Smile Politely

KONY 2012 arrives in Champaign-Urbana

The campaign Kony2012 is a movement that has created a lot of buzz across social networking sites for the past month and a half. This past March, nonprofit organization Invisible Children Inc. — founded in 2004 to bring awareness of the Lord’s Resistance Army — produced a short video calling for African warlord Joseph Kony’s arrest (see below). An initial wave of sympathy seen on Facebook and Twitter was quickly followed by a wave of criticism. With critiques ranging from questions involving Invisible Children’s financing to the oversimplification of the video, Kony2012 is a name that immediately starts a heated debate.

The International Criminal Court indicted Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, in 2005 for his “cycle of violence and established pattern of brutalization of civilians” in Central Africa. According to Invisible Children, over the past 26 years Kony has kidnapped over 30,000 children and forced them  to become child soldiers and sex slaves, and has displaced over 440,000 people. His attacks have no political motives. He has committed these crimes in Northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. Although Kony’s location has been unknown for the past six years, the LRA continues its attacks.

The viral video and organization have garnered multiple criticisms.

People fear that the oversimplification of Africa in the first Kony2012 video, which received over 100 million views in its first week, is causing the youth across America to blindly give money to a cause they know little about. Critics explain that the video does not give context or enough history about the conflict in Central Africa, and that it misrepresents Africa’s actual issues.

The simplicity of the video is not the only criticism of Invisible Children  — with only an estimated 31% of funds going directly to Africa and the majority of the donated money going to transportation and filmmaking, the organization’s finances have also been called into question.

The criticisms of the Kony2012 video are warranted, but some of them are an attack on the organization’s unique methods — methods that have made the campaign a success. One of Invisible Children’s campaigning approaches is to spread awareness of the conflict in Central Africa. They do so by making documentaries and having speakers from Uganda travel to different schools across the nation, causing the film and transportation expenses to be quite large.

Invisible Children has always aimed for youth to get involved, showing them that they can make a difference in the world. The video that they created identifies with youth, and thus became a tipping point — not a tell-all.

Progress made in the Kony2012 campaign thus far has been more than Invisible Children said they had even hoped for. On March 23, the African Union announced at a news conference in Uganda that they plan to send “5,000 soldiers to join the hunt for rebel leader Joseph Kony.” Troops will be made up of soldiers from “countries where Kony’s reign of terror has been felt over the years.”

Invisible Children hopes to maintain the campaign’s popularity with the event Cover the Night. On April 20 at sundown they ask everyone across the world to participate by filling the streets with images of Joseph Kony. The idea is to make Kony’s name and face one that can’t be ignored. You can either purchase their action kit, which has posters, stickers, and shirts, or download and print the posters yourself.

Champaign-Urbana has had its own reaction to the Kony2012 groundswell; a Facebook event page called “Cover the Night in Champaign” was created to call action from the students and members of the community. The group currently has over 2,000 confirmed attendees and is rising each day. The event starts at 10:00 p.m. on April 20 and says that anyone can participate anywhere, but also gives places across campus for people to meet and work together in groups. The designated areas are The UGL, the Union (Quad side), Allen Hall, The Ike (Gregory drive side), ISR, and the Alma Mater.

Despite the flaws of the campaign, Invisible Children’s unique methods have made Kony2012’s success a step in the right direction. It has led a lot of people to see the power of social networking in a new way — a way to spread ideas that unite global communities through a common cause. Also, it has inspired a lot of people to talk about issues going on across the world, which is a conversation that otherwise may have never happened.

Related Articles