REMEMBER WHEN the Kony 2012 video went viral? The short documentary, produced by the controversial Invisible Children organization about brutal Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, purportedly reached more than half of young adults in the U.S. when it was released. Young Christians across the country swarmed their elected representatives, urging action against Kony, which quickly legitimized Obama’s deployment of U.S. military forces to hunt a relatively idle madman with depleted resources.
Since then, U.S. militarization in Africa has shown no sign of slowing. In 2006, according to The Intercept, “just 1 percent of [U.S.] commandos sent overseas were deployed in the U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM] area of operations. In 2016, 17.26 percent of all U.S. Special Operations forces ... deployed abroad were sent to Africa.” The U.S. admits to the existence of one permanent base in Africa, in Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden, while U.S. special forces are deployed in “more than 60 percent of the 54 countries on the continent.”
Special operations and collaborations with proxy militias enable U.S. militarism in Africa to persist with very little public awareness or oversight—and wreak havoc on local populations.
“By keeping us in a state of perpetual war, the arms trade grows,” said Norman Tumuhimbise, a Ugandan youth activist kidnapped and tortured in 2015 by a branch of Uganda’s military that trains under U.S. anti-terror programs.
A senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Central African Republic is warning that the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force that killed more than 100,000 people in northern Uganda in the 1980s and ’90s, is rising up again in his country. Bishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia said the LRA, led by self-declared prophet Joseph Kony, has become one of the biggest threats to peace in his country and in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
A campaign to arrest an African warlord generated awareness in more ways than the effort’s co-founder Jason Russell could have ever imagined.
The “Kony 2012″ campaign captured widespread attention for its push to arrest Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which abducts and forces children to become soldiers. For a grass-roots video project that suddenly went viral, it was a phenomenal success.
Two weeks after the group Invisible Children released the video last year, Russell, the group’s co-founder, was detained and hospitalized for erratic behavior after he was found running naked and cursing the devil in the streets of San Diego.
I struggle to know how much is enough. I hear about Joseph Kony and the many children he’s exploited as child soldiers. I get angry, discouraged. I write about it, talk to friends about it.
And then my life keeps moving and I don’t think about it again for days or weeks.
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is gunned down on the street. The nation is divided, both outraged about the killing and fearful of the threat to gun rights and laws of self-defense.
And then we talk about something else.
Today’s issues include the nuns going head-to-head with the Vatican, as well as stories about still more preachers being busted for spousal abuse, or expelled from their jobs because of their sexual orientation.
Tomorrow it will be something else.
Jason Russell, the man behind the viral "Kony 2012" video and co-founder of Invisible Children, was detained by police in San Diego on Thursday after a man was reported being possibly drunk, vandalizing cars and masturbating in public, according to NBC San Diego.
Invisible Children's CEO Ben Keesey released a statement on Friday saying:
“Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”
After returning to the U.S., they produced a film titled Invisible Children and then set up a non-profit organization by the same name as the vehicle through which they could use the film to raise awareness of the child soldiers.
I believe that the centrality of film and social media to Invisible Children’s organizing strategy places it at the forefront of new innovative forms of global activism that have to capacity to create a degree of intimacy between people living on opposite sides of the globe that could not have been possible in the past. Social media as an organizing tool also opens up the possibility of creating extensive webs of interactions between activists across the globe. It allows story-telling to be a global enterprise.
The use of social media also has the power to unleash much greater local initiative and innovation by enabling direct communication between activists in different geographic locations across the global, without information first needing to flow up through traditional hierarchical organizational structures to a national staff that perhaps sends it back down again to activists in other local areas.
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“Having just been in Gulu with Edun and Jolly, this is particularly pertinent for me … Spreading like wildfire, and sparking a heated, fascinating, much needed debate, this is brilliant campaigning. Not only does the public now know about Kony and his most despicable atrocities, they also know what a huge range of experts think about it, even if they all don’t agree. I salute a strategy that generates this much interest if it¹s targeted towards lasting meaningful solutions owned and directed by the people of the region on their journey from the trauma of these atrocities towards stability and development. Is there an Oscar for this kind of direction? Jason Russell deserves it.”