen through education and training.
A single voice can be powerful, as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf taught us. She forged a political career from the ore of ignorance and cultural indifference toward women in a country torn by civil war and a history of despotic leadership. Her journey to the presidency of Liberia in 2005 and her reelection in 2011 were tumultuous, but her strength and resolve would not be denied. She became the first woman to be elected president of an African country. Her speaking style was riveting, attracting invitations to address international forums and attendant recognition as a female head of state in an African country. This status made her the “token black female” on boards of trustees for prominent NGOs and foundations, giving her access to a network of global thought-leaders as she advanced international acceptance of moral authority in a world weakened by corrupt civil authority.
Nabby emulated Johnson-Sirleaf. I had watched her develop over the years as a student leader, a spokesperson for women’s rights, and an advocate for democratic reform in a country mired in autocratic rule and corruption. She had leveraged her tribal roots to political advantage and confronted government leaders who had sucked the lifeblood from the Ugandan economy and compromised the welfare of her people for personal gain. Never could I have imagined that this impoverished teenager from a rural backwater village in war-torn Northern Uganda would be standing before a prominent international audience accepting the world’s most prestigious honor.
I’m not a religious person, but when Nabby finished speaking, at that moment and in that place, I felt that something spiritual was happening. The audience was on its feet, the applause deafening. Tears traced down my cheeks as I clapped my hands until they hurt. Dear God in heaven, what an emotional moment for the Ugandan people, and for me.
As I waited for the Nobel press corps to complete their post-ceremony interview, my mind drifted back to Fifth Avenue and the first time I’d heard the funny-sounding name of Kibugu, a name now resonating with millions. How did an eleven-year-old girl raised in midtown Manhattan, attending exclusive private schools and taking lessons in dance, flute, and gymnastics, manage to connect with a poor, unremarkable child in Northern Uganda attending public missionary schools, where extracurricular activities consisted of tending goats and carrying water from a communal well?
The story begins in 1976 when my mother, Maxine Katherine O’Donnell, first laid eyes on my father, Simon Robert Kincaid.
Last updated on: August 07, 2013 4:54 PM
“This meeting is to first of all educate this new minister about how bad this bill (Public Order Management Bill 2011) really is,” said Geoffrey Ssebaggala, the national coordinator of Uganda’s Human Rights Network for Journalists, (HRNJ-U).
“We will also target the speaker of parliament because they violated an article in the constitution,” said Ssebaggala. “We will also reach out to the international community by targeting their local offices here to bring this to their attention, so they can inform their countries [so] they can think about what they can do to support Ugandans to be free to exercise their freedom.”
The bill, which President Yoweri Museveni has yet to sign into law, was passed by parliament Tuesday. It demands that organizers of public rallies, gatherings and protests first seek police permission.
Those opposing the bill say it violates the rights of Ugandans to freely associate, a right guaranteed by the constitution. Ssebaggala says they met Wednesday and reached a series of decisions.
“We resolved to go to court and challenge the constitutionality of this bill,” he said. “But at the same time, we also realized that Article 92 of the constitution prohibits parliament to pass any law to alter the decision or judgment of any court.
“This was [the same] bill which was quashed by the constitutional court,” he continued. “It said the police have no powers granting permission to Ugandans who would want to have an assembly to express their grievances.”
“The government of Uganda does not believe in constitutionalism,” Ssebaggala said. “They are only interested in curtailing freedoms …”
Ssebaggala said the groups plan to begin educating the public about a citizen’s rights and freedoms under the constitution as well as the dangers associated with the passage of the Public Order Management Bill.
But supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) defend the bill, saying it will enable the security agencies to prevent violence associated with protests and demonstrations.
Ssebaggala says the groups have called on the international community to pressure Museveni not to sign the bill into law.
“The international community must engage the Uganda government, but we know even when they engage in talks, this government will not listen. The language they will listen to will be cutting aid or threatening to cut aid that might go to the police,” said Ssebaggala.