Kony 2012 - Our response
At the start of this week, few of us would have thought that Joseph Kony would be the most famous man on the internet.
Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' campaign has been a phenomenon. 25 million people have watched a 30 minute film about the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army - a rebel group that has left a trail of terror across central Africa for nearly a quarter of a century.
There's much that other charities can and should learn about the way that Invisible Children have engaged and mobilised millions of young people to their cause. Since our own videos are lucky to get 1,000 YouTube views in a year, it would be churlish of us to criticise anyone else for theirs. The film and the organisation behind it have been placed under the microscope, and the scrutiny and debate of the issues is to be welcomed.
We differ in opinion to Invisible Children when it comes to some of the content of the film, and of the campaign's aims:
- Whilst Joseph Kony is a good figurehead for a publicity campaign, capturing him is not a magic bullet that will solve the region's problems. The root causes of the conflict lie in poverty and inequality. The solutions are complex and must come from Ugandan people themselves.
- We urge the Ugandan (and Congolese and Central African Republic) armies to observe and uphold human rights laws and conventions. In many of the areas where we work in these countries, local people are just as scared of the army as they are of the rebels. There have been many allegations of violence and rape committed against women and children by government armies in the region.
- The film is in some ways, five years too late. Kony and the LRA were driven out of Uganda and now move between Central African Republic (CAR), D.R. Congo and southern Sudan. They are thought to number only a few hundred fighters.
- The number of children being kidnapped and used as child soldiers is now relatively small. Much needs to be done to help the thousands of former child soldiers and abductees to reintegrate back into their communities. That's a feature of our work in Acholi and south east Central African Republic.
- That's not to downplay the terror still caused by the LRA. They're still attacking towns and villages in CAR where we work and displacing thousands of people from their homes.
- Although the film supports the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in bringing Kony to justice, many would argue that the authority of the ICC would be greatly strengthened if the USA were to become members of it. That would seem to be an obvious campaigning or advocacy objective that the Kony 2012 campaign did not ask of its (primarily American) audience.
The fact that you're reading this now and that you've heard of Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army is because of Invisible Children's film. They are to be commended for that. The issues and solutions are a lot more complex than can be captured in a film - even in a 30 minute one.
We'd urge you to look around our site to see how we're providing direct, practical support to girls like Juliet and Agnes. If you're passionate about supporting Kony's victims and helping young Ugandans to rebuild their country then please consider donating to our vital work.
Policy makers and journalists: See our attached briefing paper for a full statement and more detailed background to War Child's work.