Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kony 2012

Kony 2012 is a short film created by Invisible Children, Inc. and released on March 5, 2012.[2] [3][4][5] The film's purpose is to promote the charity's "Stop Kony" movement to make indicted Ugandan war criminal and International Criminal Court fugitive Joseph Kony globally known in order to have him arrested by December 2012, the time when the campaign expires.[6]
The film has spread virally.[7][8][9] As of 24 March 2012, the film had over 85 million views on video-sharing website YouTube,[10] and over 16.6 million views on Vimeo,[11] with other viewing emanating from a central "Kony 2012" website operated by Invisible Children. The intense exposure of the video caused the "Kony 2012" website to crash shortly after it began gaining widespread popularity.[12]





The film documents Invisible Children's plans and efforts to arrest Joseph Kony. It describes Kony's brutal guerrilla warfare tactics with his rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the regions (northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan) in which they have been employed.[13] One of the main people featured in the film is a young Ugandan named Jacob (Jacob Acaye), whose brother was killed by the LRA. In response, director and founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, promises Jacob that he will help "stop Kony."[14]
The film advocates curtailing compelled and coerced youth military service and the restoration of social order.[4] The video also has clips of Jason Russell's young son, Gavin, reacting to the information about Kony.

Stop Kony campaign

The Invisible Children charity has focused on obtaining the support of a select group of individuals in order to "help bring awareness to the horrific abuse and killing of children in the East and Central African countries at the hands of Kony and his leadership." This list included 20 "celebrity culture makers", such as George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift and Ryan Seacrest.[15] The list also featured 12 "policy makers" that have "the power to keep U.S. government officials in Africa" in order to work toward the capture of Kony. This list includes former U.S. President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry.[16]
On April 20, 2012, as part of the campaign, supporters are asked to put up posters promoting Kony 2012 in their hometowns. Invisible Children offers posters from an online shop in an attempt to gain wider recognition. They have also created action kits to help spread awareness that include campaign buttons, posters, bracelets and stickers.[12]
A number of American celebrities have endorsed the awareness campaign against Kony, including Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Christina Milian, Nicki Minaj, Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian.[8][17][18][19][20]
The campaign has also been influential in India, where young people, including actress Sonakshi Sinha, are using Facebook and other social media to organize groups for the April 20 action.[21]



Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), voiced his support of the film and the campaign that has "mobilised the world", and said that the criticism was "stupid".[22] The new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abou Moussa, said that international interest in Kony has been "useful, very important".[23]
The White House released a statement of support through Press Secretary Jay Carney, who stated in a news conference, "We congratulate the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilized to this unique crisis of conscience" and said that the raised awareness from the video is "consistent with the bipartisan legislation passed by our congress in 2010."[24] Cameron Hudson, policy director at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and former Africa director in the National Security Council, also praised Invisible Children for reaching "tens of millions of people who probably never previously heard of Joseph Kony."[25]
Human Rights Watch's Africa division senior researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg wrote in a statement: "We’ve spent years investigating the horrors perpetrated by the LRA in central Africa — Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. We gathered evidence at massacre sites — wooden clubs covered in dried blood, rubber strips from bicycle tires used to tie up the victims, and freshly dug graves – and spoke to hundreds of boys and girls forced to fight for his army or held captive as sex slaves. And we’re elated that #stopKony is a trending topic on Twitter – if anyone deserves global notoriety it’s Kony." She added: "Arresting Kony and other senior LRA leaders would reaffirm that those who commit mass atrocities will face justice. It will also help end the scourge of one of the most brutal rebel groups in Africa."[26]
Amnesty International, which has documented the LRA's "horrific impact on the lives of thousands of civilians in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Uganda" and for years has been calling for the LRA leaders to be arrested, welcomed the massive public response to the Kony 2012 campaign. Erwin van der Borght, the organization's Africa director, wrote in a statement: "Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders have evaded arrest for far too long and this campaign is a salient reminder of the continuing crimes by LRA members and the need to arrest and surrender their leaders to the ICC so they can face trial," but added: "Anyone joining the Kony 2012 campaign should insist that efforts to arrest Joseph Kony must respect human rights," especially because "many of LRA members were themselves victims of human rights violations including forcible recruitment," and ensure the protection of civilians.[27]
Opinions on the film were mixed in Gulu, one of former centers of rebel activities in northern Uganda, during a showing of the film, with several of the leaders expressing support. One of the attendees, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello said that the criticisms directed at the film and Invisible Children were "unfounded", going on to state, "Invisible Children has done visible things in Acholi[land], for example offering scholarships to thousands of children and anyone against them is our enemy."[28] Norbert Mao, Ugandan politician and president of the Democratic Party, stated his support for the film, explaining that while it does have some problems, such as implying Ugandans did not try to fight back against the LRA and not explaining how many of the issues in the film were also exacerbated by the Ugandan government itself, the film is still a "positive development" for the issue, adding that while Invisible Children may not be "the foremost analysts of the complicated political, historical and security dynamics" in the situation, "they have the most beautiful trait on earth -- compassion."[29] A British writer of Ugandan Acholi descent, Musa Okwonga, criticized the film's simplistic approach, but added: "On the other hand, I am very happy – relieved, more than anything – that Invisible Children have raised worldwide awareness of this issue."[30]
Nicholas D. Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, thanked Invisible Children for making the film and addressed its criticism, stating that rather than being "white man’s burden", when "a warlord continues to kill and torture across a swath of Congo and Central African Republic ... it’s a human burden." He also said that complexity has long been "a leading excuse for inaction during atrocities" and that Kony remains a threat in Uganda's neighbour countries, so the simplicity of the film "has left the American public more informed" than it would be otherwise, and that if he "were a Congolese villager", he would "welcome these uncertain efforts over the sneering scorn of do-nothing armchair cynics."[31] Gotham Chopra, a former war correspondent, said that he understands "the instinctive backlash (really it’s irritation)" towards the film and the campaign, but "there is enormous value in the fact that millions of people are talking today about genocide in Africa that were mostly unaware of it yesterday."[32] Matthew Green, author of Kony's 2008 biography The Wizard of the Nile, wrote that IC had "achieved more with their 30-minute video than battalions of diplomats, NGO workers and journalists have since the conflict began 26 years ago."[33]
Tee Ngugi, a social and political commentator from Nairobi, Kenya, wrote that the criticisms leveled by Africans against the film were worded with terms that "borrowed from an ideological framework that views African reality as a continuing struggle against Western cultural imperialism" and that this implied that "African ideological and intellectual expression is still largely determined by what Abiola Irele called 'our pathology of alienation' as a colonised people."[34] Kenneth Ewell, a worker for an anti-child trafficking non-governmental organization in the Philippines, wrote that the Western critics of the film are a "prime example of the trend of millennials' being overtaken by an attitude of skepticism that is so utterly foolish" and that "making a difference includes making Kony a household name and thus shaping attitudes in our country towards global human rights issues."[35] Richard Clarke, director of the activist group Child Soldiers International, wrote: "It's brought an issue that had tended to disappear from the media back into the headlines. For us and the UN it's never gone away but, looking at the media, there's been less and less on the issue than there was five or six years ago."[36] Saleem H. Ali, professor of environmental studies at the University of Vermont, applauded the film and addressed various aspects of criticism leveled at it.[37]
Jacob Acaye, the former child soldier featured in the film, supported the video and defended its makers.[38][39] In response to Ugandans saying that the film was out-of-date, Jacob stated that, "It is not too late, because all this fighting and suffering is still going on elsewhere. Until now, the war that was going on has been a silent war. People did not really know about it. Now what was happening in Gulu is still going on elsewhere in the Central African Republic and in Congo. What about the people who are suffering over there? They are going through what we were going through."[39] It was noted that a number of people living in the areas where the LRA is currently active have previously called for attention and advocacy to be directed at the issue.[40] By July 2011, 90 percent of people in the LRA affected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo still lived in fear of their safety and felt completely abandoned, according to Oxfam survey.[41] Julien Marneffe, a worker for Catholic Relief Services in Goma, eastern DR Congo, said: "it's been an undeniable success -- and one all humanitarian organizations working in this area can be happy about," but added to "be careful not to oversimplify the issue" and worried the interest might be short lived: "Today it's Kony 2012, but tomorrow, another crisis or another video will be the next online trend, and I fear that most people will forget about the problems of the LRA."[42]


