March 12, 2012
The Kony 2012 documentary and public awareness campaign will probably be one of the most successful social media campaigns to date. The documentary released on March 7th, 2012 has been viewed to date by more than 70 million people.
The video, for those of you who have not seen it yet, was created by Jason Russell, the founder of a U.S. not-for profit organization called Invisible Children. It exposes Joseph Kony, the Ugandan head of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and advocates for his arrest in 2012.
The campaign has been praised by the White House and endorsed by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Rhianna and Taylor Swift.
Joseph Kony has for the past 25 years has kidnapped children in Uganda and forced them into his “army.” He has turned Ugandan girls into sex slaves and Ugandan young boys (some 30,000 of them) into brutal killers. The International Criminal Court has named him a war criminal. Yet he is still a fugitive now operating, with a much smaller army (a few hundred) in the region, possible in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Invisible Children was founded by Jason Russell in 2006 to reveal to the world the suffering of Ugandan children. Through his fundraising efforts Jason was able to create schools in Uganda. He also developed an early warning radio network to protect villages from attacks.
There have been some critics of the campaign which is accused of being too late, and of oversimplification of a 25-year old complex war and of exaggeration. Others have questioned the way Invisible Children spends the funds they raise. Whether the criticism is justified or not changes nothing to the fact that Joseph Kony is a criminal that need to be stopped and brought to justice and that public awareness and pressure can only hasten his arrest.
Permile Ironside, a child protection advisor at UNICEF and an expert on the LRA says that ultimately the campaign is a good thing because Invisible Children “is distilling a very complicated 26-year war into something that’s consumerable and understandable by mass media.” Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press that the video has drawn attention to a problem they have been working on for years. She said: “We hope it will be helpful. What it leads to remains to be seen, but the goal to bring pressure on key leaders, to protect civilians and to apprehend LRA leadership is important, absolutely.”
The most encouraging aspect of the Kony 2012 campaign is that we, in very large numbers, can still be moved to reaction and action. We can still be awakened from the slumber of our comfort and most often from our indifference to social ills such as abuse, injustice wherever it happens.
I hope that Kony 2012 is the first of many such successful campaigns in the future.
As Anatole France, the French Novelist and Nobel laureate once said:
“I prefer the folly of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.”