Joseph Kony, Lords Resistance Army
© Joram Jojo/Flickr Global/IRIN
“On 30 September , the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the LRA has carried out 240 attacks so far this year, resulting in 130 deaths and 327 abductions, including 113 children in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. An estimated 440,000 civilians continue to be displaced or living as refugees in the affected areas.”
Before last week, the above report did not inspire 100 million people from around the world to collectively consider what they could do to end this violence. In the past week, if you have been living under a technological rock and haven’t seen it, there has been a flurry of such engagement through Twitter hash tags, Facebook links and Youtube alerts for KONY 2012. Created by US-based charity, Invisible Children, the 27 minute video argues (essentially) three things:
1) Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), operates a guerilla style war in Northern Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. He has escaped arrest for 25 years. The LRA, originally a secessionist movement, has become a messianic cult devoted to keeping Kony in power and avoiding arrest by Ugandan authorities. There is no political agenda to the LRA’s continued existence.
2) Kony has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – in fact he was the first individual to face indictment by the ICC – for crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is believed Kony has kidnapped, over the course of the conflict, between 25 000-60 000 children. Young children are murdered to frighten other children into becoming child soldiers in Kony’s LRA; others are forced to commit heinous crimes such as killing their parents and siblings; and thousands of girls have been forced into sexual slavery for the LRA soldiers.
3) The United States government, under President Obama’s administration, agreed in late October 2011 to send 100 special operations ‘combat-ready’ troops to assist the Ugandan military to find and arrest Kony. The Invisible Children KONY 2012 campaign is directed at alerting people to this mission, ensuring that the Obama administration knows that the world supports this mission, and make Kony an ‘infamous’ figure to ensure that by the end of 2012 as many people as possible know who he is, what crimes he has committed and why every possible means should be engaged to ensure his capture.
It is easy to view this campaign with skepticism. To argue, as others have done, that Invisible Children exaggerates the cause, the campaign is misleading and construes the situation to further the advocacy agenda of Invisible Children. Others propose that supporting the Ugandan military is support for a military that should face serious questions about its own conduct. Moreover, it has been argued that the removal of Kony will not see the end of the LRA, the end of abject poverty in the region where he resides, nor will it remove the guerilla warfare tactics that has plagued the Great Lakes region for too long.
Much of the dissention plays on the notion that Invisible Children is a cynical operation that serves its own interests above anyone else. Perhaps most misleading of all though is the notion that such cynics of KONY 2012 are basing their critique on ‘real fact’ while Invisible Children deploys phony numbers and arguments. There is no doubt Invisible Children goes for a simple message and a simple solution. But does this mean we shouldn’t support the objective of KONY 2012 – to capture Kony? I consider some flaws in the cynics’ argument below. Continue reading “KONY 2012 – who are the real cynics here?”