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What is 'Kony 2012' and Who is Joseph Kony?

A new campaign has surged around the war criminal, Joseph Kony, and the Lord’s Resistance Army, and it is centered around a new video that has gone viral on the internet. Only two days after being posted on YouTube on March 5th, the video hit more than 4 million views. Despite the numerous campaigns against Joseph Kony and the LRA in the past, the consensus is that this will be the year of victories for the children of central Africa. By making Joseph Kony a household name, this campaign will put power in the hands of millions of Americans by setting the agenda of policymakers in Washington. 

KONY 2012 is the joint campaign of the groups Invisible Children, Resolve, and the Enough Project to make this year Kony’s last as the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Despite the atrocities committed by Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army against adults and children for the past two decades, the LRA continues to be a lesser known group in the U.S., even among journalists. When President Barack Obama sent troops to Uganda last year, the typical reaction by the media was, “Who is the LRA?” and “Why are we intervening?” Even talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was oblivious to the group when he committed his gaffe about the LRA being a religious group with “Christian” objectives (he later recognized the mistake and promised due diligence on the subject). This campaign will make the name Joseph Kony just as well known as Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Robert Mugabe, and Saddam Hussein.

Joseph Kony and the LRA have been responsible for mass killings, rapes, and mutilations of thousands of Ugandan, South Sudanese, Central African, and Congolese civilians. These atrocities surpass those of many well-known dictators in the world. According to Resolve, since 2008 the group has killed over 2,000 people, abducted over 3,000, and displaced upwards of 450,000. The LRA forcibly recruits children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves — it is estimated that the LRA have abducted about 30,000 children from Uganda alone.

The urgency of the film and the campaign is connected with Obama’s decision last October to send 100 “combat-equipped troops” on a kill-or-capture mission to take out Kony and combat the LRA. Jason Russell, the filmmaker of KONY 2012, believes that this campaign must happen now and Kony must be taken out this year because “by the time it turns 2012, the advisors (meaning the combat troops) would have been there [some might say] too long.”

Jason Russell is right that politicians and voters alike are very often subject to war fatigue when it comes to putting U.S. troops in harm’s way. If those 100 troops stay in central Africa for too long without any real progress, anxiety will build up in Washington to bring them home.

The question that remains, however, is what the video will really do as far as generating change in U.S. policy. What power does the typical U.S. citizen really have? The answer is that if support for this cause reaches a tipping point, the public will have the power to set the agenda of US politicians. If millions of Americans watch this video, participate in the campaign, and make Joseph Kony an individual that everyone recognizes, decision makers in the U.S. government will make this issue a bigger priority for the United States. 

The battle to rid the world of the Lord’s Resistance Army is unlike any other conflict that the U.S. has been involved with. The LRA are not financially supported by any government, nor are they involved in government activities in central Africa. Joseph Kony is a known war criminal and in the words of Jason Russell, “He is the clearest example of something that we all as humans can agree on is wrong and needs to be stopped.”

Watch KONY 2012: 

Photo Credit: lighternorth

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