The dominant discussions this week have focused on the implications of Super Tuesday, where Peyton Manning is going to play football next year or how cool the new iPad is. But a new-found movement surrounding one of the most dangerous African warlords is erupting across the Internet, bubbling across social media, and lighting up the blogosphere thanks to the push of a non-profit film that has gone viral seemingly overnight.
Kony 2012 is a film produced by Invisible Children, a charity dedicated to raising awareness about child soldiers in Uganda. Despite only being uploaded to YouTube Monday, the 30-minute film has, as of 10 a.m. Thursday, more than 35 million views.
One half of the slickly-produced film highlights the charity director's interaction with one particular child and his fear of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord Resistance Army, a rebel force that has clashed with the Ugandan military and forced thousands of children to fight in its battles or be killed.
The second half of the film is dedicated to a movement the charity is undertaking in order to, in their words, "make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice." The film also shows how the charity has gotten celebrities and politcians involved, along with how it will use the backdrop of the 2012 presidential election to further its cause.
The film does an excellent job of showcasing the awareness Invisible Children has already brought to the violence in Uganda, as well as stirring up the call for a grassroots movement simliar to Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring directed at tracking down Kony. But it has also led to an outcry on the Internet that has criticized everything from the atrocities of the Ugandan military to the operating budget of the charity itself.
With the campaign's goal being Kony's arrest before the end of the year, the film may be just the beginning of a larger movement. However, the film is just the tip of the iceberg in a wide range of events. Here is a primer on Kony and Invisible Children, who is involved in the campaign, and how it may unfold in the coming months.
Who is Joseph Kony and what is the Lord's Resistance Army?
The LRA is a group of rebels that have been fighting the Ugandan government since the 1980s. Kony is their leader, preaching a radical form of Christianity and believing he is a prophet created to promote peace in Uganda.
What the film claims Kony has done seems to be the total opposite of peace.
Kony's crimes are particularly heinous, including the alleged rape, torture and enslavement of children across Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA has been at this for years, and is only one of many groups causing chaos in an area of the world that is very unstable.
How long has this been going on?
For a while. The situation has a long, sordid history that is laid out in this Foreign Affairs article. The fighting in central Africa has been on the radar of the United States, and as the video points out, there are 100 U.S. military advisers and special forces helping out the Ugandan army.
Special forces? So why hasn't Kony suffered the same fate as Osama Bin Laden?
As highlighted in a blog post from Yale political science professor Chris Blattman, there is only so much 100 troops can do when trying to advise a full military force. Plus, the Ugandan national army is far from innocent during the course of the violence.