A week ago most Irish people didn’t know who Joseph Kony was. Now he’s been all over your news feed and has pretty much become a shorthand for evil.
If you’re one of the few people who haven’t watched the Kony 2012 video, here’s a quick sum-up. Joseph Kony is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group in Uganda, central Africa. He’s recruited thousands of child soldiers, and made thousands of young girls into sex slaves since 1986. In short, he’s a bit of a bastard.
Kony 2012 wants him arrested for war crimes by the end of 2012. And how are they going to do that? Sending US troops to Uganda to assist the Ugandan military is part of it. But Barack Obama will only add to the 100 troops already there if he comes under public pressure, the video says. And that means “making Kony famous”. Get Tweeting, sharing and donating in other words.
He’s been on the international most wanted list since 2005. Reportedly he has been in hiding since 2006 and has less than 200 followers left. The 2010 documentaryChildren of War looked at the lives of former child soldiers after the end of the war in 2006.
So what’s the big deal about him now? Well, that’s part of the problem. The group behind the Stop Kony 2012 campaign, Invisible Children, has faced a backlash. They apparently only donate 32% of monies raised to Uganda, the rest seemingly going on slick videos and recruiting celebs, by the look of it.
The really worrying thing about Invisible Children is their eagerness to use military intervention. Why US troops to Uganda? Why not lobby Congress to get America to table a motion at the UN, and get an international peacekeeping force sent to the area? Why lobby for American soldiers to train Ugandan military? The Ugandan army has been known for human rights abuses, and coupled with the Sudan People Liberation Army, they have committed atrocities across Central Africa.
Using force could prove very risky to the safety of the remaining child soldiers that surround Kony too.
Even if Invisible Children turn out to be the most well-intentioned group in the planet, the raising awareness thing through Facebook seems pointless. Some of the people that shared it on my Facebook news feed could hardly find Ireland on a map, never mind Uganda. But social media is a game changer, look at the Arab Spring, you cry! Yes, the Arab Spring was organised through social media. That meant people in Egypt, Tunisia etc used Facebook and Twitter as means of communication so highlight what was happening in their own countries (like underground newspapers in the past) and crucially, to organise when and where they would next meet to rally and protest. They didn’t just click “share” and hope for the best.
Just because something is trending, doesn’t mean it will change the world. One of Twitter’s top trends today is “replace a One Direction lyric with the word ‘cat’”. Funny, but hardly world-changing.
Joseph Kony will live on in meme form, but is already becoming fast-forgotten in the west.
My advice, for what it’s worth? If you want to help someone less fortunate, drop a fiver in the Trocaire box. If you want to learn about atrocities that are happening right this second, don’t google Joseph Kony. Google Syria.
This article appeared on Studenty.me on March 11 2012. The day of action for Stop Kony passed fairly unnoticed, and the face of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, was arrested for lewd behaviour in March.