Effects of Invisible Children’s campaign

By David Pigott

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

A box full to the brim with KONY 2012 campaign posters are shown Thursday March 8, 2012 at the Invisible Children Movement offices in San Diego. The workers are monitoring the social media impact of their KONY 2012 campaign. Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, a brutal Central Africa militia that has kidnapped thousands of children and forced them to become sex slaves, fight as child soldiers and kill family members during a 26-year campaign of terror. The KONY 2012 project is an effort to stop Joseph Kony.

John Mone, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Invisible Children has taken the world by storm with its 30-minute video titled, Kony 2012. The viral video now has nearly 150 million views on YouTube taking social media and activism to a new level. The film advocates an international and U.S. intervention to capture and bring to justice war criminal Joseph Kony.

And Kony is indeed a very bad man. He has waged a war against the Ugandan government (no innocent player in the human rights issue), destroying villages and turning northern Uganda into a war zone over the last 25 years, putting millions into IDP (refugee) camps. He is known mainly for his Lords Resistance Army tactic of abducting young boys and turning them into killers and turning abducted young girls into sex slaves.

Central Africa is an amazingly complex region with many protracted conflicts. It has known more than its share of foreign intervention and is used to outsiders coming and going, all in attempts to solve their problems. Kony 2012 uses misleading emotionalism to lull its audience into a sense of moral outrage and indignation. It fails to mention that Kony hasnt been in northern Uganda in several years. Life is gradually returning to normal in the North poor, but normal.

Bringing Kony to justice is definitely a good thing; however, the costs may outweigh the benefits, since his army is largely reduced to a rag-tag few hundred soldiers, huddled in the forests of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo or perhaps south Sudan.

What most of us dont realize is that the U.S. is already involved militarily in central Africa. In 2010, partially in response to the Invisible Children 2009 campaign against Konys LRA, Congress passed the Lords Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Last October, we deployed a small number of United States military personnel to the region to serve as advisors to national military forces pursuing the LRA.

The Kony 2012 campaign has the real potential to metastasize into a U.S. instigated involvement in yet another regional conflict.

Talk about the potential for mission creep. I dont wish to come across as too cynical. However, Invisible Children, despite the wide-eyed altruism, could be another Trojan Horse used by our military to insert itself into a resource-rich, politically weak region (sound familiar?). Vast oil reserves were recently discovered in and around Lake Albert, on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC.

What are the geopolitical implications of sending U.S. troops into a war torn area, which will undoubtedly require crossing national boundaries into neighboring states to achieve its objectives of ferreting out bad Mr. Kony? What would Joseph Kabila, president of the DRC, say to a platoon of American soldiers entering his country, whatever our noble intentions? We must tread very carefully here.

Moreover, Invisible Children uses this election year timing to make its case for justice in hopes that because of its unparalleled, celebrity-endorsed buzz, our leaders will take note. It has and they have.

Dont get me wrong: Kony is a very bad man. Ive worked with and developed close ties with some of his victims as an advocate for African, specifically Ugandan, education. Through my observations in northern Uganda most people affected by the civil war want to get on with their lives. Justice would be nice, but to move on and begin to rebuild would be nicer. At the very least, if Kony is not captured, Invisible Children has certainly achieved one of its objectives, making Joseph Kony a household name.

David A. Pigott is a professor of history at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

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