‘Stop Kony’ campaign gains international momentum through social media
Sarah Clark, Fox4KC, Reporting
UGANDA — In central Africa there lies the country of Uganda. It’s small — no larger than the state of Oregon. Its southern portion crosses the equator, giving it a tropical climate with many lakes and rivers.
But on the banks of those rivers and scattered throughout its lush, green land is the terrorist organization known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony. Suspected of grisly killings, abductions and brutal rapes, the LRA is now the focus of one documentary film maker who has plans to launch his own international attack.
Jason Russell is bringing awareness to Kony’s crimes in a half-hour documentary produced by the non-profit organization Invisible Children. In the documentary a crew follows a former child solider named Jacob who describes life lived under threat of the LRA. Russell said he hopes to make Joseph Kony a household name – not to celebrate him, but to stop him.
Russell’s documentary, KONY 2012, issues a call for action on April 20. Russell hopes supporters will take arms, not with weapons, but with posters and stickers depicting Kony’s face and name, calling him out for his crimes against humanity.
Decades of terrror
Many in Uganda hold Kony and LRA responsible for abuses spanning two decades. The Associated Press reports:
“Kony, whose army abducts children and takes women as sex slaves, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed during a decades-long insurgency against Uganda’s government. The group has been blamed for the murder of thousands of civilians in four countries, and the U.S. classifies it as a terrorist organization.”
According to the BBC, Kony calls himself a “freedom fighter,” but who or what he’s fighting remains unclear. However, Kony makes his opposition to Ugandan President Museveni clear. Museveni dismisses Kony as a “bandit,” but has kept the Ugandan army on the defensive in the last 20 years since Kony and the LRA has emerged.
Some call Kony a madman. Others say he has a cult-like following. Kony says just a human being, like everyone else. Although he also says he’s been visited by a number of spirits from Uganda, America, Sudan, China, Italy and Korea.
No matter what he is, the International Crime Court wants him prosecuted for crimes against humanity. In October, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US troops would be dispatched to central Africa to work as advisers fighting against the LRA. While the LRA is reportedly weakening, Kony remains at large.
On Tuesday, a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #STOPKONY gained momentum with the help of celebrities and other influential figures who watched the Kony 2012 documentary. Many have pledged to take part in the international movement started by Invisible Children by purchasing T-shirts, stickers, posters and other items displaying Kony’s name and wearing or displaying them on April 20.
Director Jason Russell describes April 20th as “The day when we will meet at sundown and blanket every street in every city until the sun comes up. The rest of the world will go to bed Friday night and wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters demanding justice.”
Invisible Children said all proceeds will fund their efforts to stop LRA violence in Central Africa and rehabilitate former child soldiers like Jacob.