Kony 2012: History in the making?

Hazel Shaw explains the rapidly growing campaign against Kony, leader of Uganda’s rebel guerrillas.

Hazel Shaw

Staff Writer 

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, whose time is now”. At 12 noon on March 5th 2012, non-profit organisation Invisible Children released a video which has the potential to “change the course of human history”, and whose purpose is to stop the LRA and their leader Joseph Kony. In mere hours this video has gone viral, invading Facebook and Twitter feeds, and is only set to gain momentum.

Invisible Children is a non-profit organisation founded in Spring 2003 when three young filmmakers set out for East Africa in search of a story, and found themselves faced with the devastating effects of Kony’s power. Joseph Kony is the leader of Uganda’s rebel guerrillas; the Lord’s Resistance Army, and is responsible for the abduction of over 30,000 children in the last 20 years. These children have been taken from their homes, the boys forced to become child soldiers in the LRA, committing unthinkable crimes against their own people, while the girls are forced into sexual slavery. What is even more horrific is that Kony is not fighting for a cause, but merely to maintain his power and demonstrate his authority over the people. Kony is currently number one on a list of the world’s worst criminals held by the International Criminal Court, and has been in this position due to the perverse nature of his crimes since his indictment in July 2005. According to Luis Moreno Ocampo, head prosecutor for the ICC, Kony’s crimes are “crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed against the civilian population, including murder, sexual slavery, rapes and abductions”.

In 2003, Jason Russell, one of the founders of Invisible Children, made a promise to an escaped child soldier, a promise to stop Joseph Kony. The charity has been working for years to fulfill this promise, gaining the support of the US government along the way. But according to Russell “the problem is that 99% of the planet doesn’t know who [Kony] is”, and public support is needed to maintain the government’s, as the government will only continue their support if it is of a great interest to their people. So it is now that Invisible Children has formulated a plan, a plan to raise awareness by making Kony famous through the ever expanding market of social media, to use the technology we have today to bring his crimes to light. In an interview shown in the video, actor George Clooney conveyed the wish that all indicted war criminals would have the same amount of fame as he did, that people today should be as aware of these kinds of situations as they are of the latest fashions/movies/music, and it is this idea that Invisible Children are drawing from. They have targeted 12 “culture makers” including Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, whose influences on contemporary society are monumental and whose voices will be heard by the people, as well as 12 “policy makers”, including the most influential members of the US senate. These culture and policy makers are being bombarded with phone calls and messages via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, forcing them to confront the issue and join the cause. For Invisible Children, the key is to raise awareness in citizens all over the world, to demand that their governments take action on this issue, and to achieve this they have set a date: April 20th 2012. The idea is that on this date, people all over the world will meet at sunset with posters and leaflets of Kony’s image, to cover every street in every city until the sun comes up, and that on April 21st, the world will wake up to an awareness of who Kony is and what he is doing

The arrest of Joseph Kony has been a continuing struggle for the ICC and for Invisible Children, and it seems that this struggle is fast approaching its climax. “Justice will define 2012” is the aspirational claim made by the charity, and their “stop at nothing” approach may just be history in the making. And to those who say to this movement: “who are you to end a war?”, Jacob Russell’s challenging reply is: “who are you not to?”.

The video is available at www.kony2012.com/sharefilm, and ‘Action Kits’ can be also be obtained at kony2012.com, which contain posters, bracelets and t-shirts for you to get involved on April 20th.

  • Elizabeth

    There’s nothing new in this article…. its literally just a blow by blow description of the film……

    • ptwomey

      Yes, for those who haven’t a clue who Kony is. I hadn’t seen the film before reading this piece and now I want to watch it, thus mission accomplished for the article.

    • Hazel

      That’s basically it yes. The aim of the article is simply to inform people about the movement and encourage those who haven’t already watched the video to do so.

    • Hannah

      The film is also about half an hour long, so not many people would have the time to watch it, whereas this article takes 2 minutes to read. We have to use every means at our disposal to spread this message, regardless of whether the information is “new” or not.

  • Emily

    Why would you criticise something that is seeking to advocate and advance such a worthy cause? It did exactly what it set out to do, to give a summary of the Kony 2012 campaign in a concise and easy to read form so that more people will get involved. Excellently written!

    • Fania

      I couldn’t agree more. At this stage it is all about awareness, the more coverage the better. I think that Trinity Ball needs to mark it in some way as it is the same evening that everywhere in the world people are going to be plastering posters, banners etc. everywhere.

      • Lol

        Fania,
        great idea!!!

    • http://yahoo Amber

      Why would you criticise something that is seeking to advocate and advance such a worthy cause? It did exactly what it set out to do, to give a summary of the Kony 2012 campaign in a concise and easy to read form so that more people will get involved.

      • http://yahoo chris

        well its bad to do this just saying.

  • jessie

    i appreciate the summary. i do not enjoy watching videos. when i clicked on it, i thought it would be 2 minutes. a few minutes in, i was getting antsy, but wondering what it was about since people have been sharing it. thank you very much for summarizing; now i have awareness.

    • Lol

      You should take 30 minutes out of your day to watch it. This article is a good summary but the film has a life of its own.

