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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stop Kony ... or stop the campaign to stop Kony?

It is amazing the popularity that the "Kony2012" YouTube video has achieved in such a short time.  Within days of its release, the video has had over 15 million hits!   The video can be seen here:

"Kony2012" is a 30 minute video highlighting the horrors of Joseph Kony, who heads up the Lord's Resistance Army.  The film has been produced by Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Soldiers, a charity which makes documentaries to "inspire young people to help end the longest running armed conflict in Africa ... and to lobby our nations' leaders to make ending this conflict a priority".   Russell had previously filmed the horrors of Darfur.  He has been so moved by the LRA abomination that he filmed "Kony2012".  The website for Invisible Soldiers is:

The LRA is a Christian military organisation fighting to bring theocratic rule to Uganda; rule based on the Ten Commandments.  To achieve this, the LRA kidnapped more than 30,000 children over the last 30 years and forced them to fight as soldiers, forcing them to murder men, women and other children. The LRA has used these children to wage war in Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and the Congo.  In 2005, the International Criminal Court charged Kony with war crimes, however, he has not been captured and not stood trial.  It is believed that Kony is now in hiding somewhere outside of Uganda. 

Disappointingly, critics have come out of the woodwork, screaming that Invisible Soldiers is spending most of their funds on themselves.  Russell has stated that the bulk of the funds are used to promote awareness of Joseph Kony and his crimes.  How is this bad? Awareness is the first step towards global action.  The awareness that Russell has brought to this horrendous situation is nothing short of remarkable.  Years ago when I joined Amnesty International in campaigns against Joseph Kony and the LRA, few people had heard of him and even fewer cared.

Independent charity monitor, Charity Navigator, has given Invisible Soldiers an average rating in terms of accountability and transparency.  The result? Some people using this to dismiss the campaign!  The issue is not accountability or transparency.  The more important issue is the kidnapping and torture of children! Children being forced to kill!  Other criticism takes the puerile "but they aren't the only ones doing this".   That might be true, but it doesn't mean we ignore the "Kony2012" campaign.  A campaign which might ignite world outrage into taking action against the LRA ... and then against other groups committing similar atrocities.  The luxury of first world problems: money takes priority over human rights.  Would the critics of Invisible Soldiers support other charities that attempt to ease the suffering of the victims of Kony?  Or are they just looking for a cheap shot against another bleeding heart to appease their calloused conscience?

Other criticism of the film revolves around the LRA "only" numbering in the hundreds these days and Kony no longer being in Uganda.  So ... it is okay to let these people get away with murder?  That is quite the message that we want to send to groups plotting the use of child soldiers.  If anything, we need to make sure that actions taken against Kony and the LRA must respect human rights, but then actions against any criminal or terrorist should still respect human rights.  This is something which the world seems to forget in its rush to fight fire with fire, violence with violence.  However, me must not let him get away with his crimes.

CNN interviewed Jacob Akoye, one of the boys featured in the "Kony2012" video.  Akoye is now 21 years old.  He told CNN "For me the criticism [of Kony2012] is unfair, because if I am to say it is fair then I wouldn't be here. Right now I wouldn't have been able to go to school. You wouldn't have been able to speak to me right now because I had no hope in my life. I reached even a point when I said 'I can even die now' because I thought it would be the immediate resolution of my suffering, you know". The full CNN story is available at:

What sort of morals drives people to shoot the messenger instead of promoting the message?

I dare to suggest that most of the critics of "Kony2012" would be very quick to highlight these horrors if they were committed by a Muslim group.

Stop criticising Invisible Soldiers.  Get off your "holier than thou" pews and join the campaigns against the use of child soldiers, against Joseph Kony, against the LRA.   What's more important? Stopping Kony or stopping the campaign to stop Kony?

Joseph Kony is an evil man.  The Lord's Resistance Army is an evil organisation.  They need to be stopped.  Kony must be arrested.


  1. But will donating to this organisation *achieve* Kony's arrest?

  2. The donations themselves are predominantly being used to publicise the message. Since the video went viral, the African Union has mobilised 5,000 troops from the four countries directly affected by the LRA. These countries are Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. Refer to this NY Times article:

    Actions by Amnesty International, Child Soldiers International and others have had limited success against the LRA and other groups which use child soldiers. The success of "Kony2012" in raising awareness of this issue is to be commended. This increased awareness may result in more donations to Child Soldiers International and others working in this field. The Child Soldiers International website is

    Below is a fact-sheet detailing actions being taken against the LRA by MONUSCO (the United Nations Organization Stablization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo).

    There is a lot more work to be done and Kony isn't the only threat, but the awareness campaigns of Invisible Soldiers are a good start and people should support them.

    Kony should not be allowed to get away with his crimes.