Joseph Kony is a monster. That is indisputable. What is in dispute, however, are the facts and motivations behind the film that has made him an Internet sensation. This raises the question of whether “Kony 2012” is an altruistic call to action or mere propaganda to justify a military invasion in central Africa.
The film paints Kony as the leader of an army of 30,000 child soldiers who has led a 20-year rein of terror over the people of Uganda. This may be partly true, but it does not tell the entire story. The Council of Foreign Relations says that Kony has been in hiding outside of Uganda for six years and that “it is unlikely that the LRA consists of more than a few hundred people.” While this does not lessen the atrocities committed by Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, is does cause curiosity as to why there is such urgency to act now.
Invisible Children Inc., the producer of the film, and the “Kony 2012” campaign both appear on the surface to be noble. However, it cannot be mere coincidence that American interest in the cause exploded soon after oil and uranium deposits were found in Uganda. It is also suspicious that Invisible Children spends as much of its funding on self-promotion as it does on the people in Africa for whom the group claims to be fighting, as disclosed in the group’s audited financial statements and then verified on its own website.
The filmmakers are calling for military intervention in Uganda to find and capture Kony. However, as stated in the film, 100 American soldiers were sent to the area last fall. This is troubling, as these troops are being sent to assist the Ugandan Army, which serves a government that gained and maintains power through many of the same tactics employed by the LRA, including use of child soldiers and the mass slaughter of innocent people.
The fact is that central Africa is a volatile and violent place. Millions have been killed in Uganda, the Congo and South Sudan in the past two decades. Kony, as terrible as he is, can only be blamed for a small portion of these killings.
Yet, “Kony 2012” asserts that he is the world’s most dangerous person and then provides a ridiculously simple method for bringing him to justice. The plan is to make Kony so famous that he cannot be ignored, with the thinking that if enough people are made aware of the evil things he has done, someone will be forced to do something about it.
Making Kony famous will not bring him to justice. For 10 years, Osama bin Laden was the most famous villain on the planet, but it took military action to find him and cost thousands of lives in the process. Involving the U.S. military in the hunt for Kony will serve only to bring even more violence to an area that has been ravaged for decades.
Capturing Kony will not bring peace to Uganda any more than capturing Saddam Hussein brought peace to Iraq. Hussein was captured in 2003, but violence in Iraq continues even now that American troops have finally been withdrawn. Sadly, the same will happen in Uganda.