According to Time magazine (25 Mar 2012), the advocacy group Invisible Children recently hit the big time:
On March 5, a San Diego-based advocacy group called Invisible Children released a 29-minute film on the Internet called Kony 2012. Invisible Children called on activists to make Kony the most famous war criminal on earth, thus raising the political will to speed his arrest or death. It was one of many films about the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] the group has made since 2003, but for some reason Kony 2012 became a phenomenon. Invisible Children wanted 500,000 views. According to the group, the film got a million in 24 hours. After 48 hours, it had a million very 30 minutes. Six days after its release, 85 million people had watch the film, by then translated into 50 languages.
The LRA is a rebel group that used to terrorize northern Uganda. Now they are a dispersed group of 150 to 200 rag-tag fighters that exists in the shadows of Uganda’s northern neighbors. The LRA has been successfully driven out of Uganda.
Joseph Kony is the LRA’s leader, and he was the model for the rebel leader in the hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. In 2005, Kony became the first individual to be indicted by the newly established International Criminal Court in the Hague. The LRA is universally despised for its use of child soldiers and for using captured girls and women as sex slaves.
In December of last year, in part because of lobbying by Invisible Children, President Obama sent 100 special forces troops to central Africa “to maintain pressure on the LRA, both militarily and diplomatically . . . specially, the urgent challenges of apprehending or removing Joseph Kony from the battlefield.” The troops are to assist the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Uganda.
As readers of this blog know, I live parttime in Uganda, and have spent several weeks in northern Uganda, mostly in and around the city of Gulu. Kony and the LRA are no longer a threat there. Villagers are moving from relocation camps back to their villages. There is a major effort by humanitarian groups to rebuild the area’s infrastructure. Additionally, there is an LDS Branch in Gulu and Mormon missionaries from the West are assigned there.
Many Africans have criticized Invisible Children for overstating the LRA threat. And it would be my opinion that the LRA is no longer a serious threat in northern Uganda. The much bigger concerns are the instability in the newly independent country of South Sudan (and its current border war with Sudan) and the lawlessness in the eastern Congo. But one can hardly argue with bringing Kony to justice.
According to the Wall Street Journal (16 Mar 2012), when the Invisible Children video was shown in Lira (northern Uganda), it received mixed reviews. One criticism:
Lira residents said they were upset the video devotes so much attention to the American filmmakers and Mr. Kony, and relatively little to the conflicts victims. “The video looks to be more about whites than Ugandans,” said Thomas Okello, a local leader.
When actress and high-profile international activist Angelina Jolie was asked what she thought of the Kony2012 campaign (Time magazine, 9 Apr 2012), she responded”
I believe that [the] group’s intention is pure. And I think it’s very inspiring that so many young people were so moved. If people are more drawn to this than to something that is more shallow, then we have to see that as a positive.