  • Charly

    Who are Invisible Children? http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/

    • Hazel

      I think that this article makes some valid points that people need to be aware of, however it also makes some invalid and slightly misleading ones. Its statement “the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away” is exactly the kind of manipulation of facts that it accuses Invisible Children of. Furthermore, the image it links to includes a member who left the organisation over 6 years ago, and is therefore clearly outdated. The fact that this photo was ever taken is wrong, and perhaps they should not have posed for it, but one mistake made 6 years ago is not in any way representative of this movement happening today.
      This article also makes a point that most of the charity’s money goes towards filmmaking and awareness, which 1) are not bad things, but more importantly 2) belittles the tireless effort Invisible Children have been making over the years to improve thousands of lives. The charity has been working on the MEND employment initiative and the Schools 4 Schools rebuilding programme there, they also work with child psychologists to give therapy to child soldiers who have escaped. Their work in Sudan and Congo is also completely current, for example the Radio Tracking system which is currently giving remote villages a chance to protect themselves from attack. While many people are hearing about Invisible Children for the first time this week, the charity has existed for years and has made a big difference to many.
      Also, the article claims that Invisible Children have exaggerated Kony’s crimes “for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers”, which, having been to Uganda and spoken to people about this man, I cannot in any way agree with. Invisible Children are portraying an horrific but unfortunately very real evil.
      The issue of “the white man’s burden” is unfortunately very real, as this movement has the potential to become a fashionable trend, that people get involved in without knowing anything about it. However, the number of people with a real interest in this and a desire to do something about it far outweighs these.
      And the article’s concluding idea that this movement cannot solve these highly complex problems is an extremely cynical attitude that I cannot stand, but I guess that one is personal.

    • Sarah

      ‎”the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away” This article is blatantly guilty of the manipulation of facts that it accuses IC of. I agree that sometimes in advocacy a dangerous ‘white savior’ attitude can be fostered. There will be a small percentage of people who go along with this because it’s the current cool thing and they haven’t researched the implications, but to presume that all those supporting the Kony campaign are just uninformed trend followers who are supporting this to bring themselves glory is such a disgustingly cynical attitude.
      As for the photo that is linked, it was taken before Laren Poole left the organization, so obviously about 6 or 7 years ago. We have to remember that these 3 founding members were just young guys when they started off, only just out of college, they are not perfect and have made mistakes along the way. They shouldn’t have posed for this photo. But a lot has changed since then, this photo is not representative of the overall ethos of the organization or the point of this campaign and it in no way discredits their work to empower, inform and inspire people all over the world speak out for justice for those who have no voice.
      In response to the argument that the LRA haven’t been in Uganda since 2006, in the video they use footage of the Jacob story and the massive night-commutes to inform people of how the movement got started but they clearly state that the LRA have since moved into the Congo and Southern Sudan, Uganda is just referred to a lot because that’s where it all started. All of their work in Uganda now is just rehabilitation in the north like the MEND employment initiative and the Schools 4 Schools rebuilding programme, they also work with child psychologists to give therapy to child soldiers who have escaped. Their work in Sudan and Congo is completely up to date, for example the Radio Tracking system which is currently giving remote villages a chance to protect themselves from attack by giving them warning.
      The Kony video only gives a very brief snapshot of the organization, IC is not just a superficial over night sensation, they have been working tirelessly for years.

    • Hazel
  • owen

    Read the wikipedia entry on Kony. The guy has completely lost his mind.

  • Nick

    Thanks for article. Can’t watch video but now at least know premise to watch later.

  • http://yahoo jasmine

    well i love this<3

  • Laura

    I’m glad you said this. Of course there are a lot of valid criticisms that can be made of this video and organisation, and it’s important to be critical, but no organisation is perfect and nothing is ever as simple as its presented at first. The people who made this video are just people and they can make mistakes, but they have tried to do something good, and succeeded. Even when people are criticising them, they’re getting more informed about what’s going on, and that’s progress.

  • Jack S

    The biggest problem is not with the campaign but with their further aims. You want to get Kony, and presumably stop the LRA. Ok. How? Flood Uganda with weapons? Arm the SPLA? Massive UN military intervention? Drone strikes? I’m really not sure how I stand on any of these ideas, but I know it’s a damn sight more complicated than the video makes out.

  • Pingback: Kony: Buzzword of the Week Within College Media– and the Rest of the Web World (#kony #invisiblechildren) « College Media Matters

  • Callum

    Before jumping on the IC bandwagon and dismissing any criticism of the organization and its methods with statements such as ‘raising awareness can only be a good thing’, I would highly recommend reading the following critique. It has nothing to do with where IC spends their money or how appropriate American military intervention in the region is (both important points). Rather it highlights the damage that this kind of simplistic narrative of a war torn nation of hopeless people, in desperate need of saving by Americans, does to both Uganda and Africa as a whole.

    http://innovateafrica.tumblr.com/post/18897981642/you-dont-have-my-vote

    And if reading isn’t your thing and you would rather watch a video, then this video from a Ugandan blogger gives a moving perspective and criticism of the KONY 2012 campaign

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KLVY5jBnD-E

    • Hazel

      Thank you for these links they have raised some really important issues that I think many (including myself) have not considered before, and need to be taken into account. I agree that it is very important to realise that this isn’t a “western world saving the day” situation and that Ugandan and Sudanese governments have been tackling these issues for years, but at the same time I’m afraid I am going to repeat the point that the awareness that the Kony 2012 movement has raised is phenomenal. The fact that our generation is currently debating issues about a war torn Africa rather than the merits of Geordie versus Jersey Shore is outstanding, and I am incredibly grateful to the campaign for this.
      But yes this issue is a lot more complex than the video outlines and we must be wary of oversimplifying this into a good versus bad situation, and I do hope people research the issue before jumping on any bandwagons. That being said, I for one do support the Kony 2012 campaign and wholly encourage others to do so.

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