A video about the decades of atrocities carried out by African warlord Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) went viral this month. The video, “Kony 2012”, released on March 5th, had more than 76 million views on YouTube by Tuesday of this week.
The video was created by the advocacy group Invisible Children as part of a campaign to make the leader of the LRA a figure of global infamy. Geoffrey York and Sonia Verma of The Globe and Mail comment (“Invisible Children and its Kony 2012 campaign in the spotlight,” Globe and Mail, 7 March 2012):
Until this week, Joseph Kony and his gang of child-kidnapping killers were so unknown in North America that the U.S. talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was able to tell his audience that Mr. Kony was an unfairly persecuted Christian.
In reality, Mr. Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is one of Africa’s most murderous militia groups and its atrocities have continued for 25 years with the world paying little attention.
Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court and is being pursued by local troops from four Central African countries (Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic) and 100 U.S. Special Forces advisers.
The video comes as the LRA is on the wane (Geoffrey York, “Invisible Children’s Kony campaign goes viral just as Lord’s Resistance Army is dying,” Globe and Mail, 8 March 2012):
“Kony is a monster. He deserves to be prosecuted and hanged,” said Col. Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for Uganda’s military.
But Col. Kulayigye said that Mr. Kony’s forces – once thousands strong – have been so degraded that he no longer considers Mr. Kony a threat to the region.
Pursuit by local and international troops has forced the LRA to split into smaller groups, and their ranks have fallen to approximately 250 fighters. However, the LRA still carries out abduction, murder, and rape in Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan.
Both the video and Invisible Children have been criticized on several grounds, including the organization’s spending practices, its work with repressive governments, and a controversial photo of its representatives posing with firearms. Others have criticized the video for its inaccuracies and over-simplification of the situation, for its portrayal of Africans, and for its potential consequences in Uganda.
Supporters of the campaign, on the other hand, argue that the video has been wildly successful in its primary goal: raising awareness.
Jolly Okot, abducted in 1989 by the militia group that later became the LRA and now the Uganda country director for Invisible Children, commented (“Viral video targets Ugandan militia leader,” Associated Press, 8 March 2012):
“The most exciting thing about this film is that I’m so grateful that the world has been able to pay attention to an issue that has long been neglected,” Ms. Okot said. “I think it is an eye-opener and I think this will push for Joseph Kony to be apprehended, and I think justice will get to him.”
To view the video, visit www.kony2012.com