In November of 2011, while Kony 2012 was in production, Foreign Affairs magazine published an article stating that several organizations, including Invisible Children, had "manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders" and were "portraying Kony – a brutal man, to be sure – as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil".[43] Resolve, one of Invisible Children's partner organizations, responded that the accusation was a "serious charge ... published with no accompanying substantiation."[43] These criticisms of Invisible Children's intentions and the statements that were made in the film resurfaced when Kony 2012 was released.
Since the video's release, the campaign has come under criticism for oversimplification of events in the region.[30] While the campaign promotes global activism, it has been criticized for providing a black-and-white picture rather than encouraging the viewers to learn about the situation.[44] Mikaela Luttrell-Rowland, a liaison officer for the Clark University's Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, stated that it was "irresponsible to prize feel good, simplistic messages over complex history and to treat consumerist-consciousness raising as interchangeable with education."[45] Africa researcher Alex de Waal accused the film of "peddling dangerous and patronizing falsehoods," criticized the campaign as "naive" for "elevating Kony to a global celebrity, the embodiment of evil," that might only help him as a terrorist and cult leader, and called for instead "demystifying Kony – reducing him to a common criminal and a failed provincial politician."[46]
One point of criticism is that the film gives a misleading impression of the whereabouts and magnitude of Kony's remaining LRA forces. Kony's followers are now thought to number only in the hundreds, and Kony himself is believed to be in the Central African Republic rather than Uganda—a fact that receives only a passing mention in the video.[47] This problem has raised questions about the plausibility of Ugandan army intervention, which the video advocates. Since Kony and most of the LRA forces are currently not in Uganda, the Ugandan army would need to coordinate with the governments and militaries of the other countries where the LRA is active.[48] Dinaw Mengestu, a Nigerian-American writer and Africa researcher, wrote that the real world Kony is "not a click away", and a simple solution of raising popular awareness, "a beautiful equation that can only work so long as we believe that nothing in the world happens unless we know about it ... only works in the myopic reality of the film, a reality that deliberately eschews depth and complexity."[49]
There has been growing criticism in Uganda of the film's failure to state more clearly that Kony and his diminishing troops, many of them kidnapped child soldiers, fled northern Uganda six years ago and are now spread across the jungles of neighbouring countries. Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of a community health organization in Gulu, commented: "There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with."[50] Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi launched an online response on YouTube. On video, he seeks to correct the false impression that Uganda is still in conflict, and invites everyone to come and see the country, assuring that people would find it a very different place to that portrayed by Invisible Children.[51]
A March 2012 mass showing of the film in Lira, the site of one of Kony's worst atrocities in Uganda, was met with jeering and thrown objects at the screen and at the group African Youth Initiative Network, which screened the film and provided translations. The screening prompted angry calls to local radio stations by Ugandans upset that the film devoted so much attention to the filmmakers and Kony while spending relatively little time on the conflict's victims, prompting complaints that the film was "more about whites than Ugandans." Others objected to being reminded of the horrors Kony brought to Uganda. Despite the negative response, the organization still plans on showing the film in other towns, hoping to avoid this response by providing context for the film and its message of advocacy.[52][53] Some Ugandan online commentators have also criticized the video for its aim of making Kony "famous" and for its advocacy of foreign military intervention to stop him.[50]

Invisible Children's response

On March 8, 2012, Invisible Children released an official response addressing the criticisms directed at Kony 2012. As an explanation for the simplicity of the movie, they stated that "in [their] quest to garner wide public support of nuanced policy, [they] sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format." Jedediah Jenkins, the director of idea development for Invisible Children, responded to the new criticisms by saying that they were "myopic" and that the video itself was a "tipping point" that "got young people to care about an issue on the other side of the planet that doesn’t affect them."[43] In response to concerns about working with the Ugandan government, Invisible Children explained that they "do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army" and the reason why they are working with the Ugandan army even though Kony is no longer in Uganda is because the army is "more organized and better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries (DRC, South Sudan, CAR) to track down Joseph Kony" and that they want all of the governments in the region to work together to arrest Kony.[54] Jenkins stated that "There is a huge problem with political corruption in Africa. If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn’t partner with anyone."[43]
A video titled Thank you, KONY 2012 Supporters was released on March 12, 2012 to address the criticisms directed at the film and to be "fully transparent", according to Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey. The film begins with Keesey discussing the three things that the charity focuses on, which is to "create films with compelling narratives, promote international advocacy and run on-the-ground initiatives." He also points out that "overhead and travel costs are essential to those efforts", as a part of the group's management expenses, along with going toward "thousands of free screenings of the group’s films worldwide, as well as toward bringing survivors of the Lord’s Resistance speak at these events."[55] Keesey explains the way the charity's annual expenditures are made, with "80.5 percent to 85.7 percent of total annual spending from fiscal 2007 to 2011" going toward "'program expenses' – money that directly benefits their cause",[56] and finished by urging supporters and critics to direct additional questions to the group’s Twitter account @invisible, using the hashtag #AskICAnything. Two further short videos featured LRA survivors expressing support for the film and the organization.[57]


United States

On March 21, 2012, a resolution "condemning Joseph Kony and his ruthless guerrilla group for a 26-year campaign of terror" was put forward by Senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons. The resolution stated that it would back "the effort of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the newest country, South Sudan, to stop Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army", along with an official statement of support "for the U.S. effort to help regional forces pursue commanders of the militia group". Thus far, the resolution has received support from 37 bipartisan Senators.[58][59]
Support among Senators for the resolution came about after the release of the Kony 2012 video and its subsequent popularity. One of the resolution leaders, Senator Chris Coons, became aware of the situation after his daughters asked him what he was doing to stop Kony and Senator Roy Blunt was informed "at a Missouri caucus in St. Louis when a constituent quizzed him about Kony". One of the co-sponsors of the resolution, Senator Lindsey Graham stated that, "When you get 100 million Americans looking at something, you will get our attention. This YouTube sensation is gonna help the Congress be more aggressive and will do more to lead to his demise than all other action combined."[59]


On March 23, 2012, the African Union announced its intentions to "send 5,000 soldiers to join the hunt for rebel leader Joseph Kony" and to "neutralize" him. This international task force was stated to include soldiers "from Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo, countries where Kony’s reign of terror has been felt over the years." Before, the hunt for Kony has primarily been carried out by troops from Uganda. The soldiers will begin their search in South Sudan on March 24, 2012 and that the search "will last until Kony is caught".[60]

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