The viral effect of KONY 2012

Article published on InQuire live

Last week many of you probably woke up to a Facebook newsfeed invaded by a video, and you probably even “liked” it or shared it on your walls. The campaign “Stop Kony” has exploded on social media with the video post of “Kony 2012” on YouTube, created by the American charity “Invisible children” and viewed over 55 million times.

Joseph Kony is a Ugandan guerrilla leader at the head of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). His group has abducted about 66,000 children, made them into his soldiers and committed terrible atrocities such as rape, murder, mutilation and sex slavery. The movement began in Northern Uganda in 1986 and the LRA is now known to have influence in Congo and South Sudan. Accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court, he has managed to avoid capture for years.

The campaign, with a taste of Hollywood, explains how you and I can act and pressure the American government as well as the international community to stop Kony and save the children. You can even go on the Invisible Children’s website and pledge that you believe “JOSEPH KONY IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S WORST WAR CRIMINALS AND [YOU] SUPPORT THE INTERNATIONAL EFFORT TO ARREST HIM, DISARM THE LRA AND BRING THE CHILD SOLDIERS HOME.” By buying a kit or donating a few dollars a month you can contribute to arresting this criminal. Symbol of a great solidarity and of the strength of social media, this campaign has everything to be a success.

Criticisms have however emerged. To begin with, we could ask why this is reaching us only now if the US army has been involved since October 2011 and if this rebel movement has been going on for decades? This is the first time Kony has received so much attention from the media and this might only be the start. Is there anything to be questioned behind this sudden burst of interest?

Also, questions have been asked about the charity’s funding and the fact it targets Hollywood and American officials as main actors for this campaign. In fact, it is thought that the change must come from African leaders themselves working towards their poor standards of human rights. A blog, “Visible Children” has been very popular during the last week too. It is written by a student and goes through a lot of criticisms from academics and others.

If the awareness created with the film Kony 2012 is undoubtedly a good thing, it is also obvious that there is an underlying problem to this issue. The problem of trying to make people donate, get involved and, therefore, feel concerned is that it tends to usually simplify the issue at stake. Africa is a continent of immense political challenges and violence at the moment and if fighting Joseph Kony will stop one war criminal, it won’t stop others.

The interrogation does not just lie in this video or the organization behind it, but the question is why, in our time of great access to information, did most of us not know about this until last week and however ended up “liking” it and feeling somewhat concerned with this issue.

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