The "Kony 2012" Affair
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Click here to see photos of the evolution of the LRA. Thanks to an incredibly effective social media effort, #StopKony is trending on Twitter today. The campaign coincides with a new awareness-raising documentary by the group Invisible Children.
If your Twitter and Facebook streams look anything like mine, you have probably become acquainted with the hashtag #stopkony over the last 48 hours. That’s Joseph Kony—rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) from Northern Uganda and center of a campaign by non-profit advocacy group Invisible Children. For the last three decades, the LRA has terrorized pockets of East Africa, most notoriously abducting children to staff the ranks of an army that long-ago ceased to inspire voluntary recruits. The US-based charity is broadcasting a simple message: If more people know about Kony, know that he’s a bad guy, and call on their governments to go after him, someone actually will get him, and peace and stability will return to Uganda. So please, everyone, retweet.
"A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children - because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, "You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God." And it freaks them out ." --- Jason Russell, speaking at Liberty University, November 7, 2011 Is Invisible Children a nonprofit devoted to human needs, or is it a ministry devoted to bringing souls to Jesus ?
Stop this I think the Kony12 campaign is wrong. It is wrong in content, tactics, strategy, ethics and politics. The Invisible Children organisation may well be doing some good work in East Africa, but this media effort is wrong.
A viral video by a controversial group claims to fix Central African violence with awareness, but such misguided campaigns can do more harm than good. Members of Invisible Children pose with soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army near the Congo-Sudan border in 2008 / Courtesy Glenna Gordon Have you heard? Joseph Kony, brutal warlord and International Criminal Court indictee, is going to be famous like George Clooney.
Click here to see photos of the evolution of the LRA. When and how so many Americans, young people in particular, were convinced, or convinced themselves, that awareness offers the key to righting wrongs wherever in the world they may be is hard to pinpoint. But whatever else it does and fails to do, Kony 2012 , the 30-minute video produced by a previously obscure California- and Uganda-based charity called Invisible Children that seeks to "make Joseph Kony famous in 2012" so that this homicidal bandit leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa will be hunted down and turned over to the International Criminal Court, illustrates just how deeply engrained in American culture this assumption has now become.
While the rest of the world jumps onto the Kony2012 bandwagon -- wrongly assuming that the main problem in Uganda is the Lord's Resistance Army -- Ugandans are worrying about the much more urgent problem plaguing their country: nodding disease. The cause of the disease is unknown. It affects thousands of children in Northern Uganda, causing symptoms similar to epilepsy, but with more severe mental and physical retardation.
Snapshot Americans should not have been surprised by Obama's recent announcement that he would send a small number of troops to Uganda. This is only the latest chapter in a feeble, decades-long U.S. attempt to take out Joseph Kony and his militia. With more than 70 million views, KONY 2012 has achieved its aim of reaching a mass audience. But the film is a quintessentially American fable printed on an African canvas, one that will turn out to be a brief diversion, just a bit of Internet chatter. A child in a Congolese refugee camp.
Snapshot The success of the "KONY 2012" video shows the vast reserves of idealism and concern out there. Here is how to turn that concern into useful action.
Since the Kony 2012 video went viral, the commentary hasn't stopped. We have criticized the film, praised it, even satirized it. Invisible Children has the whole world talking. But one key question has gone unanswered: What do people in northern Uganda think about the video?
Norbert Mao is a lawyer and politician in Uganda. He was a presidential candidate in the 2011 general elections. He represented Gulu in the national parliament between 1996 and 2006 and was head of the Gulu Local Government from 2006 to 2011. In 2006 and 2007 he made several trips to South Sudan and the LRA base in Congo campaigning for peace. Here, he shares his thoughts on the Kony 2012 campaign and controversy: On January 12, 2003, I received my first phone call from Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.
Just days after releasing its new video , Invisible Children -- the U.S.-based NGO behind the phenomenally successful " Kony 2012 " campaign -- has yet again found itself in the midst of controversy over a U.S. diplomatic cable released last year by WikiLeaks, which reports that the group cooperated with the Ugandan military to facilitate the arrest of a former child soldier who was allegedly involved in the formation of a new rebel group. The cable , released as part of WikiLeaks' massive "Cablegate" series, was sent on June 11, 2009, and signed by then ambassador Steven Browning.