Joseph Kony, the leader of a Ugandan guerilla group, has become famous overnight thanks to a campaign aimed at bringing him to justice before the end of the year.
Kony 2012, a video released on the Internet on March 5th, 2012, went viral almost instantly. Not even a month after being uploaded it had over 86 million views on YouTube, spread mostly through social networking sites. Behind it is the group Invisible Children, a non- profit organization founded in 2004 and based in San Diego. Its goal is to draw international attention to the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their leader Joseph Kony. The LRA developed from a former organization, the Holy Spirit Movement, which was a resistance group of the Ancholi people against the presidency of Yoweri Museveni, who took over office in Uganda in 1986. According to Invisible Children, the rebels have abducted over 30,000 children and turned them into child soldiers to support their guerilla warfare in central Africa. They have abused them physically and mentally and have committed serious crimes against humanity. Even though the LRA reportedly left Uganda in 2006, it continues to exist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Central Africa Republic. By raising public awareness, Invisible Children wants to gain international support for the arrest of Joseph Kony and put pressure on the U.S government to send more military advisors into the region and to increase their efforts to capture him.
The video tells the story of the former Ugandan child soldier Jacob, whose brother was killed by the rebels, and how Invisible Children has been campaigning for its goals so far. The film also features scenes in which the director and co-founder of the charity, Jason Russell, tries to explain Jacob’s story to his own son Gavin. The video is part of a bigger project, which is supposed to last till the end of 2012. One of the campaign’s points of culmination is “Cover The Night”, an event on April 20th which encourages supporters all around the world to placard their cities with Kony posters.
Why is the campaign relevant?
Whether the popularity of the video turns into action remains to be seen. The Kony campaign certainly has support from the public and there have been reactions on a political level as well. The African Union (AU) has created an international task force to catch Joseph Kony and a resolution has been put forward in the US congress. Despite these achievements, there have been backlashes. Critics denounce the simplified way the film tells its story. Others refer to the rather interventionist approach of the campaign and the way in which Invisible Children manages its finances and donations. It also seems that the impact of the video caught the organization unprepared. Its website crashed a few days after the video was launched due to high demand, and the action kit containing campaign material for supporters sold out quickly. Jason Russell was picked up on the streets of San Diego by the police during what seemed to be a mental breakdown. On April 3rd a second video was launched as a reaction to the hype the first one had started. But it is doubtful that it will silence the critics of Invisible Children and Kony 2012.
Facts and Figures
Revenue of Invisible Children in 2011: $13,765,177
Duration of the first Kony video: 30 minutes
Size of the African Union task force: 5000
Civilian deaths caused by the LRA since 2008: 2,600