BRING Joseph Kony to justice in 2012. That is the ultimate goal for the not-for-profit organisation Invisible Children Inc.
Releasing a 29-minute YouTube video on 5 March, the American-founded group launched a campaign to show institutions that people around the world care about the atrocities that have been committed by Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Not only do they care but want their voices heard to convince institutions supporting the effort – such as the American government – to maintain the funding to track him down as well as support those affected in his wake.
Joseph Kony and the LRA are responsible for over 65,000 child abductions since the 1980s. Girls are used as sex slaves while the boys are forced to be child soldiers and must kill their parents.
Directed by co-founder Jason Russell, the IC’s video, simply titled “Kony 2012”, has garnered over 77 million views and has sparked both support and criticism of their mission to “stop LRA violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa.”
One criticism is that IC is supporting the Ugandan military, therefore supporting the Ugandan government, which has had its own troubles in corruption and civil abuse. Invisible Children stated: “We do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army. None of the money donated through Invisible Children ever goes to the government of Uganda.”
They further commented: “The only feasible way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to co-ordinate efforts with regional governments.”
Another concern with the video is its emphasis on Uganda, whose government claims there has been no LRA activity since 2006 and that their LRA crisis is over.
Janette O’Neill, CEO of USPG: Anglicans in World Mission, who has engaged with Northern Uganda over the last decade, said she viewed the video with mixed feelings. She agrees that Uganda should not be the primary focus for the cause, pointing out that “solutions have been forged by the Acholi themselves, and not external governments, or for that matter even the Government of Uganda.
“Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng the retired and intrepid Bishop of Northern Uganda was a driving force within the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, a vital civil society element that kept the Juba peace talks of 2006-8 in play.”
While the conflict may have settled, O’Neill does recognise that: “There have been many examples in the recovery period of great partnerships that have been led by Ugandans but have even included the US government.”
While O’Neill and others think the IC may be wasting their efforts which could be better spent for other partnerships, the organisation defended their work saying: “Our work in Uganda is focused on assisting in the recovery of northern Uganda after being decimated by two decades of conflict, while in DR Congo and the Central African Republic we are working with local partners to protect communities, encourage peaceful LRA surrenders and support the victims of the conflict.”
The IC further establishes their cause to maintain funding from the American government in a letter to US President Barack Obama on 7 March. Ben Keesey CEO of Invisible Children states: “While regional governments are primarily responsible for the protection of their own citizens, the presence of US advisers in the region is enhancing cross-border information flows, providing valuable guidance for regional military operations, and provoking an unprecedented level of political interest in what has historically been a neglected crisis.
“We implore you to engage directly with the Presidents of each of the four countries – in partnership with the African Union – to enhance regional cooperation, increase the numbers and capabilities of troops deployed to LRA-affected areas, and boost efforts to encourage defections from the rebel group.”
While they may disagree strategically, Invisible Children can agree with O’Neill’s statement to “remember those still terrorised by the rag tag of maybe just dozens that is still the LRA. In Sudan and Congo conflict is such a present memory, that the threat of terror will make people flee and disrupt their lives to ensure that they stay physically safe.”