Published: Mar 9, 2012
By James Addis
Kony 2012: What's all the fuss about?
©2005 Jon Warren/World Vision
A peace prayer gathering in Odek, Uganda, hometown of LRA leader Joseph Kony.
Much of the success of the so-called "Arab Spring" uprisings was attributed to the free flow of information between activists using channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Now social media channels are being used to target one of Africa’s most brutal warlords.

For those struggling to catch up, here’s a brief guide to the Kony 2012 YouTube sensation.

Q: What is Kony 2012
Kony 2012 is a 29-minute video produced by the humanitarian organization Invisible Children. It draws attention to atrocities perpetrated by Joseph Kony.

Q: Who is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony is the head of a Ugandan guerrilla group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

For more than 20 years the group has raided villages and abducted children in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. Some died, some escaped, but most of these children were turned into soldiers and sex slaves.

The children are often forced to perform atrocities against their own people, such as murdering their own parents.

It’s estimated that tens of thousands of children have been forced to fight for the LRA. Kony has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court but has eluded capture.

Q: Why is everybody talking about the film?
Less than a week after the video was posted online it had been viewed more than 50 million times.

Q: What does the film hope to achieve?
The film hopes to make Joseph Kony’s name instantly recognizable. They want to turn him into a kind of celebrity.

Q: Why would the filmmakers want to do that?
The film argues that despite the enormity of Kony’s crimes he is still relatively unknown. The filmmakers believe if more people were aware of him and his activities they would exert greater pressure on governments — particularly the U.S. government — to support efforts to secure his capture.

Q: Has the U.S. government done anything to secure his capture?
Yes. Late last year President Obama ordered the deployment of 100 U.S. military advisors to train the Ugandan military in their hunt for Kony. But Invisible Children fears that without continued public pressure these kinds of initiatives will soon fade.

Q: How do the filmmakers propose to turn Kony into a celebrity?
Invisible Children has printed hundreds of thousands of posters, stickers, flyers, and signs bearing Kony’s image.

It is mobilizing supporters to display these images in visible places around the world. The organization plans a special effort on April 20 when it hopes to blanket major cities with images of Kony.

Q: Has the film attracted criticism?
Yes. Critics complain that the film uses gripping footage of Ugandan children who walked miles every night to sleep in a safe place to escape the LRA but neglects to point out that the Kony is no longer active in Uganda.

He now leads a much-depleted force hiding in remote areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Some complain the video is another case of arrogant white people trying to “heroically” rescue black children.

Some say the video is a lucrative donation drive. Still others say that a military solution is not the answer and that the Ugandan military have purposely failed to curb Kony for perceived political and economic advantages.      

Q: Has World Vision been active in the Kony issue?
Yes. For more than 20 years, World Vision has run the Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda. There, our staff see first-hand the direct impact of Joseph Kony’s evil on thousands of children.

Child survivors of Kony’s forced abductions, conscriptions, and sexual exploitation, have gone through physical and emotional healing at the Center, before rejoining their families and communities.

Since 1995, more than 14,000 children have been successfully rehabilitated and resettled back to their communities of origin.

In 2006, former abducted child soldier Grace Akallo, acting as a spokesperson for World Vision, testified before the House of Representatives subcommittee on Africa about the plight of children in northern Uganda.

She urged Congress to put pressure on the government of Sudan, which at that time was believed to be allowing the LRA to operate from bases in Sudan.                    

Since the LRA left Uganda in 2006, the number of children coming through World Vision’s Center has dropped dramatically.

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